Welcome to 2020!

It’s a brand new year! What will you do in 2020? What will you change? What will you accomplish?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions but I’ll take any opportunity to review and revise. The start of a new year is a good time to do that. First, let’s take a look at things I learned in 2019.

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeAccomplished in 2019
• I published four new books last year: Bad Case of Loving You, Under the Mistletoe, Maeve’s Book of Beasts and Dragon’s Kiss.

• I also published revisions of three titles: One Knight’s Return, Unicorn Bride and Pearl Beyond Price.

• I published four new Dragonfire boxed sets: Dragonfire Quest, Dragonfire Elixir, Dragonfire Reunion and Dragonfire Triumph.

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah Cooke• I started to initiate translations of my historical romances and published my first two Italian translations. (You can find Claire’s translations here.)

• I attended two conferences, a reader conference (Romancing the Capital) and a writers’ conference (Romance Mastermind). I taught a workshop at RTC.

Lessons from 2019:
Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new edition• A year ago, I was wondering where my days were going. It seemed that I didn’t have much time to write, even though I planned to do so every morning and spent all day at my desk. So, I started a spreadsheet, documenting exactly what I did every day and how long it took. The answer became clear very quickly: I knew that being my own publisher took time, but those publishing jobs were taking a lot more time than I’d realized. Part of this was because I’ve republished a lot of older books in the last couple of years. I’ve been streamlining my publishing processes, experimenting with timing – either a publishing day per week or a few publishing afternoons in a row seems to work well.

Dragonfire Quest, volume one of the Complete Dragonfire Novels digital bundles including Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate from the Dragonfire novels series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke• I experimented again with KDP Select and was underwhelmed again by results. Switching between wide distribution and exclusive-to-Amazon distribution is a lot of work, so I’m sticking with wide distribution for the foreseeable future. I may write some projects specifically for KDP Select, but we’ll see.

• Recognizing that my focus had shifted from writing to publishing, I started a creativity journal last winter. I bought a planner and a lot of stickers, then tracked and celebrated how much I wrote each day. Having it open on my desk helped me to write first, then turn to the other jobs after the writing was done. I really like the stickers, which is silly but it’s effective. I wrote 700K words last year, which is really a lot for me. I’ve already set up my new journal for 2020. (And it has stickers in it already!)

One Knight's Return, book #2 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Those are pretty big take-aways from 2019, but there was another big one. A year ago, I thought I could republish some older Claire Delacroix titles easily. I knew I had a full schedule with launching DragonFate, plus finishing up Flatiron Five and Secret Heart Ink, and didn’t want Claire’s readers to be neglected. I chose three books that had been published by Harlequin, blocked in a week to proofread the scanned book files, and scheduled them for publication. That plan had worked well for the Bride Quest and Dragonfire. It didn’t work for these books. They needed revisions to the point that it would have been easier to just write new books. Those revisions added a ton of stress to my year, because I miscalculated and hadn’t left enough time for them. There isn’t a lot of upside to doing these revisions either – while it’s nice to have the books available again, they aren’t the stories I’d write now and they don’t have a huge following. My time really would be better spent writing new books. At this point, four of Claire’s eleven Harlequin Historicals have been revised and republished in new editions, and there won’t be more in the foreseeable future.

Pearl Beyond Price, book two of the Unicorn Trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Another milestone from 2019 was initiating translations of my books. My Italian translator and I are making good progress on the Jewels of KinfairlieThe Beauty Bride is available and The Rose Red Bride is publishing, while she is translating The Snow White Bride. I’m waiting on the Portuguese (Brazil) translation of The Beauty Bride and will have the German translation this winter. It’s been a very interesting process, with lots to learn, and many new connections to make.

The Year Ahead
Dragon's Kiss, book two of the DragonFate novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeFor the past year or so, I’ve been aware that I’m coming to the end of existing series for each of my author brands. Last year, I launched DragonFate for my Cooke paranormals, and I’m really pleased with Dragon’s Kiss. I’m having fun with that series and looking forward to its continuation. I’m in a similar place with my contemporary romances – Secret Heart Ink is done and after Some Like it Hot, Flatiron Five will be done. (Maybe. I’m not sure where Nate’s story fits yet. It might be a novella at the end of the series.) And Claire needs a new series, too. So, I’ve been planning and dreaming. The hardest part is always deciding between competing ideas.

Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion by Deborah CookeRight now, these titles are scheduled for publication in 2020:
Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion – January
Flatiron Five: The First Collection – January
Some Like it Hot – February
All’s Fair in Love and War – March
Dragon’s Heart – May
Dragon’s Mate – October

That’s about 300K of new words right there.

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeI really want to get ahead of the publishing cycle this year, and get back to having books done and uploaded at least a month or two before their publication dates. I also want to publish linked books more closely together. That means the calendar is going to look empty for a bit as I write and work to get ahead of the curve. (You can see that gap in the schedule above.) The plan is that by the time you see the cover reveal and the pre-order, the book will be complete.

I’ll be filling some of those inevitable gaps with boxed sets. The new Flatiron Five bundle Flatiron Five: The First Collection comes out this month, at a special price. Claire has a new boxed set, All’s Fair in Love and War, coming in March and there will be other trope-based bundles. I’m hoping to write and publish some shorter works, too, to keep you reading while I write away.

Dragon's Heart, book three of the DragonFate Novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’m also revising my schedule to keep my focus squarely on writing. I’m not teaching anymore or making treks to writing group meetings. I attended two conferences last year and while they were great, this year, I’m staying home to write.

This year, it’s all about the words—and the self-care. A year and a half ago, I started walking 4 km every day and that’s become a habit. I really miss it if I skip a day. I’ve added yoga at least three times a week, too. I’m still not very good at it, but it does make me feel better. 🙂 I’ve cut back on social media commitments, too.

Of course, there’s still knitting and crafting. I’ll show you a new sweater tomorrow on Fiber Friday.

I hope you have exciting plans for 2020. Let’s make it a great year!

Shiny New Books

I received some more books from LightningSource today, and am very happy with the results.

We compared the POD print editions of The True Love Brides books from Createspace and LightningSource a while back, right here. Now, I’ve received copies of the last three Dragonfire books:

DFN_LSThey’re hard to photograph because the covers are glossy (the TLB covers are matte) but which is which? It’s impossible to tell – except for two things. The prices are on the back on the LightningSource editions AND (following the advice of other authors) I used the cream paper inside on these LightningSource books. That makes them the same thickness as the Createspace ones.

I also received this book from LS today:
The Crusader's Bride by Claire DelacroixThe Crusader’s Bride, book #1 in my new medieval romance series! I went with the glossy covers on this series at both suppliers because I think the matte finish makes the covers a bit darker. I still hadn’t seen the cream interior paper, so this one has white paper. A lovely book. I’m very pleased.

And now, I’ll work on getting Chapters/Indigo website listings for all four of these books…

Why Do You Read Whatever You Read?

Different people read for different reasons, and even individuals read for different reasons at different times. I find the variety intriguing and also the logic behind our choices.

For example, I can tell my progress in the book I’m writing by what I’m reading. When I’m in the middle of writing a book—which seems to be most of the time these days—I read to be distracted from the job at hand, to take a trip out of my book’s world into that of another author, to be entertained. To be reassured even, although I’m not sure whether the reassurance is that the good guys will win, that language conquers or that every book really does have an end.

I used to read romances when I was really busy creatively—in my former day job—but now that I write them, that doesn’t work anymore. Reading in my own genre is a busman’s holiday: I’m looking for the wires, analyzing what works and what doesn’t, too busy peeking behind the scenes (or trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next) that I can’t enjoy the ride. When I’m writing, I usually read murder mysteries. When I’m navigating the sticky middle of a book, I’ll read more genre mysteries. They’re short. They’re more consistent. I’ll often read mysteries I’ve read repeatedly, often at this same point in the creative process. I gobble these books up, sometimes reading one a night, when I’m in that phase. Favourite authors are Agatha Christie (classic!) and Donna Leone. (Venice and its food are a big lure for me with her books, but I also enjoy the moral ambiguity she illuminates.) At other points, I’ll read more literary mystery authors, like Minette Walters.

When I’m not in the crunch of a book, I’m an omnivorous reader. I acquire books faster than I read them these days, so there are stacks of books everywhere in the house, as well as full bookshelves. The one thing that’s consistent in my reading is that a book has to grab at me. It has to get a grip on my imagination for me to keep reading. Lots of books fail at that, which is no big deal. It’s just a subjective measure. I move on, because there’s always more to read.

No matter what I read or when I read it, the books I enjoy have one thing in common: they catch hold of my imagination. There’s something about them that grabs my attention. I love to read literary fiction for this reason. Literary fiction is often more about voice than about plot, but it’s certainly less regimented in structure than genre fiction. I read literary fiction to be surprised—by ideas, by structure, by the use of language. I don’t always love the book in question, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be intrigued by some facet of it. Literary fiction tends to be good at grabbing my attention.

For example, right now, I’m reading The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. (Amazon. iBooks.) I picked up this book because every online portal was promoting it heavily during its publication week. When publishing gets excited about a book, I always wonder why. The cover doesn’t particularly appeal to me and I would have walked past this book on a shelf without a second glance. I was drifting along, giving it another chapter of a chance, until I reached the following passage.

The characters are in King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, and the painting in question is this one, The Adoration of the Magi by Rubens. And here’s the passage from the book:

“”Mortality is inscribed in your cellular structure and you say you’re not ill? Look at the painting. Look at it.” She nods towards The Adoration of the Magi. I obey. I always will. “Thirteen subjects, if you count them, like the Last Supper. Shepherds, the Magi, the relatives. Study their faces, one by one. Who believes this newborn manikin can one day conquer death? Who wants proof? Who suspects the Messiah is a false prophet? Who knows that he is in a painting, being watched? Who is watching you back?””

I just love that twist at the end, so now I’m in for the rest of the ride.

What about you? Do you read certain kinds of books at certain times? What’s the variable that influences your choice of reading material? And what determines whether you finish a book or put it aside? What’s the hook that brings you back for more?