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Trail of Hope – Release Day!

It’s Release Day! Trail of Hope is finally here!

TrailofHope

You can pick up a copy at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

I keep telling people that this installment of the Hot on the Trail series is different than anything I’ve written before. It’s different because it deals with slightly more serious topics, namely death. Both our heroine, Callie, and our hero, John, have recently experienced the death of someone close to them. This story is about coming out of grief and moving on with life.

I did a fair amount of research about death on the Oregon Trail before I wrote Trail of Hope. I know a lot of people have the idea that folks died on the Trail all the time and that your chances of survival were perilous at best. I’m not sure where this idea came from. Possibly from the difficulties of playing that wonderful old school video game Oregon Trail and trying to make it through to the end. The truth is that in the entire history of the Oregon Trail, only about 4% of people died along the way.

That’s not too bad when you stop to consider how many people die in everyday life for one reason or another. So what killed settlers on their way to start a new life in the West?

Another misconception is that Indian attacks were the biggest problem and that pioneers had to constantly be on the alert. While it’s true that in the very early days of the Trail and, ironically, in the later days of the Trail during the Civil War, there was a greater danger of attack, the truth is that Native Americans weren’t as big of a threat as stories have painted them. There was some trouble, but for the most part, once the trail was established, the U.S. Army was able to stop most attacks before they happened.

The exception to that was once the West began to be more and more populated by pioneers from the East. Many of them encroached on Native lands, which were then defended. When certain parts of the Trail became too dangerous to travel for these reasons, other routes were tested. If you think about it from a Native American point of view, it must have been really frustrating! All these foreign people who don’t understand your ways coming and coming like waves drowning a shore.

But I digress.

dysenteryThe single greatest cause of death on the Oregon Trail, and the cause of death I explore from Callie’s point of view in Trail of Hope, was disease. Fatal trail illnesses accounted for almost half of the deaths on the Trail. So many of these were caused by bad water, close conditions, and the lack of comprehensive medical care. The Platte wasn’t exactly the best water source around, and after so many people traveling west crossed through the same area, digging latrines that became overused and burying their dead too close to the river, problems arose.

Actually, one of the details that I chose not to include in Trail of Hope because it felt a little too gruesome to me was how people were buried if they died on the Trail. Much of the time, because there was no time to sit and wait for people to mourn, when someone died, they were buried right away. A grave was usually dug right in the trail itself, and then all the wagons and oxen would be driven over it. The purpose of this was to make it more difficult for wild animals or anyone else to dig up the deceased. Yeah, I left that out on purpose.

But really, Trail of Hope is, as its name suggests, about finding hope after great loss. It is about the fact that life goes on, which is what the whole Oregon Trail is about. I hope you enjoy Callie and John’s story!

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Goals and Schedules

TrailofHope_3DLet me tell you about my writing/publishing schedule for the next six months. I have plans. Ambitious plans. I have the second book in my Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Hope, coming out this month on the 24th. The third book, Trail of Longing, is coming out January 5th, the fourth, Trail of Dreams on February 16th. After that, I plan to start interspersing another, contemporary romance project, bringing the first book in that series out around March 23rd or 30th, then the fifth book in the Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Destiny, at the end of April, and the second book in the contemporary series at the end of May.

I hear you. You’re saying, “Are you crazy woman?” And yes, well, the answer to that is probably “Yepper!” The more important thing to look at, however, is the way I’ve set goals and given myself a schedule.

I do my best work and produce the most when I’ve squeezed myself into a time frame for production. Back in the days before I got serious about my writing and before I learned about self-publishing (and knew that was the path for me), I would just write whenever I felt like it. If inspiration struck, I would knuckle down and play with stories for however long it took to entertain myself. The problem is, I never finished anything. I’d get bored with the story at hand, especially when I got stuck, and then I’d go play the Sims or something.

The key that enabled me to switch gears from being a hobbiest to a dedicated, professional writer was getting organized. Learning in depth about the craft, particularly story structure, was the first step to knowing exactly what I wanted to put on paper. But it wasn’t until I set myself time limits for production, also known as a schedule, that I was able to really get going in the direction I wanted to go.

Nothing pushes you to finish a book like a deadline. That’s one of the reasons I love NaNoWriMo so much. NaNo forces you to work with constraints. You’d think that, as an artist, freedom would be the key to success, but actually, it’s scheduling. When you have a date by which you absolutely have to get the first draft finished—or more importantly, a date by which you absolutely have to get that polished draft to an editor who you are paying to make it even better—you get to work.

salvador-dali-melting-clocksWorking with an editor for the first time opened my eyes and changed so many things about my writing. When you’re dealing with a firm deadline set by someone else, it forces you to be highly productive. But what about when you’re trying to self-motivate to get the job done? That’s when keeping a calendar by your writing space comes in very handy. Plan out your time. Think about when you need to get things to that editor, but also when you need to hand the book off to beta-readers. Think about how much time you will need for revisions once you get your baby back from the editor. Plan for having a couple of weeks for reviewers to look at the ARC. And if you’re going to put your book up for pre-order, well, Amazon requires you to have the final version locked ten days before release. You need to plan for that too.

If this all sounds daunting and terrifying, it doesn’t have to be. All of these milestones along the way to clicking “publish” are markers that can help you plan how you should time your writing process. They can give you a sense of just how long you’ll need to complete a project. Once you know that, you can work backwards to write a schedule that will keep you honest, so to speak, as you write. It’s like NaNo on a giant scale. Once you get organized for one project, you can start layering others on top of that. We all know (or think we know) how Amazon’s discovery algorithms work, and since that means you need to have a new release every 90 days, you can now plan for that.

Secretly, my goal for 2015 is to publish a book a month… or at least every 6 weeks. I think I can do that because of this amazing new outlining technique of Patti Larsen’s I’ve adopted. Barring that the only way I’ll be able to keep on that kind of straight and narrow is by scheduling everything. The good news is, I’m already ahead of schedule.

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Sssh! This is a Secret Just For You!

So I realize that the official cover reveal for Hot on the Trail, Book 2 – Trail of Hope – is not until Friday, but I couldn’t wait another instant! So here it is, just for you guys. DON’T TELL ANYONE! … yet.

TrailofHope_3D

Once again, the amazing Erin Dameron-Hill has outdone herself with this design. I love it! What do you think?

Also, right now you can pre-order Trail of Hope on Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords.

 

Another special note. I’ve been feeling a little bad lately that I haven’t been keeping up with my Monday history blog posts. I’ve had a lot going on with writing these Hot on the Trail books, and my website is in the process of being redesigned. It’s made too many things uncertain in the blogsphere. BUT! I want to give you a sneak peek into one of the books I’ve been reading as research for Hot on the Trail books 3 (Trail of Longing) and 4 (Trail of Dreams). Both of these books involve encounters with the Cheyenne. To delve fully into their lives and customs and how they changed through the 19th century, I’ve been reading this fascinating book, The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, by George Bird Grinnell. It was originally written in the early part of the 20th century, and Mr. Grinnell lived with and studied the Cheyenne from the 1870s through the 1890s. It’s an amazing, nearly first-hand account that has given me ideas on top of ideas! I can’t wait to share more about this book with you in the coming weeks.

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Like what you’ve read? I love the fact that you read it! I’ve got more for you too. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter to receive special content, sneak-peeks, and treats that only subscribers are privy to. And thank you!

Trail of Kisses – Cover Reveal!

It’s here! At last, the day is here when I can reveal the cover for the first book in my new Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Kisses!

And without further ado…

TrailofKisses

Someone is trying to kill Lynne Tremaine. After her father sentences two members of The Briscoe Boys gang to death, Judge Tremaine feels he has no choice but to send Lynne to Denver City along the Oregon Trail to live with her Uncle George…against her will. For Lynne, the only thing worse than being sent away to the wild west is making the journey with the handsome, arrogant, wicked man her uncle has hired to escort her. Especially when the anger she feels toward him begins to turn to something hotter.

Cade Lawson is determined to prove himself to his employer, George Tremaine, after letting him down months earlier. But what he thought would be his second chance may, in fact, be a harsh punishment for his past mistakes. Lynne is headstrong, fiery, and determined to show him she is fearless. She is also beautiful and tempting, and when Cade sees just how afraid she really is underneath her brave act, he may be in danger of losing his heart to her forever. When her would-be killer attacks, it’s all he can do to keep Lynne safe.

He swore to protect her, but who will protect him from her?

But wait, there’s more! You can currently pre-order Trail of Kisses on Amazon and iBooks for the low indtoructory price of $0.99! But that price is for a limited time only. It’ll go up to the regular price of $3.99 once we hit release day, October 27th.

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Like what you’ve read? I love the fact that you read it! I’ve got more for you too. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter to receive special content, sneak-peeks, and treats that only subscribers are privy to. And thank you!

What Just Happened?

© savoia | istockphoto.com

© savoia | istockphoto.com

Okay, not gonna lie. Something weird happened with book sales this past summer. I had, without a doubt, the worst three months of my entire book-selling life this summer. And I know, I know, I haven’t had any substantial new releases since April, which could have something to do with it. The thing is, it’s not just me. I’ve heard just about ALL of my writer friends say that their sales dropped severely over this past summer. Like, to panic-inducing levels for some people.

And just recently I started hearing all about what’s going on with Ellora’s Cave being in big trouble. For those who just went “Huh?”, Ellora’s Cave is one of the publishing industry pioneers in erotic romance. They are in serious crisis mode right now, though, with executives resigning and problems brewing all around. Part of this was inexplicably low Amazon sales this summer. Now, part of that is due to the change in how Amazon is listing erotica and how they’ve changed the “parental controls”, for lack of a better word, that makes erotica searchable. (This is a huge sore spot for a lot of people, btw, and I don’t feel qualified to get into a discussion about the ethical implications, but that’s worth considering too) The bottom line is that books sales have taken a hit.

I know a lot of authors who are blaming Kindle Unlimited. That could be one answer. Amazon inaugurated its Kindle Unlimited program at the end of July. The program is basically Netflix for books. You buy a subscription, and then you can download an unlimited amount of books. For authors, only books that are part of the KDP Select program are eligible for this service. Some of my author friends who ARE in Select have been saying that they’ve seen their sales and borrows go way, way up in the last month. Some author friends who are NOT in Select say they have seen a big drop-off in sales. But I also have a lot of author friends who have not seen a significant change one way or another in the sales of their Select and Non-Select books.

So is Kindle Unlimited to blame for the pathetic sales across the board this summer? One theory on that front is that KU may be seeing an upswing in activity because the first month has been offered for free on a trial basis. This is just what I’ve heard, btw. I haven’t looked into it or signed up for anything myself. The theory is that we’re seeing the novelty surge at the beginning and that that will drop off soon. I also heard somewhere that sign-ups for KU weren’t what Amazon had hoped they would be. I know a lot of people who think that KU isn’t a factor in the weirdness of this summer too.

The other thing to note, for me, at least, is that my sales started tanking a month BEFORE Kindle Unlimited started. So for me, it wasn’t a matter of KU killing my sales.

Okay, so what could it be, then, if not KU?

Maybe it’s the ongoing battle royale between Amazon and Hachette and all of the authors getting involved? I don’t really think that’s it at all. Frankly, I think that most readers have no clue what’s going on there and don’t really care.

Maybe it was the weather? You have to admit, this was one freakin’ awesome summer, as far as weather goes. A good portion of the country experienced balmy, pleasant weather. Great for going outside to play. I mean, you can stay outside without being fried and you don’t have to hide out indoors in the AC reading to stay cool. But to me that doesn’t make sense on one level, because I always read MORE books in the summer, not less. So back in July, when I first began to have trouble, I did an informal poll of a lot of friends who read, asking them if they read in the summer. The long and short of that was that, yes, people do read a lot in the summer, but a lot of the people I talked to were reading all the books they bought before and hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.

I'm not a fan of blaming Amazon for everything...which seems to be really popular these days.

I’m not a fan of blaming Amazon for everything…which seems to be really popular these days.

Hmm. Could that be it? Was everyone reading their back-stock? Clearing out all those Kindle books they had purchased through the spring but hadn’t had time to read yet?

I really want to know, but I also recognize that I’m missing a few key pieces of information. In fact, I think all of us who are scrambling to try to figure out what happened this summer and who may be jumping to conclusions about Kindle Unlimited and other causes are missing vital information to determine what’s what.

First of all, the majority of the information I’ve gathered comes from indie authors who publish primarily in digital form. But here’s what I would like to know: Were sales slow for eBooks only or were print book sales down too? Is it only indie authors who took a hit or were trad pubbed authors struggling as well? Was it just the Romance genre that ran into trouble or were other genres having problems too? For the people that actually did do well, what did they do differently that the rest of us didn’t? And most importantly, have sales bounced back now that we’re in the months of pumpkin spice everything?

My sales HAVE rebounded, I’m happy to say. I have high hopes for them increasing even more with the release of the first book of my new series next month too. I’ve heard other authors say that their sales are beginning to inch back up to normal too. But what about you? Authors, how was your summer and how is your fall beginning? Readers, how many books did you buy this summer and have you signed up for Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to know!

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Like what you’ve read? I love the fact that you read it! I’ve got more for you too. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter to receive special content, sneak-peeks, and treats that only subscribers are privy to. And thank you!