Probably too late, but…

January 29, 2015

I’ve been among the missing again lately, haven’t I? A bit about one of the chief reasons for that later, but I’ll start with something I’ve procrastinated about posting so long it’s probably too late, although maybe someone can meet the deadline.

I got this email from Lee Brewer at AAR weeks ago, meant to pass it along and obviously never did:

All About Romance’s Annual Reader Poll is now open and we would love for you and your readers to stop by and participate in the fun! Please feel free to vote, post the link on your website or Facebook, twitter or other social media!

Informational blog with link to ballot:

The poll runs through midnight Sunday, January 25th, 2015 [changed, read below].

We hope to be tallying your ballot soon!

Ms. Lee Brewer
AAR Publisher Liaison and Pollster

You notice the deadline is January 25th. However, a recent post on the site now says the deadline has been extended to the 30th, which is to say, tomorrow.

I’m sure part of my slow reaction to the message is that this isn’t a poll I can participate in. Unlike avid reviewers, I just don’t keep good records of what I read. The fact I now keep a list of authors I like and those I won’t be trying again is a major step forward in record-keeping. I relied only on the memory that is now getting faulty for years. So figuring out what I read that was published in 2014 would take a lot of poking around in Amazon’s records and my copies of the books, and from memory, I think you have to vote in 6 categories for your ballot to count.

I’m sorry I didn’t get in gear and pass this information on in a more timely fashion and hope those of you who do keep proper records have already voted or can easily do so by the deadline if it’s the kind of thing you like to do.

Now as to the reason I’ve been missing lately. Here she is:

Her name is Teagan (a good Irish name for a dog of a German breed, but there it is), and of course there’s a story behind her.

As anyone who has been following here for a while knows, I got another puppy, Story, just two years ago. Story is destined to do the obedience, carting, and drafting competitions my beloved Schara excelled at for so long, and I had absolutely no intention of another puppy. I was out of the puppy market, no more, too many dogs, done, not considering it, NOT.

So a good friend calls me up and tells me she is considering another puppy from a litter an excellent breeder who lives right in my town has. Only 4 puppies, 3 girls and 1 boy. My friend’s last puppy was from this breeder, and my friend says she thinks she’s going to take the male. “Why don’t you come to the eval with me,” she says. “I know you like watching that kind of thing.”

Well, I do like watching puppy evaluations (something good breeders here in Colorado all do to aid them in placing puppies properly), and an afternoon spent cuddling puppies and among dog people sounded great, so I went.

My friend wants a top show prospect, and unfortunately the male puppy’s bite makes that a gamble (sometimes if the bite is off in a puppy it will correct itself after the permanent teeth come in but not always). So she backed away.

Another friend was there and absolutely enchanted with one of the girls but unwilling to commit right then. A third show person had come from a bit of a distance but also didn’t commit.

So instead of smiling new owners walking out with their new puppies, which is what usually happens at the end of the evaluation, everyone left and none of those puppies left with them. I couldn’t believe it. One of the girl puppies was so appealing I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a line of people all vying to have her. Before I left, I told the breeder if that girl or the male didn’t get homes soon, I’d be interested. I was sure I’d never have to honor that because they’re lovely puppies, and they’d all have homes in nothing flat.

A week later, the friend who was so taken with one of the other girls called me and said the breeder had contacted her and wanted to know if I was serious about taking a puppy. You see her husband really wanted those puppies in homes, and so far in spite of the interest no one had committed. I couldn’t believe no one had grabbed up that lovely female puppy, but no one had. All four were still available.

I don’t need another dog. Getting another puppy was not smart. Yes, I have an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old, but they’re both healthy and not going to disappear soon (and when I lose Schara I may be unable to function for a year or two). In spite of all that, feeling guilty for not taking the little boy, I hied myself to the breeder’s and grabbed the pick of the litter female.

Teagan. This is one of my favorite pictures. It shows Schara, 11 years old, playing with Teagan, 11 weeks old. I couldn’t believe the old girl would throw aside dignity and play bow to a puppy like that, but she did.

Play Bow
The story has a happy ending because the friend who was enchanted with one of the other girls did take her after much soul searching about the commitment. Another family from north of Denver took the third girl and thinks she’s the cat’s meow. The boy was the last to find a home, but he went to a young lady who feels the same about him, and that means I was able to stop feeling guilty about grabbing Teagan. The fact is I prefer girls, although I really would have taken the boy if things had turned out differently.

I’ve accused the friend who invited me to the eval of running a con on me and getting me over there under false pretenses knowing I’d be vulnerable, but she denies it vigorously. Even so, I’m not going near another available Rottweiler puppy in any setting no matter how innocent the invitation sounds.

One of the many things I forgot as I plunged off the puppy-acquisition cliff was my vow never to get another puppy in winter. Housebreaking means getting that puppy out every hour on the hour, which in winter means bundling up to the eyebrows, pulling on heavy boots, clomping outside, and waiting on a puppy who is often in no hurry to perform. It means getting up in the middle of the night and doing all that when the puppy starts whining in her crate, even if it’s below zero outside.

On the plus side, I now have the potential of my very own Rottweiler driving team, which will be a lot easier than when I worked Schara with my friend’s male for driving and we had to meet in a parking lot twice a week to train (the same con artist friend by the way).


Yee Haw!! And decisions, decisions….

November 21, 2014

All About Romance posted a Desert Isle Keeper review for Without Words today, and there have been some very complimentary comments in their forum threads, some I suspect by followers here, although I can’t always tell when you use different screen names :-). The book has had a super launch, with nice review averages on Amazon and Goodreads and great reviews on other blog sites too, such as Romantic Historical Reviews. The Maldivian Book Reviewer’s glowing review had me blushing.

Once again, thanks all, for the purchases and borrows, for the reviews, for the word of mouth recommendations.

Now as to that decisions thing…. Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program has changed the indie landscape in the last months. I put Rachel’s Eyes into the program early on just because I had never published it through major distributors other than Amazon, and it was easy to do as an experiment. (To be in the KU program, a book has to be exclusive to Amazon.) To my surprise, that four-year-old, too-short short story started selling better than it has since it was new and in addition has had as many borrows as sales ever since it’s been in KU.

That made me go hmm, but what made me put Without Words in KU was my own reaction to the program as a reader. I’ve been trying all sorts of books I never would have tried if it meant searching out and buying some unknown indie author. Yes, I always downloaded samples and read them before trying a new author, but I found samples often fooled me in that a book would fall apart long after that first 10%. Downloading the whole book and either continuing to read or zapping it without consequence seems so superior.

The big negative of the KU program, at least in my opinion, is that the book has to be exclusive to Amazon, making it more difficult for non-Kindle readers. I hate cutting off anyone with a Nook or Kobo, but I really have very few non-Amazon sales and the problem seems to be less every day with Kindle apps for every device under the sun floating around. The really determined could download the Kindle version and convert to epub for their Nook or Kobo, but I realize that’s the techie solution.

The pluses to the KU program as I see them are: (a) Rachels’ Eyes was revitalized by KU; (b) Words has had the best first two months of any of my books since Sing My Name considering sales alone, and it has had as many borrows as sales; (c) as a reader, KU is making me more adventuresome in trying books by other indies.

So I have pulled Sing My Name from distribution to sellers other than Amazon and am going to try it in the KU program and see what happens. Depending on what happens with Sing, I’m going to think about each of the other older books one by one and try to make reasonable decisions for each.

~ Ellen

Paperback of Words is out

November 8, 2014

The paperback edition of Without Words is out now, and the first time I found it on Amazon, it was already linked to the digital version. When Amazon is speedy, it’s very, very speedy.

However, since my prediction was the paperback would be available a month earlier than it actually is, you can tell I’m not very speedy at all and in fact have good reason not to make predictions.

This is the first book I tried the recently available matte cover option for, and I like it a lot. I’m going to continue with the glossy covers for the mysteries (assuming I ever get to the plural point with those) and with the matte covers for the romances. A post on some author site dissected the matte/glossy options as to which colors they did best with, but pfft. Unless a proof copy with a matte cover comes to me with a strange look, they’re all going to be matte from now on.

~ Ellen


Happy Halloween and…

October 28, 2014

First, I apologize to those waiting for the paperback of Without Words. After meeting the pre-order deadline, I sort of collapsed, but then I did get in gear and format the paperback. However, when I received the proof, both the cover and interior needed tweaking. That’s done now. As soon as I can get to a wifi connection, they’re ready to upload, and the paperback ought to be released in the next few days.

Second, Happy Halloween. Anyone who follows here knows the chances of me ever writing a woo-woo kind of story that would be great for releasing just before Halloween are south of slim to none. However, I’m sure many of you enjoy paranormals, and Keta Diablo, who like me posts in the Western Romance thread of Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forum, has just released a new paranormal Western romance. It’s called Chasing the Dead, is the first in her Bannister Brothers series, and here is more detailed information:


About the Book

The Apache kidnapped me to dispel an evil ghost from their village. If I tell them I don’t possess the same skills my madre did, they’ll cut my throat and feed me to the dogs. Celesta was the best spirit chaser in all of New Mexico before she died.

The most I can hope for is that Emmett, my fiancé, will rescue me. Is he capable of such a thing? Poppy must not have thought so because he sent Deacon Bannister to save me. Deacon…the man who walked away days before our wedding a year ago. The man who still melts my bones after one look.

We’re running for our lives from Uday, the vaporous ghoul tracking us. He wants Sacheen, the beautiful maiden banished from the Apache village who travels with us. The warrior killed her father when Sacheen refused to marry him, and then Sacheen’s brother killed Uday.

The ghost’s powers grow stronger every minute on our journey back to El Vaquero…and so does my love for Deacon.

Madrid Arrende


A shadow hovered near the fires, ducking in between stalks of cacti and other scrub brush. Maddie drew a deep breath and ambled forward with Elan beside her. Amid the dissonant chants and prayers, warriors brandishing spears and shields hollered into the gray mist. Maddie squinted, hoping to catch sight of the ghoul the others couldn’t see. Only powerful shamans and spirit chasers had trained themselves to look upon the face of a dead spirit. A ripple of fear spread through her limbs and shivered down her spine when la fantasma appeared before her.

A mass of black patterns and swirls marred his enraged face. His eyes were hollow and black until a den of serpents slithered from the sockets–a deception the spirit had learned in his brief time in the underworld.

Maddie swallowed hard and sneaked a glance at Elan. Standing tall and looking formidable, she had to admire the man’s courage. “It is you he seeks to destroy, Elan, to forge a path to Sacheen. I will go forth on my own now.”

Elan shook his head, his expression one of disbelief. “Why would you put yourself in such danger? We wait and see what the dead man will do.”

“No. It is what he wants, for all in the village to fear him. Only then does his true power unfold. I will meet his challenge; let him know I am here to banish him back to the dead.” “Although I cannot”, she whispered under her breath.

The ghost twisted and turned, retreating back from the fire, only to appear seconds later at another location in camp. He screamed and howled, the otherworldly sounds rumbling through the village like a murderous dust storm.

Maddie shrugged aside Elan’s grip on her elbow and walked forward. “Madre, be with me,” she said to the ground. The moon had not shown its face this night but a smattering of a million stars gave enough light for Maddie to focus on the grim outline of the wretch. “Lift up your eyes dead spirit and hear my words.”

An inhuman screech sent a blast of wind in her direction. It lashed her face and whipped her long hair into a frenzy.

“You are small and weak. I do not fear you!” she screamed, bewildered by the words spewing from her mouth. “The wolf has sung your passing and the bear has grumbled low. Sing your death song and return to the underworld.”

The wailing chants of the shamans echoed behind her.

Ignoring her warning, Elan suddenly appeared beside her, only to be struck to the ground when the ghoul unleashed a stream of lightning spikes from the sky. Elan moaned, clutched his broken arm and attempted to rise.

“Stay down!” Maddie ground out between clenched teeth.

Her mother’s voice rode the crest of her fear. Be strong, Madrid, try again.

Her knees shook and her spine curled, but she took another step forward. “Your breath has moved to another world. You must remain with it. Do you hear me, dead spirit? You are no longer welcome here. Your relatives have said farewell and so must you, never to return.”

A refrain from the Apache against her back bolstered her courage—a roar of cheers and the synchronized trampling of moccasins beating the ground.

Torrents of rain fell from the sky, pounding Maddie into the earth beneath her feet. Wet dirt spiraled up her nose and debilitating pain wracked her body. A hand clamped over her arm. When Maddie realized it belonged to Elan, a sigh of relief mingled with the cold blast of air surrounding them. Sacheen’s brother pulled her against his wet body and crawled toward camp, dragging her with him.

A triumphant scream from the ghost rent the air, pitching the warriors into a cowering retreat. The cold, gray dawn swept over camp. Shivering with despair, Maddie turned to Elan. “His power is great.”

Out of breath and still clutching his arm, he nodded.

“Maddie raised a fist to the sky. “We have failed this night, dead spirit, but we will not the next time we meet.”

Connect with Keta Diablo:

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 Buy Chasing the Dead




Thanks, Everyone

October 3, 2014

Thanks, everyone, for all the pre-order, regular sales, and borrowing support. So far, Without Words is having a very successful launch.

When you all post about how much you’re looking forward to a new book, it makes me nervous. It’s so easy for something highly anticipated to disappoint. That makes me extra appreciative of all the comments here, emails, and reviews on Amazon and places like Goodreads saying you did enjoy Bret and Hassie’s story.

Oh, and Happy belated Birthday mesadallas!




September 15, 2014

So I uploaded Without Words to Amazon for pre-order a few hours ago, and it already has a product page here.

If you pre-order, the book will be delivered to your Kindle or Kindle App on September 30th. There are a few things you should know about that.

First, I set the pre-order price at $2.99. I hope that will give those of you who read all my books, review, spread the word, etc., a small discount, because I intend to raise the price to $4.99 as soon as the book is unlocked from its pre-order status.

Second, the book is in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means after September 30th if you subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited program (and everyone gets one month free) you can borrow the book for free.

The paperback will be out in early October.

I look forward to hearing from everyone as to how you like Bret and Hassie’s story.

~ Ellen

Revisions, Decisions, and an Excerpt

August 28, 2014

The most recent comment to one of my posts about Without Words made me realize it’s been a while since I gave an update, so here it is—I’m working on revisions right now. Originally I thought, oh, that’s not much, I’ll just zip through those, but that’s not how it’s working out. I’m really banging my head against it this time, and it’s just not going fast.

In the meantime, Amazon has given indies like me the ability to put books up for pre-order. I’m going to do that, but Amazon is being careful to ensure we’ll really come across when we say. So I could load the draft of Words right now (uploading a draft is required) and set a pre-order date. However, since I’m not exactly speeding through these revisions and can’t predict how much longer they will take, I’m unwilling to do that now. Once the book is loaded and a date set for release, I would have to upload the final version ten days before the release date I set. The penalty for not doing this is being shut out of the pre-order system for a year—and of course disappointing everyone waiting for the book and looking like someone who can’t meet her own deadline.

I feel far more confident that once the revisions are done I can estimate time for proofreading and formatting with some accuracy, so what I’m going to do is set Words for pre-order once the revisions are done.

Pre-order isn’t the only new program that’s come from Amazon recently. I’m sure most readers, at least in the U.S., have heard about the Kindle Unlimited program. This is Amazon’s subscription service. For $10 a month readers (U.S. only at the moment) can borrow Kindle books at no additional cost, up to ten at a time. After ten, you have to return one to borrow another.

When I first heard of this, I thought pfft, I doubt most of the authors I follow are going to put their books in the program. However, we each get to sign up for one free month, and something or other induced me to go ahead and do that. For the most part the books available in the program are indie and older traditionally published books, but I have seen several books I’ve bought in the past (one mystery series where I bought every one), and the fact is I went on a KU spree while I was waiting for the last of my beta readers to report, and I’ve already far exceeded the number of books I’d need to borrow to justify the $10 monthly cost.

What I did was download anything that looked even vaguely reasonable. Of course that gave me a low success rate, and I actually read only about 10% of what I tried. Still, before I got tied up with these revisions, I read at least a dozen books from the program. So my attitude has changed a little.

The downside of the program for an author like me is that to put a book in KU, the book must be exclusive with Amazon. That means yes to paperbacks and Kindle digital books but no to everything else. A glance at my records for the four and a half years I’ve been doing this shows less than 4% of my sales are through distributors other than Amazon.

So what does that mean? It means I’m going to put Words in the program. There are Kindle apps for pretty much every device made, and I really don’t think doing this will exclude many people. For a Nook or Kobo reader who absolutely needs the book in the epub format, there are ways to convert a Kindle book to epub.

So that’s my update on revisions and decisions. As to an excerpt, this is from one of my favorite scenes in Words (which may get tweaked a little during proofreading, but isn’t going to have any major revisions):

Hassie wiped her wet eyes and runny nose on the sleeve of the purple dress, unwilling to look at Bret again. She let go of his arm and tried to put some space between them. Tried. His hand clamped around her upper arm like a vise. “Let’s go.”

Too afraid to resist, she let him propel her out of the street, up on the walk, past groups of curious bystanders. The pain in her side had subsided. Her throat and chest still burned, although her heart and lungs had slowed. Fear and humiliation burned worst of all, fear of what he was going to do, fear of what he thought. Humiliation over her situation, her failure.

The sight of the hotel changed her mind about resisting. She jerked and pulled against Bret’s hold, desperate not to set foot in the hotel again. He ignored her, all but lifting her off her feet by the arm. Unable to bring herself to fight him the way she had fought the Restons and Zachary, she gave in.

He threw the door open so violently it crashed into the wall, cracking the etched glass panel that had graced the top half. Across the silent lobby, up to the shining mahogany desk.

Bret smashed the silver bell with the butt of his pistol so hard the bell fell apart with a sad little ting. Undeterred, he used the gun like a hammer on the polished surface of the desk. Hassie flinched at the sounds as one deep gouge after another marred the wood.

Mr. Reston emerged through the door to the owners’ private quarters, his usual smile fading fast when he saw who stood at the desk. He reached for the door behind him as if to flee back through.

“Not unless you want to lose a hand,” Bret said. “Get out here, and get your wife.”

Pasty-faced and trembling, Reston called his wife and moved behind the desk when ordered.

At the sight of Bret, Mrs. Reston’s face hardened, but she smiled. “Good afternoon, Mr. Sterling, we thought you left town.”

“I bet you did. You round up everything Mrs. Petty brought to this place and get it out here. Now.”

Defiance and anger flashed across the woman’s face. “I understand you’re upset, but we did exactly what we promised. Hassie did not work out here. Guests were already complaining about dealing with a du—mute. Sally Nichols offered to take her, and a job with Sally would be much more suitable.”

“How much did you sell her for?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We didn’t sell….”

“One hundred dollars,” Hassie said, knowing no one would understand the words, but hoping like her mother, Bret could understand the rhythm of an expected phrase.

“Hear that,” Mrs. Reston said self-righteously. “No one could understand that. She sounds like an animal. If we’d heard that before we hired her, we wouldn’t have done it. You left. We did the best we could.”

“I understood. You sold her for a lousy hundred dollars. Now you get her things.”

“We don’t have anything of hers. She didn’t have anything worth a nickel. Go talk to Sally.”

The glass globe on the lamp on the wall to the right of the desk exploded. The sound of the gunshot hurt Hassie’s ears so much she covered them, even though it was too late. Glass showered down over Mrs. Reston. Mr. Reston squealed and disappeared behind the desk.

Mrs. Reston twisted around to look at the ruined lamp, the scratches on her cheek disappearing amid the bright red that suffused her face. “Do you have any idea how much those lamps cost? We had them shipped from New York City.”

The lamp to the left of the desk exploded. Another squeal sounded from under the desk.

“Run to the brothel if you have to. If you don’t get her things and get them fast, you’re going to need a whole new hotel shipped from New York City.”

Still angry but a lot less defiant, Mrs. Reston crunched across the broken glass back to their rooms.

Bret banged the pistol on the desk again. “Get up here, Reston.”

Mr. Reston’s hands appeared first, gripping the edge of the desk, then the top of his head, then his wide eyes. One eye had a bruise developing underneath, a nice complement to the scratches on his wife. The sight gave Hassie considerable satisfaction.

“Please,” Reston whispered. “Please, I didn’t want, don’t want….”

“I don’t give a damn what you want. Mrs. Petty had almost forty dollars this morning. We’ll round it off and call it forty. I want it back. Now.”

Reston stood all the way up and turned as if to follow his wife back to their rooms.

“No,” Bret said. “You get it out of that drawer right there in the desk.”

“I don’t have forty there.”

“Find it.”

Mr. Reston fumbled with his keys, opened the drawer and counted out thirty dollars. He dug in his pockets and added a ten dollar gold coin. Bret finally let go of Hassie’s arm, scooped the money up, and shoved it in a pocket.

Mrs. Reston returned with Hassie’s carpetbag and thumped it down on the ruined desktop. “There. That’s all we have. I tore some of her clothes for rags and threw the rest in the burn barrel. I’m sure Sally did the same.”

Bret pulled the bag toward Hassie. “Check and see if anything else is missing.”

Hassie opened the bag. Her Bible, hairbrush, and comb didn’t even cover the bottom. She looked up, tempted to tell Bret everything was there just to calm him down and get him to leave. Except the things missing were Mama’s things, the ones Hassie most treasured, and Mrs. Reston had a smug look on her face as if she knew a dummy wouldn’t, couldn’t complain.

Stretching to reach, Hassie grabbed the register from the other side of the desk and the pen from the inkwell tray. She uncapped the ink, dipped the pen, and wrote. Bret read aloud. “Embroidered tablecloth, gold locket on chain, gold ring.”

Mrs. Reston disappeared before he finished the last word and reappeared seconds later with the cloth in one hand. She raised the clenched fist of the other hand.

“Don’t,” Bret said. “If you throw anything, you’ll be down on your knees picking it up.”

The tablecloth landed soundlessly on the desktop. The jewelry rattled. Hassie shook out the cloth, checked both sides, refolded it, and tucked it in her bag with the necklace and ring.

To her surprise, Bret broke his gun in two and replaced the empty shells with fresh rounds. “Six is better than four,” he said, his voice almost normal. “Let’s go.”




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