Afternoon Tea and the Fib That Lived On

It isn't often one catches a duchess telling a whopper. This one concerns the delightful custom of afternoon tea.

An Afternoon Tea Table
I particularly like the addition of the book at this tea. 🙂 Photo Credit: Per Mosseby, Mt. Lavinia: Governor's High Tea

Anna Maria Russell (1783–1857), the Duchess of Bedford, claimed to have originated the then-fashionable custom. But people were obviously taking afternoon tea long before Her Grace had any influence over the matter.  Take a look at this quote from The Diner’s Dictionary (2nd ed.), by John Ayto:

"As the usual time for dinner progressed during the eighteenth century, towards the evening a gap opened up for a late-afternoon refreshment, filled by what has since become the traditional English afternoon tea, a meal in its own right, with sandwiches and cake as well as cups of tea (amongst the earliest references to it are these by Fanny Burney in Evelina (1778): ‘I was relieved by a summons to tea,’ and by John Wesley in 1789: ‘At breakfast and at tea...I met all the Society"

One wonders if the Duchess would have felt satisfaction or chagrin if she'd known that almost two hundred years later her boast would still be perpetuated as truth, as in this excellent presentation offered by London's venerable Fortnum's department store (established 1707):

No matter where it came from, afternoon tea is still a favorite today. We associate a cup of tea with relaxation. Whether it's taken alone or with friends, accompanied by scones or bread and jam or by nothing at all. Whether taken in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the dead of night, tea is a small way to have a big impact upon our sense of wellbeing. It's a way of being good to oneself.

At my house, this morning, this calls for a batch of fresh blueberry scones and a cup of Earl Grey--piping hot and extra sweet (the way I love tea the best).  Or perhaps I'll pair a couple of shortbread biscuits ("cookies," to my American friends) with a nice cup of Tazo Zen tea.  It's one of my favorites, a wildly fragrant tea with lemongrass, verbena, and spearmint. Or, perhaps I'll cheat a little and have hot cocoa instead, with a sinfully delicious slice of homemade chocolate cake (I'll share my recipe in my next post). What? A proper afternoon tea with no tea?

Why not?

There are those who would insist that "proper" tea isn't very sweet. That it is served with milk, never cream (oh, the horror!). That it is served at certain times. That the pinkie is held aloft and milk is added last (or not; both of those rules are fiercely debated). That one holds the saucer only when standing and never when seated at a table. There is even a rule that says the savory tea sandwiches are eaten first, scones next, and sweets last.

Rubbish! Tea shouldn't be about rules and fashion. It doesn't matter whether you treat yourself to traditional, oh-so-proper black tea and cucumber sandwiches or to Kool-Aid and Oreos, if that's what you enjoy. The important thing is to pause and relax, whether alone or with others. To take care of yourself, just for a moment. To count your blessings. To be happy.

Afternoon tea is all about slowing down and being good to oneself--something I hope the Duchess of Bedford understood, though I suspect the poor thing was more concerned with being thought fashionable than with taking time to relax and enjoy the moment. Life comes at us so fast these days that we don't often take time to enjoy it.

So, won't you join me now?

Take a break. Have some tea (or cocoa or juice or whatever pleases you most). Relax and be good to yourself, for just a moment. And then set a reminder to do this for yourself again very soon.

After you're finished, I'd love for you to come back here and tell me about it. What did you have? What kind of tea? Did you relax and enjoy the moment? And did you set a reminder for next time? Will you make this a regular habit? Anne, the Duchess of Bedford and I hope so. 😉

You’re Invited!

Get Ready!  In just a few days, a few lucky readers will receive a ton of FREE books.  Read on for all the juicy details…

Want to have some fun? Join me as I open the doors to my new street team group on Facebook.

I’m planning lots of fun and surprises just for my wonderful street team members:

  • Online tea parties. 
  • Online live readings of Regency fan-favorites (in pajamas, with hot cocoa, of course!)
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Trivia contests
  • Prizes perfect for history buffs, like antique candlesticks, quills, Regency-style jewelry, and much more.
  • Plus many other great surprises

We’ll have such fun!

Plus, all street team members will receive advanced reading copies of ALL of my current titles AND all of my future releases!

All you have to do to join my street team is show me a review you’ve already written about one of my books. My street team is only for the fiercest lovers of historical romance–especially Regencies.  So you know you’ll be in great company.  🙂

Hurry; there are only 200 spots.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

I can’t wait to welcome you to the team!

Relaunch Post 7: 12,000 new readers

It’s been 4 weeks since my last Relaunch Post. Here’s what’s happened since then:

  • I’ve added 78 new subscribers, for a total of 202 subscribers.
  • I released a Christmas novella, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS on October 20th.
  • ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS received its first reader review (5 Stars–huzzah!) on Amazon.
  • 5000 additional free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL have been downloaded, for a total of 12,000 copies since it went perma-free. 7,500 of those downloads have been from the Apple ebook store (much to my surprise).
  • THE BLUE DEVIL has 83 ratings on Apple’s bookstore, with an average of 4.5 stars (more cheers!).
  • 96 free copies of The Regency Matchmaker Series Book Two, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN were downloaded, for a total of 183 copies so far.
  • I sold 12 times as many books in November as I did in August.

My books are earning about $20 per day right now. Not enough to live on, but it’s 30 times more than I was making before I relaunched my career, and there’s been steady growth, so I’m actually pretty jazzed.

What’s next?

  • I found a few typos in ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, and I’ll be uploading corrected manuscripts here in a few minutes. Two English teachers went over this manuscript.  It was also professionally edited and copy-edited. My two brilliant, adult children also went over it.  You’d think six pairs of well-trained, well-qualified eyes would have found those typos before the book was published, wouldn’t you?  Melynda’s Law: “No matter how carefully edited a manuscript is, there will always be another missed typo.”  *sigh*
  •  I’ll be advertising ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS soon.  Facebook ads.  And I’ll let my subscriber list know about the book.
  • I’m going to publish my first issue of my newsletter, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES, soon.
  • In THE FURTHER ADVENTURES, I’m going to ask my subscribers who have read and enjoyed my books to review them.  Like most other authors, I dislike asking, but online reviews are vitally important these days, and I’ve only received 2 new reviews since I relaunched my career a couple of months ago. I often see romances with hundreds of reviews (and some of those books are of questionable quality–yikes!). I’m guessing their authors aren’t shy about asking.  To regain my place in the market and remain competitive, I must have more reviews, so … well, I’ll just have to step out of my comfort zone and ask.
  • I’ll also be reaching out to my subscribers and other fans to form a street team. The first two hundred people who can show that they’ve reviewed one of my books will all receive free advanced reading copies of my next new release, along with a bunch of other fun stuff. Plus, I’ve set up a private Facebook group just for them.  I’m really excited about the group, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.
  • I’m watching my sales figures carefully in anticipation of something cool happening.  You see, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN, Book Two of the Regency Matchmaker Series, has been outselling all three of the other titles in the series for the past three years. But since both Book One and Book Two of the Regency Matchmaker Series are currently available for free, I’ve been expecting sales of Books Three and Four to slowly increase, and they’re doing just that. Take a look at this graph showing the past year’s worth of sales of THE BLACKGUARD’S BRIDE, Book Four of the series. The last data point represents the projected sales for this month, assuming the sales curve remains constant–but I expect it to increase.

Graph

See why I’m pleased?

In summary: I’m not living a lifestyle of the rich and famous yet–but I’m working on it. 🙂

NEW! Once Upon a Christmas

Just published this morning:

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS is here, and its ending is my absolute favorite of all of my novels so far.  It's the first of 3 Christmas novellas for 2017.  It's available on Amazon in print and for Kindle, and it's also available to read free as part of a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Get it here.  Enjoy!

Once Upon a Christmas by Melynda Beth Andrews, front cover

Here's the book's description from its Amazon page:

***********

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS is a lighthearted Christmas tale set during the time of Jane Austen, about a widowed viscount with two mischievous little girls, one runaway heiress in disguise, an adorable baby elephant, and one outrageous old matchmaker who knows everyone's business better than they do. It's Regency romance at its best.

ONE CULTIVATES SCANDAL, WHILE THE OTHER AVOIDS IT ...

When Miss Emily Winthrop, impulsive heiress and aspiring spinster, flees London and the glittering Society engagement her parents have planned for her, she is soon hungry and penniless. But when the servants at Stendmore Park take pity on her, she suddenly finds herself pressed into service as a makeshift governess. A scandalous masquerade under an assumed name and gainful employment are just the thing to assure that no tonnish man will ever want to wed her.

The notorious rakehell David Winter is up to his cravat in trouble. After his elder brother's death, he's returned to the family's ancestral estate as the new Viscount, but everything is in a shambles. No staff, no supplies, and no money. For the sake of his two young daughters, he needs a hefty loan. And for that, he must convince Society that he had become responsible, predictable, and respectable. A formal house party is just the thing to show them all that he has reformed--if he can avoid the kissing boughs and his children's maddeningly attractive temporary governess.

Unfortunately, the adorable baby elephant Emily liberated from the cruelty of a traveling menagerie two nights ago is about to complicate matters for both of them. If Emily can't keep the playful, syllabub-slurping, flower-waving menace hidden, the Viscount will sack her, and she'll be forced to return to London-- and Lord Winter's guests will have absolute proof that he hasn't changed one bit.

REVIEWS

“Fun and delightful...Melynda Beth Andrews' Once Upon a Christmas turns a chaotic house party into a warm romance. A keeper!”
— Robin Taylor, RT Book Club

"Delightful stuff."
— Elizabeth Bennefeld, Patchwork Prose

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Heading Images?

I’m trying to solve a problem, and if you’re a reader, you can help.

When you open my ebooks on your device, is the heading image centered, or is it off-center?  The heading image looks like this:

I think it’s appearing centered on some devices and off-center on others, like this:


What does it look like on your device?  Feel free to comment below or write me.

Thanks!

Relaunch Post 6: I’m a #1 Amazon Bestseller Again, But …

So, today it’s been one month since I pushed the red button on the relaunch of my writing career.  First, I’ll recap what’s happened and then I’ll tell you the results so far.

Steps

  • The revised editions of all four books in my Regency Matchmaker Series were re-published, both in print (via CreateSpace) and on Kindle, and I also released an ebook-only boxed set.
  • The box set and Books Three and Four remain at regular price.
  • Books Three and Four were enrolled in KDP Select, so they’re available to Readers on Kindle Unlimited.
  • The first ebook in the series was made permafree on all sales venues I can reach, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Overdrive, and Scribed.
  • The second book in the series was offered for free (and still is). All readers have to do is come to my site and tell me where to send the book. All of those readers subscribed to my email list.
  • Other than that, I’ve been doing what writers do: write, write, write like the wind. I’m working on the next book.

Results

  • My subscriber list has quadrupled, from 31 to 124.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL (Book One in the series) made it into the top 10 in my category (Romance>Historical Romance>Regency) in the free Kindle Ebooks lists in all English-speaking Amazon markets except for in the US, where it made it into the top 30.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL is currently ranging from #1 amongst free English-speaking historical romance in Germany and #580 in Japan.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL made it into the top 300 of all free Kindle books in all Amazon markets except for in the US, where it’s made it to the top 1200, so far.
  • Over 7000 free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL have been downloaded in all venues.
  • 87 free copies of Book Two, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN have been downloaded so far.

#1 in Germany sounds great, but it’s in a very narrow category in a very small market, where one or two sales makes a huge difference.  7000 free downloads also sounds impressive, but many of those will have gone to readers who collect free books without much intention of reading them immediately–or at all. Nevertheless, I expect that last figure to trickle upward (and subsequently shape itself into a bell curve; the statistics geek in me rejoices) as readers finish Book One. Until then, the vast majority won’t know about the free copy of Book Two.

Readers who download MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN also subscribe to my newsletter, and only 1 out of 93 has unsubscribed immediately, which tells me that the vast majority of my new subscribers are interested in my books and/or sub-genre rather than simply being interested in free books regardless of what they’re about (something I’d been a little worried over, so that’s a relief).

Interestingly, in the past 12 days, there were 9 sales of MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN on Amazon, even though it clearly states at the end of THE BLUE DEVIL and within the Amazon book description for MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN that you can read MISS GRANTHAM in its entirety “RIGHT NOW” by going to my website (implying, but carefully not stating explicitly that it’s free, because offering anything for free within the book’s description or content is currently against Amazon’s Terms of Service, and I’m not interested in annoying Amazon) and in spite of the whole free book thing being prominently displayed on my website.  In spite of my best efforts to the contrary, I know it’s too much to hope that all of the readers who are paying for MISS GRANTHAM realize the book is available for free and are choosing to pay for it instead.  I wish I could do something about that for them, but I can’t do much more than I’m doing, alas. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to get a 1-star review from some of these readers, something along the lines of, “Hey, I paid for this book but it was free elsewhere, and now I can’t get a refund” because they waited too long.  We’ll see.  For now, I’ll stop worrying about it, since I can’t do anything about it anyway.  In my mind, I can hear my mom telling me, “Atta girl, Betho! Don’t borrow trouble.”

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how the relaunch is progressing. The next big step in the process will be the release of the next book, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, the first of 3 Christmas novellas for this year.  That should go out within a week.  My next blog post will be written after that, unless something really spectacular happens before then.  Hey, a girl can dream, right? 🙂

Relaunch Post 5

Last time I wrote, I told you that Amazon had price-matched THE BLUE DEVIL, which made it free on several of its sites (UK, Canada, India, etc.) but they hadn’t yet price-matched it on Amazon’s USA site.  They’d told me it would take up to 2 days to be price matched there, and so I dutifully waited.  And waited.  Finally, on day 7, I wrote them again to ask once more–politely–to price match, and they wrote back to say that they were sorry for the delay and they’d get right on it–and they did.

I’d heard that Amazon sends out somewhat snippy form letters informing authors who ask them to price match that they may not price match in all marketplaces and it’s up to their discretion, etc. But I never received such a letter. In fact, I initially received a very polite, friendly, and clearly personalized letter confirming that they would indeed be price matching as I asked.  It was … nice.  And this second letter I received actually apologized for the delay and promised to price match in the US immediately, which they did. I’d been led to expect a difficult and abrupt response from Amazon, but instead their responses were personalized, courteous, and pretty quick. I was pleasantly surprised.

Being able to offer THE BLUE DEVIL for free on Amazon is an important part of my career relaunch plan.  If something had prevented me from making the book “permafree,” my progress would have slowed and may even have stopped, until I could bring out a ton o’ new books (which I’m also working on, of course, because–whaddya know!–writers have to write).

So THE BLUE DEVIL has been free on Amazon’s US site now for about 30 hours.  It had been carrying a sales rank of ~#450,000 for several months.  It’s now at #982 in the free Kindle books list. Apples to oranges, that, but interesting–and happy making!–nonetheless. I’m thrilled that THE BLUE DEVIL has broken into the top 1000 free Kindle books.  I’m hoping for a top 100 spot, but I don’t think it will happen.

The book is also in the #22 spot on the Free>Kindle>Romance>Historical Romance>Regency list.  I’d like that to get to the top 20 for the best visibility, and I think that will happen sometime within the next few days.

In the UK, it’s at #7 in the Free>…>Regency list.  And it’s #271 in the entire Kindle store for free books.  Not too shabby, but it’s been free in the UK for about a week now, and the UK is a lot smaller market than the US.

In the past week, I:

  • Wrote to Amazon to ask them to make an update of THE BLUE DEVIL available for readers to download, since Kip and I revised it quite heavily just prior to this re-launch.
  • Put ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS in Vellum, my formatting software.
  • Wrote a 2000 word new chapter last night on ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, when I realized it needed it.

This coming week, I’ll be working on ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS as I’m able, and I should be releasing it sometime this coming week, though family obligations may delay its publication by a week or two.

In other news, my newsletter, which I think had 60 subscribers a week ago, now has 91 subscribers–10 from today alone–a result I’m over the moon about.

In the entire month of September, 4,876 free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL were downloaded fro all venues. So far this month–fewer than 6 full days–it’s already been downloaded 1,290 times.

I began the relaunch process in April. There were so many components to my plan–revisions, web design, setting up an ebook delivery service and mailing list, ISBNs, covers, book descriptions–that, at times, it’s felt like I was juggling a ping pong ball, a live alligator, a crystal goblet, and a running chainsaw all at once. But now it’s easier–fewer moving parts!–and the relaunch is sailing along as I’d hoped it would.

Now I just have to write like mad for a while.

 

 

What Do You Think of These Covers?

I've worked on and off as a freelance graphic artist and web designer since 1999, and I enjoy doing my own website and book covers.

Usually, I have pretty good judgement about my own work, but sometimes I run into blind spots. 

Just the other day, Kat informed me that the heroine's face on the cover I'd created for our upcoming release, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS looked "janky."

Once Upon a Christmas Front Cover

The parts of her face seem to be pointing in different directions, she said.  What do you think?  Do you agree with her?

I'm also curious to know what you think about these covers for the REGENCY MATCHMAKER SERIES.  Which do you like best, and why?  Which do you like the least? 

Lord Logic and the Wedding Wish Front Cover
Front cover of The Blackguard's Bride

Finally, I'd love to have your opinion on these boxed set covers I made.  Which box set do you think is more attractive?

The Regency Matchmaker Series, Books I - IV, Box Set

Tell me what you think in the comments, below.  Thanks for your input!

Who Is Kat?

Kat is my first-reader.  My editor.  My proofreader.  She was my co-author on NOT A LADY, back in 2013, writing fully half of that novel.  And she will be co-authoring the remaining books of the REGENCY MATCHMAKER SERIES with me.

She also happens to be my daughter.

Kat is currently 22 and his been writing for 2 decades.  No, really.  She’s truly extraordinary with language, and she always has been.  She said her ABC’s at 10 months.  She taught herself to read at 2, and she wrote her first story just before she turned 3.  She began college at 13 and won the Stephen Caldwell Wright Poetry Award, given by Seminole State College of Florida, when she was just 16, competing against adults.  That year, she also won a 3rd place spot in the Flash Fiction category in SSC’s Veritas Awards. And, though I cannot divulge the name under which she publishes fan fiction, I can tell you that she is prolific and her stories there are legendary.

In short, she’s one hell of a good writer.

Kat is also a talented freelance illustrator, having completed several dozen commissions so far this year alone. She has well over 6000 followers on Tumblr, where she posts much of her art.  I create all of my own book covers, and Kat is an invaluable critical voice in that process.

As it turns out, Kat and I write extremely well together.  We’re very much alike, we use language very similarly, and our writing styles, though different, are compatible.  As we do with everything else, we have a great time writing together, and the result is absolutely seamless. You absolutely cannot tell where my writing ends and hers begins. Even we forget, after awhile, who wrote what. Not that it matters, I suppose.  What matters is the result, and readers love our combined voice.  We’ll be re-issuing NOT A LADY later this year and writing a sequel to it, NOT A GENTLEMAN, which is shaping out to be a personal favorite of mine.

She’s an amazing and good person, and we’re the best of friends.  Seriously.  We have a great time together, and even if she weren’t my daughter, I would still want to be her friend.  She’s funny and wise and socially conscious and honest and sweet. I’m proud of her and grateful to her.  For so many things.

So, that’s who Kat is.

Back on the Bestsellers Lists

My REGENCY MATCHMAKER SERIES spent 24 months on the bestseller lists at Amazon.com , but then life got crazy and I had to turn away from writing for a second time.  During that forced hiatus, the series dropped off the lists for several years.

So now I’m pleased to say that THE BLUE DEVIL is back on Amazon’s bestseller lists!

Right now, in the UK, it’s sitting at #15 on the Kindle Store>Books>Romance>Historical Romance>Regency list. It’s number #432 amongst the free books in the entire Kindle store, and it’s #391 on the Kindle Store>Books>Literature & Fiction list.

In Canada, it’s at #35 on the Kindle Store>Kindle Ebooks>Romance>Historical>Regency list. It’s #1,485 amongst the free books in the Kindle store.

I’ll be releasing ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS next week.  Here’s hoping it joins its sister on the lists soon!