Revisions, Decisions, and an Excerpt

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.”




24 Responses to Revisions, Decisions, and an Excerpt

  1. Barbara Wadman says:

    Ellen, Just thought I would check my e-mail before bed and there you were! Loved the “sample” of the new book and it does sound as though the book will be a wonderful one. Can’t wait for the release.

  2. Rosheen says:

    Yep! I can’t wait to see where this story is going. Can guarantee one click once the preorder is up (after your revisions of course). Good luck with the up dates 😃

  3. June says:

    Loved it. Can’t wait for the book. Thank you Ellen for sharing the excerpt with us.

  4. DallasE says:

    I’m in love with Bret already. Like those above me, can’t wait….

  5. Gypsy says:

    I just read the excerpt. Then I heard myself breath. I didn’t realize I had started holding my breath…..powerful, very powerful. Take as long as you like. I will be here waiting.

  6. Maddy Barone says:

    Yay! I can’t wait for this book to be released. I’ve been on a Western romance kick for a few weeks, and have read about ten books. Some have been quite good, others quite disappointing. From this excerpt, I think Without Words will be far and away the best of them. I know you can’t hurry revisions, but … Please hurry!

  7. Thanks, ladies. Glad you enjoyed it. Maddy, feel free to share the ones you found quite good. It’s a hard subgenre to find good reads in. ~Ellen

  8. Maddy Barone says:

    Many of them were about mail order brides. A lot of them were disappointing. One that I enjoyed (and was not a mail order bride story) was the Milch Bride by J.R. Biery. It’s not perfect, but I liked the characters and the way they reacted to the situation they found themselves in. I’m now settling in to re-read Into the Light.

  9. Jane says:

    Maddy, I’m with you, every other western historical seems to be a mail order bride story. Not that those can’t be good, but it gets a little repetitive. I also liked “The Milch Bride”, it had it’s faults but was at least a bit different. Like Ellen’s books the heroine wasn’t a spoiled beauty but more down to earth and hard working.

  10. Pugm0ther says:

    Ellen, I really appreciate you taking time to edit your book carefully. Too often the books I’ve read on Kindle are so riddled with typos, wrong character names, and grammatical errors that it’s really frustrating. I can forgive occasional mistakes, but when you have too many, it begins to detract from the storyline.

    Looking forward to Without Words. I loved the preview passage!

  11. Rhonda says:

    Dang! You do write palpable tension so well! Thanks for the excerpt. Can’t wait.

  12. Thanks, everyone.

    Maddy and Jane – Yes, the premise of The Milch Bride is at least a little different. I did read one along the same lines once, though. Probably every conceivable idea for a romance has been done hundreds of times.

    I don’t remember the title of the one I’m thinking of. My guess is it was a Candace Proctor or Penelope Williamson book. The setting was Australia during the times of convict transports. She was a transported convict who had a baby during the voyage. Her baby died. The hero was a settler whose wife died and left him with a newborn son. So same premise in that he needs a wet nurse to save the baby and since he “buys” her, he gives her no choice in a more definite way than Milch Bride.

    I finished the book because that time and place intrigues me, but the H was one of the arrogant jerks common during the times of rape romances. This one didn’t go that far, but there was a lot of “I as good as own you, so I could take you to bed whether you like it or not, and you ought to be so grateful I’m not forcing you, you’d just hop in bed willingly.” I hate that kind of stuff and disliked him intensely.


  13. Maddy Barone says:

    I finished up my recent western romance kick by re-reading all my old paperbacks by Maggie Osborne. I have only four of her books in paperback, but they are all good; The Best Man, The Promise of Jenny Jones (possibly my absolute fave), Silver Lining, and I Do, I Do, I Do. Now I’m back in waiting mode, looking for Without Words.

  14. Jane says:

    Jenny Jones brought more than one tear to my eyes, another non typical h! Have read Maggie Osborne’s The Wives of Bowie Stone? It’s another fav of mine and maybe it will fill the time as we wait for Without Words. Love the snippet Ellen!

  15. Maggie Osborne is a favorite of mine too (along with Lorraine Heath). So far Silver Lining is my favorite, but I haven’t read some of the others. If it’s not available for Kindle or in the local library, I don’t read it. After spending most of my life with books overflowing many bookcases, piled high on every surface, and hidden in nooks and crannies like under the bed, I finally cleaned out everything but 3 bookcases of favorites and reference books. I will not buy paper books any more. ~Ellen

  16. McD says:

    LOVE that excerpt, Ellen! 🙂

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh my. What a tease. Loved this excerpt. Your books and characters are so original. I can hardly wait.

  18. Maddy Barone says:

    Ellen, I understand how you feel about not wanting to add any more paper books. I’ll be moving from North Dakota to Minnesota in the spring, and as I look at my many bookcases, I cringe. Four of those bookcases are loaded with hardback history/research books that I won’t give up, but I have as many crammed with paperbacks. Some of those I can NOT get rid of as I re-read them on a regular basis and they aren’t available on kindle. But I’m going to have to cull the collection and be utterly ruthless. I’m glad so many excellent books are available on kindle, and sad that so many aren’t.

  19. Mary says:

    Thanks Ellen – I loved the excerpt and can’t wait to read the book. The pre order idea is a good one but hopefully you will notify us UK readers who are unable to avail…I’ve read all your available WR work now and been unable to put the books down. My favourites are Eyes and Sing My Name. How could anyone not love your heroes and heroines, but especially Cord and Matt. Other WR books I’ve loved are Desert Sunrise by Raine Cantrell and Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath. It’s good to find a new (to me) genre with some great reads. I have read some WRs that I was not keen on. I agree with you the whole rape romance thing with an arrogant hero leaves me cold.
    To Maddy – I have also culled a lot of books recently but although I buy mostly on Kindle now I do buy some books that I love but are no longer available on Amazon’s marketplace, second hand. I read the fabulous One Wore Blue, One Wore Grey and one Rode West on that… not available on Kindle and Civil War not WR but well worth a read. Hope you don’t mind me saying gall this Ellen.

  20. Thanks McD and Anon.

    Maddy – Moving would force a real thinning out all right. As I said, I still have 3 bookcases, but I got rid of way more than that.

    Mary – Texas Destiny is one of my favorites too, as are a couple other of Lorraine Heath’s westerns. Interestingly, though, the next in the trilogy was just okay for me, and I didn’t finish the final one. I haven’t read the others you mentioned. I’ll have to see if the libraries here have any of them. I have access to my county library and to Denver. I have a lot of trouble with westerns too. I love them when they’re good, but the sad fact is a lot are what I call cheesy. I suppose that’s true of romance in general. I admit the list of things that will cause me to stop reading a romance grows longer every year, starting with lust = love, which probably eliminates half of them right there.

    I didn’t realize the indie pre-order set up doesn’t work for UK readers yet. That will mean other Amazon markets don’t get to use it either – like Canadians, Australians, Germans, etc. I’ve already been re-thinking using it for this book because the revisions are taking me so long, and Amazon insists on a 10-day interval between setting it up and releasing the book. I’m about at the point of thinking of just releasing it as soon as it’s ready.

    ~ Ellen

  21. Mary – Several authors who have done pre-order already tell me that they do show up in Amazon’s UK store and the other stores for Canada, Australia, Germany, etc. Perhaps you were thinking of the Kindle Unlimited subscription program. That’s only U.S. so far.

    ~ Ellen

  22. Mary says:

    Thanks Ellen – my mistake, was going to check after your comment don’t know why I had that in my head. Will take a look at it.

  23. Gypsy says:

    Without Words was recommended by Kindle today after I ordered Maggie Osborne. I loved seeing the rec. Of course, I already preordered but it was good to see the rec.

  24. Gypsy – That is so cool, and I’d never know about it if you didn’t pass it along. Thanks. ~ Ellen

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