All About You

I would love get to know you!  Let’s have some fun!

What’s your first name?
Where do you live?
Who is your favorite Jane Austen heroine, and why?
Tell us one surprising thing about you that strangers don’t expect:

I’ll ask one new question here each month–some silly, some serious.  🙂

Scrumptious Chocolate Cake

A few posts ago, I promised you my chocolate cake recipe (or “receipt,” as it was known in Great Britain in Jane Austen’s time).  I’ve had this recipe for years, as you can tell by the condition of the recipe I tore from a magazine umpteen years ago.  This cake is simply scrumptious, and I’ve made it dozens of times.

I hope my British friends won’t balk at the mention of “Hershey’s.”  It seems many Brits regard American Hershey bars as something less than true chocolate, and I have to say that I agree.  I love chocolate, but I don’t like Hershey bars.  They seemed better when I was a youngster, but nowadays I think the makers have cut too many corners.  No matter; the company’s cocoa remains first rate, and you can use it or any other for this recipe successfully.

I like this cake served with a nice, tall glass of cold milk.  Silk brand is my favorite (vanilla flavor–yum!), as I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years.  The cake is also great with tea.  Earl Grey is a spectacular pairing, with its hints of bergamot, or orange blending nicely with the chocolate.

Here’s the recipe.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

2 cups (473 ml) of plain, white, granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups (414 ml)  of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (177) of cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml)  of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) of baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt
2 eggs
1 cup (236 ml) of milk or soy milk (I like Silk brand.)
1/2 cup (118 ml) of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml)of vanilla extract
1 cup  (236 ml) of boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).
Grease and flour two 9″ (23 cm) baking pans.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
Beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Do not over-beat.
Stir in boiling water.  Do not beat in.  Batter will be quite watery.  This is normal.
Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Cool 10 minutes.
Remove cake from pans and cool completely.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (118 ml) butter or margarine or 1/4 cup (59 ml) + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil.
2/3 cup (157 ml) of cocoa powder
3 cups (709 ml) of powdered confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup (79 ml) of milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract

Melt the butter, margarine, or oil.
Stir in the cocoa powder.
Beat at medium speed, adding sugar and milk, alternating, as you go.
Add vanilla and beat in.
Add more milk and beat, if needed to bring frosting to spreading consistency.

 

Regencyisms

Regencyisms

Ah the things a Regency romance novelist’s children say!  

I was making a snack for them when it happened the first time.  Saltines with tuna salad and a sliver of cheese, which I’d popped into the microwave for a few seconds in order to render the cheese all melty and gooey–except that I’d not put them in for 20 seconds but for 200!  They were past gooey and closer to molten.

“Oh la!” my eldest child cried upon discovering my mistake.  She’d said it without thinking about it.  When I explained that oh la isn’t a contemporary interjection these days, we had a lovely chuckle over it, and the term “Regencyism” was born.

Later, I was baking.  “Oh la, mama!” she cried. “I believe you have burnt the cookies!”  She was wearing an impish grin, completely aware this time that “Oh la!” wasn’t something any modern lady would say, much less a seven-year-old.  She’d thrown down a gauntlet, and her little sister, just four, gleefully picked it up.  “Oh LA!” they both exclaimed through their giggles every few minutes for the rest of the day.

But other “Regencyisms,” as we’ve continued to call them, have crept into our family lexicon unnoticed–not surprising really, as I’ve been writing Regency romances since before my children were born, and they can quote much of the dialogue from both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  These Regencyisms have become so normal a part of our lives that we usually don’t notice using them.  Every once in a while one will occur to me, and I’ll say something like, “You know, most people say, ‘engaged,’ not ‘betrothed.'” Or some such.  To which the reply is always a shocked, “Really!? That’s a Regencyism?”

Every one of the Regency-era words and phrases in the graphic above are words my children and I have used un-ironically over the years–a list that was surprisingly difficult to recall.  A few moments ago, I asked my child Julie Rain, “Can you think of any other Regencyisms we’ve adopted in our everyday speech?” 

She thought for a moment before answering, “I have not a clue,” then laughed and pointed out that “I have not a ____” is itself a Regency-esque construction.  

My children have had a lot of fun with Regency-speak over the years.  A couple of weeks ago, Julie Rain shared with me the following delight.  It’s a parodic translation (displayed in red, below) of a portion of a modern-day song, Hotline Bling, by Drake (displayed in black, below). The original has been simplified a little for clarity’s sake:

Hotline Bling

 … or …

The Post’s Arrival

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love.

You used to write me, pen and parchment
in the eve, when you mourn my affections.

And I know when that hotline bling,
That can only mean one thing

Post is what the servant brings.
It could only be one thing.

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out

After I departed London, you
Garnered quite the reputation I hear.
I find myself alone in hearing last, dear.

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out.

I find myself dismayed, waiting just to hear.

‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more.

After I departed London
you started wearing frocks that do reveal more.

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor.

Rumors of syllabub, that sound like lore.

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before.

Your company, companions unacquainted with myself.

Fun, eh? 🙂

Julie wants to know what song would you like her to “translate” next!  Click on “Leave a comment,” below. 

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

**********

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.