Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Banned In The SCA

Added for clarity: It's not my book itself that's been banned, it's just any advertising for it. (Just in case any lawyers are reading this). Draw your own conclusions as to what that really means.

Once upon a time, book publishers would splash "BANNED IN BOSTON" across book covers as a selling point. The same thing was done by Broadway show producers, when it was common to pre-screen new plays in Boston before opening them on the Great White Way---it was also common for the Watch And Ward Society, a powerful group made up of a few of the most powerful of those strait-laced Irish-Catholic Bostonians, to object to books', movies', and stage shows' "immoral" content, and to subsequently have the offending material banned (for more information about the history behind this, check out this book).

Yep, banned. As in, shut down the shows, burn the books, close the bookstores that sold the books. (Of course, all this accomplished was making the books/movies/plays that much more popular everywhere else.)

What sorts of things got Banned In Boston, you ask? Here's a few examples of such notorious smut that posed a dangerously subversive moral risk to the Boston community:

  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Oil!, by Upton Sinclair (recently made into the film There Will Be Blood)
  • Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis (made into an Oscar-winning film in the 1950s)
  • Most of the works of William Faulkner (seriously)
  • The Atlantic Monthly magazine and the entire Alfred Knopf publishing house were also frequent targets of the Watch and Ward Society. (Because everybody knows what kind of immoral smut they put out, right?)
  • Also burlesque stage shows and even straight dramatic plays, like the works of Eugene O'Neill (!)
You might wonder what Banned In Boston has to do with me. Well, it seems that I've managed to get one of my own books banned. My novel TENDER IS THE KNIGHT, a sweet, Cinderella-story/comic romance novel set in the SCA, recently spurred the creation of a Draconian (or dare I say, Orwellian) across-the-board SCA corporate policy banning the advertising of any work of fiction from appearing in any official SCA publication----from Tournaments Illuminated all the way down to one-page local shire newsletters.

This policy was instituted in direct response to my publisher's requests to purchase display advertising in several SCA publications. Rather than accept the ad dollars for my apparently very controversial book, the SCA banned these types of ads from appearing altogether. Even better, SCA turned those ad dollars away at the same time that they're jacking up SCA membership dues due to "difficult financial circumstances." (Huh?)

The reason given for the policy? "Because advertising works of fiction is contrary to the SCA's educational mission."

Again, I say, Huh? (Oh, right, I forgot. Reading works of fiction is in no way educational. Can I get an amen?)

You might remember my post of a couple weeks ago about the hate mail my book TENDER IS THE KNIGHT has generated. Well, suffice to say, I think it's pretty obvious these two incidents are directly related.

In response to this, I've decided not to renew my SCA member dues until further notice (which will also entail me resigning my local herald's office). Sorry, but I can't send my hard-earned dollars to any organization that institutes authoritarian, across-the-board Orwellian book-suppression policies that smack of hysterical censorship. If you're an SCA member I suggest you do the same. Even better, write a letter to the SCA Board of Directors protesting this decision. They won't listen to me (I've already been told as much by Those In Power) but they might listen to you.

In the meantime, buy my book. It's Banned In The SCA, after all---so it has to be good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why You Need an Epub Agent

I get asked all the time why I have an agent when so many of my books are published by epublishers. Because you can still land ebook deals without an agent (and because epublishers often pay very small advances, or none at all), many people think you shouldn't bother getting an agent.

Based upon my experience, I would disagree. Saritza Hernandez, a staffer at the L.Perkins Agency where I'm a client, specializes in the ebook market, and she recently wrote this blog post about why you might need an ePub agent. Thought I'd share.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm Really A Playwright

In my other, non-novelist life, I'm really a playwright. I created this little ditty on Xtranormal after I saw some similar ones posted on the topics of "So You Wanna Write A Novel" and "So You Wanna Get A PhD in the Humanities". Since I'm not only a novelist/graduate of an expensive graduate degree program in the humanities, but also a playwright, I thought I'd be ideal to comment on the fabulous world of playwriting for the American theater.

Because if you can go $50,000 into debt to complete an advanced arts degree at an elite university and then fritter away 15 years of your life trying to get your plays produced, you too can enjoy the fabulous life of the American playwright, which features such perks as rampant classism, the proverbial casting couch, Midwest bias, rampant substance abuse, and early death by suicide (or perhaps if you're lucky, a grand old age spent living in flophouses and eating Alpo):


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Funny Wannabe Writer Stories

I should note that every single one of the following anecdotes is true, personally witnessed by yours truly.

Wannabe Writer No. 1: This wannabe is a (former) friend of mine. Shortly after I got my first book deal (a print deal with Random House's now-defunct Cheek imprint), this friend of mine asked my advice on how to write a novel. I told her first and foremost to read as much as she could, to write diligently each and every day (actual PROSE, not blog posts or emails or grocery lists), and not to expect to get her first completed manuscript published.

She then got flustered and upset. "But---but----don't I have to write seventeen character studies and eight plot outlines before I even think about writing my book?"

"Yes, you could do that," I replied. "But it's usually much more productive just to write the actual book." (To which she replied, aghast, that she didn't have time to write a whole book, because the new season of Six Feet Under had just started.) Note: I'm not friends with this person anymore.

Wannabe Writer No. 2: This person is an older sibling of a good friend of mine. This person waxed on and on about how she had recently discovered that she was a BRILLIANT poet. So brilliant, in fact, that she expected to get published by Random House and featured on the Oprah Winfrey show very soon as part of Oprah's Book Club. This nothwithstanding that a) she had never had a single one of her poems published anywhere; b) there is no commerical market for poetry books; and c) Oprah Winfrey has never once selected a poetry anthology for her book club (and if she ever did, she'd be far more likely to pick something by a household name like Maya Angelou or Rita Dove). When I pointed all of this out to the wannabe writer, her overzealous reply was, "But she'll pick ME! And since I'm in Chicago, I'm planning to go right to her office and talk to her about it tomorrow." Uh huh. I'm sure that went over really well, too.

Wannabe Writer No. 3: This person is a distant relative of mine. After working in PR and corporate communications for many years (to wit, this person actually was a professional writer of sorts, though not traditionally published), he decided one day to quit his lucrative PR job so he could spend a year writing the Great American Novel. He'd never tried his hand at any sort of creative writing before, mind you---not even a random short story or freelance journalism assignment. And he didn't read much, either (he spent most of his time harshly criticising well-known published authors, in fact). After he spent a year or so writing a highly autobiographical novel that was more of a therapeutic exercise than an artistic one (which also ended up pissing off several members of his family), he was out of money and desperate. He couldn't even get an agent, let alone a book deal. He ended up suffering a nervous breakdown and moving out of state.

And, my personal favorite, Wannabe Writer No. 4: About a year ago I got a random IM message from somebody I had gone to high school with. (Not a friend, mind you---this person was one of the "cool kids" in school who wouldn't even give me the time of day.) In this long, rambling, typo-ridden IM, this person went on and on about how she'd married someone who was secretly a small-time drug dealer, and was now serving time in prison. She seemed to think that the story of how her incarcerated husband fenced pot and speed from their trailer-park house would make for interesting reading, that it surely would become a worldwide bestseller, and by the way, would I write it for her since "she just didn't have the time?" (Of course, she also expected me to ghostwrite her totally irrelevant life story for free, and to allow her to keep the millions of dollars the book would supposedly make for herself.) I gave her a terse "no" and blocked her Facebook profile.

And tomorrow, I'll talk a little about what it means to be a playwright. Bwahahahahahhhaaaa!


Great review for A CAPITOL AFFAIR!

My novel A CAPITOL AFFAIR (Ravenous Romance, 2009) got a nice review today at Ramsey's Book Reviews. Check it out here. I especially like this review because the reviewer appreciated the book's allegory of BDSM as power-play in the politically charged world of Washington, DC.

More hilarious Wannabe Writer posts coming soon!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Wannabe Writer Week, Part Deux

In keeping with this week's theme of wannabe writers, I'm going to share a sobering statistic I got today from my agent Saritza Hernandez, a staffer at the L. Perkins Agency who handles my books for the epublishing market. (I am repped by multiple agents there, each specializing in different markets).

Some people think (erroneously) that epublishing is subpar in terms of quality and is essentially the same as self-publishing. (Hint: It's not). Granted, unlike print publishing, it is possible to get an epub book deal without an agent (for the time being, anyway), but as the digital market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, more agents are getting directly involved in digital dealmaking----and as such, more and more authors targeting the epub market are seeking out agent representation.

To wit, Ms. Hernandez recently announced she was temporarily closed to new query submissions so she can get through her current backlog of over 500 unsolicited author queries. When I asked her what her query acceptance rate was, she shared the following:

"Last month, I got through 131 queries in my inbox. Of those, I requested 4 partial manuscripts and 1 full manuscript." (Which she has yet to read and/or accept/reject, mind you). In other words, she expressed interest in less than 2% of the authors who queried her. (Saritza currently reps 21 clients and has sold 10 books so far this year. Full disclosure---two of those books were mine).

And mind you, Saritza is only agenting in the epublisher market, which remains a very small portion of the overall publishing market. (I should also add that Saritza is an AWESOME and very efficient, effective agent; she once sold a book of mine in less than a week.)

So those of you who think this whole publishing thing is easy, chew on those stats for a while. Then go have a beer.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

So you wanna be a writer

Had to share this little gem. Any novelist (published or aspiring, assuming you've actually completed a manuscript) has run into somebody like this. I'm reminded of several wannabe writers who've put their foots in their mouths telling me about how their not-even-written-yet books will be bestsellers. I'll share some of those amusing stories later this week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fan mail versus hate mail

One of the definite perks of being a published author is getting fan mail. It's always cool to open your email account (or the good-old-fashioned mailbox) and find a letter from someone you've never met or even heard of who gushes about what a wonderful writer you are and thanks you for telling such a wonderful story that entertained them and spoke to their heart. It's even cooler when they ask you when your next book is coming out, and also promise to buy everything on your backlist, just because they enjoyed INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE soooo much. It's one of the reasons I keep writing. (God knows I don't do it for the money!)

But of course, the flip side of that is, the hate mail. Yes, the hate mail. For every twenty or so fan letters I get, I get one completely scathing, rage-filled letter/email/Facebook IM/whatever that says I cannot write, that I should cease and desist thrusting my "garbage" upon the world, that calls me a sex-crazed evil lunatic bitch, or even accuses me of Satan-worshipping witchcraft (seriously, true story.) More often than not, hate mail is sent anonymously. (Gee, I wonder why?)

Hate mail comes with the territory of being published. There are a lot of wackjobs out there, after all, and many of them like to read. Plus there's a huge contingent of hate-mailers who are frustrated writers who can't get published, and they take their anger out on people who are published. (They also probably need to be on medication, but I digress.)

I fully realize that dealing with the occasional wackjob is one of the prices you pay for having your writing available to the general public. But this week, I've received the King Cobra of hate mail. Not only did I receive this scathing anonymous letter, but so did the Board of Directors of an organization I'm a member of, along with and several book review sites. I mean, everybody's entitled to their opinion and all, but I think that's just a little over the top. Especially considering the book that the writer hated so much is a lighthearted comic romance novel. It's not as if I authored some controversial investigative journalism expose or an explicit sex manual or something. I wrote a sappy, funny, light-reading romance novel, and not even an erotic one. Romance novels are about as non-controversial as you can get outside of cereal-box copy.

I guess every published author out there has a story like this. I have to admit, after the initial shock wore off, I find this situation absolutely hilarious. Not to mention sad. I guess some people just don't have enough to do with their time.

Of course, I now reserve the right to base a nutjob character in my next book on this little incident. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Stop By The Decadent Blog for a TENDER IS THE KNIGHT Contest

I'm profiled today at the Decadent Publishing blog. Learn a little more about me and why I wrote my latest release, TENDER IS THE KNIGHT. Leave a comment for a chance to win some great custom Ren Faire artwork from Robert Quill!

Friday, October 29, 2010

TENDER IS THE KNIGHT releases today!

Hi Readers!

My latest novel, TENDER IS THE KNIGHT, releases today at Decadent Publishing! ( It's available in ebook format now and a trade paperback edition will follow in a few months.

This book began its life over 25 years ago, when I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism ( Or rather, when I was forcibly dragged to my first SCA event, Pennsic War 13, by my father who had just recently joined SCA via his new girlfriend. For those of you who don't know, SCA is a historical reinactment organization that specializes in the Middle Ages. It has chapters worldwide and over 100,000 worldwide participants. It's on a par with other historical reinactment groups that focus not just on daily life but also military/war in history, like those groups that specialize in the American Civil War, for instance. So in addition to getting dressed up in medieval clothes, eating medieval food, and dancing medieval dances (seriously!), one of the SCA's chief attractions is its tournaments and wars, which feature swordplay, jousting, even large-scale battles involving hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of armored fighters.

One of the SCA's other guiding principles is the recreation of the "ideals" of the Middle Ages----including romance, courtesy, and courtly love. After spending most of my life active in SCA in one form or another, I learned a great deal not just about medieval history (which led to my love of history in general, as well as my future career as a historical fiction writer), but about you guessed it, ROMANCE. And a few years ago, when I was just getting my romance writing career in full swing, a thought occurred to me----what if I set a romance novel in the romantic world of the Society for Creative Anachronism?

When I first joined SCA back in the 1980s, the historical reinactment world was very tiny---and also regarded as "weird" by most people, since many participants in both SCA and other historical societies like it were also into offbeat things like Dungeons and Dragons, science fiction novels (indeed, science fiction writers like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Robert Aspirin were among SCA's founding members), sword-and-sorcery comics, computer games, and other realms of geekdom. But as time went on, living history groups began to enter the mainstream. Renaissance faires began springing up all over the country and became quite popular with the masses. Dungeons and Dragons and computer gaming, once the denizen of nerdy geeks with no social lives, was replaced by massive-multiplayer online roleplaying games like World of Warcraft, which is played by everyone from teenagers to Hollywood celebrities. Movies set in and around the Middle Ages, like Ridley Scott's KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and ROBIN HOOD to fantasy films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, made the romance of the Middle Ages front-and-center in popular culture. Would a book set in a fictional version of the SCA---with all its oddball characters, historical foibles, modern-day knights in shining armor, and medieval romance---be a big seller?

My literary agent thought so. But when she shopped it to the major NYC publishing houses, they all turned it down. While they liked the book, they didn't think it would find an audience. So, enter Decadent Publishing. Decadent saw the huge potential market for TENDER IS THE KNIGHT among both the living-history/recreation set and mainstream history buffs, and agreed to publish it---first as an ebook, then in print. Since I'm already a veteran of the ebook romance marketplace, I jumped at the chance. And I've been very impressed with the professionalism of all of Decadent's staff, including its editors, who have provided some of the most thorough editorial support and feedback I've ever received in my career.

TENDER IS THE KNIGHT features a modern-day heroine, Lisa Smith, who is bored with her dull workaday life as a factory forewoman in Dayton, Ohio. When her best friend Pegeen introduces her to her new hobby (the SCA) Lisa is skeptical at first. But soon Lisa meets Sir Philip Reginald of Whitestar, a sexy SCA Knight and the local favorite to become the local SCA "kingdom's" next King. Lisa soon gets caught up in the swashbuckling romance of it all----but soon finds herself in way over her head. Will she reach her fairy-tale ending? Buy the book at and find out! It's also available at Amazon (Kindle edition),, and all the major ebook distributor sites.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

THE FORBIDDEN is now available, and an interview

THE FORBIDDEN, my alter ego Jay Hughes' much-anticipated Gay Amish Romance sequel to THE SHUNNED, is now available for sale at Ravenous Romance. Be sure to check it out.

I was also interviewed yesterday about my writing career at WhoHub. Here's a link.

Lots more exciting news to come in the upcoming weeks!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's New and Coming Attractions

Now that I'm recovered from my mega-illness, I'm back to work at writing. I've got a big (potentially HUGE, actually) freelance medical writing gig that I'm working on, plus the novel-writing career remains in full swing. I can't talk about the new freelance gig yet (other than to say it involves a pretty famous TV personality) but I can talk about some great developments in my novel-writing career.

First of all, my erotic novel KNIGHT MOVES (written as "Jamaica Layne"), originally released as an ebook with Ravenous Romance, has just been picked up for worldwide trade paperback distribution by Red Wheel-Weiser's Red Silk Editions. KNIGHT MOVES is one of my bestselling ebook titles and now it will be available on bookstore shelves all over the world! Further details and release date to come.

Second, Vol. 3 in my popular Vital Signs medical romance series (title: Prescription for Passion) is now available. While the first two volumes in the series are published by Ravenous Romance, this volume is published and distributed by Silver Publishing. (they will likely publish any further volumes in the series as well). All of the books in the series stand alone, so you can read them out of order, but I encourage you to read all of them, in chronological order if you can. I really enjoy writing this series since I've spent so much of my professional writing career working around doctors and hospitals.

And last but not least----my alter-ego Jay Hughes has a new novel coming out soon, THE FORBIDDEN. This is another Gay Amish Romance----the sequel to "Jay's" very popular debut, THE SHUNNED. I don't have a release date yet, but I will soon. So, more red-hot Gay Amish Romance is heading your way this summer. And just look at that cover. Yowza.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sorry I haven't written. . .

Okay, so I haven't blogged for almost 2 months. Here's why:

Yeah, that collection of prescription drugs (and that's not even all of it) represents an almost 6-week illness that required 2 hospitalizations and almost $15,000 in medical bills. It started out innocently enough----as a nasty summer cold-slash-allergy attack. Then it turned into a drug-resistant bacterial infection (aka a "superbug") that was the single worst illness of my life. Fevers of 104 degrees for weeks, extreme dehydration, trouble breathing, hallucinations---the whole bit. Seriously, there were a few days I actually thought I was going to die. The superbug stumped my doctors----I saw five of them, plus the hospital docs and even two infectious disease specialists---and none of them could figure out why none of the antibiotics were working. Finally, after three separate rounds of antibiotics, two hospitalizations, and a lot of good-old-fashioned praying, I finally began to get better. In the meantime, I really had to re-order my life. I cut out a bunch of extra stuff, shut down a side business, pushed back all my writing deadlines, and just generally changed my world outlook. Life is short and precious, and you just never know when it might end.

In the meantime, I have a new book coming out today. It's Vol. 3 in my popular VITAL SIGNS medical romance series---this time with a new publisher, Silver Publishing. (You can still get Vols. 1 and 2 from Ravenous Romance.) Check it out.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back to normal

Well, I finally got my computer back to normal. I lost a good day and a half of productivity last week thanks to that malware/spyware attack, and I'm still not totally back where I was. Though my computer is now virus-free (or so my MacAffee program says), and even though I didn't lose any actual files, I did lose my entire RSS feed. Which is a total bummer. (I had to completely disable it/delete it because that's where the spyware decided to attach itself to my computer).

For those of you who aren't familiar with RSS technology, it's basically a way for you to keep track of any new content that shows up on sites that you visit frequently. It first appeared in connection with blogs, and allowed you to track when your favorite bloggers posted new entries without actually having to go visit their sites over and over again. Then news/commentary sites got in on the bandwagon and added RSS feeds, then social networking sites, and so on.

I only had about 15 feeds set up in my desktop RSS widget (I know people who have hundreds), but I accumulated those feeds over a couple of years and now they would take me a long time to redo manually. I followed a few of my friends' blogs and those were in there, plus some publishing industry blogs, some Huffington Post commentators that I like, and a few custom online news feeds that I set up around certain keywords. Plus I had the news blog, which helps me keep up with Broadway and off-Broadway theater news.

The RSS feed really made my blog and news reading more convenient. Once or twice a day I'd look at the feed widget and see if any of my favorite sites had new content. If they did and it looked interesting (you'd get the blog/article heading and the first sentence) I'd click on it to go to the full site to read. It really saved me a lot of browsing time and also helped me be a little more choosy about what I read.

Of course, when the spyware made my computer blow up, the RSS feed went haywire. The spyware was probably running contantly, scanning every site I had linked in my feed looking for site traffic data. Popups kept appearing all over my screen, and eventually my computer shut down. I had no choice but to get rid of the whole thing. Which sucks, because now I either have to spend hours manually re-entering all my old feeds, or spend hours actually going directly to all those sites every day looking for new content. Neither of which I have time to do right now. So, I guess I just won't be reading online as much.

I think maybe this whole thing was a divine message from the universe sent to tell me that I waste too much time screwing around online when I should be working on my book.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook users, beware

I love Facebook. You could probably say I'm addicted to it. I've found it can be a great networking/marketing tool (I have a bunch of romance novel fans who follow me on Facebook and that's helped beef up my book sales, for example). Plus it's a great way to keep up with friends and family that you rarely see in person. Not to mention get into interesting random discussions about random topics.

But Facebook has a dark side, too. It's a free site (for now), but the people who run it have to pay for things somehow, so they use advertising. And Facebook has been getting criticized lately for continually changing it's "privacy" (I use the term loosely) policies so it can have more leeway when it comes to tracking what Facebook users do online (so they can then sell that data to marketers/advertisers). And as such, there are a lot of "applications" floating around on Facebook that pretend to be fun little games and quizzes, but are really spyware apps designed to track and monitor all your Web browsing. (Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that marketing spyware usually acts like a virus on your computer, it's usually perfectly legal to spread, unlike hacker viruses).

The other day I made the mistake of taking one of those innocuous-looking Facebook "quizzes" and my computer has been behaving strangely ever since. First my Gmail and Google Calendar accounts started behaving strangely, with emails and email attachments getting corrupted, and appointments mysteriously disappearing off my Google calendar. Then my Internet Explorer browser window would shut itself down and restart itself right when I was in the middle of doing something. And then yesterday, the RSS feed widget on my desktop I use to track new content on some of my favorite blogs and news sites kept rebooting itself and sending me a popup message "You have new content" several times an hour, even when there was nothing new in my feed. And then when I closed the popup for the bazillionth time, my computer shut itself down.

That's when I figured out something was really wrong (and not just some random annoying Windows Vista system bugs). I ran a McAfee scan, and found some spyware/malware embedded in Internet Explorer and my RSS feed functionality---probably some kind of marketing spyware designed to track what kinds of sites I browse and then target advertising to me accordingly.

These online marketing types think that what they're doing is innocent enough (and they work hard to convince Congress of that fact) but the truth is, they're really doing a lot of damage. I wasted three hours trying to fix this late last night. And that's three hours I'll never get back.

I wish I could afford a Mac so I wouldn't have to deal with this at all.


Monday, May 3, 2010

The Irish Psyche

"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever." -------Sigmund Freud (about the Irish).

Yeah, as someone who's about 90% Irish, I will say that this is definitely true.

I'm Irish on both sides of my family. Dad's family is working-class Irish-Catholic ("Black Irish," from Counties Derry and Donegal in Northern Ireland, no less, though they've been in this country for almost 200 years) and Mom's family is backwoods Appalachian "Scots-Irish" (otherwise known as Irish Protestants; in Ireland they're scathingly called "Orangemen" after their backing of William of Orange for the throne of England four hundred-odd years ago). "Black Irish" Catholics and Scots-Irish Protestants are separately two of the most stubborn, explosive, moody, bad-tempered and hardassed ethnic groups out there. Mix them together, and you get---well, me. So, you've been warned.

Here's a basic primer for dealing with a wild Irishwoman like me.

1) Don't ever lie to me. Seriously. Don't. Don't even do it out of politeness to save my feelings. Nothing ever infuriates me faster than catching someone in a lie, no matter how trivial. I'll respect you a lot more if you can always tell the truth, even when it hurts. (And I will always catch you in a lie sooner or later, and when I do, I'll be pissed).

2) Be a straight shooter. Don't play passive-aggressive mind games with me. The Irish in me does not like that one bit. Put all your cards on the table, don't hide anything behind your back. And most of all, don't say/do one thing and mean another, and then expect me to somehow be able to read your mind (and then complain about why I didn't get your hidden meaning somewhere down the road). Back when I was single I broke up with a lot of boyfriends over this very issue, and it's still something I have a lot of trouble with. Deal with me straight, or don't deal with me at all. (This would be a big reason why the Japanese and the Irish do not tend to get along. The same goes for the Irish and the British. 'Nuff said).

3) If you are a phony, I will tell you so. (And I'll tell everyone else, too.) My favorite fairy tale is "The Emperor's New Clothes." If you're walking around naked---literally or figuratively---you can be sure I'll be the first person to point it out.

4) Don't ever assume that I give a shit what you think. We Irish have based our very survival on thumbing our noses at all the people in power for hundreds of years now, so don't assume I'm going to change anything about myself or what I do just because somebody doesn't like it. And if you're powerful or important (or think that you are), that goes double.

5) Get to the heart of the matter. Whether it's relationships, art, or politics, the Irish in me wants your heart. All of it. If you aren't passionate about everything you do, you're wasting your own time and mine, too.

6) Have integrity. Be fair, be just, be compassionate when it counts, and don't tolerate evil, cruelty, bigotry, or general bullshit. And don't be a bully, either. We Irish hate bullies. (See our centuries of fighting the British for more information on that one.) If you are a bully, we will stand up to you, get in your face, and show the world just how much of a douchebag you are until you back down. And we don't give up easily, either. (See our centuries of fighting the British for that one, too).

7) Always have good beer and music available. I think that one's pretty much self-explanatory. (But if you need any clues, Guinness, U2, and the Chieftains are a good start.)

8) Oh and by the way, we Irish have most of the good writers. Joyce. Beckett. Wilde. Yeats. I could go on and on. . .


Monday, April 19, 2010

Willpower, Part Deux

I still have a lot of venting to do about lazy "aspiring" writers that I didn't cover in my last post, so I'm picking up right where I left off.

About once or twice a year, I get a random email out of the blue from a "friend" I usually haven't seen or spoken to in years. These "friends" inevitably get in touch with me only when they want something. Usually, they email me asking for writing advice, because they've decided to write the Great American Novel. (Not only that, they ask if I can hook them up with my agents and/or publisher for the Great American Novel that they haven't even written yet----annoying and arrogant to say the least.)

I'm always happy to give advice when people ask for it (though I'm not a fan of either giving or receiving unsolicited advice). But when I do give advice, I speak frankly, and sometimes rather harshly, because when it comes to the publishing business I don't think it does anybody any good to sugarcoat things.

Whenever someone emails or calls me saying that they plan to write the Great American Novel, they usually also talk at length about how they plan to write said novel. I've heard all kinds of things about their plans, which have included everything from taking vacations to the exotic places where their novels will supposedly be set, to signing up for a bunch of expensive writing classes, to trying to figure out how much time they should spend writing "character studies" and "plot analyses" (which are useless wastes of time dreamed up by unpublished creative writing teachers, but I digress).

To which I reply, "Uh-huh. But when are you actually going to WRITE the novel?"

At this, I usually get a response that goes something like---"Well, umm, but----uhhhhh----"

This is where my usual advice kicks in. I sum it up basically as follows:

1) If you want to write a novel, you have to actually WRITE. Sitting around bullshitting about it or engaging in useless (and often expensive) procrastination activities such as overpriced "creative writing" classes and "character studies" do nothing for your actual novel. The only thing you need to start writing your manuscript is a basic outline, which you can usually put together in one page or less in about an hour. (And if you write organically like I do, you don't even need to do that. Just sit down at your keyboard and begin.)

2) Write every day. Novels are indeed written one page at a time, but unless you want to spend the rest of your life writing this book, you need to write-----at absolute bare minimum----a page a day. (That's about 250 words). Most serious writers write far more than this. When I'm in full swing of writing a novel, I average about 1500 words a day (that's about 7 pages). Sometimes more, sometimes less---but it's a pretty consistent average. If you write a page a day, it will take you a year to finish the first draft of a 350-page novel. If you write more per day, it will take less time, if you write less, it will take longer (or you won't finish it at all).

3) Be disciplined. Your book isn't going to write itself, and writing is hard work that takes time and commitment. Part of being a novelist is being willing to give up some of your other favorite pastimes (in fact, most of them) in favor of writing. I don't know how many times I've heard "aspiring" writers say things like, "well, I really want to write a novel, but it's the middle of Gilmore Girls/Dancing With The Stars/LOST/whatever season and I don't want to miss any episodes." Yeah, well, boo fucking hoo. If you really want to write that novel, you will make the time to do it. Otherwise, you don't actually want to do it at all.

4) Read. This is another one I get a lot of complaints about. When I tell aspiring novelists that in order to be good writers, they first must also read other good (i.e., published) writers, I often get a shrug and an eye-roll. "But I don't have TIME to read," people often whine. Either that, or they make up some lame excuse like "But if I read other writers, it will detract from my own voice." To which I reply, "If you don't read, you won't even know what 'voice' is in the first place."

5) Check your ego at the door. Believe it or not, the mere feat of finishing a novel manuscript----and an impressive feat it is----does not make you at all special. There are thousands upon thousands of other aspiring novelists out there who have done the exact same thing, and chances are, the vast majority of them will never be published----and neither will you. Be humble and learn to accept defeat early and often. Be prepared to write several complete novel manuscripts before getting even one of them published. There's an old saying in this business---"a professional writer is just an amateur who didn't quit."

6) Don't ever expect to make any money. For all those starry-eyed aspiring writers out there who think writing the Great American Novel will lead to easy riches, I have news for you. 99% of completed novel manuscripts will never see the light of commercial publication. Of the 1% that do see commerical publication, the majority will not earn out their very modest (i.e., $5,000 or less) advances. Of the tiny percentage of published books that sell more than 5,000 copies, an even tiner percentage end up on the New York Times bestseller list----and that doesn't necessarily mean that those books are making millions, either. If you aspire to be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, good for you----but you have a better chance of being struck by lightning or being elected to the U.S. Senate.

After I hand out this advice, 99% of the people who came to me seeking help just stare at me gape-mouthed. They usually never even write a single page, let alone complete a manuscript.

But occasionally I do run into aspiring writers who do manage to finish writing their books, then manage to land an agent and get a book deal. And most of the time, these people did it entirely on their own, and didn't need my advice to begin with.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


One of my writer friends shared this blog entry by literary agent Nathan Bransford with me today. In it, Bransford asserts that a writer's greatest asset isn't talent, or skill, or even a good literary agent. It's willpower.

Writers that succeed at any level, whether it's completing a full-length manuscript, getting an agent, getting published, or becoming super-successful bestselling authors, have one thing in common----writing isn't a do-it-when-you-feel-like-it hobby to them. It's work. Work that they've committed to at a deep level, work that they treat like a full-time job (even if they already have one doing something else). Writers work harder, and longer, (and for less money, natch) than just about anybody.

Every time I go to a cocktail party, or a wedding reception, or a children's play date, people ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I'm a writer. They usually raise their eyebrows at me and say, "No, really. What do you do?"

To which I reply, "I'm a writer. It's what I do for money. It's my job."

I then go on to explain that I write journalism pieces for magazines and newspapers. And I do healthcare writing for universities and healthcare companies. And I'm a playwright (produced AND published, thank you). And I'm a novelist (published, too). I even do some freelance editing on the side from time to time.

I'm always amused by some of the replies I get when I tell people what I do. Like most freelance writers, I explain that I'm self-employed, earning a modest living that I've cobbled together writing for multiple markets. I've written several books, and even have had some of them (a lot of them, actually) published. Sometimes I get these corny, naive replies like, "But doesn't everybody get their books published after they write them?"

Um, no. (I always have to roll my eyes at that one.) Only about 5% of completed novel manuscripts actually see commercial publication. The numbers are slightly higher for nonfiction, but not by much. And that doesn't even include all of the unfinished manuscripts floating around out there.

I also get really annoyed with all the people who think just because I've had a few novels published, I must be as rich as Stephen King. (Um, no.) According to the Author's Guild (which by the way, sets strict publication criteria for its members before admitting them), the average annual income of the American freelance writer is $10,000. Yeah. As in, below the federal poverty line.

But the people who annoy me the most are the people who say, "You know, I've always wanted to be a writer, but---", or "You know, I have this great idea for a book, but I just don't have time to write," or my personal favorite, "You know, I really think I should write my life story, but I'm not really a writer, so will you write it for me? And then after you write it, will you let me put my own name on it and also let me keep all the $$ it makes when it hits the New York Times bestseller list?" (You'd be surprised how often I've heard that one. And not from celebrities offering big ghostwriting bucks, either.)

I'm also annoyed by people I like to call halfassed writers. These are people who have actually managed to finish writing the first draft of a manuscript or two, but then they don't have the balls to sit down and do the hard work of revisions, researching the publication markets, querying agents and publishers, etc. These are people who will leave their first drafts sitting in drawers for years, lamenting why no one will give them a book deal (or a play production, or a newspaper contract, whatever). Any working professional writer will tell you that the actual writing is only about 20% of the equation. The other 80% is hustling yourself and your work to the businesspeople (publishers, producers, etc) who will pay you for it. And that part of the biz is just brutal.

But here's the thing I hate the most---"writers' block." I really hate it when the reason people give for not writing is "writers' block." I have one friend in particular who is a halfassed member of a couple writers' groups I participate in. For the past two years, this person has been flaking out of attending our meetings because he has supposedly had writers' block for that entire time.

People, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WRITERS' BLOCK. Do you know what writers' block really is? It's called being lazy.

As Bransford says in his blog post, real writers are the people who force themselves to write even when they don't want to. Real writers write even when there are eight hundred other things they'd rather be doing instead. Real writers sit down at the computer (or typewriter, or longhand journal, whatever) and write laundry lists if nothing else will come out.

In other words, real writers have willpower. Lots of it.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

We Give A Damn contest winner

Congrats to Saranna deWylde for her wonderful entry to the We Give A Damn contest. She'll be receiving a care package of romance novels from my personal collection. Thanks to everyone who entered! (Saranna, I'll be in touch with you to get you your prize.)

I do plan on doing some more of these contests in the future, so keep your eyes here for further info.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Web 3.0

(Just a reminder, my We Give A Damn writing contest is still open; I don't have any entries yet, but I'd still really like to see some. And I do have several prizes to give away).

Here in 2010, we're now in what I like to call Web 3.0. The Web 1.0 era took up the entire second half of the 90s and lasted up until about 2005 or so, upon the launch of the first "smart phones" and the early social-media sites like Myspace (oh, so passe now). Suddenly the World Wide Web unleashed itself from desktop computers and laptops and made its way out and about onto streets, buses, airports, and just about everywhere else. People stopped buying CDs and became dependent on their iPods instead (except me, of course). Then in the past couple of years, with the launch of the iPhone, the Kindle and other digital readers (for ebooks), and sites like Twitter and Facebook, it has become de rigeur for us to do literally everything online, no matter where we are-----read books, listen to music, talk, chat, journal, keep up on the news, follow the stock market, ad nauseum. Via Facebook and Twitter, we constantly update everyone we know (and in my case, even sometimes thousands of people we don't know) of virtually every thought that enters our heads. Social media has revolutionized everything from popular music to book sales to politics. (Most political analysts agree that Obama won the 2008 election in part because he understood these new electronic media better than his stodgy Baby Boomer competition).

With the launch of Apple's iPad, we're now into Web 3.0, only a couple of years after Web 2.0 (which took close to 15 years to happen, natch). The ever-shortening timeslots between updates just illustrate the exponential power of written communications technology to upend societal norms. What's going on now hasn't really happened on this scale since Gutenberg invented the printing press circa 1400. What's next on the horizon? Who knows?

But here's something I do know. With the advancement of all of this rapid-fire technology, there is one thing we're definitely losing track of. And that's common decency and manners. When you put a flatscreen monitor or an iPhone touchscreen between yourself and whoever is on the other end of the conversation, it's easy to just forget all rules of common courtesy and act like a complete asshat. We saw this on a smaller scale with the Internet and it's now-quaint chat rooms and message boards, but in the age of Facebook it's getting even worse.

I'm a pretty thick-skinned person in general (and I'm a straight-talking, bogtrotting Irish pottymouth sometimes, too), but I also believe in good old-fashioned respect and manners. And yet, in addition to the usual mix of anonymous online-asshat behavior I've come to expect over the years, I've also seen some people I have known and respected for years blow atrocious, obnoxious shit out of their asses (I mean, mouths) on Facebook lately.

To be fair, I'll admit that I'm just as guilty of this as anybody else. When you're typing alone in your attic, sending your words out into the ether, it's easy to forget that there are real people out there reading it. And not just anybody. People you actually know, and occasionally even see and socialize with in person. (Wait, does anybody actually DO that anymore?) Sometimes I wonder.

Somebody recently told me that the way people behave on Facebook is actually the way they are deep down. Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't. But if it is, it can be both a good thing (in terms of fostering creativity and communication along with mutual understanding across cultures), or a bad thing (i.e., people acting like asshats).

I'm a casual member of a historical recreation society that specializes in the Middle Ages. Every couple of months, I decamp from my busy, overworked suburban-mom life, disconnect myself from the Internet and Facebook and my cell phone, dress up in a costume, and pretend to be someone from the 16th century. It's fun and it's educational. But most of all, it gives me a chance to unplug from this world that is moving entirely too fast, and to get back in touch with what it means to have real human communication of the kind that just doesn't exist anymore. Like handwritten letters on vellum, long slow conversations over homebrewed beer somebody spent months making in his cellar, and the kind of ceremonial politeness and courtesy that is basically extinct now.

I write ebooks for a living, so my very existence is dependent on Web 3.0. But I still think there can be way too much of a good thing sometimes.


Friday, April 2, 2010

We Give A Damn Writing Contest

Well, my Spring Has Sprung writing contest was a success, and I still have a lot of stuff I need to give away, so I've come up with another writing contest.

In honor of the We Give A Damn campaign for GLBT equality, I'm putting a call out for 1-paragraph writing entries relating in some way to GLBT (that's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) equality). You do not need to be GLBT to write an entry, because chances are, you know (and love) at least one GLBT person, or has at least had someone from the GLBT community make an impact on your life. Write a 1-paragraph entry around this theme, and submit it as a blog comment no later than April 10. I'll be giving away more free books (and maybe some other goodies) as prizes. Make sure you include your name (a pen name is fine) and an email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.

Below is a paragraph of my own that you can use as an example (though you're by no means limited to something like this.)

"I'm straight, but I have always been a big supporter of GLBT rights and community, even before it was popular. One time about fifteen years ago, right after college, I was running the Chicago's Proud to Run 5K race, which is sponsored in part by the Howard Brown Health Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides low-cost healthcare to the GLBT community. (This race is traditionally held in Chicago on the day before the annual Gay Pride Parade.) One part of participating in the Proud to Run race is taking sponsorship dollars to support local AIDS charities. I posted a little thing about it on the bulletin board at work and was surprised when someone I had never spoken to before came and gave me a large donation. She then proceeded to flirt with me a bit. That's when I figured out she batted for the other team. (She was not too discreetly hitting on me, and though I was flattered, I politely turned her down.) But privately I admired her a lot for her guts, since we were both working for a very buttoned-down, very Republican, very anti-gay investment bank. Nobody at work knew about her lifestyle and I kept quiet about it until I left the company. She still works there to this day and as far as I know, is still closeted, because she could lose her job if she came out. The fact she has to hide who she is to stay employed is wrong, and it's one reason I continue to speak out as a straight person who supports GLBT rights."

---Jamaica Layne

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Has Sprung Contest Winners!

Hey everyone! I'm pleased to announce the contest winners for the Spring Has Sprung contest---one for each of my blogs:

Jill Elaine Hughes, The Blog Winner: Ryan Field

Jamaica Layne, The Blog Winner: Stacey

Ryan and Stacey will win care packages of romance novels from my own personal collection! Congrats!

Also, HONORABLE MENTION goes out to all entrants. Everyone who entered the contest will receive a FREE Gift Card to Ravenous Romance!

I will get in touch with everyone today to get your snail-mailing addresses. Or to save time, just email it to


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Has Sprung Contest!

Hey everybody!

Spring is here, the snow is melting, the fog is lifting, and even the economy is getting better! And health reform just passed (yay!) so things are certainly shaping up to be a good year!

In celebration of Spring, I'm going to have a contest, which I'm also cross posting on my other blog. I'm offering a gift basket of paperback romance novels (not books I've written, just some paperbacks from my own personal collection that I'm downsizing, along with some other nice goodies) to the winners.

To enter:
Using the "Post a Comment" function on my blog, submit a 1-paragraph long piece written on the topic of Spring and Romance. Those are the only criteria----so run with it. And have fun.

My blogs do not allow anonymous comments, so you'll need to identify yourself (a pen name is OK.) Make sure you include an email address at minimum, so I can get in touch with you in case you win. I'll post the top two winning entries (one from each blog) and both winners will get a nice basket of free books and other goodies.

Looking forward to reading your submissions!


Edited to add: Submit your entry (via blog comment) no later than March 31. And spread the word!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hubby Tales

I'm married to an uber-practical, super-frugal Chinese immigrant. There's a reason why the Chinese own more than 60% of the US national debt----these people are the most tight-fisted people on Earth. And they have no use for anything that doesn't generate money. A LOT of money.

My husband has been very suspicious of my writing career from the start. In his view, if you aren't making as much money as Stephen King from writing, it's a waste of time. Far better to get into the banking, widget, or restaurant business instead.

And yet, he's tolerated my writing aspirations for over seven years of marriage now. As recently as two months ago, he was telling me to give it up, that it was a waste of time, energy, and talent, that I'd never make a real living at it, etc., etc. But when my lastest book became a big hit (by ebook standards, anyway), he had a change of heart.

"You've got to stick with this," he said. "You've tapped into a niche market. You need to exploit that. You might not make a whole lot of money per book, but you can make it up on volume. So get busy."

Spoken like a true Chinese businessman.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Dear Shadow Readers:

I am well aware that there is a certain contingient of people who read my blog only because they hate my writing, hate my work, hate my literary agent, hate one or more of my publishers, and hate my choice of genre. These same people also have a very unhealthy fascination with me in general that borders on psychotic obsession.

To them I say:

Please go get professional help. You are in serious need of heavy medication. And stop reading my blog.

You know who you are.

That is all.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing and Money

When I was working full-time as a writer/editor in the corporate world, I spent several years in the trenches, working long hours for relatively low pay. But after about a decade or so, I built on that experience, as well as my several years' of doing freelance journalism and creative writing for publication on the side, I was able to pull down impressive salaries (by staff writer standards, anyway). By the time I was pregnant with my first child, I was earning nearly $75,000 a year. Not super-great money when you live in an expensive city like Chicago and also still have huge student loans from the University of Chicago, but still pretty damn good.

Of course, my employer at the time wasn't too keen on working mothers, so I basically got forced out of my position after my son was born. I took a couple years off, just doing some small writing projects, but by the time my son was two, I was back working about 25 hours a week or so as a freelance writer. I did creative writing (novels, mostly) for publication, as well as freelance technical and medical writing for corporate clients. With a huge recession and massive professional-writer unemployment driving sales and wages down, the money was very bad, and the projects few and far between---at first. But now after plugging away at it for about a year and a half, I'm finally seeing some real financial success. My freelance client base is growing, and paying me rather well. And my book sales are up---way up, in fact---and the resulting royalty checks are rising steadily, too.

According to the Authors Guild (of which I am a member; not everyone is qualified to join, mind you), the average professional working published book author and/or freelance journalist in the U.S. earns $10,000 a year. Not exactly a real living. It goes without saying that most authors and freelance journalists have to keep their day jobs. Since my full-time "day job" is raising a two-year-old, I'm a part-timer too, but it looks like this year at least, I'll be well above the Authors Guild national average for writing earnings. And all the writing that has earned me that $$ so far is published, and paid---either as hourly for-hire work or in advances/royalties.So it may not be equivalent to what I earned in the corporate world---yet. But it's a goal I'm definitely working toward.

I'll close with a favorite quote from one of my favorite authors:
"If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented." ----Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing


Monday, March 15, 2010

Writers, Agents, Arrogance, and Entitlement

My literary agent (full disclosure: for my Ravenous Romance titles, she acts as my editor, not my agent) Lori Perkins runs a well-trafficked blog called Agent In The Middle. She is also the author of the bestselling how-to book THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO GETTING AN AGENT (Writers Digest Books, 1999; still in print), which gives aspiring authors an industry insider's view on how literary agents work, and what they want in potential clients. I've read it, it's a great book. And it was one of the reasons I originally queried Ms. Perkins when I was seeking new literary representation.

Last week, my agent posted an entry called "Writers Behaving Badly" on her blog, in which she gave an example of a writer bugging the crap out of one of her junior agents by sending a long string of emails asking where his submission was in the agency review queue. That author went so far as to go over the junior agent's head and go to her boss (Lori Perkins) with a complaint that the junior agent was taking too long to review his submission. (Oh, so not cool).

My agent and her subordinates receive in excess of 30,000 queries from potential clients every year. So you can imagine it might take a while for them to respond to anyone. (If you got 30,000 pieces of unsolicited junk mail on top of all the other more urgent business and mail you have to deal with in daily life, I trust you would feel the same way.) It is also considered extremely bad professional form to bug the crap out of an agent who isn't even representing you yet. Without revealing the author's identity, my agent reposted some of the offending emails with thoughtful explanations as to why it is totally inappropriate behavior for a writer seeking an agent to engage in.

Most working writers I know (many of whom are unagented) would find this kind of information helpful. But on Ms. Perkins' own blog and on some message boards, hoards of aspiring authors (mostly unpublished and unagented, natch) are shrieking that Ms. Perkins somehow acted unprofessionally by making an example of one anonymous author's cringe-inducingly bad behavior. People are attacking Ms. Perkins on her blog and elsewhere, calling her "unprofessional," "rude," and all manner of other adjectives. Some are even questioning the legitimacy of her agency (this despite the fact that she's been in business for 22 years and has numerous New York Times bestsellers on her sales roster)

At this, I just have to throw up my hands in disbelief. I've been a professional working writer for almost 20 years now (I first started writing for pay while still in college), and in all that time, one thing I've learned---besides the fact that the publishing biz is cutthroat, harsh, and often as competitive as the Olympics----is that any time a top-level publishing professional with decades of experience gives advice, you should LISTEN. Not scream and moan and complain and call them all sorts of bad names. Not to mention whine and moan about why nobody wants to read your manuscript, or is taking too long to read your unsolicited agent query, yadayadayada.

Aspiring writers of all stripes, I have news for you. The world does not owe you something just because you wrote a manuscript. The world does not owe you shit. These days, anybody can sit down at a computer and bang out a manuscript. It doesn't mean that manuscript is publishable. (and 99.5% of the time, it isn't.) You are not entitled to attention, or money, or butt-kissing just because you've written something. Top agents and editors are bombarded by hundreds, if not thousands of unsolicited queries every week. You have LOTS of competition. Acting like an asshole isn't going to help you. Remember that, and plan your career accordingly.

Another thing that has been bugging me for the past year or so is the appalling lack of respect many authors (even published ones) have for their peers, especially in the romance genre. Many romance writers complain that despite the fact that the romance genre makes up almost 55% of all new book sales in English, romance authors get no respect from the public or the industry. And yet, I have witnessed (indeed, have been a victim of) terrible behavior among romance authors, including harrassment, petty backbiting, intimidation, and name-calling of new romance authors and some newer romance publishers, especially erotic romance. Not to mention flame wars on numerous romance blogs that have sometimes degenerated into threats of physical violence. (I'm serious; I've even received death threats) The kind of childish, petty behavior I've seen in the professional romance community is something I thought that most people outgrew by the time they were twelve years old. It was even enough for me to permanently withdraw my membership from the Romance Writers of America (where I was a member of their Published Authors Network).

Romance authors---if you want respect from the public and the publishing industry at large, first you must learn to respect one another. Acting like a bunch of drunken sorority sisters during Rush Week isn't helping the genre or its image.

That is all. Stepping down from my soapbox now.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

THE SHUNNED is here!

My "cousin" Jay Hughes' first novel is here----THE SHUNNED.

It's essentially a gay version of WITNESS, only with a happy ending.

Gay. Amish. Romance.

Buy your copy today at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jamaica Layne fans, meet Jay Hughes!

Dear Jamaica Layne Fans:

I'd like to introduce all of you to my long-lost gay cousin, Jay Hughes. Jay is the author of the forthcoming novel THE SHUNNED, coming soon from Ravenous Romance. THE SHUNNED is best described as "the gay version of WITNESS." That's right.

Gay. Amish. Romance.

THE SHUNNED releases very soon at Ravenous Romance. (release date TBA). Meanwhile, drop by Jay's site to learn more about him.

Gay. Amish. Romance.

(I love saying that.)


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Yesterday I was having the day from hell. But just before I went to bed I got some good news. There's nothing like a great review of your latest book to pick a romance author up when you're having a bad day.

Literary Nymphs just gave my book THE MERCENARY BRIDE the best review I've received in my entire writing career, saying "THE MERCENARY BRIDE is one of the most enchanting, beautifully written romances I’ve ever read," giving it 5 Nymphs and also naming it a Golden Blush Recommended Read, a rare accolade on that site. You can read the review here.

I have some more exciting news to report. I recently "met" my long-lost cousin, Jay Hughes, who has just written a gay romance novel set among the Amish. That's right. Gay. Amish. Romance. Seriously.

Details to come.


Friday, January 29, 2010


So I haven't been blogging much. I really haven't felt like it. I've become too disillusioned with writing and publishing lately to feel much like doing any "extra" writing that I'm not getting paid to do. (And the writing I actually do get paid for pays so little and is so menial and tedious that it's draining the life out of me).

This week I'm reminded of the line spoken by William Holden, portraying struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, the scene at the beginning of the movie where he's trying desperately to sell a script to Paramount Studios.

The studio boss' secretary says, "You're Joe Gillis? Hey, I thought you had talent."

To which Joe replies, "That was last week. This week I'm trying to make a living."

I'd really like to make a living, too. A real one.

I hear they have some openings right now at Wal-Mart.


It's All B.S. Until You Sign On The Dotted Line. . .

Remember the old Richard Marx song from the 80s called "Don't Mean Nuthin'?" As in, "It Don't Mean Nuthin' Until You Sign On The Dotted Line?" It was Marx's send up of the B.S. of record-company dealmaking. The same applies to the publishing industry and professional writing in general, especially these days.

Here's a hypothetical situation:

You're a working, published midlist author with literary agent representation. Your agent called yesterday, and said she had a nice book deal inked for you. It was a work-for-hire type deal, though a decent one. You went over the details with your agent, and it seemed like a good opportunity that fit your skills and career path, so you agreed to do it. She promised to take care of the paperwork and get the ball rolling right away. You hang up and think you're a few grand richer, and are getting the new year off to a good start.

Then, this morning, this article runs in the L.A. Times about how freelance writers are seeing their incomes completely evaporate in the current recession as newspapers and magazines go belly-up, while the few outlets that are still publishing articles are paying one-tenth of their old (already miniscule) pay rate----if they pay at all. In today's Web 2.0 world, it seems the powers that be think that writers should either be content with just publication----for no pay at all----or even pay for the privilege of being published themselves. (i.e., vanity publishing)

Today, the supposedly done book deal your agent called you about yesterday has evaporated. When your agent asked for the publishing contract based on yesterday's agreed-upon negotiations, it doesn't come. Instead, the deal is revised to a tiny fraction of the agreed-upon price, along with the complete elimination of covered expenses (which now restricts the gig only to writers who live in a certain city---I'll let you guess which one). The dealmakers also indicate they are no longer looking for a "professional." So much for the old days of publishing, where deals are negotiated on good faith and a handshake.

The lesson is this: Publishing dealmakers have discovered that they can get books written a lot cheaper. As in, for free. As in, "why should we hire and pay a professional to do something when we can just post an ad on Craigslist and find a bazillion wannabe writers who will do a crap job for nothing?"

In the words of Godfather II: "This is the business we've chosen."

Don't ever become a writer. Seriously. Don't. Because these days, this is the kind of shit hand you will be dealt.