An Invitation (Tara Taylor Quinn)

A couple of years ago I bought Tim a camera.  Mom chipped in for a lense.  And now he brings incredible beauty out of everywhere we go.  He brings into our home – beautiful nature when we’re trapped inside the dark.  Exquisitely detailed snippets that bring memories to crisp life.  This is what happens when we dare to say what we want – and then give our desires every bit of our energy.  When we dare to want.

I’ve faced some trials.  I continue to face them.  And I look at this picture and I know that I also dare to want.  I get up every single day because life is there, waiting for me to take it up with all that I am.  And I take it up.

And pictures happen.  Memories happen.  Good things happen.

Next week, one week from today, August 22, I am celebrating another birthday.  And Tim and I, along with Harlequin Books, and others, are bringing the celebration to you.  Every single person gets a present – completely free – no strings attached.  No limit to the number of presents.  If we have a million people, there will be a million presents.  (Thanks, to Harlequin!)  We hope you will join us!!

From the time I was a kid, all I cared about was reading and writing.  And love and relationships.  I didn’t need a lot of friends, I just needed the friends I had to be connected bone deep.  I was the same in my reading.  I didn’t love a lot of authors, but I was connected, bone deep, to the ones I read.  Once I graduated from Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, I was pretty exclusive.  I read Harlequin category romance.  And I read – and studied – Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe.  Both spoke to me, intimately, for different reasons.  I wrote theses on both during college.  And I look at that picture up there, and life comes together for me.  Everything is connected.  Tim takes a beautiful picture of a raven simply because the raven was there and he noticed it - and I look at it and hear Edgar Allen Poe saying, “Quoth the raven, nevermore.”

Please join us next week – I’m daring to want for my birthday – and what I want is connections.  Nothing more.

 

The Future of Publishing in 3 Easy Steps (Maggie)

I just read a (way too long) piece about the future of publishing, that used big words and convoluted sentences and basically said nothing at all.  As I read it, I realized the headline was designed to draw readers to the site, (I had to jump through significant hoops just to get to read the piece) while delivering nothing that the title promised.  NOTHING.  I was very disappointed, and I thought, I can predict the future of publishing better and more accurately than they just did. Because not only have I been in this business for nearly 20 years, I know how the Universe works.  So then I decided that’s exactly what I would do with today’s blog post.  So here it is, The Future of Publishing in Three Easy Steps.

First the obligatory setup.  Right now, publishing is in flux.  Publishers are hurting for money and taking it out of the skin of their authors.  They’re also driving us nuts trying to push us to write what their marketing departments think will sell, pushing more of us to try to take the do-it-yourself route.  The choices seem to be:  A.  Write what they tell you for 8% of cover for print and 12.5% – 20% of cover price for e, or B. Write whatever you want for 70% of cover price in e.  Authors are making an apparent mass exodus from their publishers.  At least, they are if you believe the Internet buzz.  I don’t really buy it.  I live from advance to advance, and if I skip one, my bills aren’t going to be paid, for one thing.  I think most authors are like me.  Besides, I like my publisher, I love my editor, we get along well, we have a nice thing going, and I’m really not about casting them in the role of Big Bad Enemy of the Universe.

Yes, Jo Konrath, I write for Harlequin.  I signed the contract.  We disagree from time to time.  We discuss it privately.  This is a business, and I am a grown up making my own decisions. The terms to which I agree are between my agent, my publisher and myself, period.  If you disapprove of what I do, I can only drop my favorite quote on you,”What you think of me is none of my business.”  I love my job. I am the luckiest person in the world to be paid to do what I love to do best.

So back to my topic.  The flip side of this current boom in electronic publishing, is that everyone who can string together a coherent sentence, and most of those who can’t, are now self-publishing, calling themselves authors, and glutting the net with their titles.  They’ve become more and more savvy about cover art, so you can’t tell anything by that anymore, and many of them have figured out how to manipulate the system to hit the Amazon bestseller lists, even though they have grammatical errors in their one-paragraph book description. Yes, it’s true.  I’ve talked to them, visited their book pages at Amazon and BN, and they’re all over the bestseller lists, and they can’t spell.  It’s insane right now.  People who can’t write their way out of a paper bag are outselling seasoned, award winning novelists.  And it’s enough to make a lot of people consider tossing their careers and starting to look for new ones. It’s unfair, authors yell!  It’s criminal, even, they moan.

But, authors, colleagues, friends, scribes, remember this bit of wisdom.  No one can sell enough books to make you sell fewer.  And no one can sell poorly enough to make you sell more.  Each person’s journey is her own, personal, private journey, and the things you experience come to you according to what you are attracting, what you believe in, what you expect, what you focus on.  Period.  No one else matters.

So take a deep breath with me now, fill those lungs to bursting.  And now hold it for a beat or two.  And now blow it out, all of it.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  And read on.

Here’s the future of publishing in three easy steps.

1.  The cream will rise to the top as it always does.

Some indie authors who are truly talented will take their place among their peers, as they should, and those who can’t write and shouldn’t write, will eventually move on to their next get rich quick notion. Not that what they do matters one little bit.

2.  Some publishers will figure out how to master the new frontier of ebooks while making money and paying their authors decently.  Those who embrace change, and are open to new ways of doing business will thrive.  Others, those who resist change, and fear it, will not, and they will fade away.  Some of the new publishers who’ve sprung up almost as thickly as the rash of new “authors” have, will prove themselves worthy and will thrive.  Most will not.  Most will vanish.

But some new presses are going to emerge from this book revolution as real, viable new options for authors.  Already several of the new houses born of this chaos are looking very promising.  (Entangled is my favorite new publisher, I like what they’re doing and would buy stock if it were available.  I have nothing invested there, and get no cut for saying so, but I love their unique, forward thinking business model immensely and I believe they’ll do very well going forward. They are positive thinkers, innovative, outside the box people, highly creative, and open minded, and that’s just the type who will do well.)

And some of the long time, old school publishers whose names we’ve long known, if they cannot adapt, will become extinct.  Like dinosaurs.  And that’s okay.  That’s their journey.

3.  In ten years, maybe five, because this is moving fast, we’ll see a new publishing landscape, with new players on the scene, but things will once again have settled into a comfortable, navigable pattern.  Some of the big publishers we currently know will still be in existence.  Some will not.  And some new ones will be standing beside them.

There will still be print books, and there will still be ebooks, and there will still be hardcover and paperback, and maybe trade.  It’s okay.  It’s all going to be just fine.

Some authors will have gone away, some newcomers will have risen to stardom, and some old beloved bestsellers will still be bestsellers.  Some authors will be publishing independently and having great success, others will be publishing traditionally, and having great success.  Some will be doing both and having great success.

Some authors will still be bitching that the world is ending and that everything sucks and that terms are unfair and that Amazon or Harlequin or both are the Anti-Christ, and they will not be doing so well, but I suspect they will be enjoying wallowing in their misery.  But that misery will have nothing to do with Harlequin or Amazon (or the Anti-Christ, for that matter.)  It will have to do with their own vibration, expectations, mind-set, focus.

Basically, those who are acting right now, today, based on fear and panic, running around shouting that the sky is falling, certain that it’s the end of the world as we know it, aren’t going to make it into publishing’s future.

Those who are acting right now from a place of recognizing this time as one of great opportunity, who are excited about the new horizons in publishing and seeking ways to embrace them and make the most of them, are the ones who will not just survive, but thrive.

Be excited about the future.  Expect good things, and good things will come.

That’s not just the future of publishing.  It’s the future, period.

You’re welcome.

Sh*t Girls Say and Other Timely Topics (Maggie)

I found plenty of interesting tidbits in my morning browse of the net, which really is where I get most of my news (though I generally have either The Today Show (on days when I want to be entertained) or Morning Joe (on days when I’m feeling political) on my TV at the same time.

The bit that caught my attention most today was this piece from Publisher’s Weekly, which is a far too brief little bite informing us that Harlequin (my publisher, full disclosure) has acquired the book rights to SH*T GIRLS SAY, a series of Youtube videos that have gone viral.

Here’s the “article” (all three lines of it. Okay, there are more than three lines.)

Here’s one of the videos.  And I have to admit, they are hilarious.

Harlequin is going to release the book in hardcover in October.  Here’s my concern; the video series is basically making fun of women.  Harlequin is a company that has been built by women.  Women readers have made it the biggest and arguably, most powerful publisher in the world.  Women writers have provided the content, the product, that enabled them to make billions.  And romance novels have always been a subject of ridicule and fun-poking in pop culture.  It’s been going on forever.  Now with the advent of “mommy porn” and the apparent tendency of the general public to confuse  S&M and Domination/submission type erotica with romance novels–we’re really being lumped together these days, one of the less happy side-effects of the e-publishing phenomenon–the ridicule is getting bigger.  Every time the media does a piece about the new fad they’ve dubbed “mommy-porn” they drag our beloved romance genre into it as if it’s all the same thing.

Newsflash: It’s not.

But now the world’s largest publisher whose name is synonymous with romance, is publishing a book based on videos that, well, frankly, bash females.  And I’m worried.  I know they’re funny as hell, they really are.  But they aren’t woman poking fun at themselves. (Which would be okay, and yes that’s a double standard, but it’s also a true one.) These vids are men in drag, poking fun at women, the gender that Harlequin is built upon. See, this is what makes this so tricky.

I think my beloved publisher might be treading some very dangerous ground.  The book, titled, by the way, SH*T GIRLS SAY, could be a huge hit–or it could alienate Harlequin’s (and my own) core audience. Only time will tell which it will be.  And it will depend largely on the execution.

I do love my publisher.  We have a long and strong relationship that I hope continues for a long time.  I know times are tough and a hit release that would make a big profit is a hard thing to ignore.  I totally get that business is business, and profits in this particular economy, are as hard to find as diamonds in a copper mine.  One can’t just ignore the potential here.  So I’m holding my breath to see how this book is handled, and hoping it emerges with the respect this company has always shown the female gender.  I’m hopeful that’s the way this will emerge.  And eager to see how it’s handled.

What do you think about Harlequin’s decision to publish the book?  Check out the videos (there are lots of knockoffs, so begin with the link here and then look at the ones published by the same people.)  And then come back and tell me what you think?  Funny?  YES.  But right for a Harlequin Book?  Hmmm….

 

 

 

Are We There Yet? (Tara Taylor Quinn)

When I was kid one of the hardest parts of the summer for me was the drive to vacation.  From the moment school was out I started to count the days until I’d be on vacation – which in my family meant only one thing.  We had one vacation.  We took it over and over and over again.  We went to the family cabin up in Michigan.  Every summer we’d spend two glorious weeks in the primitive privateness of the middle of nowhere with a stream running through our backyard and the best ice cream you’ll ever eat just twenty minutes away in the closest town – a little place that doesn’t even have a full sized grocery store.  All of that was good.  But for me, vacation meant hours and hours alone with my best friend, running wild and free, with the world at our feet.  Every summer her family met us at our family cabin and the two families vacationed together.  And every summer, I had to sit in the back of my father’s car with my two brothers and sit…and wait…and sit…and wait…for six long hours until we’d get there.  Until I’d see Jeanine again.  And every summer I’d ask, ‘are we there yet’ until I’d be told, in no uncertain terms, not to ask the question again.

This morning, it’s the only question running through my mind.  Are we There yet?  I have an idea of where ‘there’ is.  I’m just not certain how far away from ‘there’ we are.  I’m anticipating arrival.  And at the same time, worried that we aren’t ever going to arrive.  The Chapman Files are on their way.  We’re going to meet.  Someplace glorious I hope.  Like somewhere on a list or two.  We’ve done the work.  And now all I can do is sit in the back seat and wait.  And sit.  And wait.  Last week I saw the review of the first book in the series, The First Wife.  (It did well, thank God, the first hurdle passed.)  Yesterday I got my author copies.  They look…impressive.  Another hurdle crossed.

The next four months are filled with hurdles and, hopefully, milestones as The Chapman Files are released one by one, as I travel on the journey authors travel when books are released, to meet them. 

When I was a kid sitting in the back seat of my father’s car, I’d pass the excruciating time of waiting by telling myself stories.  I’d stare out the window and go off in my head and the car and my brothers noise and the endless waiting would disappear while I was busy becoming a famous writer, or living in a college dorm with Jeanine, or riding off into the sunset with my own true love.  And as I embark on this newest journey, down the path of the release of the project of my career, I’ve come full circle.  But instead of using the stories to take me away as I wait for a real life reunion with my best friend, real life is taking me away while I wait to reunite with The Chapman Files, the stories in their full glory.

Real life – so much is happening I can hardly keep up with it.  Tim and I celebrate our third anniversary today.  Hard to believe we’re an old married couple already.  And yet, in some ways, it’s as though we’ve been ‘us’ forever.  We were in Florida on business this past week.  We stole three glorious days on the beach in St. Augustine to celebrate our anniversary.  What you see behind us there is something called crazy sands.  There’s water in the forefront.  Then that land base.  And then the ocean.  Until fifty years ago, the water in the front was part of the ocean.  Until the crazy sands appeared and made what’s kind of a permanent tide pool.  I’ll spare you our pictures on the beach, but there are tons of them.  I’ll also spare you the picture of the shark we saw.  Mostly because we didn’t have the camera to take a picture.  We were in the water.  The shark was only four feet long.  But that mouth was big enough to take a hand.   We chose to take ourselves to the beach and stay there.

And after our three days of bliss, it was time to go to work.  Which is hard to do when you’re surrounded by Mickey Mouse shaped…everything.  Even breakfast was Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes.  Because of the flooding in Nashville earlier this year, our annual romance writers conference was at the Dolphin Resort in Disneyworld.  “It’s a small world” played in the background while we met up with old friends and made new ones, too.  The work week started at four in the morning, getting up to leave the beach to get to our first meeting.  Tim had an all day digital workshop to attend with my publisher.  He’s officially beginning his part of the TTQ creation.  I was attending the workshop with him in the morning and then had another publisher meeting that afternoon. 

The highlight of the week for me was the time we got to spend with Pat Potter.  Another year of memories was added to the host that we’ve collected over the years.  One of the first, this year, was Pat and her sweet niece and Tim and I at the Fulton Crab House in downtown Disney at ten o’clock at night because that was as soon as we could get away to dinner.  We split two appetizers, had three bowls of soup between the four of us, one glass of wine, one Chivas and water, two sodas.  It was late.  We were all being money conscious.  And the bill came to $160.  Gulp.

And then there was the Harlequin Party.  It was glorious, as always.  A decorated ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria.   Decadent deserts.  Free flowing bar.  Harlequin’s signature drink this year was…I’m not sure.  We tried the cosmos and…they were good.  The DJ was fantastic and Tim and I danced slow dances to fast music.  We did the electric slide.  And somehow we slid into the wee hours of the morning standing in the lounge at the piano, belting out tunes while the DJ accompanied us on the piano.  Pat’s niece, Amy, has a voice that should be the star of a recording contract and after a small bit of coaxing she shared it with all of us.  Heather Graham was there, too, and has a voice that could make her a mint of money, if she wasn’t so busy writing New York Times bestselling novels.  (She’s got a trilogy out right now with Mira Books.  I highly recommend it!)

So much happened at conference I can’t get it all down here, but the highlights are:

This is one of our own – Broadie, Lynda.  I traveled all the way to Orlando to meet a friend who lives practically in my own backyard.  I met her husband as well.  Both of them work at Wright State University.  Wright State is a relatively small university in Dayton, Ohio.  It also happens to be the place where Tim and I met.  Talk about ‘It’s a Small World!’  We all talked about the Rathskeller.  It’s a video arcade now.  It used to be a bar and pizza place on the Wright State campus.  And Wright State used to have October Daze.  A big party where beer was free flowing.  I’d seen Tim in Geology class.  I fantasized about him noticing me, too.  About meeting him.  And during one particular October Daze, at the Rathskeller, fantasy became reality.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one distracted in Geology class. 

Lynda’s a writer, too.  And if I had to put money on someone getting published, I’d put my money on her.  She has everything it takes.  And I’m picturing the day when she’ll come to us here at Storybroads to announce that she’s had her first sale.  In the meantime, we’ll stick together here and travel the bumps in the road together.

Another conference highlight was spending time with another very important person in my life.  This is one of my editors and a very good friend.  Paula and I have been together for fifteen years.  Every life, including a book, takes two to create.  Paula is the other half of my literary creations.  She cares about The Chapman Files as much as I do.  Worries about them.  Works for them.  And, bless her heart, she gave me a list of things to do on this upcoming four month journey that…well…I’ll get it all done.  Because I always do.  Because I care that much.  There’s going to be a blog tour.  Stay tuned for more on that.  And on giveaways.  I’m twittering now.  Please, PLEASE, join me:  @tarataylorquinn.  There’s print advertising.  A magazine article.  Book signings.  And…ha ha…I’m teaching a three day class on Time Management, too, with a copy of The First Wife being given awayto a student in the class each day.  These are advanced copies, before the book is out, so if anyone wants one, you can sign up for the class at:  www.forums.romancedivas.com.  It’s August 16, 17, 1nd 18.

I had a lovely dinner with my other editor, Wanda, who is a woman a lot like me in many ways.  In one dangerous way.  There’s this video game.  Or phone game.  Right now it’s an IPOD touch game.  I’d never heard of it until dinner with Wanda.  She talked about her addiction.  Because I’ve suffered similar maladies with a game called Balls, and then Jewel Quest, and then Bejeweled II, I could related.  I was also releived.  Wanda is a task master.  She’s one of the ones who emails at seven in the morning because she’s already working by then.  I’m a hard worker, too.  I’m at my desk in seven in the morning to know that she’s emailing.  But, still, I do have to play games every now and then.  And then, again.  So this game of hers…it’s called Angry Birds.  I’ve since come to find that it’s the number one game in the world right now.  And my household is addicted.  I told my  mother about the game.  She just happened to have her IPOD Touch in her hand at the time.  She went to the Ap center to check it out.  Downloaded it because it only cost 99 cents.  By the time Tim came home from work, she’d been on the couch for more than an hour, absorbed in the game.  She had him look at it.  And I lost him, too.  Smart enough to know when not to pick a battle, I went out to the car and unplugged my IPOD touch.  I half heartedly searched out the game.  Downloaded it.  An hour later, Tim and Mom and I were still playing.  The lawn did NOT get mowed.  Last night we mowed the lawn.  We went to the county fair for dinner.  We came home and said we were going to bed.  Mom sat down on the stairs for a second with her IPOD in her hand.  Tim and I sat, with me on his knee, on a nearby chair to talk for a second, just about one level of Angry Birds.  The clock chimed.  And chimed again.  We had to be up early this morning (the whole desk by seven thing).  But, hey, we can split birds and speed them, and now we can even explode them!

A side bar of my time with Wanda – she asked if I’d be interested in doing a back to back trilogy for her!  Um…YES.  Thank you.

I got to visit with Maggie at conference, and was so glad to finally be able to meet one of her daughters.  We hear so much about her girls, it was wonderful to see the reality.  She’s as beautiful as Maggie is.  And with that same special spirit glinting from her eyes.  And Anne Stuart was THE  entertainment highlight of the 30th Anniversary RITA Award Ceremony on Saturday night.  The emotional highlight that night was Debbie Macomber.  She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award RITA.  No one deserves it more.  And no one has ever been classier in her acceptance.  Debbie isn’t lucky.  She’s real – and blessed because of her authenticity.  She’s been my mentor and my heroine for years, and still is.

And the last conference highlight:  I was approached about a possible non-fiction book deal.  The project is in early stages and might not come to fruition, but it’s on my mind.  A lot.  And the more I think about it, the more I want to do it.  Stay tuned on that one, too.

So, no, we aren’t there yet.  But we’re on our way.  I’m including you all in the ‘we’.  I missed you all so much these past ten days.  And I’d much rather sit in the back seat with you all than with a couple of loud dumb boys.