Updated Covers and Re-Release Dates!

At long last, my final two backlist books have been shined up and champagne-polished for re-release! The romance formerly known as Color Me Bad is now titled A Thief in the Nude, and will be available in June in both print (new!!) and ebook.

Cover image for A Thief in the Nude. A red-haired, pale-skinned woman in barely a dress embraces a dark-haired, slightly scruffy gentleman whose white shirt and waistcoat are soon to be removed.

It has been ten years since Hecuba Jones last burgled her way into a darkened house, but it’s the only way to recover her rightful inheritance from her artist mother. She manages to find the Earl of Underwood’s study and the four paintings she’s searching for—but just when she is about to make off with her prizes, she is discovered by the earl’s sardonic younger brother.
 
John Rushmore has all but given up on his talents as a painter, unable to recapture the passion of earlier days. He is pleased to have his boredom lightened by the appearance of a redheaded thief—and even more delighted to be introduced to her the following night in an elegant Society ballroom. Miss Hecuba Jones is prickly and suspicious and absolutely irresistible. She’s also an inspiration. Before long John finds himself working deep into the night to try and capture the feverish, erotic visions she provokes.
 
Soon, they reach an agreement. John will trade the four paintings she attempted to steal for four portraits of Hecuba herself. Intimate nights and candlelight soon transform artistic pleasures into physical ecstasy—but old family secrets and a blossoming scandal threaten to shatter their fragile liaison.
And then, in September, I'll be releasing the follow-up novel, At His Countess' Pleasure, which involves a lot of angst, some light pegging, and an infertility plotline (a heads-up to those readers who avoid those, it's okay, I get it):
Cover image for At His Countess' Pleasure. A woman with dark hair and pale skin stands looking at the viewer in a deep red gown. In her hand, almost hidden in the folds of her skirt, is a slender riding crop.
Anne Pym and Simon Rushmore are still reeling from the scandalous marriage of Anne’s cousin Hecuba to Simon’s brother John. But Simon’s position as Earl of Underwood has shielded him from the harshest criticisms. In a bid to repair Anne’s shattered family reputation, Simon proposes a most practical solution—he will make her his countess and they will set about the business of producing an heir.

But marriage is a beginning rather than an ending and scandal has a long life. Old hurts and new family crises threaten their burgeoning passion, even as Simon finds himself more and more eager to submit to his strong-willed wife’s every carnal command. When Anne’s bitterest secret emerges, destroying their hopes for the future, Simon must learn whether he is enough to bring Anne a lifetime of happiness—and just how completely he is willing to submit.

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Why I'm Entering My Ellora's Cave Book In The RITAs This Year

1. Because I love my book. In my subjective and unashamedly biased opinion, At His Countess' Pleasure is the best and weirdest thing I've written. It's quiet historical melodrama starring a dominant brunette social climber and a chunky earl with a mustache. There's also pegging, and period sex, and at one point a 19th-century gynecological exam (or the nearest approximation I could get according to research). At one point the hero -- have you got your pearls handy for clutching? -- loses his erection during a sex scene. So subversive! Not as subversive as including an actually diverse cast of characters and writing about something other than British aristocrats would have been -- but I'm taking baby steps here, pushing my own limits.

This book pushed a lot of limits. I launched into the writing of it with great abandon, and told myself I could break every rule I wanted because it was just to fulfill a contract clause and then at the end there was a story I loved and was excited to show to the world. So in one sense I was kind of fucked, but in another sense: hooray!

And I will be damned if anyone takes that away from me.

2. Because entering the RITAs means I get to judge the RITAs.

I've judged a couple of contests -- including PNWA, for those of you in the Northwest -- and I really enjoy it. But judging a non-romance-centric contest's romance/erotica category can be a bit, well, dicey. One manuscript entered by one gentleman was basically wall-to-wall rape scenes, presented as titillation. Very difficult to read, even as an excerpt.

I want to know what the RITAs look like in process. I want to see the difference between the books I'm sent and the books that make the final list, the ones that get officially celebrated. And I've never had a chance to do it before.

As a published author and RWA member, I could qualify to judge the RITAs by joining the Published Author Network (PAN). In fact, I did try to do this last summer. I counted up my royalties and figured out that one of my books had reached the required $1000 mark to allow me to apply.

The only problem: I needed proof of those royalties. From my publisher, Ellora's Cave.

You can laugh if you want to. I understand. (Most up-to-date masterpost here, if you can stand it.)

After many emails, I got a response: EC sent me an Excel spreadsheet with one year of royalties for that one title. Only numbers; no text. And it wasn't even a locked spreadsheet. RWA quite naturally laughed at the idea that this could constitute proof of payment in any meaningful sense of the word. My only other option was to copy every single royalty statement for all my titles -- two years' worth of financial records -- and highlight the book that qualified every time it appeared. I found I was uncomfortable at the thought of showing that much personal data to someone I wasn't paying taxes to. There the matter rested -- until RWA announced that all RITA entrants would be required to judge. It feels like a gift that I can finally do this.

3. Because I already paid for the print copies.

Three days before my publisher filed the now-infamous defamation suit against Dear Author, I spent over a hundred bucks out of pocket to get contest copies printed by Vlad at Third Place Press. (Disclosure: Vlad is both a friend and a bookselling wizard). While the books look incredibly beautiful -- you can see them in person at this weekend's Emerald City Book Fair, where I'll have a few copies to give away -- I would never have had them printed had the lawsuit been filed first.

Oh, I have a few noble reasons for that; anyone who tells you this case is not about free speech has not been paying adequate attention. But it's also true that unless I enter the RITAs, I have to consider that cash layout wasted. I can't currently promote this book for sale or for review, not without implicitly supporting a lawsuit that grates against every nerve I have. I've requested the rights back from EC -- for Countess and for all my books -- but Countess only came out two months ago. The print version is the only format I can do something useful with. I can't sell it, but at least I can see how it stacks up as a romance elbowing around in the wild among other romances. This would be valuable to me, separate from any notion of sales or self-promotion.

Lastly,  I'm entering the RITAs despite all the mess, because:

4. It's my last chance.

This book is my last chance to enter the RITAs for the foreseeable future. I haven't placed my next manuscript with another publisher yet -- anyone who wants a sweetly steamy ancient Greek romance with a robot heroine feel free to let me know! --  and my current manuscript is trending more romantic elements/sff/New Weird. Intertwining romance subplots! Semi-omniscient POV sections! Twists on monsters and myth that leave me giggling in fiendish delight! One detail popped out of my subconscious, slithered onto the page, and creeped me out so much I had to shut the computer and do something else. It's super-fun and an ambitious experiment -- but a RITA book it is probably not.

I don't know when I'll have another book published to qualify for the contest, and of course I'm ineligible for the Golden Heart. I'm not saying farewell to romance as a genre -- but I might be moving away from the RWA-approved definition of romance as established for the RITA contest.

I have this one chance, and I'm going to take it.

Release Day: At His Countess' Pleasure

If you are not reading about Ferguson -- though really, you should be reading about Ferguson, and here's a good roundup to start -- you may as well be reading my latest book, which is out today from Ellora's CaveAt His Countess' Pleasure is a femdom marriage of convenience erotic historical; the working title was Pegging the Earl, which should tell you what kind of sex scenes you might be in for.

Countess Cover Reveal!

I have just received the cover for my next Ellora's Cave release, available from the publisher's website August 15 and other ebook retailers soon thereafter. Cover image for At His Countess' Pleasure by Olivia Waite.

I'm quite happy with it! I am especially fond of that large swirly P in the word 'pleasure,' and the luscious red of her dress. I must also admit to being initially confused about the shoulder-boob -- but shoulder-boob, you see, is totally the new sideboob. So hot right now.

Announcing: At His Countess' Pleasure

Did you enjoy Color Me Bad? You'll be glad to hear there's going to be a sequel! It's an angsty little gem of a novelette and I'm absurdly delighted with it. Here is the blurb!

Scandal has a long life, and Miss Anne Pym is running out of patience. Her cousin's shocking marriage to the Earl of Underwood's brother and their subsequent entrance into trade is still a burden Anne and her sister Evangeline must bear. Their own social standing is not enough to repair the damage, so Anne boldly seeks restitution from the earl himself, whom she holds partially responsible for the disaster.
 
To her shock, the earl not only agrees he's partly to blame, but offers to make Anne his countess. The title and the wealth that comes with it will help her mend the shattered reputation of her family -- and marriage will also provide Anne with the children she desperately wants. Simon needs an heir, and for that he needs a wife, and Anne's practicality and courage strike him as useful traits for a countess to have.
 
But marriage is a beginning rather than an ending, and Anne and Simon have much to learn about each other -- and about their pasts. Old hurts and new scandals alike threaten their burgeoning passion, even as Simon finds himself more and more eager to obey his strong-willed wife's every carnal command. When Anne's bitterest secret emerges, destroying their hopes for the future, Simon must learn whether or not he himself is enough for a lifetime of happiness -- and just how completely he is willing to submit.

O is for Overwhelmed

{Click here for the full alphabet of intersectional feminism in romance.} The first time someone told me I was worthless because I was a girl, I was five years old. The person telling me was my next-door neighbor. He was six in chronological age, but years older than that in pure unmitigated jerkdom. Apparently, because I was a girl, it was wrong for me to play with the He-Man toy whose chest armor would flip to look dented when you hit him. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time, but three words sum up my reaction: This is bullshit. Over the next few years, I boyed it up as hard as I could -- scraped knees, sports, climbing trees, GI Joe, psychically controlled dinosaurs with laser armor -- just to prove to that kid that I could be just as good as he was. It was never going to work, and that kid never ever changed his mind, but I was borne forward on a mixture of self-defense and a stubborn, grumpy anger that smoldered in my heart like a charcoal briquette.

One of the hardest things for me to unlearn is the idea that I have to personally refute every stereotype about women in order to prove that feminism is valid. As though the theory's credibility is called into question every time I wear pink, or feel hurt or anxious about something, or decide I don't want a high-powered corporate job where I have to wear suits and use words like "synergy" and "conference call." There is a strong temptation to be All Things Good to prove that all women are capable and strong -- as though other women's humanity is dependent upon me, as though my individual abilities are admissible as evidence in the constant debate called Women: Do We Really Have To Treat Them Like Humans Or What? And part of the reason this is hard to unlearn is that there are people who believe this is, as the cartoon says, How It Works. I'm not wrong to conclude that people expect this of me: I am only wrong to conclude that I have to play by their shitty, shitty rules.

This zealous impulse dovetails a little too nicely at times with my innate perfectionism and tendency to take on more than I should. I've had to learn over the years how to back out of things, how to decline work requests, how to allow myself to make mistakes or take extra time if I need it. I've had to teach myself how to stop before I get to the point where I feel overwhelmed and panicked and end up wailing incoherently at three in the morning because there are more things to do than time to do them. I published my first book three years ago, and in the time since I've not only published four more strange little novellas but I've also become a board member of my local RWA chapter, worked on two conference planning committees, and given workshops at the Emerald City Writers' Conference for the past two years. It looks pretty intense written out like that, doesn't it? But I always feel like I'm lazy, like I'm falling behind, like I could do more or achieve more if I just gave up time-luxuries like video games or Scrubs reruns or making jewelry out of tiny beads. Who do I think I am, using my time for enjoyment and personal relaxation?

This blog project has already been hugely rewarding, but I'm a slow reader when I'm reading critically and I'm starting to feel the time pressure. So I'm giving myself a day to catch up and/or play video games and/or work on my Fancy RT Necklace -- whichever I feel like doing -- because it's important to remember that in a world stacked against us, prioritizing our own needs can be a radical and subversive act. Self-care is feminism turned inward. Not to the point where we lose sight of collective action and meaningful protest, but just to the point where we remember we're humans and humans need a break every now and again.

I did get some marvelous recommendations for the letter O. Calque suggested Octavia Butler's Wild Seedand on Twitter Sunita suggested Line and Orbit. Author Sunny Moraine has a brave post about reactions to the latter, and learning from mistakes, and fighting against one's own privilege when creating fictional worlds.

And let me take this opportunity to suggest you check out my books page to see if anything catches your eye, because it's also hard for me to remember that brief, frank moments of non-invasive self-promotion do not make me a sellout or a nag or shill. Let me also say that if someone wants to turn the tables and give one of my romances the same critical treatment I've been giving other authors' works this month ... Well, I'll be over the moon, is what. Turnabout is fair play and highly encouraged.

Thank you so much to everyone who's retweeted and commented and listened so far, and see you again tomorrow for our regularly scheduled post, brought to you by the letter P.

And Now I Wish I Could Make This A Real Thing

So Rose Lerner recently noticed that Booklikes had substituted a scholarly book cover in place of the proper cover for Cecilia Grant's A Woman Entangled. But Rose is gifted with a sense of fun in addition to her keen observational eye, and she quickly had put together a series of faux-scholarly romance covers. They are delightful!

And now everyone's getting in on the game. Isobel Carr has a roundup post, but here is my own hasty contribution.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 1.14.20 PM

Because what form would a Greek robot romance take, if not that of the marvelous Loeb Classical Library?

Cover Reveal for Color Me Bad!

Today I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for my upcoming historical erotic romance, Color Me Bad, coming soon from Ellora's Cave! Folks, it's so, so pretty.

Cover image for Color Me Bad. A red-haired woman with pale skin and an innocent expression is wrapped in a swath of pink fabric, her hands held daintily up to her chin. Behind her are stacks of paintings, in various stages of completion.
The blurb:
It has been ten years since Hecuba Jones last burgled her way into a darkened house, but it's the only way to recover her rightful inheritance from her artist mother. She manages to find the Earl of Underwood's study and the four paintings she's searching for—but just when she is about to make off with her prizes, she is discovered by the earl's sardonic younger brother.
 
John Rushmore has all but given up on his talents as a painter, unable to recapture the passion of earlier days. He is pleased to have his boredom lightened by the appearance of a redheaded thief—and even more delighted to be introduced to her the following night in an elegant Society ballroom. Miss Hecuba Jones is prickly and suspicious and absolutely irresistible. She's also an inspiration. Before long John finds himself working deep into the night to try and capture the feverish, erotic visions she provokes.
 
Soon, they reach an agreement. John will trade the four paintings she attempted to steal for four portraits of Hecuba herself. Intimate nights and candlelight soon transform artistic pleasures into physical ecstasy—but old family secrets and a blossoming scandal threaten to shatter their fragile liaison.
I'll trumpet the release date as soon as it's announced, but in the meantime, feel free to catch up on my backlist!

Stop The Presses: Tired Writer Cannot Write

Okay, so it's been two weeks now that I've been working full-time at the bookstore. Nights and weekends. It's fun, I get to look at pretty books all day and alphabetize -- I am one of those nerdy types who finds alphabetizing a soothing and engaging activity -- and help customers find books as best I can. Even the foot-killing four-hour register shifts haven't really dampened my enthusiasm. Except...

I haven't been able to write since I started.

It's not a question of inspiration. I still have all my ideas, I'm still doing research, still fine-tuning outlines. The stories are somewhere, waiting. But every time I sit in front of the keyboard, all I can think, over and over, like the phonograph inside my head is stuck on this one groove, is this:

I'm so tired.

I'll try to push through -- I know that voice can be made to go away -- but every time I put down a sentence I know it is wrong. Know, deep down in my bones, that there is no life in it. Everything feels so absurdly shallow, suddenly -- not in terms of subject matter, but in terms of my own engagement. And a writer disengaged from what she's writing is not going to write anything worth reading. Especially not in romance.

And it hurts, because I like to think of myself as disciplined, as determined, as a writer who works and does not wait for inspiration to strike. I've gotten stuck before -- who hasn't? -- but when one story is stuck another one is sure to be working, so I bounce from one to the other until the first one unsticks itself, like they always do.

This is the first time I can ever remember where nothing is working.

And it feels as though I have failed on some profound moral level. Chuck Wendig, penmonkey patron saint, would certainly disapprove. But it seems, to my shame, that I am somehow fundamentally incapable of working full-time and also doing anything substantive in the wordsmithery.

I tell myself to just get on with it. But the listening half of me has that same gut-level revulsion as when your coach in the sport of your choice looks at your broken ankle and tells you to walk it off.

Other writers do this. They do this all the time. 

What on earth is wrong with me?

In comments: please leave sympathy, tips, and any good jokes you may have heard lately. Bonus points if they involve terrible puns. You see what I've been reduced to.

Now Available: Hell and Hellion!

Hell and Hellion is finally out! Let there be trumpets and confetti and rejoicing in the streets! I know I get excited every release day, but this one really is something special. This book was the first one I cried while writing. Full-on, Joan-Wilder-style sobs that had the mini-dachshund leaping to my side in concern. Part of it was that I think I let myself go a little more in this book than I normally do -- and that's a good thing. I don't know why it's so hard to just shut off your brain as a writer and let the heart and veins and viscera take over, but it's really damn difficult.

It also feels pretty amazing, once you get the trick of it.

So if you want to see what makes me cry, now's your chance.

Announcing: Hell and Hellion!

We here at Olivia Waite are thrilled to announce that the good people at Ellora's Cave have offered us a contract for Hell and Hellion, an erotic paranormal Regency novella!

***

Last year Virginia Greening made a journey into Hell to rescue the man she expected to marry. To her dismay, she arrived to find he'd fallen in love with someone else—and now Virginia is home in London and nursing a bruised heart. Worse than that, however—she finds that since her return she can see demons. How do you make polite conversation when something green and evil is leering at you over another guest's shoulder?
Incubus James Grieve is intrigued to realize one evening that this petite brunette woman is staring right at him. Her unique ability to see him is soon eclipsed by the power of their mutual attraction. James has no soul to save, and Virginia's soul is incorruptible by infernal decree, so it is not long before they are indulging in any number of passionate sins and pleasurable vices. 
Until, that is, James acquires a soul of his own.
Burdened with newfound mortality, and surely condemned after death for his multitude of sins, James must make a choice. Will he abandon his beloved and his soul in favor of vice and immortality? Or can Virginia convince him that a virtuous mortal life is worth both living and dying for?

***

Technically, Hell and Hellion is the follow-up to Damned if You Do. But it's twice as long, and set in London rather than in Hell, and … Well, in short, it's less a sequel and more a stand-alone with a prequel that I just happened to write first.

Which is not to say you shouldn't go out and read Damned if You Doespecially since Nix at Scorching Book Reviews recently called it "Witty, pacy and sexy"! I'm still blushing -- though clearly not hard enough to keep me from repeating the praise.

 

 

The First Book I Ever Wrote

We here at Olivia Waite can't remember the first thing we ever tried to write, but we sure do remember the first book we ever finished writing. It was a terrible high school romance written longhand on blue-lined notebook paper, and it was inspired by seeing an ad for this book in Seventeen magazine:

I knew nothing about the book and I didn't want to know. {NB: The author is still writing, and appears quite popular! Here is her Amazon page!} All I knew was that the title—Zoey Fools Around—struck me as the most ridiculous title in the world. What kind of plot went with that title?

I sat down over a weekend and wrote it.

And oh, looking back, it's clearly horrible. You know that scene in Twilight where Edward and Bella are partners in science lab or whatever? {Disclaimer: I haven't read Twilight, though I've read just about every piece of Twilight criticism on the whole wide internet.} Imagine that scene without the abstinent sexual tension and sparkly vampires. Then imagine that scene drags on for several more scenes, before ending with something even more disappointing than a whimper.

There may also have been attempted date rape depicted at one point, to let the reader know the popular-kid villain was the villain and not the hero. (He was handsome, and I didn't want anyone to get confused.) I was reading a lot of Catherine Coulter at the time, and date rape seemed like the high school translation of the forced seduction that was The Thing in romance of that era. Especially as I hadn't been to high school yet myself, but had gathered my information on it from a variety of terrible movies, magazines, and after-school specials.

It's possible this manuscript still exists either here in my library or at home in the house where I grew up. I'm a little afraid to go looking.

From such a beginning, there was nowhere to go but up. No manuscript I ever write will be as awkward, as shallow, as wooden as that first one. Damned if You Do and Hearts and Harbingers are masterworks by comparison—and hopefully those too will be eclipsed by the books I have yet to write.

It's a comforting thought. The worst book I've ever written is behind me, and I hope that the best is yet to come.

Debugging The Bestseller Code

Last year, there was a onetime flurry of attention over a website called I Write Like. Everyone was delighted to throw in their own manuscript paragraphs and see what famous author-names came out—although the fun deflated when it was noticed that nobody writes like women. Today, on a whim, I entered the first section from Damned if You Do.

I write like: Anne Rice.

Yeah, I'll accept that. Plus, it means more female authors have been added to the database! (Though Virginia Woolf still writes like James Joyce. Nobody tell her—she'll be pissed.)

Today, thanks to Tumblr user myonetrupassion, I discovered a website called The Bestseller Code, which promises to tell you how commercially viable your work is. Based on sentence length and word complexity.

Oh, really? I think. And cracked the knuckles on my typing fingers.

To begin, I put in that same excerpt from Damned if You Do and selected "romance" as the genre. And what came out was this:

It seemed like a fair cop. I like the big Latinate words, and I throw them around like they're going out of style. But then I looked at the list of complex bolded words in red and had second thoughts. Along with "proficient," "dossier," and "unparalleled," here are some of the words that are considered complex:

  • lovingly
  • preparation
  • criminals
  • naturally
  • every
  • recently
  • separated
  • punishment
  • inflexible
  • certainly
  • somehow
  • understanding
  • anything
  • defense
  • soldier
  • amazement
  • imagine

This is boggle-worthy. I can't make myself accept that the word "lovingly" is too complex for the romance genre. And where would mysteries, thrillers, or romantic suspense be without "criminals"?

Just how do proven commercial successes fare against the algorithm, you ask? The answer: not well.

The famous, brilliant opening of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice initially gets a 15.5 (as both literature and romance). When I switch to an excerpt of the scene where Darcy and Elizabeth are discussing his reticence (the "we neither of us perform to strangers" scene), the score for both genres goes down to 15.4.

An excerpt from Breaking Dawn (note: super-hard to find Twilight excerpts online): 15.6.

The opening pages of The Hunger Games (genre: YA) gets a measly 10.7.

The opening of Genesis, from the Bible, the best-selling book of all time (genre: Literature, probably): 7.4.

And—this really was my favorite one—super-mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code scored only 14, with slightly more word complexity than the average thriller. (I am avidly curious to know what texts they used to generate these "average" numbers.) Bolded red words from this excerpt include: telephone, hotel, visitor, darkness, evening, and probably.

Ultimately, my problem with the Bestseller Code is not that they guarantee their formula will bring commercial success. They know better than to offer such a guarantee. They also admit that they are stretching the definition of "complex" to pretty much mean just "multisyllable." (Which—argh! Words have actual meanings! Length is not the best measure of complexity!)

But—and here's my objection—they suggest their algorithm can be a useful tool for revision. To quote from the website: "Paragraphs littered with red words should be revised to improve readability even if the individual words themselves are not particularly sophisticated."

In other words: let's make sure we have plenty of small words to give the long words breathing room. Let's never use the word "telephone" and "hotel" in the same paragraph because readers might be confused. The great minds behind the Bestseller Code apparently live in a nightmarish world where telephones do not come standard in hotel rooms.

I strenuously object to this flattening-out of vocabulary as a hard-and-fast rule. English is a rich and thieving tongue, full of stolen words and shifting definitions. It is a mutant, cannibal language. There is no need to fear complexity as such—especially not in a world where the dictionary is a keystroke away. But then, I'm a fan of Austen and Dickens and Melville, of Joyce and Calvino and David Foster Wallace. When I find a word that I don't recognize, it's an exciting moment, like discovering a new species of beetle in the backyard.

As writers, word choices define us. Hemingway told stories like this: "For sale: baby booties, never worn."

Joyce—sometimes—told them like this: "And as no man knows the ubicity of his tumulus nor to what processes we shall thereby be ushered nor whether to Tophet or to Edenville in the like way is all hidden when we would backward see from what region of remoteness the whatness of our whoness hath fetched his whenceness."

And, so far, quite happily, I tell stories like this: "Idared was proficient in the use of all the correct torture implements for a demoness of her rank, but with the whip she was an artist of unparalleled caliber."

They can have my complex words when they pry them from my hyperborean, moribund appendages.

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

... Especially if what you ask for is snarky reviews of your own book. There's one up already, from the marvelous Sarah at Knitting the Wind. Visiting her blog is often the most peaceful moment of my day—her photographs are beyond lovely—and it was with no small trepidation that I sent her my erotic Regency romance set in Hell.

And then Sarah did precisely what I'd hoped for in asking for bad reviews.

She put her finger on one of my biggest problems as a writer. She says,

Damned If You Do will stick around in my memory for a long time. But it only took half an hour to read, and I felt frustrated afterwards for lost potential.

Here is my big, dark secret: I am terrible at long plots. At least, the ones I've done so far have been terrible. And by "terrible" I mostly mean "unfinished." My stories live and die by their outlines, and I like to know scene by scene what's going to happen before I go and write the thing. Otherwise I get stuck, I write paragraphs only to erase them later in self-disgust, and I generally waste a lot of time not-writing and making myself feel miserable with nothing to show for it.

For instance, there's a book I've been trying to write for the past year. It's a long one, and it keeps getting better, but it's had more incarnations than the Doctor.

David Tennant in Doctor Who: a tall, lanky, and handsome brunet man with pale skin and a dapper brown suit stands facing the viewer with his head turned to his right. One hand is raised to his face, in preparation for removing his sexy dark-framed spectacles.

I wrote the first 20,000 words at one point. Then I wrote them again. Then I did a bunch of research on cephalopods (which was totally fun, by the way), then I completely redid the story, then I made it a menage instead of a m/f romance, then I wrote those first 20,000 words a third time, then I suddenly decided Raymond Chandler was important to this book somehow ... And I was doing all of this without a Tardis or sonic screwdriver, which is highly inconvenient.

But the story! The world! The people in it! There is a beating heart in there, somewhere, and eventually I will have uncovered enough of its mechanisms to move forward. Even after a year I find I can't give up on the idea, as I have with some other shining plot ideas that turned out to be merely candles.

This story is a bonfire. I just haven't managed to light the match yet.

A wise author would not be putting such things in a blog post. A wise author presents books as finished products, because we all like to think the books we read are strong and steely things that can grapple with us and potentially win. (Reading as Greco-Roman wrestling, I guess? Or Jacob's Ladder?) But a wise author would also not have asked for people to point out the negative aspects of her books, either—so I guess I might as well go all out and lay these anxieties out there for everyone to see.

And so, while I'm impossibly flattered that Sarah put me in the same company as Julia Quinn—the author who got me back into romance, who taught me that historical romance can be hilarious and smart at the same time—the thing I am going to take away from Sarah's review is this: I really need to roll up the sleeves and write some longer things.

Because as much as I love novellas, they leave me wanting, too—I want to have complicated people I don't have to explain all at once, and to whom I can add sexual tension in torturous inches. I want to build a vast and filigreed world, piece by piece—and then I want to destroy it, and show how my characters might begin to rebuild. I want to take the few longer manuscripts that I have done and polish them until they sparkle like the eyes of a mischievous god.

And then I want to do it again.

I'd better get started.

A Masochistic Open Letter To Book Reviewers: Be Mean To Me, Please!

Dear book reviewers in all corners of the internet, You can say all the nasty things you want about my books without fear of reprisal. Honest.

So far the few reviews of my first two books, Generous Fire and Hearts and Harbingers, have all been quite pleasant to read. I would be interested to hear what many of you have to say about Damned if You Do, which came out during the holiday rush and may have slipped beneath the radar like a shy debutante in a shadowed corner of the ballroom. While in the middle of the ballroom is an orgy. The holiday season is hectic, is what I mean to say—and it's easy for a short book to get lost in all the chaos.

The cover image for Damned if You Do, by Olivia Waite: a nude male torso in a tense upright attitude, surrounded by swirls of green light.

But then I read about authors getting butthurt over a review that wasn't even notably scathing, or authors getting butthurt over other authors' bad reviews on Goodreads, or authors comparing Goodreads to 4chan (to agree with Dear Author: HAHAHAHAHA) … and then I remember Pregnesia.

Pregnesia is a Harlequin Intrigue by Carla Cassidy that got a snarky, ironical C review on Smart Bitches that notably used the word "WACKADOO" in all caps. It is presented as a ridiculous, jaw-droppingly misguided novel that managed to offend on every level of craft while still pulling the reader through the story, kicking and screaming. The review did recommend the book, but only so others might witness the awfulness for themselves.

And author Carla Cassidy responded. She commented in the thread for the review itself. She didn't get defensive or angry or descend to the level of personal attacks. She made a wonderful, funny, self-deprecating list of reasons why she liked this review.

Commenters fell all over themselves with delight and promptly ordered copies of the book. I bought one, too, straight off the internet—even though I almost never read contemporaries and hadn't picked up a Harlequin in ten-odd years. I passed it around to several friends, too—friends who didn't read romance. A few of those friends got impatient waiting to read it and bought it on their own. I can't fathom how many copies of Pregnesia were sold on account of that one craptastic review.

I would leap at the chance to have the next Pregnesia on my hands. Charming self-deprecation is totally in my wheelhouse. Want to write a negative review of any of my books? Shoot me an email and I'll send you a copy!

I have, in fact, written a few snarky book reviews myself (under my dayname, of course). One of them was a disappointed and shamefully bitter response to a book I had certain expectations of, that turned out to be something different than I thought. That author has gone on to win a RITA for a later book in the series, and has hit the NYT Bestseller list a bunch of times. I still get about one person a month who hits the like button on my vitriolic review, and every time it happens I am glad that A) someone else out there felt the same way about this otherwise popular novel, and B) that author is still writing that series, quite successfully, and to great acclaim. My review is certainly not responsible for her success, but nor did it damage her career in any way that I can see.

We don't all have to like the same things, you see.

I've had one fairly well-known reviewer pass on the chance to review Generous Fire for her website; she was kind enough not only to tell me she wasn't going to review a book she didn't like, and also to tell me (at my request) precisely what failed to please. And as a writer, that kind of feedback is like living, breathing gold that will cook you a five-course meal and do all the dishes afterward. I want to know the ways my book is broken, the ways it could be better, the ways I could avoid narrative traps in the next go-round. Isn't that why we have editors, too? Editors are marvelous. But they are few and far between.

Reviewers and readers who talk about their responses to books are like pre-editors for whatever you're planning to write next.

Even something simple like "This wasn't to my taste" is helpful—an author needs to know what kind of readers her book appeals to, and what kind are going to heave it at the wall like Dorothy Parker on one of her low days. Because otherwise we will spend time and energy marketing to the wrong people and have nothing to show for our efforts. Are my books interesting to high-falutin' academics who toss around phrases in Latin and French like they were going out of style? (Answer: maybe—and phrases in Latin and French are almost certainly going out of style. Le sigh.)

So if you, dear reviewer, tire of fighting the good fight while ranty authors hurl ad hominem attacks your way like they're egging your house on Halloween, give yourself a break. Read one of my books—I have three of them now, all short and smutty!—and let your pen go wild with the poison of righteous indignation.

And after every sharp and cutting line, I will smile with delight and say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

I'm Thankful For You—And You—And You ...

Right now it is raining outside. I am on the couch, wearing knee-high purple argyle socks, a soft grey long-sleeved t-shirt, and my favorite pair of underpants. There is a soft blue blanket wrapped around me, in one fold of which is bundled a sleepy miniature dachshund who does his best napping after lunch. He huddles close enough for me to use him as an armrest while I do work on the laptop. He likes this: makes him feel like he's helping. And by "work," I mean: looking up what the contents of the British Museum were in 1816. Or writing a scene where an incubus seduces a virginal-but-curious heroine. Or tweaking some descriptions of an artificial aether-powered heart in a futuristic steampunk space opera. Whatever seems most exciting to work on at the time.

Days like this I am so thankful to be an author that I could damn near cry.

It's been a little over a year since I signed my first contract with Ellora's Cave. I've had two short books out since then with a third on the way, and Jesus H. Jones have I learned a lot.

And I have so much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for my supremely talented editor—hi, Meghan!—and the print book that's now out. I'm thankful for my wonderful readers—you know who you are—who are worth their weight in gold, regardless of whether or not they liked my books. (I learned quite a bit from the people who didn't like my books, to be frank.) I am thankful for a galaxy of authors whose stories delight me and whose examples I am eager to follow. I am thankful for my marvelous husband who is the world's best beta reader (as well as his other sterling qualities I'm just too much of a lady to discuss here).

And I finally am thankful to have a job that lets me use all the parts of my brain and heart to their fullest extent.

It's not all sunshine and roses—I've had my share of down days and rough patches and moments of sheer pants-wetting metaphysical terror. And that's just in one year of authorship! But even the worst days are better than the best days at many other jobs I've had. And then I'll write a sentence I just know is perfect, or I'll discover the reason for that scene I didn't have a place for but couldn't get out of my head, or I'll see something perfecly ordinary in daily life and suddenly be caught up in the passion of a new story idea that has to be outlined right now, or I'll talk to another author on Twitter and they'll say something to make me laugh.

This is the first time in my life I have looked at a job and thought, I will do this happily until Death pries the keyboard from my twitchy, arthritic hands.

This week we've lost Anne McCaffrey, and earlier this year we lost Diana Wynne Jones, both of whom had as profound an impact on my reading and writing life as Shakespeare or Homer or David Foster Wallace. It's been marvelous to see how people respond with warmth to the loss of authors they've loved. Good storytelling saves lives and refreshes hearts in ways nothing else can. It makes us more at home with ourselves, and with each other.

And I'll talk a lot about how I love doing my job sans pants, or that I can create worlds where things happen because I say so—but what it really comes down to is that desire to brighten lives, to say something true enough that someone's heart will leap up when they read it, to discover people and places that only exist on the page but which may be a key to something in our real world.

Being an author is a privilege, and I am humbly thankful.

The Author Designs Her Own Audio Book Covers Even Though She Realizes It's Probably Ill-Advised

Some news: we here at Olivia Waite are in the process of turning both Generous Fire and Hearts and Harbingers into audio books via ACX. In the middle of filling out book profiles and cruising the site for potential narrators (karaoke singing has made me super-picky about voice talent, it turns out!) the thought came to mind that I do not actually have the rights to use the original book covers. And since wading through piles of graphic designers sounded biblically exhausting, I decided to try my own hand at designing something bold and basic using the wonderful tools on Aviary.com.

And now I have a new website crush—I love you, Aviary!—and two brand-new cover images.

Here they are!

Generous Fire Audio Cover

Hearts and Harbingers Audio CoverThey're simple and clean because I'm not sophisticated enough to employ textures or attempt human figures. Remember that post I did on Ed Emberley? Yeah, that's still pretty much all my artistic training.

But they're easy on the eyes and they look excellent in thumbnail form, so I'm quite pleased with them. Though of course you are free to snark away in the comments.

It's An Erotic Steampunk Print Anthology!

We here at Olivia Waite are absolutely tickled to announce that we are appearing in a print book. And not just any print book, but a steampunk erotic romance anthology. And not just any steampunk erotic romance anthology, but a steampunk erotic romance anthology with the glorious Delphine Dryden and the magnificent J.K. Coi. And check out that cover!

Cover image for Steam HeatSteam Heat contains my own Generous Fire (Dickensian alternate history), Iron Seduction by J. K. Coi (Chinese steampunk), and The Lamplighter's Love by Delphine Dryden (straight-up gaslamp fantasy).

In conclusion: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

{Disclosure: clicking on some of the above links might prove profitable to myself or the other authors mentioned—so you should totally do it. Go on; you know you want to.}