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.

 

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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?

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.

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.

Living 140 characters at a time #outofthestoneage

Drumroll…I’m on Twitter.

Here’s what happened. I was working a night shift a few weeks ago (for those who don’t know, I work as a bookseller ant Barnes and Noble) and started having a conversation with a very nice lady who mentioned she was a writer of Historical Romance. I mentioned I was a writer too, and she started talking about how much she loved the whole process, particularly the Facebook-ing and Tweeting. She has over 1200 followers on Twitter, including other Romance authors, and then she was telling me about a virtual ball they had involving all of Jane Austen’s crowd, and it suddenly sounded like fun.

So I asked her about her book. Well, it hadn’t published , but she’d was thinking Random House or Penguin Putnam. Neither of those houses had actually accepted it, because it hadn’t been sent out yet. It seems that although she had several agents interested, she didn’t really have an agent. Or even a book. See, she hadn’t finished writing it yet.

Wow.

So. Here was a woman who had 1200 people ready and willing to buy her book, and she didn’t even have a final draft. Maybe this whole Twitter thing really was worth looking into.

When we ended our conversation, she gave me her card, invited me to a Writers Conference in March, and said if I had any questions, I should send her an email and she’d be happy to help me out.

Well, lucky for me, I have a 15 year old daughter, so the whole Twitter tutorial was covered. Then I got the flu, had to work a few Sundays, had to clean the house, took the dog for a walk, so the actual going on Twitter and, you know, Tweeting was delayed for a while.

But now I’m here. And you all can follow me a @Dernst1. I’m still trying to figure out how to add the button to my website. That may involve several emails to all sorts of people, because my daughter – surprise – didn’t know how to do that. But be patient – if I don’t throw something at the screen in total frustration, I’ll find a way to do it eventually.

In the meantime, the real challenge is the Tweeting part. I’m following a few people who I admire – Neil Gaiman, Susan Orlean, and the very nice writer lady I met in Barnes and Noble. I actually replied to one of Susan’s (may I call her Susan?) tweets, so I’m sure she’ll jump on the Dee Ernst bandwagon right away. See, that’s the trick – finding people willing to follow me. Let’s face it – I’m not quite famous yet. And then the actual Tweets – I’m limited to 140 letters – God, I have to COUNT and everything? I’m a writer – condensing is not really part of my make-up. And what do I Tweet about?

I probably shouldn’t Tweet about the insanely stupid things that happen at work. If I did, I’d have people hanging on every one of my 140 characters, because you can’t make this stuff up. But B&N has a very strict policy about their employees and Social Media, so that’s out. I could Tweet about my everyday life I guess (Just found a great deal #cancansale) but that how boring would that be? I can make fun of my husband and daughter, but then I’d have less to blog about.

So I’ve settled for wry and biting observations about the world around me (Sorry Obama can’t fix in 4 yrs what it took GWB 8 years to break). Wait. Is that 140 characters? Do spaces count? Is this being monitored by some secret government organization, and is it possible I’ll end up on a ‘List’ somewhere?

Hmmm. Never mind. (Eat at Jimmy Buffs #yummyhotdogs)

Yeah. That’s better.

Welcome Holiday Hoppers!!!

Welcome to the Holiday Blog Hop!

I’ve never done a blog hop before, so this is just as exciting for me as it is for all of you. I hope you enjoy this little stop-over. First – how about my cool theme – great colors, don’t you think? Next, check out a few posts in ‘Babble’. The good news is that I don’t post often – only about once a month – so if you do want to subscribe, you won’t be bombarded with e-mails from me.

Now comes the fun part. Read a few samples of my book, Better Off Without Him. Maybe you won’t like what you read – that’s okay. Really. I won’t even send anyone after you to extract revenge. Chick Lit is not for everyone. So if you’re a sci-fi or horror fan, just skip off to the next blog and we’ll call it even.
However – if you like what you’ve read, you can buy a copy to download or as a paperback and you can start enjoying Mona’s exploits right away. If you’d rather take a chance on winning a little something for the holidays, then you’re in luck. I’ll be giving away three digital copies (international) and one signed trade paperback (US only) to some lucky winners.

Now the big question. How do you BECOME a lucky winner? Well, here’s the thing. I’m not just a writer. I’m a reader as well, and I love finding great stories with characters I can laugh along with. So, to enter my giveaway, go to the Comment section and tell me the name of your favorite Chick Lit character and the title of the book she’s in. Also let me know if you want digital or paper (if you don’t tell me your preference, you’ll get thrown into the digital pile automatically).

See? Pretty easy, yes? And I’ll have lots of good suggestions for what to read in the long winter months ahead.

Not only that, but all of you winners will then be eligible to win a free Kindle Fire!

I don’t know how I’m going to pick a winner. Seriously. I haven’t a clue. I assume there’s a giant cyber-hat I can throw all the names in that will pick out winners a random. Not to worry – I’ll figure it out.

As for winning the Kindle Fire – the very efficient person who organized this Hop is in charge of that, so I’m sure she’ll have it all covered.

Okay – off you go. Enjoy the rest of your hopping and have a safe and happy whatever holiday you prefer!

‘Tis the season. No, not that season….

For those of you who read my blog and are not related or close personal friends, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve been (fairly) happily married for twenty-three years.

My husband watches football.

He also does other things. He works. He’s an IT guy. He used to be just a geek until somebody figured out that computers DO in fact run the world, so now he’s an IT guy. He must be good at his job because he will get phone calls at three in the morning from some other IT guy in Belgium who is sure that my husband is the only person in the world who can help him fix a problem. Even though it is three in the morning. And my husband is home rather than in the office.

All IT guys are NOT created equal.

My husband is named Gene, by the way. He’s also a father, all-round family man, raker of leaves and doer of other husband-type chores. He does his own laundry.

Pretty good, huh?

And he watches football.

He also watches baseball, but baseball games are several nights a week, so it seems like there’s ALWAYS a baseball game on, from April until some vague date in October when the play-offs suddenly do or do not matter.

Football, it seems, is more of an event. The games are on Sunday, often two or three in a row, so it’s possible to start watching a game in bright sunlight and emerge from the ManCave after the last play in total darkness.

Yes, he has a ManCave. We started calling it that well before it became a well-used phrase. The Man Cave is the lower level of our house, nice Pergo floors, but with dark wood paneling that screams 1978, as well as pseudo- rustic trim and a fireplace of fake stone you could roast a fake ox in.

I keep wanting to redecorate, but have met resistance. Apparently painting the walls a nice medium taupe will damage the ‘Cave’ aspect of the ManCave. I’m trying to find an angle, but this one is tough.

The ManCave is home to a large screen HD TV (3D over my dead body) an elaborate surround-sound system, a leather recliner and a prized collection of beer mugs and Bobble-heads. It’s where Gene watches football. Often, Gene’s brother, Gary, comes over. Gary is another lovely man who watches football. Which, at my house at least, is in itself a team sport.

They yell a lot. They also tend to swear a lot. They advise the coach. At concert pitch. In fact, I often wonder how the coach does NOT hear them. They are also rather critical of certain players, what they do, how they do it, and who they’re doing it to. And then they make suggestions about what they can do instead, even though, to someone like me who knows nothing about football, the suggestions sound anatomically improbable.

Maybe it’s because they’re Jets fans. For anyone who is not a Jets fan – boy, are you lucky! The Jets are the kind of team that you think somebody somewhere would throw a game or two their way out of pity. The Jets have not won a Super Bowl game in a really long time. It’s frustrating for the fans. I imagine it’s frustrating for the team as well, but at least they’re getting paid. Gene and Gary experience every play, groan on every tackle, analyze each miss-step, and they aren’t getting a red cent.

This year, it looks like things could turn around. Of course, I hear that every year. And to be truthful, both Gene and Gary are pretty realistic about their team. In fact, if the Jets are winning, say, 178 to 3 and there’s less than two minutes to play, Gary will sigh and say with complete confidence “They can still lose”.

But this year…there’s something going on with New England that I will never understand, and then there’s the NY Giants ( hey, they’re a New York team, and they seem to win a few, so why can’t you root for them?). There’s a Wild Card, and the play-offs, then more play-offs, or is that just baseball? And that East-West thing – is that just baseball too? So this year…maybe…

…maybe the IT guy in Belgium can explain it to me.

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