For me, 2011 was a year filled with enormous change. I completed the final book of a four-book contract with Harlequin, and the last two books of my NINE-book “Spotlight on Sentinel Pass” series were published in April and May. To my prfound surprise, RETURN TO THE BLACK HILLS was nominated by Romantic Times BOOKreviews as “Best Superromance of 2011.” Fulfilling my contracted obligations felt like a great accomplishment–and a big load off my shoulders. I was prepared to jump back into the game with a new proposal, but when I sat down in January 2011 to start writing a new Superromance…I got nothing.
I’ve heard about writers’ block and people “hitting the wall,” creatively-speaking. I just never thought it would happen to me. But it did. I quickly realized I needed a break from the three-books-a-year treadmill I’d quite happily/gratefully jumped on board after I sold my first book to Superromance in 1999. It was a fabulous ride filled with great highs and accomplishments and awards/rewards. But the creative process can’t live completely outside the regular day-to-day life of the writer, and, as most of you know, during the past couple of years I’ve dealt with some difficult losses (first my mom, then my sister).
I needed a break. But, believe me, that sounded really scary last spring when I talked to my very understanding editor. I knew I had to put romance on the back burner while I explored other aspects of writing but I had no idea what that would be.
As luck…Fate…cosmic goodness would have it, once the decision was made to take a break from romance, I was handed an opportunity to write something completely new and different–a biography. Jack Hooper, an old friend/client of our construction company, called to see about getting a handicap ramp built at his historic B&B. It turned out he’d been working on his memoirs for several years and had compiled a neat, concise timeline of the major events in his life. Unfortunately, a stroke had impaired his ability to type and he wasn’t able to complete the book himself. But his mind was/is still sharp and he hadn’t given up on his dream of writing his biography. We decided a collaboration was in order.
I figured it would take me about as long as it did to write a 300-page Superromance.
The simple job turned out to be much, much more involved as I delved into his family’s geneogology–a project his youngest daughter had started before succombing to melanoma. I went through boxes and boxes of photos and memorablia saved over Jack’s seventy-five years of life. Every week, I’d spend one afternoon talking with Jack about his life, his family, his memories. I learned things about history, geography (Jack still shakes his head that a geography major didn’t know that New Hampshire had a port), geology, agriculture, economics, politics and geneology. We laughed a lot. Gradually, the bare bones timeline Jack had assembled began to take shape into a fleshed-out, full-fledged book–complete with photos. Lots and lots of photos.
When I first talked to Jack about helping him write his biography, I told him, “With e-publishing, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a garage full of vanity press books you can’t sell. I’ll upload this to Smashwords, Amazon and B&N, and your friends and family can buy an e-copy. Simple.”
Not so simple, actually. The text of the book uploaded in a blink, but the photos…arguh! That was a challenge because our original copy had dozens of great photos. Unfortunately, Smashwords limits the overall size of an uploaded document to 5MB. Even after re-sizing the photos, this meant picking and chosing. After six months of working with this project, cutting photos was like culling old friends, but it had to be done.
Barnes and Noble/Nook: http://bit.ly/u9qeNz
And you’ll be happy to know this is a love story. Jack and Mona Hooper were in love every day of their married lives. They were true partners in life, separately only by her untimely death to pancreatic cancer in 2000. I love that irony–even when I’m writing non-fiction, I’m writing about people in love who, only naturally, live happily-ever-after.
So, my next blog will be in 2012. What will the new year bring?
Stories. Lots of stories, I hope. Fiction with a couple of non-fiction books included (more about that later). No Superromance, I’m sorry to say–it’s too late to get a book into production this year and since the word-count for the line is going back up to what it was when I first starting writing for the line (80-85,000-words) the time it takes to write each book will go up, too. I am working on two stories that didn’t fit for Superromance and I hope to have them ready to e-pub this spring.
It’s exciting to see other authors testing these e-publishing waters. I predict you will see a lot more authors doing this in 2012. E-publishing is proving to be a vital part of helping authors earn enough money to keep their writing dreams alive. A sad fact but true.
As an author–and a reader–I’m very delighted to have so many new options available. The new year looks very hopeful and exciting. Happy New Year, everyone!!
PS: here are a couple of recent offerings from two of my very talented Superromance friends:
Kate Kelly’s Shattered
And Kay Stockham’s The Crash Before Christmas http://tinyurl.com/84mcejp