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I have what is very big news for me: I finally got all my ducks in a row, and my old Kalen Hughes books, which have been out of print for several years now, are available again! The eBooks are up on Amazon and enrolled in KU for the first 90 days. The print books are also there, but I’m having a bit of trouble linking them up.

I have spiffy new covers, by Jessica T. Cohen (one of my best friends, who happens to be a professional illustrator). I’m gonna give her a plug here, because she’s really amazing and you should check out her work. She’s got covers coming for Pam Rosenthal soon, and they’re pretty spectacular. She’s open for bookings and she can do fine art styles in a host of different styles and mediums as well as the style you see here. She even did custom “dingbats” for my chapter headings and scene breaks.

Sin Incarnate

Formally Lord Sin

I knew I wanted to try illustrated covers (who knew they’d suddenly be big again and I’d be on trend for the first time in my professional life?!). Jess and I put our heads together and decided on a clean “paper cut” look for them, with additional embellishments. I was blown away by what she came back with. I simply adore the arches. And the putti. Everything is better with putti.

Scandal Incarnate

Formally Lord Scandal

They’ve been brought over to my Isobel Carr pen name, and given new and infinitely better titles (IMO). And look, my half-Turkish hero isn’t BLOND AND HAIRY on the cover this time around. *roll eyes*

I had a ton of fun doing the typography layout on top of Jessica’s amazing art. There was just something really rewarding about combining our two skillsets and making someone beautiful and functional. And yes, the “sexually aggressive heroines” was a theme we’d consciously gone with long before that horror movie poster hit Twitter, LOL! And we’ll be sticking with it.

The whole experience has been very enlightening, and I have to give major thanks to Carolyn Jewel and Zoe York for all their help and advice and handholding. I’ve been a complete wreck trying to figure all this self pub stuff out. It’s actually really hard to find all the basic info on format and size and file type. Every time I thought I had what I needed, I’d get an error message informing me I was wrong. Hopefully things will go smoother from now on … though I’m waiting for the plagiarism notification email from Amazon. You think by now they’d just have a place for you to upload your reversion letter when you’re setting up the book.

There’s a third cover in the works, for my previously “self-published only on my website” novelette, which I’m going to call Temptation Incarnate. I’ll have it up hopefully in the next week or two. And best of all, I finally have my writing mojo back! While I’ve been working on all of this, I have been noodling about (which is as close as I get to plotting) with ideas for then next Incarnate book, and low and behold it’s going to be F/F. My dashing lady rake popped into my head and announced that while she likes men fine, women are where it’s at for her. So the duke that was her destiny will get kicked to the curb early on and she and her lady-love with get their HEA.

Ok, Sapphic muse, let’s roll…

I’d like to continue Diane’s discussion about Historical Romance. I’ve now been writing long enough that I have “survived” cycles. At least twice since I published my first novel (a historical romance!) the Historical has been declared dead. Vampires have been dead. (BWAHAHAHAHAAHAH! Ohmygod you have no idea how fun that was to write!) Westerns: Dead. Contemporary Romance: Dead. Romantic Suspense: Dead. Zombies: The Walking Dead.

What I have continued to hear throughout my writing life is that Regencies sell and sell a lot. You can’t sell Victorian! ::::Courtney Milan:::: You can’t sell Edwardian ::::Sherry Thomas:::: You can’t sell Georgian ::::Jo Beverly:::: No more Scotsmen! And for God’s sake, not Culloden! ::::Monica McCarty::::

For a long while, the Angsty Historical was IN IN IN!! Right now, they’re a hard sell. Oh my GOD!! Nobody tell Cecilia Grant!  And what about lighthearted historical romances? Are they In or Out? The answer is yes.

Publishers will always buy more of what’s sold in the past, and they will keep doing that until 1) people stop buying them and/or 2) someone comes along with an extraordinary book that breaks with the past– because editors, while of course they buy what’s sold in the past, also, from time to time, buy a damn good book that isn’t like what’s popular. And should that damn good book break out, then of course publishers will buy more of that, too.

Now there’s self-publishing thrown in there. But first, what’s the one thing publishing DOESN’T do that every other company does? Yes. Market testing. Publishing doesn’t survey the end-user. They don’t focus group covers or (to my knowledge) A/B test anything. Publishers know next to nothing about what readers are inclined to buy. The traditional market, driven by middlemen who purchase for Big Stores, has removed publishers from the consumer who would, in the aggregate, buy more varied books except that the middleman (the stores who buy lots and lots of only a few books) has artificially whittled down the selection.

In other words, the genetic diversity required for a robust, healthy population withered away in the face of a dangerous inbreeding. The problem with limited diversity is you don’t realize it’s unhealthy until the offspring are dying. Or one of the studs or brood mares dies. In this somewhat tortured analogy, the offspring are the books, the studs and brood mares are the Big Chains.

One day, After All the Editors Went Home, the Slush Pile and an Abandoned Marketing Research Plan Partied Hard

Nine months later …..

A baby!!!

They named it Self-publishing. But all its rowdy friends call it Indie for short.

Because, really, what is self-publishing but one big genetically diverse market test for publishers? Setting aside all the missteps so far, self-publishing is a crucible from which shiny new kinds of stories emerge market-tested. Traditional publishers can watch what catches on, and place their bets with greater confidence than before. 50 Shades proved there’s a bigger market for erotic romance than they knew. “New Adult” showed up in self-publishing first. If publishers manage to get their Beer Goggles off, they may find they’re in a good place.

Oh, Historical, Where Art Thou?

As the publishing ecosystem continues its transformation, we’ll see Indie authors do riskier things with their stories — and they can do it because they don’t have to listen to anyone tell them they can’t publish a story with THAT in it. They can write in the mid-Victorian period if they want. And maybe that story will crash and burn because (all other things being equal) what readers want is a Regency. Or a Vampire. Or something else. But there WILL be new and different historicals.

So. What do YOU think?

If you look over there — there. In the sidebars …. You may see the covers of my historicals Scandal and Indiscreet. Those are the US covers done by Berkley Books, and they are lovely. That’s John Marron, by the way, on the cover of Indiscreet. ::waving:::

I’ve spent the last year being silent about that fact that the books were, until about last week, unavailable in the US or Canada. Berkley mistakenly took them off sale in the latter half of 2012.

Long story short, by February of 2013, I instructed my agent that we should stop our (fruitless) efforts to get them to fix the mistake and simply request a reversion after the next royalty statement. And that is what we did.

My reversions arrived last week. I have been working to get them on sale in the US and Canada with the covers I commissioned for my non-North American version of the books. By “version” I mean different covers, a couple of typos fixed, and a reformatted interior. Some of you may recall that the original eBook version of Indiscreet was unreadable. The corrected file, when it was finally produced, was … readable. I’ll leave it at that.

It’s odd. I loved writing for Berkley. I loved my editor, I’ve adored all my covers. The copy-editor for Scandal was amazing, and I did have regrets about declining the opportunity to do additional books for them. But the fact is that Scandal and Indiscreet mean more to me than they did to Berkley– the company. The economic harm during the nearly year and a half the books were not on sale was disproportionately mine.

Then there’s the harm to my writing career. When Dear Author had long threads about historicals with exotic locations, I know for a fact people tried to buy Indiscreet (because the book was mentioned in the threads) and could not. I know because a couple of them emailed me. How many didn’t? Not so long ago, Scandal was again reviewed on Dear Author. Not to sound too vain, but Scandal was a RITA finalist. It made a list of one of the 100 best Romances. My agent called it a tour-de-force. And a website that gets hundreds of thousands of hits from romance readers reviewed it again, nearly four years after its release. And nobody in North America could buy the book when it should have been available.

When those two books disappeared from sale, Berkley wasn’t motivated to fix the problem. I, on the other hand, was fielding emails from readers who’d heard about the books and could not get them, and there was nothing I could do. My agent and I had already made multiple requests to get the books back on sale.

To everyone in  North America who wondered why there was no eBook and practically no print availability, this is why. I’m sorry for the long wait and the silence, but once I decided I was done with the situation, I was worried that Berkley would (at last) notice what had happened.

Scandal and Indiscreet are both good books. Really good books. If you like angsty books, then hey, I’m your gal. And at last, if you’re in North America, you can get the books for $4.99 US.

Here are the links I have so far for Scandal:

Here are the links for Indiscreet:

I’m not sure why Kobo hasn’t managed to get the books on sale yet. Hopefully soon. Google Play and Print versions will be coming shortly.

Like Carolyn and Diane, I’ve been following with interest the discussion on the state of historical romances in general and Regencies in particular that’s been prominent on the romance blogosphere since Jane at Dear Author’s provocatively titled post, We Should Let the Historical Genre Die.

I’m never sure where I fit in during discussions of the State of the Regency, because I never can decide just how much of a Regency writer I am. Back when the Golden Heart and Ritas had two separate categories for Regencies and other historicals, I used to angst endlessly about where to enter my books. What if I entered them in Regency and got marked down for not having enough ballrooms and dukes? Or what if I entered them in historical, only to have some judge see the “1811” dateline at the top of the first chapter and think, “Hey! This is a Regency. I’m sick of Regencies. If I wanted to judge one, I would’ve signed up for that category.”

In the end, I entered The Sergeant’s Lady as a historical and its prequel, A Marriage of Inconvenience, as a Regency. Why? Well, The Sergeant’s Lady is set almost entirely in Spain during the Peninsular War with, as the title makes clear, a common sergeant as a hero. Despite its 1811-12 setting and British protagonists, it just doesn’t feel Regency. A Marriage of Inconvenience, on the other hand, is a house party story set in Gloucestershire, with a wealthy viscount for a hero and a poor relation cousin of a baronet for a heroine. Regency tropes everywhere you look.

My third book, An Infamous Marriage, is maybe a half-Regency. The hero and heroine are of the gentry rather than the nobility, and though they move in exalted circles in Brussels in the run-up to Waterloo because of the hero’s rank as a major-general, that’s not what their story is about. And my fourth book, A Dream Defiant, despite its 1813 setting is another non-Regency–it takes place in Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria, the hero is a black soldier (the son of Virginian slaves who ran away to the British army and freedom during the American Revolution) and the heroine is another soldier’s widow, an ordinary village girl whose ambition in life is to take over her home village’s posting inn and make it famous for serving the best meals on the Great North Road.

I don’t want the Regency to die because I have such an insatiable passion for the opening 15 years or so of the 19th century. I mean, what would I do with all my research books if i couldn’t base my novels upon their contents?

Susanna's Shelf

But when I write my Regencies (or Regencies in year only, as the case may be), I’m trying my best to ground them in a specific place and time–and that’s what I’d like to see more of in the genre as a whole. I know a lot of writers and readers love historicals for the “Once Upon a Time” feeling, and the last thing I want to do is deny anyone the pleasure of the stories they like best. But for myself I don’t want once upon a time. I want 1812 at the Battle of Salamanca, or Seattle in the 1850’s, or Philadelphia in 1776. And I don’t want the only alternatives to Regency to be Victorian, Western, and Medieval. I want Colonial American historicals. I want more stories set on the West Coast, like Bonnie Dee’s lovely Captive Bride. I want a Civil War romance from the Union side. Given the role of women at the time it’d be tricky to pull off, but I’d love to see an ancient Greek romance set sometime around the Greco-Persian wars. And so many more. I want more history–in my Regencies and across the genre.

What about you? What unexplored corners of the Regency world would you like to see more of? And what other periods of history strike your fancy?

Hi, I’m Susanna, and I have trouble with titles.

Not the aristocratic kind. I’ve spent enough time reading and writing the Regency over the past decade that how to speak of dukes, earls, and their relations no longer mystifies me. No, I struggle to name my books.

I’ve now sold four manuscripts, and I’ve yet to have a single one go on sale wearing the first working title to grace my hard drive’s work-in-progress file.

The first book I wrote (the second I sold) began life as Lucy and Mr. Wright. In its first draft, it was a traditional Regency, and the hero was a wealthy but untitled gentleman. Upon further consideration, I promoted James to baronet and renamed the book Lady Wright. Then I realized I wanted to bump James yet higher on the totem pole, so he became James Wright-Gordon, Viscount Selsley. Unfortunately this meant no more clever puns on “Wright,” so I went with The Inconvenient Bride. Years later, as I prepared to submit it to Carina, I decided the title needed a little more oomph and changed it to A Marriage of Inconvenience.

When I started my next manuscript, I was still hung up on those trad-Regency-style titles, so I called it Anna and the Sergeant. However, I quickly realized it just wasn’t a trad story and switched to Soldier’s Lady. Which isn’t a bad title, but it didn’t say, “Get your forbidden star-crossed cross-class lovers here!” quite as loudly as I wanted it to. Hence, The Sergeant’s Lady.

Carina published both those books under the titles I used for submission–possibly because I’d had so long to think them over that I’d actually come up with something good. With my next two sales, my editor’s acceptance email basically read: “Congratulations! We love your book! Your title? NSM. Here’s a worksheet to fill out so we can work together to find something better.”

My November 5 release began life as The General’s Mouse. The hero, Jack, marries the heroine, Elizabeth, upon minimal acquaintance to fulfill a deathbed promise to his best friend. At the time he isn’t seeing her at her best, and he glumly reflects that he’s married a mouse. The rest of the book is all about proving that his so-called mouse has a mighty roar. Clever? Maybe. Based on the title alone, does it sound like a cute kid’s fantasy book about a talking mouse who befriends one of history’s great commanders? Absolutely.

So I brainstormed with my critique partners and filled out the title worksheet. Carina chose one of my suggestions, An Infamous Marriage, which I fully acknowledge is much better than my first choice.

Just this month Carina acquired my first-ever novella. (It took several tries, but eventually my muse accepted that stories can come in sizes other than 90,000 words.) It’s an interracial romance set in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria in 1813, where some British soldiers made fortunes by plundering the captured French baggage train. The plot revolves around a particularly fine ruby necklace my recently widowed heroine is trying to conceal from the soldiers surrounding her so she can go home to England, sell it secretly, and use the proceeds to buy a happy, secure life for herself and her young son.

At first, I called it Widow’s Fortune. But I soon decided that was too prosaic and changed it to Far Above Rubies, which I thought sounded particularly evocative. It comes from Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” I saw it as both a literal reference to how the hero cherishes the heroine and a symbol for the characters’ dreams of a better life and how they’re able to fulfill them together.

The editorial team, however, thinks it sounds more like a fantasy than a historical…and I figure they’re the experts, so it’s back to the title worksheet for me!

I’ve come to a place of acceptance where I don’t expect my first idea or two to work. In fact, my current ideas in various stages of brainstorming or drafting go by Home Run Blast from the Past (time travel!), Hell, Frozen Over (a winter survival tale), and The One With the Battle of New Orleans (which opens at–wait for it–the Battle of New Orleans). Now I just have to think of something presentable before they go anywhere near my editor’s inbox…

Over to you–what makes a title good or bad? What are some of your favorites and least favorites?

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