Coming Up Next

What I imagine Samuel "Pink" Peplim might look like

I’ve been promising readers a new book for a long time, but several personal challenges  made writing time next to impossible to come by.  Life has finally smoothed out somewhat, though, and I should be launching my next two books, NOT QUITE A LADY and NOT QUITE A GENTLEMAN a little later on this summer.

What are the next books about?

A cast of recurring characters populates my imaginary Regency world.  Some of these characters play major supporting roles, while others are more like movie extras, but once in a while one of the extras steps out of the shadows and takes on a greater role.  That’s what happened with Samuel “Pink” Peplim.

In NOT QUITE A LADY, Pink is the hero’s best friend, a sidekick, but he was so much fun to write that I just had to make him the hero of the next book.

Pink is a “pink o’ the ton,” a dandy, a fop, a peacock.  Someone who lives for fashion and parties and gossip.  So when he whispered in my ear that he actually leads a double life, one I should write about, I was understandably intrigued.

It turns out that out in the wilds of Cornwall, the mincing “Pink” Peplim turns into Jago “Jag” Lanyon, manly man!  As the dashing Jag Lanyon, Pink robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  He’s a local hero.  And he’s good at it.  In fact, the persona feels so natural to him that, as the book opens, he’s not really sure who he is anymore, Jag or Pink.

Enter our heroine, Rosie Greypool, who helps Pink figure himself out.

Clever and resourceful, Rosie has lived by her wits for as long as she can remember, and she’s tired of it.  Left an orphan as a young girl, she had no choice but to become a thief and keep moving to avoid being caught.  On the day our story opens, her luck runs out.  She picks the wrong pocket and is almost caught, but at the last second, she’s saved by  a Legend, none other than the famous Jag Lanyon.

Jag puts her on his horse and sends it galloping off to his remote, farmhouse hideout whilst he deals with her pursuers.  Once there, Rosie realizes she can steal Lanyon blind—but then she discovers evidence of Jag’s alter ego and realizes that Jag has something much more valuable to her than a few trinkets.  As “Pink Peplim,” he can help her become the lady she was born to be.  If he chooses to.  And if he does not, there’s always blackmail…

I’m having the best time writing this book, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  Thank you for bearing with me as I pass through the end of this dry spell.  You’re the best!

My apologies to the artist Thomas Phillips, who painted the excellent portrait you see here.  The subject is “Sir Humphry Davy, Bt [Baronet],” and he was painted in 1829.  Just as Jane Austen did, I peruse Regency portraiture to find pictures I think match my characters.  Just look at Sir Humphry.  He looks like a man who has some secrets, and he matches Pink Peplim physically, apart from the original portrait’s dark brown hair, which, through the magic of Photoshop, I made ginger to match Pink’s mop.

When my daughter saw this portrait, she said with a wrinkled nose, “Mama, I hate to tell you this, but … I think your portrait of Pink looks like a dweeb.”

“Exactly!” I replied.  “But,” I reassured her, “the Jag Lanyon version of Pink is definitely no Dweeb.”  Since I’m an artist, I just might have to do a second, “Jag Lanyon, Manly Man,” version of this portrait.  When I look at this man’s face, I can already see it.  Can’t you?

“He is a Rogue of course, but a civil one.”

Jane's Letter

Some readers wonder why many authors are self-publishing these days, instead of publishing through traditional, big-name publishing houses.

Q: Is it because their work just isn’t good enough?  A: Sometimes.

Q: Is it because they just haven’t been lucky enough?  A: Often.

Q: Is it because most publishing houses take advantage of authors whenever they can, and an author is better off self-publishing?  A: Usually.

In 1815, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra about a message she’d received from her publisher:

Mr. Murray’s letter is come; he is a Rogue, of course, but a civil one.  He offers £450 [for the copyright of Emma]—but he wants to have the copyright of MP [Mansfield Park] and S&S [Sense & Sensibility] included. It will end in my publishing for myself, I dare say.

Now, four hundred and fifty pounds was quite a large sum at the time, especially when one considers that upon Jane’s father’s death, Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother had been left with an inheritance of only £210 per year between them.  But asking for the copyrights to Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense & Sensibility was an outrageous demand.  In response, Mr. Murray received the letter you see above (a photograph of the actual letter).  Because Jane was still keeping her authorship secret (ladies of the gentry couldn’t earn money without losing status), the letter was written ostensibly by her brother Charles, but I speculate that, since it was Jane who actually penned the dictated letter, she also had a hand in composing its rather snarky content.

Dear Sir

Severe illness has confined me to my Bed ever since I received Yours of ye 15th – I cannot yet hold a pen, & employ an Amuensis [sic]. – The Politeness & Perspicuity of your Letter equally claim my earliest Exertion. – Your official opinion of the Merits of Emma, is very valuable & satisfactory. – Though I venture to differ occasionally from your Critique, yet I assure you the Quantum of your commendation rather exceeds than falls short of the Author’s expectation & my own. – The Terms you offer are so very inferior to what we had expected, that I am apprehensive of having made some great Error in my Arithmetical Calculation. – On the subject of the expense & profit of publishing, you must be much better informed that I am; – but Documents in my possession appear to prove that the Sum offered by you, for the Copyright of Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park & Emma, is not equal to the Money which my Sister has actually cleared by one very moderate Edition of Mansfield Park –(You Yourself expressed astonishment that so small an Edit. of such a work should have been sent into the World) & a still smaller one of Sense & Sensibility.

It’s clear that Jane knew what all authors know: a publishing house is a business whose purpose is to make money, and it does so by exploiting authors—and readers—as cleverly as possible.

When my first novel was published Back in 2001, the Big-Name, New York publishing house I was with paid just $1,250 USD per novel.  Even If I’d managed to turn out a book every month, my income would still have fallen below the federal poverty line.  But when I began self-publishing my books, I also began to make enough money to live on.

So, that’s why authors are self-publishing these days.  That’s why Jane Austen was thinking of self-publishing.  That’s why I continue to self-publish today.  That’s the benefit to me.  But what about you, dear reader?

Is self-publishing good for you?

You bet it is.

Self-published ebooks usually cost readers much less (mine do) than traditionally published, paperback books.  And they can have exciting new plots and characters that would never make it through any of the traditional editorial gauntlets, the ones concerned with producing only what appeals to the masses.  Remember, a publisher doesn’t have to please all its readers to make money, just a majority of its readers. Which is why publishing is cyclical.  You don’t see many time-travel paperbacks on the shelves these days.  Or Gothics.  Or vampires.  Or Regencies, for that matter.  The readers who want those books just aren’t a big enough slice of the publishing pie.  But there are loads of ebooks available in those sub-genres.

And if you really can’t do without the paperback versions, self-published ebooks are usually available in paperback, though they do usually cost a bit more.

In short, self-publishing gives you, the reader, the stories you love at a fraction of the cost.  And your favorite authors can afford to feed their families.

Jane, I fancy, would have cheered.