In this blog, I write about stuff of interest to both readers and writers. If you’re interested in both, lovely. Read on! If not, find the Categories and click on “For Readers” or “For Writers,” and you’ll be taken to a page just for you. Whee!
Many thanks to Jessica C! See? It’s really me! 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
… 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.
It isn’t often one catches a duchess telling a whopper. This one concerns the delightful custom of afternoon 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?
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. 😉
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!
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.
- 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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
“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
— Elizabeth Bennefeld, Patchwork Prose
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.