How a Major Publisher Took Over My Self-Published Book

Spy Fall_QuincyThis is release week for my latest Regency historical romance, Spy Fall. Or maybe I should say re-release week.

That’s because I originally self-published the story that begins with a daring parachutist spy landing on our drunken rake hero.

Under the working title, The Parachutist, the manuscript finaled in, or won, several contests for unpublished novels. The self-publishing world seemed like it was on fire and, after a few rejections, the time seemed right for me to venture out into the self-publishing jungle.

I quickly realized I didn’t want to wear that many hats. I don’t know enough about marketing — or have a wide-enough reach, like some uber-successful authors — to make a real success of self-publishing. I sold a few copies, but not near as many as I’d sold with my previous publisher.

When book two in the series sold to Loveswept, a romance imprint of Penguin Random House, I mentioned that I had a related book. The editors there were interested in seeing Spy Fall and I can’t tell you how excited I was when they decided to acquire it.

The series got a new name, Rebellious Brides, and the cover was tweaked just a little because they liked both. And we were off!

The world of publishing is in a constant state of flux and, while I’m not sorry I ventured outside my comfort zone to try something new, I’m so much happier to have a major publisher behind my books. I guess I like being on a team!

Here’s a little about Spy Fall:

Lovers of historical fiction could hardly do better than Diana Quincy’s Spy Fall,” proclaims Fresh Fiction. In this uniquely fresh and innovative Regency romance, a fearless French parachutist lands on top of a wicked rogue who endangers her mission—and her heart.
 
Mari Lamarre is gaining fame on both sides of the Channel for her daring aeronautic endeavors, but she hasn’t come to Dorset to showcase her talents. Rather, she’s been tasked with recovering sensitive information that may have fallen into the hands of the Marquess of Aldridge. It’s the riskiest adventure of her career—and it begins with a crash landing. Her fall is broken by the Marquess’s very own son, Cosmo, who’s clearly a rake and a drunk, not to mention a liability. So why does Mari find him so utterly alluring?
 
When he first spots the vision of loveliness in the sky, Lord Cosmo Dunsmore surmises he’s imbibed one drop too many, and an angel has come to fetch him. Little does he know that this female daredevil will make him feel more alive than ever before. But when their torrid affair takes a shocking turn, Cosmo must choose where his loyalties lie: with his respectable father—or with the captivating beauty whose fierce passion makes him feel like a new man.

You can pick up a copy here:

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

parachutistIn case you’re wondering, yes, there really were female parachutists in the early 1800s.

Mari, the heroine in Spy Fall, was loosely inspired by Elisa Garnerin, a real-life French balloonist and parachutist who made several jumps in the early 1800s. When I first learned about her, I realized I’d found the perfect inspiration for my next heroine.

Back then, parachutes had an attached basket and they’d ascend into the sky while secured to a hot air balloon. After cutting loose from the hot air balloon, they’d parachute down to safety.

Happy (almost) summer!

Diana

STEAL DEAL! ‘Engaging the Earl’ Is $.99

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It’s 1819, and Lady Kat is about to wed England’s most eligible bachelor.
But when her first love returns from abroad, an old desire is reborn.

“Sweet, steamy, and thoroughly enjoyable”
(New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes).

Here’s a little pre-holiday treat for readers.

Engaging the Earl, from my Accidental Peers series, is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. I was never a big fan of man chest covers, but I do like the relative subtlety of this one. It hints (a little) at the darkness in the hero, who has returned from the war suffering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which makes him believe he isn’t good enough for the heroine. Luckily, she sees it differently!

Here’s the blurb:

When the man she can’t forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Lady Katherine Granville’s perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Although she’s set to wed Society’s most eligible bachelor, Kat secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.

After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.

Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she’ll marry a man more worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can Kat and the new Earl of Randolph find their way back to each other and finally prove love really is sweeter the second time around?

To read an excerpt, or for more information about the Accidental Peers series, please visit my website.

You can buy your copy here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

Happy Reading!

 

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Perils of Holiday Pie Baking: 8th Time’s the Charm

Mom's apple pie

Mom’s apple pie

Growing up in a family of six children, there were two occasions when the apple pie had to be perfect: when we all gathered to eat on Thanksgiving, and then again on Christmas Day.

And you couldn’t fool around with the ingredients on those hallowed family occasions, the pie had to be made with the exact same recipe my mother learned as a young Foreign Service wife more than fifty years ago.

This year, when pie duty fell to me for the first time, I naively thought, What a great opportunity to learn how to make Mom’s apple pie. My two teenage sons love the fruity pastry and here was a chance to learn  the beloved family recipe directly from the source.

Applesauce pie. Not exactly what I was going for.

Applesauce pie. Not exactly what I was going for.

One Saturday morning, my 13-year-old son, who loves to bake, and I drove over to my Mom’s house and got down to business. My son took notes and I took pictures and it turned out to be a great bonding experience for three generations of our family. The pies were delicious, of course, and we devoured them after dinner.

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, I decided a few practice runs were in order—just to make sure the holiday pie would be as good as Mom’s.

I’ve never been interested in baking, but there was something calming and surprisingly satisfying about making my own dough, rolling it out, and assembling the pie. It wasn’t unlike the feeling that comes over me when my writing is going well.

That first trial run, my crust turned out a little hard, but I figured I’d perfect it the next time. And I did, more or less. The second time, the pie crust was pretty good, flaky with just the right crispness, but the apples had turned to applesauce. All of the experts had an opinion: maybe I’d used the wrong kind of apples (I hadn’t), maybe I’d used too few apples (possibly).

The next three tries ended up the same—more applesauce pie. By the fifth try, my failed attempts at apple pie had completely turned the boys off the dessert they’d loved since they were toddlers. But I refused to give up. I’d come home from the day job and roll up my sleeves to roll out some dough. I was determined to perfect that darn apple pie if it was the last thing I did. No flaky, fruity pastry was going to beat me.

In some ways, I thought as I concocted the sixth or seventh pie, the endeavor wasn’t unlike writing a book. You have to constantly tweak the ingredients until you come up with the best possible result.

"The Monster" apple pie

“The Monster” apple pie

Buy an oven thermometer, said my BFF/Beta Reader/Amateur Gourmet Chef, your temperature must be off. It wasn’t, at least not too badly.

Pile on tons of apples, said my sister. That resulted in a pie my BBF called The Monster. As it happens, The Monster turned out OK, but it looked ridiculous and some of the apples were under cooked.

Desperate for a good outcome, I went to Mom’s house on Thanksgiving morning to make the pies under her watchful eye. She used more flour and apples than I did. And the pies, of course, turned out great.

With Thanksgiving done, I now had Christmas to worry about look forward to. After tweaking the recipe the way I’d seen Mom do it at Thanksgiving, my eighth attempt finally, finally yielded decent results. The pie wasn’t perfect, but the crust was fine and the apples weren’t mushy.

So I’m all ready for Christmas Day. Sort of. My sister just texted me that she’d be happy to make the apple pies this holiday. I think I’ll try a one more apple pie test run before I text her back. I’d never turn over the writing of my books to anyone else. But pie is another story…

Happy Holidays everyone!

Love,
Diana

You can find me at:

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Spy Fall (final) 300 @ 72 dpi low resEarl-1-200x300Willa-1600px-200x300Bella-1600px-200x300Charlotte-1600px-200x300

NJRW Conference 2014 Highlights: What Publishers Are Looking for Now

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference is a treat I look forward to every October, not just for the chance to mingle with fellow writers and attend craft workshops, but also because it’s an opportunity to get a feel for the pulse of the publishing industry.

Given its proximity to New York, the New Jersey conference traditionally draws a fair number of editors and agents. Our own Violet Femme Joanna Shupe did a phenomenal job coordinating these expert panels, which are always an excellent opportunity to learn what’s going on in the  New York publishing world.

More than one editor on the panel mentioned that she’s looking for more romantic suspense, while another said she’s loving cowboys and Amish romance. One panelist mentioned that shorter, grittier romances are a current trend. All in all, there seemed to be a general cooling off toward paranormal, although one editor still wanted to see young adult paranormals.

As an historical writer, I was thrilled to hear editorial assistant Nicole Fisher say Avon would never give up on historicals.

Lauren McKenna, executive editor & editorial director at Gallery/Pocket books, reiterated her love of the genre, telling writers in the audience that what she’s looking for in historical submissions is something she hasn’t seen before.

The editors also touched on how digital publishing’s fast turnaround allows a new author to release books and build a readership faster than with print alone. They also talked about the importance of signing writers who are willing to work with their editors to make their books the best they can be.

During their panel discussion following the editors forum, agents stressed that  authors, both published and unpublished, should have an online platform and be active on social media because that helps the agents sell their books.

Earlier in the conference, I slipped into the standing-room-only special PRO presentation, “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level,” given by New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter. She gave pre-published authors tips on pacing and avoiding that dreaded saggy middle. She also left them with the advice: “Don’t let the rules of writing rule you.”

The Violet Femmes threw a “Ditch the Heels” evening social on the first night of the conference, which turned out to be a great success. Femme Jaye Marie Rome blogged about the bash last week.

Another highlight of the conference for me was the Book Fair. It was my first book signing and it was such fun to meet and talk with readers. I wasn’t sure what to hand out to people who stopped by my table but I eventually settled on candy, custom matches and a post card with a link to an excerpt of my latest release.

At my first-ever book signing and the "swag" on the left.

At my first-ever book signing and the “swag” on the left.

People who signed up for my mailing list had a chance to win a copy of Compromising Willa and a carton of custom tea — the heroine of the book blends custom teas so I thought that would be a fun promotional tie in.

Fellow femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

Fellow Femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

On the final evening, the Femmes went out for dinner at Bonefish Grill.

We caught up with each other, gossiped about the industry, and shared details of what we’re currently working on. These gatherings are always special because it’s rare for us all to be in one place at the same time.

We definitely made the most of it!

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

On Sunday, we all headed home, but the aftereffects of the conference lingered. I came home super motivated to jump back into my current work in progress. In that way, the NJRW conference is the gift that keeps on giving.

I can’t wait until next year!

Best,
Diana

You can find me at:

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Spy Fall (final) 300 @ 72 dpi low resEarl-1-200x300Willa-1600px-200x300Bella-1600px-200x300Charlotte-1600px-200x300

 

Anatomy of a Romance Cover

Authors, who tend to have little control over how their books are packaged and presented to readers, often complain that the covers of historical romance novels tend to be too generic, neglecting to capture what’s unique about the content in the pages behind the cover.

I’ve been very lucky with the covers that have come from my publisher. I absolutely love the cover for Tempting Bella, my second book, which features a wedding dress.  And once I heard that naked man chest outsells other covers by a rate of 10 to 1, I asked to test out that theory for Engaging the Earl, my fourth book.  I also wanted Earl to have the same  look and feel as Bella and was pleased with the result.

Tempting Bella-Engaging the Earl

When I decided to self-publish my fifth title, the opportunity to have complete control over the book’s final look was both daunting and exciting. I turned to Carrie at Seductive Designs for guidance.

Since Spy Fall features a parachuting heroine who also pilots hot air balloons, I very much wanted Mari’s unique profession to feature prominently on the cover. I happily scoured stock photo sites for images of a cover couple and hot air balloon. I came up with the perfect images, which turned out not to be so perfect. In the end, I happily dumped my first choices for the photos Carrie suggested and the result is a cover I adore.

Spy Fall (final) 800 @ 72 dpi low res

But, getting to this final look took some work. And I’ve asked Carrie to tell us a little bit about what went into it.

Carrie: The look of Spy Fall started with Diana’s request to have a really great “S” for the word Spy.  That was the one thing that she knew she wanted to emphasize from the very start.  I think a lot of authors who haven’t had a cover designed for them before are surprised at how important the fonts of the text are to create a cover that gives the right impression. 
I initially chose the couple and background in the middle sample. But once I saw it laid out, I went for the look on the far right, which Carrie went on to refine.

Diana initially chose the couple and background in the middle sample. But once she saw it laid out, Diana went for the look on the far right, which Carrie went on to refine.

You can see from these initial samples that the text of the cover didn’t vary much from beginning to end. Which is actually pretty unusual, but I had a vision of how I wanted it to look overall and it worked (which doesn’t always happen).We didn’t really know what images we were going to use, but I had a pretty good idea of the fonts that I thought would work well for the title as well as for Diana’s name, and where we were going to place all of the text.

We finally decided on the couple in #3 because of the connection between the two models. It’s intimate and touching and the female model plays a very dominant role in the image. She seems strong, yet vulnerable and protected by her hero at the same time which was perfect for our lady Spy. I love that the couple plays such a strong role on the cover, and the beautiful blue greens of the sea that evoke the danger and turbulence that our heroine faces.

While the colors are vibrant we kept the color palette fairly simple so as not to overwhelm you with too much too look at. By keeping to blues, greens and yellows, it let’s you really focus on what’s important, the couple, the hot air balloon and the text. It doesn’t try to visually represent all aspects of the story, just the most important ones.

There are a lot of little things that make the design work, but I don’t think you want me to get into the minutiae…like how the slope of the coastline leads into the fall of her dress and how they are holding hands. Or that the line of their heads angle down to the hot air balloon parallel to the coastline. And that the “action” of the cover reads left to right. It starts high on the left and angles down to the right. That’s not a happy accident, it’s deliberate. Little things like that that you probably didn’t notice, but when you see it it’s pleasing to the eye. Your brain likes it, even if you don’t know why 🙂

In the end it’s a combination of aesthetics, color, finding and personalizing the right images to fit the story, and maybe one or two happy accidents in addition to careful planning and communication between Diana and myself. I’m just thrilled that the cover is being received well, and that Diana loves it and how it represents her story. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making a cover that readers will find appealing.

Diana: What makes a good cover?

Carrie: I think the best way to try to explain it is by giving you some comparisons. First, let’s take two different covers that were released within weeks of each other for the same author, Janice Kay Johnson, in the Romantic Suspense genre. Janice is a RITA-award winning author of more than 80 books, most of which are with Harlequin, and she’s now starting to self publish some of her books herself.

I created a cover for Janice’s new series, Shroud of Fog is the first, and another cover artist created a cover for another of her romantic suspense novels, Dangerous Waters. They were released within weeks of each other. Same genre, same author…totally different sales. I don’t know the full sales history of either book, but I do occasionally check books that I’ve created covers for to see how they are selling compared to an author’s other books, and against their competition.

Shroud of Fog was released Jan. 31, 2014 and is currently ranked 17,918 in Kindle sales. It’s seemed to have steady sales from the get to. Maybe not NYT bestseller list sales, but it has sold well for the author. Dangerous Waters was released Jan. 17, 2014 and is currently ranked 224,509 in Kindle sales. That’s a dramatic difference in sales for books by the same author in the same genre in the same time frame. True, not all books are received the same, but neither book has many reviews so I don’t know that you can say that one book is necessarily better than the other…at least not based on reviews. So you could say that the cover design might be driving sales up for one, and down for another (this is just a theory).

shroud of fog-dangerous waters copy
Let’s take a look at Dangerous Waters first. The book description describes a couple attracted to each other while on the run, desperate, and in danger. So a woman looking over her shoulder makes sense. It’s set in a small town where the heroine rescues the hero in a lake at twilight so the lake makes sense. I think where this cover goes wrong is that the heroine is made less important than the lake. She’s almost like a ghost in the water. And while the blues and oranges are bright colors the landscape isn’t appealing enough to have the most important role in the cover imagery. The cover artist used fonts that were easily readable, which is good, but dark letters on a dark background don’t stand out well when you are browsing titles at a small scale. We have three things that don’t really work well together. The woman is hard to see when the cover is small, the text is hard to read when the cover is too small, and the landscape picture that dominates the cover isn’t as appealing as it should be. These three things combined work against this book (at least IMO).

Now let’s take a look at Shroud of Fog. The book description describes a woman seeking refuge, a killer threatened to be exposed and a wounded hero trying to protect the woman that he’s come to love. It was important to both the author and me to find a couple that gave the impression of love and tenderness. With the woman resting her head on the man’s shoulder and his hand caressing her cheek, you are visually connected to the hero protecting the woman and their blossoming love. And since the author’s books aren’t explicit romances, neither is the image.

Next we wanted to portray that sense of danger, and what could be more creepy than a shadowy figure in the woods? The sense of danger is just as important as the love story since it’s a romantic suspense novel, so they occupy equal space and are given equal importance on the cover. The colors are deliberately muted so that it’s more about the imagery than about the color. Sometimes color can work for you, and sometimes it can work against you. In this instance, I think it gave it a more misty, scary quality that ties in with the title Shroud of Fog. The fonts are also bigger so that they can be more easily read at smaller scales.

It’s interesting to see a comparison like this for a well-seasoned author where you would think a cover wouldn’t matter as much, but clearly it does. I think a great cover will help tell the author’s story visually using the most compelling elements. Keep it simple, make sure it’s easily legible, and hopefully is the best version of the author’s vision for her story.

Diana: Your second example involves a cover you revamped… 

Carrie:  It’s a cover for an author who wanted a book cover redesigned. One was designed by another cover artist, and then the author approached me about redesigning the cover using the same imagery. What kind of difference can there be if you use the same image on a cover? A LOT!

 
a measured risk
The hero in this book is a dominant male so the first thing I did was flip the image from having him on the right, to having him on the left. Visually the hero is going to seem more dominant subconsciously when on the left. The second thing I had to address were the details like her hair and dress. These were recolored to fit the story, but in the first version, all of the detail of her hair was lost when changing it from honey blond to black. Trust me when I say details like this can be tedious, time-consuming work, but when you get it wrong, you notice that it’s not right.
 
One of the best compliments that I can get is that you don’t notice all of the changes that have been made to stock images to personalize it to the author’s story. However, the biggest flaw in the previous version is the background. It overpowers the entire cover. The background has the same kind of visual importance as the main couple, in fact it fights for dominance…and when you have an alpha hero like the one in this story, that’s not what you want. We’ve got a beautiful male model to work with so why would we want to overpower his presence with a very busy background? It’s called a background/backdrop for a reason. It should compliment rather than distract.
 
Finally, I changed the fonts and the placement of the text. The author has a very long last name so placement can be tricky, and by placing her name in the center of the cover, which usually lends the name more importance, it actually kind of gets lost because of all of the visual busyness at the top. So even though her name is now at the bottom, and one of the last things you might see, it is more prominent. Using a different font, and emphasizing the work “Risk” (which carries through the rest of the series) for the title completed the new look. Same image, two totally different looks.

After the author switched out the cover image her sales immediately shot up to a level that she had never seen before (according to an email she sent me). I was very happy that the new cover did it’s job and helped readers find a lovely love story.

You can ask 10 different people and probably get 10 different answers. A good cover is somewhat subjective, but by keeping it simple, stunning and legible, you can never go wrong.

Diana: What covers are you loving right now?

Carrie: I personally tend to be drawn to a more artistic-looking cover that is both beautiful and striking. Some of my newest favorites are Grace Burrowes’ Captive Hearts series.  I love the colors, the flowing fabrics…everything about them speaks to the designer and romance reader in me. I think they are just STUNNING (and I’m sure cost a pretty penny, too). 

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Time Traveling in Colonial Williamsburg

The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia. This is a reconstruction of the original building.

The Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia. This is a reconstruction of the original building.

As an author of historical romance, I’ve often wished I could go back in time to see what daily life was like for the characters I write about.

A trip to Colonial Williamsburg, where the fake and real are artfully blended to recreate Virginia’s colonial past, is probably the closest a writer can get to time traveling.

So I set out to visit the quaint town that was once the capital of Virginia, Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost in the New World.

The historic area of covers 301 acres; 88 of its buildings are original structures from the 1700s, while other houses and shops were reconstructed on their original foundations.

The people who work there, known as interpreters, dress in period costume and address visitors in the formal language one might have expected to hear 200 years ago. It was a time when a lady never exposed her elbows and life expectancy was between 42 to 48 years old.

These ladies told me they like wearing stays because they are “comfortable & support you.”

These ladies told me they like wearing stays because they are “comfortable and support you.”

Costumed attendants also practice the ancient crafts, such as blacksmithing and brickmaking, in much the same way they would have in 1700s America.

The writer in me was fascinated to get a close-up look at this living history museum.

I started at the Millinery Shop to get a look at clothes and accessories from the colonial era.  The lady’s shift we saw was cut very wide to give the wearer more padding. Not exactly something a modern woman would want!

photo 1

Gentlemen’s riding breeches, these are leather, at the Millinery Shop.

 

photo 2

A man’s banyan with a floral pattern. Few colors or patterns were associated with gender back in colonial times.

 

A man's wrapping gown for casual dressing at home or at one's shop.  So yes, they were seen in public dressed this way.

A man’s wrapping gown for casual dressing at home or at one’s shop. So yes, they were seen in public dressed this way.

The rebuilt buildings were interesting but I was most fascinated by the original structures from the 18th century. The furnishings inside these houses are not original but they are period-appropriate pieces.

This parlor belonging to the lady of the house is painted blue because it was seen as a passive and feminine shade.

This parlor belonging to the lady of the house is painted blue because it was seen as a passive and feminine shade.

 

Wythe House, built in 1750, features the bright wallpaper that was a sign of wealth.

Wythe House, built in 1750, features the bright wallpaper that was a sign of wealth.

More signs of wealth: bright paint colors in two rooms.

More signs of wealth: bright wall colors in two rooms.

As a big fan of food, I paid special attention to the dining rooms, where the tables were laid out with fare residents of the home might have consumed.

Three meals were served each day: breakfast, dinner and supper. Dinner, what we now call lunch, was the biggest meal of the day and supper was often the leftovers from dinner.

Dinner at Randolph House might have included a leg of lamb, baked fish with peas, and sweet potato pudding. Pies without a top crust were called puddings.

Dinner at Randolph House might have included a leg of lamb, baked fish with peas, and sweet potato pudding. Pies without a top crust were called puddings.

 

Desserts in Colonial America included dried fruits and nuts, ginger cakes, pound cake puddings, red wine with lots of sugar and apple pie.

Desserts in Colonial America included dried fruits and nuts, ginger cakes, pound cake puddings, red wine with lots of sugar and apple pie.

And if your meal didn’t sit well in your belly, it was time for a visit to the apothecary.

I was amused to learn laxatives were the most-prescribed curative in 18th Century Williamsburg. Syrup of violets was used to ease this uncomfortable problem. Camphor was an inhalant to open nasal passages and also for muscle aches and pains. Sulfur helped with skin conditions and cloves eased tooth aches.

My favorite Colonial Williamsburg medical treatment was chocolate, which was recommended as a cough suppressant.

Spanish flies were used to ease urinary tract infections and also as an aphrodisiac.

Spanish flies were used to ease urinary tract infections and also as an aphrodisiac.

Overall, it wasn’t exactly time traveling but my visit to Colonial Williamsburg did give me a glimpse into the past and I was inspired when I sat down to write again; my characters and the times in which they lived came to life a bit  more vividly in my mind.

What about you? As an author, what inspires your writing? As a reader, what inspires you to read novels set in different time periods?   

I picked up this Colonial Williamsburg tote bag on my visit. I'll gift it to a blog visitor who leaves a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

I picked up this Colonial Williamsburg tote bag on my visit. I’ll gift it to a blog visitor who leaves a comment below.

 

The Standing Desk: What’s Old is New Again

When I started using a standing desk at the day job, I thought I was onto something new.

Turns out I was wrong.

In fact, standing desks have been used for much of human history. The elevated surfaces were built so that people could stand and write on a slanted surface. Tall stools were often nearby for when people needed to sit for a bit.

Members of the Doctors Commons, a society of lawyers, stand while working. (circa 1857)

Members of the Doctors Commons, a society of lawyers, stand while working. (circa 1857)

Thomas Jefferson was among the first on record to adopt the standing desk; he designed his own in the 1700s.

The nation’s third president came up with an adjustable desk that allowed him to stand (maybe while writing the Declaration of Independence?) or to bring it down to a level where he could sit  on a stool.

The six-legged desk also had an adjustable work surface that slanted upward.

The standing desk designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The standing desk designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens were also known to use standing desks.

Woolf’s nephew, Quentin Bell, wrote that she “had a desk standing about three feet six inches high with a sloping top; it was so high that she had to stand at her work.”

I’m not sure why they all worked on their feet, but I was motivated by health concerns and the impact of sitting for too many hours each day–first at the day job and then at home while writing my novels.

Multiple studies suggest people who sit for extended periods of time run an increased risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, leg disorders, soft bones…not to mention a sore backside.

Way back in 1883, Popular Science magazine also cited health reasons when encouraging readers to use standing desks.

“At the first symptoms of indigestion, book-keepers, entry-clerks, authors, and editors should get a telescope-desk. Literary occupations need not necessarily involve sedentary habits, though, as the alternative of a standing-desk, I should prefer a Turkish writing-tablet and a square yard of carpet-cloth to squat upon.”

Illustration for an adjustable standing desk from an 1899 book, "School Hygiene," by Dr. Ludwig Wilhelm Johannes Kotelmann, John A. Bergström and Edward Conradi.

Illustration for an adjustable standing desk from an 1899 book, “School Hygiene,” by Dr. Ludwig Wilhelm Johannes Kotelmann, John A. Bergström and Edward Conradi.

A man stands while he works in this painting from 1829.

A man stands while he works in this painting from 1829.

Ernest Hemingway always stood while he worked, according to a 1958 Paris Review article:

“A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu — the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

Ernest Hemingway types at his standing desk.

Ernest Hemingway types at his standing desk.

In the book, Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, AE Hotchner describes Hemingway’s set-up at his home in Havana:

“He never worked at the desk. Instead, he used a stand up work place he had fashioned out of a bookcase near his bed. His portable typewriter was snugged in there and papers were spread along the top of the bookcase on either side of it. He used a reading board for longhand writing.”

In Engaging the Earl, war hero Edward Stanhope returns home on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

In Engaging the Earl, war hero Edward Stanhope returns home on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

People have asked me if the creative juices flow while I’m standing up.

I was on my feet for much of the time while completing my latest book, Engaging the Earl, which is out today. (Shameless Plug Alert: $.99 for a limited time!)

I’ll admit writing was a challenge at first, but now I don’t even think about it. In fact, I’m more comfortable standing for four or five hours each day.

All in all, I feel much better, my body isn’t as stiff, my bottom doesn’t get sore, and I rarely get those aches across the back of my shoulders that I feel after sitting for long periods of time.

I’m such a fan that I am ready to get rid of my makeshift standing desk at home to splurge on the real thing.

After all, Hemingway, Woolf, Carroll and the rest of them must have been onto something!

And before I leave you…

5 Interesting Reasons to Read ENGAGING THE EARL

1. The hero returns from years at war on the evening the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man.

2. Edward suffers from nostalgia…which is known today as Post Traumatic Stress (The U.S. military has stopped referring to this condition as a disorder–dropping the D from PTSD–to remove the stigma associated with it.)

3. The heroine’s dog helps Edward cope with his attacks. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helps him manage his PTS.

4. Edward is loosely inspired by Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who wasn’t allowed to marry an earl’s daughter because he was a second son with no prospects. Ten years later, after gaining a dukedom for his war service, Wellington returned to marry the woman he left behind.

5. Engaging the Earl is only $.99 for a limited time. And who doesn’t love a good bargain?

Amazon ~ B&N ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ GoogleBooks

Publishing a Series Out of Order & Other Adventures in Publishing

UnderwoodKeyboardThe one thing all newer authors learn pretty quickly is that there is no blueprint, no “how to” guide, to publishing.

We kind of have to feel our way around, gleaning what information we can from conferences and loops while being careful not to ask our editors or agent too many questions for fear of being a pest or looking stupid (at least in my case).

I’m a new-ish author.  Even though I’ve published three books in the past year, I remain a novice in many ways and how I handled my first series certainly attests to that fact.

My debut novel, published in April 2013, was not the first manuscript I wrote; it wasn’t even the first book I sold. The first title I sold was Tempting Bella, the third book in the series. My fabulous agent went to bat for me right away, asking my editor to publish the second book in the series, Seducing Charlotte, first.

Why not the publish the first book in the series first? After all, that would make the most sense as reviewers have certainly pointed out.
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Hemingway’s Tips for Writers

A Moveable Feast Not long ago, I read The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s bestselling novel about the first of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives.

The novel covers a remarkable period of time—Paris in the 1920s—when the Hemingways socialized with accomplished literary figures such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, a group that came to be known as the “Lost Generation.”

I was so riveted by the interactions among these fascinating characters that I immediately downloaded A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s own account of his time in Paris as a struggling, unknown writer.

There were many things about the book that resonated with me, including Hemingway’s self-described habits for fruitful writing and I thought they might be of interest to other authors as well.

So here are a few tips that might help you get your “Hemingway” on…starting with a technique Ernest used to make sure the words kept flowing:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day…I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

During this period, Hemingway worked in a small room on the  top floor of a hotel, a space he described as “warm and pleasant.” He would bring mandarin oranges and chestnuts to roast on the fire when he was hungry. And when he hit a stumbling block…

Ernest Hemingway (wearing a beret) sits by a fireplace in his apartment in Paris, France. (Papers of Ernest Hemingway. Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Ernest Hemingway (wearing a beret) sits by a fireplace in his apartment in Paris, France. (Papers of Ernest Hemingway. Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)


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TEMPTING BELLA Giveaway Winner

Tempting Bella_The winner of our Dirty Talk, Regency Style giveaway is:

Ki Pha

Ki Pha wins a copy of Tempting Bella,  book #2 in Diana Quincy’s Accidental Peers series. Please see your inbox for more details.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Happy Reading!

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