What’s in a title?

And I don’t just mean novel titles, though I will get to that.

Hello-My-Job-Title-Is-300x194I worked in public relations for nearly twenty years, some of that time as a consultant. I have helped to develop change management plans for in-house PR groups and one thing that comes up again an again is what titles do we give our staff. It’s not an easy decision and trends change over time.

It’s been almost seven years since I applied for a ‘regular full-time job’ (which I stayed at for 5 years before deciding to write fiction more or less full time). The job at the time was called a Senior Communications Advisor. One of the first questions I had was how true was that description to the job. Were we really ‘advising’ or were we doing. Frankly, it turns out the job title wasn’t very accurate at all and within a year, I was a Director. Truth is, there is nothing wrong with the title itself but the job description that goes along with it.

When you are building a career there is an impetus to keep getting to the next rung in the ladder, regardless if those rungs are well constructed or lead anywhere. If you are a sales rep, you want to be assistant manager, if you are assistant manager, you want to be district manager, etc…

I try to counsel clients to really think about what the department is trying to establish themselves as – will they be writing press releases, and memos and ad copy, or will they be providing guidance and oversight to senior executives. Create your identity, stick with it, because once established, these titles are not easy to change. There are hoops to go through. In my old department, there are Communications Specialists, and there are Senior Communications Advisors – they do roughly the same thing, yet specialists are always vying for the ‘better title’ and the senior advisors are clinging desperately to theirs. It’s the nature of the beasts – ego, ambition.

WinningCait (72dpi)In WRITING, it too is all about the title. I don’t agonize about titles anymore. Half of the ones I started with have been changed by my publisher. And the ones I indie published now follow a formula set out by their series. I have to say, as a consultant, I’ve spent a lot of years giving people advice that they never take, so I’m not precious about these things. My beta-readers are more upset when the title changes than I am.

When my editor wants changes (at least the changes I’ve had to make thus far) it’s to me, water off a ducks’ back so long as the integrity of the story doesn’t change. For me, as long as I got the characters story down once, out of my head, and told ‘their story’ as best I could at the time, I am pleased. If someone (my editor) wants to help me improve upon the storytelling, point out gaps or flaws – yes, that’s what she is paid to do too (and half the time, I’m the one paying her!)

Some of you may have heard about #cockygate (sigh). Someone trying to trademark a word because they are convinced readers can’t differentiate their books from others with similar names/cover art. I am happy that it does not involve me. I’ve not used ‘cocky’ in any of my titles. I am a small-time indie writer, and it would effectively bankrupt my ‘writing budget’ were I to have been one of those affected. (BTW – most of us don’t make a lot of money.)

When I am coming up with a title I will go to Amazon or Kobo and search for that title. See who else has used it, and have they used it recently. Is my story likely to be mixed up with theirs. If it’s a few years old, or a totally different type of romance/book, I’m cool about using it. There are only so many words in the English language and so many ways to combine them.

When I published Winning Cait, it was my first book. I had no idea it would be part of a series and when I had the chance to, I rebranded it as such (The Men of Steele series). Giving it similar cover styles, fonts, and a series name that pulls it all together. For its spin-off series of novellas (the Men of Steele Novellas), I had the idea that I’d like the title to use one similar word – PLAY/PLAYING.

Invitation to Play (low res)I did change the title of the first novella (while I was still drafting it) because an author I admire had recently released a book of the same name (I was thinking Playing to Win but the amazing Jaci Burton beat me to it.) Not that I thought anyone, in this universe or any parallel universe, would confuse my book with hers. It was the polite thing to do. Instead I called it Invitation to Play. 

The last book, in that series is called Playing for Keeps and there are a few other book out there by that name (there is nothing new under the sun! – and lordy, I hope that’s the only time you hear me quote scripture). And if any of those authors want to reach out to me (before June 30th) and say “hey, I’d rather you change the name” I’d definitely discuss it with them.

Playing it Cool (72dpi)But I can safely say again, when you consider the cover art (the heroine is always in red), the font, and the series name – there are a lot of clues that tell the readers “this is a Zoë Mullins story” as opposed to anyone else’s. And the author name, should people be confused, is the other big, bold, glaring hint that this is MY book, lol. Readers a
re smart cookies. I was a reader a long time before I was a writer and I never mis-purchased a book. Or if I ever did (and have just forgotten) I can assuredly say it never kept me from going back and buying the right one, and in the meantime discovering a new author!

But I can understand the protectionism that authors may feel. We have all invested significant time (blood, sweat, tears, money) into the creation of those stories, of those characters. It’s great to say we are all writers and should support each other, but like the communications specialist and the senior advisor… we are all hoping, praying, working and promoting (and spending most of the dollars we earn) in order to get to the next ‘rung’. I want that too – the chance to make a comfortable living from my writing alone. But my way to do that is to listen to my readers, my editors and my ‘self’, keep my head down and just keep writing. Hopefully you will keep reading 🙂

BONUS INFO: Winning Cait was originally called Capturing Cait. A Risk Worth Taking was called Risking It All.

Mother Nature has some explaining to do…

“Winter is Coming” … sure it sounded ominous until we truly ended up with the winter that won’t end. I live in Atlantic Canada for those who don’t know, and I still have 5 foot ice/snow drifts in my front yard (not exaggerating) while there are a few spots where there is grass showing through. But I know those drifts are going to take their time melting.

I also spent a good six weeks of this winter sick with first a nasty head cold and then a sinus infection. Both put so much pressure on my sinuses and gave me such bad aching behind my eyes that I couldn’t fathom having to sit in front of a computer and write. So that has left me woefully behind where I wanted to be with some projects.

inclinedtoscandal_800But there is good news! Inclined to Scandal my first historical (being published by Totally Bound Publishing) is being released early. It will go on pre-order on May 29th, with a release date six weeks later… July 10th! (It was originally scheduled for release later this fall).

I am very for all my books to come out, but this is especially true for this one. When I started reading romance, it was historical romance that attracted me, so to be publishing one of my own… gleeful. Also I really love these characters. Our hero – the Earl of Rathbridge and Lady Georgiana, our heroine, both have overcome some daunting histories and its affected who they are. It’s made Rath a little rough, jaded and something of a loner (because he feels he’s disappointed those who cared about him.) Georgiana’s past tribulations have made her ‘an original or a misfit in the eyes of society. She is independent, and more than a little willing to throw caution to the wind on a whim. Almost as if consequences don’t apply to her. 

They won’t reach their happily ever after easily – in fact Rath and Georgie will fight it every step of the way, for their own reasons.

Before the snow melts here at home, I hope to have finished my first paranormal romance – it’s a blending of ‘angel-lore with vampire-lore’ with a little magic thrown in. I am working on the second draft (okay – I’ve been working on this book most of my life so it’s probably closer to the 20th draft) and am nearly ready to submit to publishers. Fingers crossed that I will have some news on where/when to find it later this year.

And finally, I started the last novella in the Men of Steele series. Patrick and Samantha’s story – Playing For Keeps. The first chapter is done and I hope to have the rest completed by the end of May so it can be released in July – not long after Inclined to Scandal. This doesn’t mean I am done with St. Augustin or our Men of Steele … I am just going to take a little break from them so I can start the Whiskey Creek Series.

 

What does the writer read?

What am I reading right now?

First you have to know that I’m horrid about sharing what I’m reading on Goodreads and I’m also the worst friend/reader for an author because I rarely leave reviews. (I get it – those of you who are tired of authors asking you to leave a review for them… you just want to read, escape for an hour or two – I totally get it, and I don’t hold it against you.) I am trying to do better though.

cropped-book-1738609_1920.jpgSo that leads me to my current reading list. I didn’t get as much time to read over the Christmas holidays as I would have liked – my in-laws were here for a week from out of province.  But my husband surprised me with a great Christmas gift… a week away later this month – just the two of us. And I did get a gift card for kobobooks.com from my in-laws… so I have downloaded quite a few books to read on the beach.

 

First up I have to say I love the Compass series by Jayne Rylon and Mari Carr – I think I like these authors together more than on their own. So I was very excited to see the latest series Compass Boys. I’ve downloaded those (already read the first one – Heave on Earth – so good!). Can’t wait to read book 2 – Into the Fire.

I am woefully behind on Lexi Blake’s Topped series. I read book one but have downloaded the next three! It’s a spin-off from her Masters and Mercenaries series – also excellent! Spies, and suspense and subs and Doms – they have it all plus happily ever afters. If you haven’t read them – start at the beginning to get a sense of how the characters evolve over time.

I was also really pleased to see that Lorelei James is continuing her Rough Riders series with Rough Riders Legacy #1 – Unbreak My Heart.
I also hope to read the latest cozy mystery from Jenn McKinlay – Death in the Stacks, the 8th book in the Library Lovers Mysteries. And I found a new series to try… the Kelly Jackson Mysteries (of which there are two and they have dogs on the cover so I was kind of hooked) by Janet Finsilver. 


That should keep me busy for a little while. I doubt I will get through them all but I like to plan in case there are rainy days too. Do you plan that way too? 

PLAYING IT COOL

This novella was harder than any I’ve written. To take two characters with very little history, and throw them together in a snowstorm and watch the sparks fly between them, but also to nurture the tender beginning of a relationship. It’s not just the sex, though Gina is very happy that the sex is amazing, she is awed by the way Spencer just slips into her life, like he was always there, that blows her mind.

Gina, too, deserves that. She’s a single mom – trying to be there for her little girl and build a business. She doesn’t have time for the wrong relationship. If you read Winning Cait or Tempting Sophie, you will have met her there, and hopefully like her as much as I did.

She needed her story to be told and I hope you like it. No doubt, you will continue to see Gina in future stories within the Men of Steele series. Her and Spencers’ story is just beginning.


Playing it Cool (72dpi).jpg

WATCH THE TRAILER 

When Spencer’s old college roommate offers him a job at Steele Construction, he doesn’t hesitate. Not only does he get to be closer to his sister and her family, he may finally have the chance to repair the rift between himself and his parents.

His parents live only three hours away but it may as well be on Mars as a blizzard moving up the coast has him seeking refuge at The Red Gate Inn. Spencer prides himself on playing it cool, but something about the raven-haired innkeeper has him overheated.

As a single working mom, Gina didn’t get much time to herself. With her mom and daughter off to Florida for a week, and the inn she owns closed for the holidays, she is looking forward to some me time. Then it started to snow. In good conscience she couldn’t turn away her brother’s newest employee when he needed shelter from the storm, but her guest has her feeling anything but professional.

It may be cold outside but things are heating up at the Inn.

(Reader Advisory: Grab a glass of wine, and put the kids to bed to read this novella. It’s cold outside but the temperature is rising at The Red Gate Inn.)

Amazon.ca http://ht.ly/IfYp30h0TZj

Amazon.com http://ht.ly/X0Bc30h0U11

iTunes http://ow.ly/NgH8308tjP8

Kobo http://ht.ly/3Z2J30h3rO4

Nook http://ht.ly/gBQ130h3rQf

 

Finishing a book… what does it feel like?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember, so I finished writing many stories, and at least two books before I finished the first book that I would try to publish. That book was Winning Cait.

I was pondering this weekend as I finished the edits for what will be my eighth published story – Playing It Cool – whether the feeling has changed since then. And if so, for the better, or the worse.

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When I finished Winning Cait I knew who I was trying to sell it to. I wrote it in a style that I hoped would be appealing to Ellora’s Cave. I had read their authors voraciously and I knew at that time, I wanted to be one of them. Unfortunately, my brief time with them was at the end of their shooting star, I just didn’t know it then.

When I finished Winning Cait I was relieved and nervous. I remember tentatively giving it out to a few beta readers and hoping for the best. I remember labouring over the synopsis hoping to do the story justice so that someone would read it. And then submitting and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

The experience of the latest book is 100% different. It’s self-published, so I don’t have to worry and labour over the synopsis and question will a publisher want it or not. It will be available for pre-order before my editor returns her final remarks. But the nervous excitement is still there. Wondering what will readers think?

At the end of the day, that is the big question? Regardless of whether it gets to their hands through a publisher, or through self-publishing, the only opinion that matters is yours. The readers.

I would like to think that anyone who writes a book and publishes it and asks for your dollars in return for our time and our creativity (and the not inconsiderable costs we put in to it have it edited, the cover designed, and the final product formatted), are doing it because we want you to be entertained. To gain something from the experience of reading it… even if it is only a few hours of escape after the kids are in bed.

The other interesting feeling, which hasn’t changed for me since book one, is that the book isn’t done. In my heart, I can’t let it go. I keep thinking, “Oh, I should have told the story about the time Jim and Jane did X, or went to Y. You live with your characters, they are inside a writers head and sometimes heart and they have so many tales to tell, and it’s up to us to determine which ones make the cut. It’s not easy.

So as I get ready to publish book number eight, I revel in the fact that there are still butterflies in my stomach. And that I am still invested in the characters I create. It hasn’t, yet, become just a job. I hope it will always be more than that.

And I hope you will keep reading.

 

So a few weeks ago on my personal Facebook I joined the #metoo movement. I, like so many others, have been on the receiving end of sexual assault and harassment.

I am a supporter of the #metoo movement. I think it’s important for those who have never been on the receiving end of sexual assault or harassment to understand that they are the lucky few. I think it’s equally important for whom it has happened to have an opportunity to say “this happened and I have had to live with it every day.”

I think it has also shone a light on how, primarily but not exclusively, women have changed the way they live to protect themselves… many times not enjoying the same freedoms a man has – such as simply walking alone. (I know! Rather than teaching people how to protect themselves from attack, how about we teach people not to attack and punish the heck out of them when they do.)

What worries me about any movement like this is the risk it runs to become a space to ‘out’ people without proof or corroboration. I don’t like trials by social media because of what it does to both sides – victim and accused.

If you have been the victim of a crime, then please talk to the police. Even if it’s one, five, fifteen years ago, then they should know about it. If you are looking for justice, they are your resource. And one voice might not make a difference but a million voices will. It will change the way sexual assault/harassment is perceived by the world (including law enforcement).

For me – and this is only my perspective – I hope #metoo will give us a historical reference point in time that we can look back one day and say “things got better after this and because of this.”

And I think our relations with one another can get better from here on in. We should be empowered by this movement to say, “I won’t stand for it. I won’t stay silent. I won’t watch it happen to someone else anymore.”

And I hope as a writer that I am more mindful of the characters I create – not that I won’t write asshole characters, but that the other characters will call them on their bullshit. They won’t let it stand.

#bethechange #metoo

#metoo

Autumn seems much shorter than it used to…

I realize that title could apply to many things after all, the days (hours of daylight) are shorter but it seems in the last few years, the time between the end of summer and Christmas just seem to pass so quickly. How is it that there are fewer than 60 days until Santa Day!

We used to live in a part of Canada where there was no real discernible autumn. It went from Summer to Winter in the blink of an eye. And you could count on having the first snow long before Halloween. Since moving to the Maritimes, that’s not the case. We have beautiful fall days, and we usually get a few days of Indian Summer (forgive me if there is a better more PC term for that nowadays). We had a few days of it this week with 22 feels like 27 (celsius) but horribly gray outside. Barely a speck of sunshine. Maybe that has me feeling lacklustre today.

eightyonedays_800And it has been a busy fall. Taking an active management role in the yoga studio and teaching barre actually takes up a lot more time than I expected. But I’m loving it. There as been a lot of marketing work for the two releases I had at the end of the summer – Eighty-One Days (jesus, I still love this cover) and Bound to Happen (from the Sensory Limits Anthology).

I am nearly finished my next novella in the Men of Steele Novella series. This one is called Playing It Cool. The cover should arrive next week, and I’ve told my editor she would have it early in November so I need to get it done. It’s crunch time now, and my problem is the ending. Obviously it’s HEA – happily ever after – but trying to do that with some originality and flare 🙂 If everything goes well, it should be released mid-December. (I’m trying for that sweet space before Christmas.)

The next big thing to plan for is Christmas and my in-laws spending a week with us over the holidays. It will be fine, really. I keep reminding myself that a week is after all only seven days. They uh, don’t really know/understand what I write, and are pretty ‘churchy’ so I’m thinking I may have to lock my office door, or at least shroud my photo display of my novel covers (hehehe!) And since they are teetotalers (and we respectfully don’t drink around them) I may need to do make an extra batch or seven of rum balls rum balls 😉

So I will keep slogging away here… enjoying the fact that at this point there is no snow in the forecast and while autumn may go fast, at least winter hasn’t begun (like elsewhere in Canada). Take care my friends!