The Strangely Dramatic Tale of Miss Hieber’s Victorian Wardrobe

A special treat for Friday – another Day in the Life!

This time our special guest is not a book, but an outfit. For those of you who know author Leanna Renee Hieber, you’ll know that her fashion sense is larger than life. In honor of her newest book in the Strangely Beautiful series, we have a special dispatch – a day in the life of… a dress.


Greetings. I am one of the company of Miss Leanna Renee Hieber’s late-19th-century finery. She utilizes the likes of me to celebrate and promote her novels, the Strangely Beautiful series, set in Victorian London, and her upcoming Magic Most Foul saga, set in Victorian New York City. She has obtained the like of me from places like Gallery Serpentine and Gothic Renaissance. She is a professed “goth girl” as she calls it in this day and age. Please note she does not call me a “costume” for if she had the means and ability, she would wear me every day of her life, having loved my style since she was a child.

I begin my journey in my lady’s closet, where she places me in the fore.

I then move ignobly into this pile (she does so hate to wear the same regalia two days in a row, thusly one mere weekend at a convention requires practically a steamer trunk)

I then take this horseless carriage – or, at times, magic of magic, I fly in an enormous metal bird!

I then arrive at any number of destinations. This time, it so happens, is New Hampshire, where my lady is in state as the Literary Guest of Honour at the Steampunk Industrial Revolution. I relax for a moment on the luxurious hotel bed before the bustle (pun intended) begins.

She has chosen me for her featured reading this evening, I’m very pleased. (I received many compliments)

And then I return home, rather exhausted and in need of a good press. But she’ll have me back out again on release day of her prequel in the Strangely Beautiful series, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, on May 3rd. In the meantime, while reading the first two isn’t required as this is a prequel, if you’d like to join in the series… Visit her webpage and interact with her via the following venues: Twitter, Facebook, her blog (with a psycho bunny pic!) (She’ll also be wearing the likes of me a great deal in the fall when her Gothic Victorian Paranormal series Magic Most Foul, a classically spooky, romantic tale of trapped souls and black magic, releases from Sourcebooks Fire!)

Mud and Money

There’s a bru-ha-ha going on with Dorchester Press. Alas, still and yet again.

Really it’s a continuation of the same sordid story. For those not in the swim of New York publishing, Dorchester is a smallish publisher, but has been well-respected. They published a lot of romance, especially a lot of paranormal stuff. I have a number of friends who’ve published with them and have been very happy. Two Dorchester editors, Chris Keesler and Leah Hultenschmidt are well-known on the conference circuit, well-respected in the business and well-liked by pretty much everyone.

Used to be, Dorchester was a great place for a debut author.

That’s when the whole “struggling publishing industry” thing comes into play. As a smaller press, Dorchester doesn’t have the reserves and diversification of the bigger NYC publishers. Rumors have been afloat for some time that they haven’t been paying some authors royalties for years, though other authors say they’ve been paid on time. The first certifiable flag of warning was when Dorchester sold their backlist – the books that were published years ago but continue to sell – to Avon. These were their biggest name authors that they sold (the Avon folks aren’t dummies) and people wondered how Dorchester could afford to give up a bread-and-butter resource like that.

Well, they couldn’t. It was a desperation move.

Last summer, RWA withdrew its approval of Dorchester as a reputable publisher, because there were enough reliable reports that authors were not being paid. Then this fall, Dorchester made the astonishing announcement that they would no longer be a print publisher. The press intended to go to electronic publishing (much less overhead) and some trade paperbacks (targeted print runs for anticipated high-sellers). This included books that authors had anticipated would hit shelves a week or two later.

The company also slashed the staff, laying off Leah and leaving Chris the sole editor, with an assistant.

Many authors requested reversion of rights meaning that, since Dorchester had violated their contract that promised a mass-market print run of x copies, the author wanted the publishing rights back. Dorchester granted these rights-reversions.

Now it turns out that Dorchester is still selling those books. The story is here. What’s most disconcerting to me is how little recourse an author has when someone else is selling their books. Short of a civil action, which requires money, there’s little to be done until the wheels slowly turn.

There are also a lot of comments on the post, of varying levels of hysteria and reason. If you scroll down to 12:37pm, Chris Keesler adds a comment. I thought his explanation was dignified, well-reasoned and apologetic. I don’t envy his position at all.

And that’s my real point here.

It’s easy to point fingers at the big, bad corporations. Certainly they do crappy things in favor of the bottom line, but most of us have worked for corporations. We have all lived Dilbert lives in some way or another and we know how companies like that work. It’s easy for writers in particular to see editors as giant figures, flashing good-fortune lightning from their fingertips. In reality, I imagine Chris has very little power over Dorchester’s financial line. Just as, though I’m a reasonably high-level associate in the company I work for, I have no power over how they bill and when they pay. Many of us, too, have been in the position of being the surviving staff member of a larger department that was slashed. We’re asked to do the work of two or three people.

If we want to keep our jobs, we do it.

This doesn’t mean that Dorchester isn’t doing awful things to their authors. But they are also trying to stay afloat and continue as a publisher. It remains to be seen if they’ll succeed.

I met Chris at RWA National last July. He accompanied one of his authors, Leanna Renee Hieber to our big party. She was up for a couple of PRISM awards for her Dorchester debut novel, which she won. As her editor, Chris was there to support her. Being an opportunist, I asked Chris to be one of the “celebrity judges” for our Steampunk costume contest. Being a genuinely lovely person, he agreed.

What struck me about him then, was his concern that, as he and the other two judges weeded the vast field of candidates down to ten finalists, then four, then into prize-winning places, that I convey how difficult their decision was and to let people down gently. I almost thought he was silly about it. It was a party, people were drinking and eating. It was only a silly costume contest.

Then I realized, he had to do that all the time, choose from a field of people and pick the “best.”

Did Chris screw up by failing to take an author’s name off the list? Sure he did. He says he did. I’m impressed that he commented and owned up to it.

And I’m giving thanks today that the mistakes I make at work aren’t anything interesting enough to be posted on the internet for people to throw mud at.

Convention Continued

This is actually from Wednesday night at the conference, but it makes a nice segue from yesterday’s post.

At any rate, here’s me and Allison toasting her fabulous, supportive and oh-so-sweet editor at Pocket, Danielle Poiesz. Danielle might have been just the teensiest bit disappointed not to attend the conference, but she was with us in spirit. And on Twitter!

And here’s one more from Wednesday night: the delightful Leanna Renee Hieber and Lindsey Faber, managing editor at Samhain Books. (If you don’t know, Samhain is one of the best e-publishers out there right now.)

So, Thursday morning was recovery time. Sadly I was coming down with a respiratory something. I met up with some fabulous FFP’rs to stuff goodie bags. (Which ended up being abortive, but alas…)

Then we were off to the keynote lecture from La Nora, the amazing Nora Roberts. I was too far back to snap any good photos of her. The woman has written 190 books, 164 of them bestsellers. Her message? For everyone out there who says the writing/publishing business is hard, she says, yes it is. That’s what makes it great. She called “bullshit” on anyone who says it used to be easier for writers. She cited typewriters, white-out, carbon paper, no email and research at, of all things, the library. Nora is a down-to-earth, hard-working gal. It was wonderful to hear someone say that if you work hard and stay in the swimming pool, you will make the money. She was also in the bar with a friend later and totally gave my outfit a nod and smile. From a multi-millionaire writer who spends most of it on shoes, that means a great deal!

The PRO retreat started after lunch. “PRO” is RWA’s category for writers who are still unpubbed in romance, but have provided documentation of a completed manuscript and interactions with agents and editors showing active querying for publication. One of the best parts of the PRO retreat was the big slide showing our membership loss: all the people who’d gone to being PAN, part of the Published Author Network. Allison, at the PAN retreat next door, complained about the wild cheering, but this was why.

Donald Maas, of the Donald Maas Agency, spoke. My favorite line from him? “The most important thing to know about our changing industry is that nothing has changed. It’s still about story and the contract between the author and the reader.”

I truly believe this.

I ducked out of the retreat to hear a workshop on writing in multiple genres (my personal curse) by Cynthia Eden, Ann Aguirre and Julianna Stone, along with a couple of other authors I’ve forgotten. (I threw my conference program away in the hopes of making weight with my suitcase despite the added books. I came out at 51.5 and the Southwest lady didn’t even blink. I’m just loving Southwest these days!)

All this while, one of my favorite twitter people and new author-finds, Victoria Dahl, kept tweeting about being out at the pool. (My favorite tweet? “Thunder! If I die, tell my kids I was doing something I loved.” I went to find her and she bought me a wine spritzer. We had a great conversation. (Did I babble? I might have babbled.) But she’s even more fun in person. I loved her “Talk Me Down,” which finaled for a Rita.

Victoria had to rush off to a Readers Choice party – and this is my public confession that I made her late; it’s all my fault – so I sat by the pool for a bit and enjoyed the oh-so-warm evening. I was supposed to meet people for karaoke, but the respiratory crud overwhelmed me and I crashed, bringing Thursday to a close.

Now, Where Did I Pack My Writing Career?

I hoped to get a shot of our covey of quail for you today, but I missed them.

Instead you get Teddy watching the sunset. Or maybe looking for quail in the chamisa.

It could have been that it was sunnier and brighter today. The last two days they all trooped by and pecked around in the gravel around 9:15. You can hear them coming, snooting around in the juniper to the west of the house. They chuckle amongst themselves as they approach. Then they scurry into sight from around the yucca plants.

They don’t stay long. Maybe ten minutes, before they head off in a line again, heading farther east. Sometimes I see them come back through in the evening.

Today dawned bright and clear, however, so they might have started their perambulations earlier. Not like the cool misty mornings of the last two days. I, too, am resuming my schedule. As mine solidifies, I should better learn theirs.

We’ve gone running the last two mornings, though we’re not back to getting up at 5:30. I’ve been productive at the day job. And now I’m going to work on my book revision. A file that has not been open since July 19, over a month ago. And I’m reasonably certain, by the timing of that date, that it was only to send it to an agent I met at RWA National. The outtakes file is dated June 2.

A sinking feeling tells me I haven’t worked on it since June.

Time flies when you’re losing your mind.

I had a little crisis this morning. My friend, Leanna Renee Hieber, celebrated the release of her first book yesterday, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. In fact, several friends had releases in the last few days. I tried not to be too envious. But then I also received my “royalty statement” from UNM Press for Wyo Trucks, which shows that the book is really dead to the world at this point. Never mind that I haven’t been putting in ANY effort to sell it lately.

Nor into my revision of Obsidian.

Nor into writing anything new.

Thus: my crisis.

But my friend Allison was on the other other end of the IM with the perfect pep talk. She made me realize that all this means is that I have my head above water again, that I’m even thinking about my writing career again, instead of what box my frying pan might be in. It makes me think of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, a model that has served me well all my life. Basically the idea is that, if a lower tier on the pyramid isn’t handled, you can’t possibly reach a higher tier. What sucks for us artist types? Creativity is the very top piece. Which basically means you have to have everything else in your life handled first.

So unfair.

But I have my manuscript open. I’ve got some great ideas from Allison on working my way back in.

Wonder-Twin Power? Self-Actualize!