Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays to All

Well I'm ready; how about you?

The ginger bread house is, as always, Danielle's, while everyone pitches in to load down our poor, groaning tree...

Wishing you all the best of holiday seasons!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Orianthi's Believe


I remember a skinny little kid named Orianthi who was a demon with a guitar, who didn't want to do anything but pick a six-string and sing, and who dreamed of growing up to be a rock star. I remember a growing girl who sat in the corner whispering with my daughter about how much they hated school and how embarrassing it was to have moms who wrote romances. I remember a teenager who was such a wonder with an electric guitiar that Carlos Santana invited her up on stage to do solos with him when he came to Adelaide. I remember a determined, incredibly talented young woman whose mom put her own dreams on hold to help her daughter reach for the moon and the stars.

Along the way, a lot of people said it would never happen. But today, she's in Los Angeles rather than Australia and her debut album, Believe, has just been released. Last I checked, her "According to You" was sitting at #32 on iTunes. Pretty neat, huh?

Congratulations, Orianthi! (And you, too, Sue.)

You can visit her website and watch her new music video here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some Good News...And More Water

I've had several pieces of good news this past week:

First, What Remains of Heaven has been nominated for Romantic Times' Best Historical Mystery of 2009 award.

Then, I learned that What Angels Fear and Why Mermaids Sing are both going back to press. This makes the fourth printing for Angels, which is pretty neat since it shows the series is continuing to pick up new readers--and has made my publisher happy.

And, best of all, I've learned that the first month sales of the hardcover release of What Remains of Heaven were almost double last year's sales of Where Serpents Sleep! So in a publishing environment where "flat is the new up," my sales are UP up.

As for the rain... New Orleans has now recorded 21.2 inches of rain for the month of December. According to the weather service, that total is the most ever to fall in a single month in the New Orleans area since 1947, when the service started keeping records at the airport. It even exceeds the total for the month of May 1995, when New Orleans had their big rain-induced flood. Of course, most of that rain fell in something like 12 hours, so this isn't nearly so bad. But then, we're still only halfway through the month, and the ground is beyond saturated.


I was planning to go Christmas shopping today. Not happening!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere


It’s not that I hate water. I just hate water running two feet deep down the street I’m trying to drive on. I hate water when it falls from the sky at the rate of nearly six inches in an hour. I hate water when I sit marooned for 90 minutes watching car after car die an ugly, sloshing death before me.

No, this isn’t our car. We had enough sense to pull off Severn onto a higher, nearby parking lot and wait for the water to go down (despite the fact Steve just bought a hulking big Toyota SUV). The driver of this Lexus wasn’t that smart.

Heavy rains are a part of life in New Orleans. But this one was a bit unusual. You see, the previous record rainfall for the month of December in New Orleans was only something like 10.7 inches. As of 9 pm last night, we’d broken that record, with 12.7 inches of rain recorded so far this month. And there’s still a lot of December left.

I like Al Gore’s phrase, “climate change deniers.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Year the Publishing Industry Committed Suicide—with a Little Help from Its Friends


Times have been tough for most of us lately. But the publishing industry seems to have chosen 2009 as the year to shoot itself in the foot. And the arm. And the leg….

First came reports that certain houses were cutting out Advance Readers Copies/Editions for all but all but a few lucky Chosen Ones. Publishers have always had a love-hate relationship with ARCs. On the one hand, they can be a good way to get a buzz going for a book. On the other hand, they’re expensive to produce and lately they have a nasty way of ending up on eBay, thus cutting into an author’s sales. So why not phase them out? Well, the main reason is because without ARCs, reviewers can’t review a book (most really don’t want to deal with PDF files). And without reviews, no one is going to know a book is out there. And if no one knows a book is out there, guys, how can you expect anyone to buy it?

Oh, look; our sales are tanking even worse!

So what did publishers do? They looked at their falling sales, got spooked, and came up with the bright idea to postpone the release of many their “big” books to the fall, by which time they assumed the economy would be better. It would have been bad enough if just one house had done this, but great minds—and not so great ones—tend to think alike. Result? Lots and lots of books—both “beach books” and literary fiction—that were supposed to come last summer were all dumped on the market this fall, along with all the “big” books that are normally released in the fall. As a result, more books were competing for fewer buyers, and everyone’s sales tanked. Clever, guys; very, very clever.

Then came the news that the grand dame of romance, Harlequin Mills and Boon, has decided to open up a vanity press division. Why is this an issue? Because writers’ organizations really, really hate vanity presses; they simply do not recognize them as legitimate publishing houses. So everyone from Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America to Science Fiction Writers of America and Fantasy Writers of America have reacted by announcing that any author whose book is published by Harlequin (that includes Mira, which has been trying to position itself as a big league publisher of mysteries and thrillers) is no longer eligible for any of those organizations’ awards. Ouch.

Obviously, the biggest impact of this decision will be felt by RWA. Harlequin’s sales make up something like fifty percent of all romance sales, and I suspect that Harlequin authors and those wanting to become Harlequin authors make up more than 50% of RWA’s members. The entrants to certain categories of the RITA come entirely from HM&B, and HM&B contributes heftily to RWA’s national convention every year. Basically, HM&B and the writers’ organizations are in a pissing contest. Who will win? I don’t know. But all I gotta say is: Great timing, guys!

And then Walmart decided they wanted to corner the market for online book orders. How? By selling the top ten bestselling hardcovers at a huge loss, for $9. In order to complete, Amazon.com matched Walmart.com’s prices, followed by Kmart. So readers now have a choice between paying $9 for a bestseller or $25 for a midlist author. Way to slaughter the midlist, guys—along with any remaining bricks-and-mortar bookstores. The most famous beneficiary of this scheme was probably Sarah Palin, whose $30 book was selling for less than a third its cover price…and don’t get me started on the millions Harper Collins is spending to hire a $4000/hour private jet for a month to ferry this “author” and her 15-plus entourage on the book tour to end all book tours. Literally.

It just keeps getting worse. Across the country, more and more hard-pressed newspapers have been eliminating their book sections and book reviews, making it harder and harder for authors to get their books reviewed anywhere except online. In September, Publishers Weekly announced that they would now only review one mass market original per house a month. And then, today, comes the news that Nielsen Business Media has “made the decision to cease operations” at Kirkus Reviews (as well as Editor & Publisher.)

For those of you not familiar with Kirkus, it was perhaps the most respected forum for book reviews, largely because they were tough. As Ron Charles at the Washington Post Book World tweeted, "Worst news in a long time: Kirkus shutting down. For me, they were the last reliable source of negative reviews." In other words, if a book got a good review from Kirkus, it meant something. Now, that’s gone.

So just how bad are things in the publishing industry? According to insiders, the sales of virtually all NYT bestselling authors—across the board--are down between 15-30%. Once, if an author’s sales were staying flat, it was considered the kiss of death for his career. Now, with most people’s sales tanking, if a writer’s sales are staying flat, that’s good.

Or as they say in New York these days, "Flat is the new up."

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Polish website Zbrodnia w Bibliotece recently ran a long interview with me. You can see their lovely posting here.

I found their questions both interesting and thought-provoking, so I thought I’d post some of them here for the benefit of those who (like me!) can’t read Polish.

ZwB: Do you think that historians are in some ways like detectives, searching for what happened in the past?
What an interesting question! I’ve never thought of it that way, but I think you may have something there. Much of what drives my interest in history has always been curiosity—I want to know what really happened, why, how, when, or by whom. With history, we can rarely be entirely certain that our reconstructions of the past are correct. But when I write a detective novel, I’m in complete control, so when Sebastian figures out the story of a slice of the past—the murder—he gets to KNOW he’s right.

ZwB: Why do you write historical crime novels?
I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, we lived in Spain and my holidays were spent climbing around crumbling castles and exploring ancient Roman ruins. My father was a professional historian and a great storyteller, so my bedtime stories were the tales of the Alhambra and Scheherazade. It was virtually fated that I’d grow up to earn a PhD in history and become a professor myself. I no longer teach, but I’ll always love history.

ZwB: Why do you think historical crime fiction is so popular?
Perhaps because many readers like to feel they’re also “learning” something when they read fiction? Because the lives of historical figures seem less complicated and constricted than ours? Because it’s pleasant to escape into both a different land and a different time? I suspect we each have our own reasons for enjoying historicals.

ZwB: Was your decision to do a historical detective novel based on market awareness or was it simply something you wanted to do?
At least in the States, contemporary mysteries and thrillers are actually more commercially successful than historicals. But I personally have always liked old-fashioned detective stories, where the emphasis is on character analysis and deduction rather than on police procedure or high-tech forensics. So putting my detective in an historical setting was a way to embrace what I enjoy and avoid what doesn’t interest me. Plus, of course, I love history.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Kitten Update

Yes, they're still here. All of them. They turn four months tomorrow.

We've found a friend to adopt the mama cat and one of the kittens (Peanut, the dainty, apricot-colored runt of the litter who's off doing her own thing, as usual), but he won't be taking possession until after he returns from a trip to South America later in the month. My daughter, Sam, wants to keep Whiskies, the sweetheart with the white markings on the left (she'll be adding him to the three black rescue cats she already has). That still leaves us with Peaches (the one sleeping in the back--Peaches is always sleeping) and Roscoe (the handsome adventurer on the right). The problem is, the longer we have them the more attached we become. They are sooo cute!