Dear Downton Abbey

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I’ve been a fan of yours from the very beginning. No, I mean the real very beginning— not from the third episode after everyone started talking about you, and it was suddenly very cool to be a Downton fan. I watched the very first episode, and have followed you faithfully ever since. Even when you broke my heart. And now, you’re drawing to a close and there’s something I want you to know.

It’s OK to have a happy ending.

Yes, I know. It’s about STORY! I’m a writer. I get it, OK? Dramatic tension. Character development. Plot twists. Actors bowing out of their contracts. More dramatic tension. Angst is good television. Tragedy is good television. Heartbreak is great television. But it’s your final season. So I say again…

It’s OK to have a happy ending.

So, here are a few suggestions.

First of all, Mary and that hotshot car-driving guy have got to do something totally romantic. Something that will not only get her to smile, but, oh, who knows…giggle? Muss up her hair in unexpected passion? Run barefoot through a well-trimmed lawn in wild abandon?

Cut Edith a friggin’ break. Give her a studly boy-toy who takes her to the theater, makes wild love to her, and doesn’t think that Marigold is a totally strange name for a kid.

Let the Bateses win the London equivalent of the Powerball, move to the Cotswold’s, adopt ten kids and then have three of their own. Seriously. They deserve it.

I want Carson and the new Mrs. Carson move to a nude beach near Brighton where they can wallow in their aged, imperfect, magnificent splendor.

Thomas…oh, Thomas. He gave that little boy a piggyback ride, and in doing so redeemed himself for all his previous sins. Well, most of them. Let’s have Jude Law arrive, take one look at Thomas and fall madly in love. The two of them can sail off to a Greek island where they can drink ouzo and roll around in the sand all day. Yeah, that sounds good.

Daisy needs to go off to Russia, where she falls madly in love with a starving poet, and they live happily ever after, or at least until WW2, when Daisy sees the writing on the wall and high-tails it back to jolly old England.

That old Russian count has to come back for Violet. I think she deserves to have her final days spent in the arms of her true love, convention be damned. Of course, they’ll have to move out of the country, change their names, maybe get a bit of plastic surgery, but still.

Isobel and her ‘friend’ the doctor should tie the know, then move to the worst slums of London, where all of her do-gooding will totally change the lives of women there. Maybe she could hook up with those Midwives…

Lord and Lady Grantham. What to do? That great big house…all that land…the money dwindling away…

Lady Rose comes back from America, and her husband is now a Hollywood producer who thinks that Downton is the perfect location for his latest motion picture. For the next several years, Downton is kept alive by serving as the backdrop of several well-received movies, until WW2 rolls around, and it becomes the headquarters for the British Army, and is revisited by a disillusioned painter…oh, never mind.

 

What do you mean, too old?

I write about old people. At least, that’s what publishers would have you believe. When my first book was being shopped around, it didn’t sell because although several editors liked it, they thought that the heroine was “too old”. She was forty- five.

So I self-published it. To date, it’s sold around 170K e-copies. Not a lot by some standards, I know, but it’s not just the sales that tell me people liked the book, it’s the emails and reviews I got that praised or thanked me for writing about real women over forty.

That was five years ago. I’ve since published a few other books with “older” heroines, and I’ve done pretty well. Montlake published a few, I self-pubbed a few, and no one ever wrote me and said, “Gee, what I really wanted to read about was another skinny twenty-three-year-old with great shoes”.

I thought that older characters were gaining some ground. After all, I’m a baby boomer, all my friends are, and we read lots and lots of books. And we like to read books, even romance books that are pure escapism, about women like ourselves. Women of a certain age, who have families and careers and great friendships and life experience.

Those books are hard to find. And now I know why.

My latest book was sent out by my agent less than a month ago. Ten submissions. I got an offer from one house right away. I got four “No thanks ” right away. That left five big-name publishing houses who liked the book enough to ask for sales figures on my previous books, ask if I would change the title to reflect a more “woman’s fiction” vibe, ask what else I was working on. Then, someone asked if I would consider changing the age of my characters.

That should have tipped me off.

One by one, the five excited editors took the book to the next level — a senior editor, a marketing meeting, whatever — and one by one the rejection letters came in. The last one was at least honest – they passed because of the age of my characters. They were too old.

The main character, the narrator, was fifty-four.

This same main character was on a girl’s week away at the Hamptons with her good friends, met a handsome stranger, got involved with a fake kidnapping plot, had sex on the beach with aforementioned handsome stranger, drank lots of wine, got in a car chase, shopped, hung out at bars…what, exactly, was she too old for? Which one of those activities could a younger woman do that my character couldn’t?

I sometimes wondered why some of my favorite authors, as they got older, did not age their characters as well. Now I know.

Women over forty don’t sell. At least, that’s what publishers think. My question is, of course, do those books not sell because people aren’t buying them, or are people not buying them because they aren’t there in the first place? Women over forty can do more than knit, bake and solve mysteries with their cats. If there’s an editor who’s a woman and she’s in her forties and she loves a book, why doesn’t the marketing department think other women will also love that book? Why would it be such a hard sell? Anyone who can’t sell a funny, smart, well-written book to a group of readers who are exactly like the main characters in that book should probably be looking at another career.

Don’t those publishers get it that there are thousands of women out there over forty who are once-again single and looking around? For love, for sex, for adventure, for escape? Who do they think are on all those dating sites? Twenty-somethings are looking to hook up.   A forty-five year old woman wants romance and passion. A forty-five year old woman knows herself, in strong and confident, and is unafraid of going after what she wants. Who wouldn’t want to read about a woman like that?

My newest book will be published. By Lake Union. That was the offer I got right away, and I decided to go with them even before that last rejection came through. Once again, Amazon proves that it knows better than anyone else what readers want.   I have no doubt my readers will be happy to laugh and love along with women who could be their best friends. I will sell lots of copies and make lots of money.   Win-win. Amazon gets it. My readers get it.

Hey, you other guys! Over there in NYC? When are you going to get it?

The Reality Show of my dreams

A few weeks ago, Jasinda Wilder, who happens to be a husband-and-wife team who are not only great people, but write smokin’ hot books, Tweeted about the possibility of a reality show, The Real Housewives of Self-Publishing.  Since I happen to know some of the real housewives she hangs out with, I immediately commented that the world was NOT ready for a show like that.

But it got me thinking about a reality show, like Project Runway, but for writers.  It could be called The Novel Project, and I know exactly how it should be run.

Prizes would be:

$100,000.00 in cash to take a year off work to complete your masterpiece, courtesy of the Big 5 Publishing Houses

Free use of a writing studio, a cabin in the Maine woods, provided by Douglas Preston.

And Amazon, still light years ahead as far as knowing what writers really want and need, would supply five pounds of coffee, delivered weekly, as well a a gallon per week of any alcoholic beverage of choice

The host would have to be a writer who is also well known for being something else as well. A sort of Renaissance person, like Sam Shepard or Steve Martin.  Or Snookie.

There would need to be a mentor, of course, someone warm and supportive, who would appreciate and encourage writers of all genders, races, and sexual orientations.  Jonathan Franzen perhaps?

 And imagine the challenges…

 “Good morning, writers, and welcome to the Romantic Times Challenge.  For this challenge, you have to write a scene in which a dark-hearted Duke, who has married for convenience, takes his virginal bride to their marriage bed for the first time.  To complete this challenge, you cannot use the phrases “velvet shaft,’ ‘ throbbing rod of passion,’ or ‘glistening flower of desire’.

You have one day to complete this challenge.  The winner will have immunity for the next challenge, and will receive a full-page ad in Romantic Times magazine, as well as a weekend in the Inn Boonsboro, courtesy of the amazing Nora Roberts.  The loser will sign a ten-book, two year contract with a New York publishing house. “

The camera will then shift to the twelve contestants, men and women, most of them in various pajama pieces, and all drinking coffee and staring into their laptops.

 Two hours later, our mentor looks in.  All twelve contestants are busy typing away in silence.

 Two hours after that, the mentor returns.  Here is what he finds:

 Contestants #1, #5, and #11 are in the Internet.

 Contestant #2 has replaced his coffee mug with a near-empty bottle of Dewar’s, and has fallen asleep, face down, on his laptop.

 Contestant # 3 is typing, muttering to herself, “Show not tell, show not tell…”

 Contestant #4 is in a corner of the room with Contestants #8 and #9, trying to configure them in the position he described in his story, to see if it’s actually possible for two people to have sex, in a chair, with no feet on the floor.

 Contestant #6 is playing Candy Crush on her phone.

 Contestant #7 is refreshing his Amazon KDP dashboard every thirty seconds.

 Contestant #10 is reading a battered paperback version of Atlas Shrugged.

 Contestant #12 is rocking back and forth in her chair, singing I Have A Dream from Les Miz.

 Our mentor takes one look around, grabs the bottle of Dewar’s, and leaves the workroom.

 I could go on, but my heart is too full.  Who will watch this with me?

Here Come The Brides…Again

The Bolt Brothers...sigh

The Bolt Brothers…sigh

I hope that there a few of you out there whose heart will go all aflutter, just as mine did, when I tell you…

Here Comes The Brides is available on YouTube.

I watched the pilot episode this weekend with my husband. It was like falling back to a very special time and place when men were hot, trees were tall, and little girls learned that there was a True Love for everyone.

If some of you are foggy about what this TV show was about, let me give you a quick recap.

The very sexy Jason Bolt, along with his equally sexy brothers Joshua and Jeremy, own a logging company in Seattle, back when Seattle was just a beautiful child, growing up, free and wild, full of…well, you know.

Jason’s lumberjack crew threatens to leave because there are no women in Seattle. Jason’s first thought is to recruit a bunch of fancy ladies from San Francisco, and have bar owner Lottie take them under her wing. Plan B involves the three brothers traveling to New Bedford MA, and recruiting 100 marriageable women to come back to Seattle and become wives. 100 women agree, they arrive in Seattle, and hilarity and heart-wrenching romance ensues.

My husband watched with me. He did not recall ever seeing the show, and his commentary was quite entertaining.

If he ran all the way down the mountain, why isn’t he out of breath?

Is he talking about a whorehouse?

How did they get to New Bedford so fast?

Where is that town again? All the women there seem really horny.

Did that guy have a stutter in real life?

You mean they were together for six months on a ship and no one got pregnant?

Why do they look so good? They haven’t had a shower in half a year!

My husbands’ callous asides aside, the show did not age well. But I didn’t care. Because there was Bobby Sherman, who, after Davy Jones and before David Cassidy, was my ideal love match. His hair was still perfect, his eyes still true-blue, and his smile sweet and sexy. There were also the two other brothers, Robert Brown and David Soul, who didn’t get too much of my attention back then, standing in Bobby’s shadow, but upon reflection certainly deserved a tumble or two.

Will I watch the rest of the series? Probably not. It’s a bit too corny. Possibly even cheesy. But to my twelve-year-old heart, it was one of the first glimpses into Romance. I dreamed of being a young New England girl, struggling against the wilds of the great Northwest, waiting for my perfect mate. I had already begun writing my little stories, and now I had a new, exciting world to imagine, with myself at the center of a world of rough-and-tumble men waiting to be tamed.

Of course, at twelve, I had no idea how that would be accomplished. It took a few more years to figure the whole taming thing out. But the seed that had been planted grew a bit more, stretched a tentative leaf, and started imagining a wider world.

Full of hot men, tall trees, and True Love.

Five Questions

As promised here is the first of a series of videos made at the NINC Conference this year.  Enjoy!

My First Video Post!!

Moving on

Whew!

My launch party was amazing.  I’ve always said that I have the best friends on the planet, and they were all there for me last Tuesday night.  They know who they are and how much I love them.  The really cool thing – total strangers came too!  People I’d never met before came to my launch party, bought my books, and talked to me like we were old friends.

I had great help from the ladies at The Write Room – again – and we gave away coffee mugs, T-shirts and free drinks.  A wonderful night.

Then – on Sunday, I drew names for the winners of my 12 weeks of swag giveaway.  Actually, Randon.Org picked the names.  So, congrats to…

Barrie of Danville KY for winning a Kindle Fire HD!

And the winners of a signed copy of A Slight Change of Plan are –

Kristie of Stantonburg NC

Marianne of Rogers AR

Denise of Fallbrook CA

Kay of Freemont CA

Betty of Manchester CT

Thanks to everyone who entered – I’ve really met the niceset people in the past few months!

The website got a bit of updating – audio samples are now available ( A Different Kind of Forever should be available in audio by Christmas) And I have a Zazzle Shop with some cool stuff.

And now I’m back to writing.

I’ll try to let you know how that’s going, and maybe post a sample or two.

Have a great holiday everyone!  And thank you so much for all your support.

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