Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mudlark Illustrated is FREE

Tuesday 11/27 through Thursday night 11/29, midnight. THE MUDLARK ILLUSTRATED is free, for its Kindle debut. I'm very curious to know how people feel about illustrated ebooks, especially romances, and historical romances. This one has about 35 illustrations made from engravings and photos, but I would guess most fiction if illustrated wouldn't have more than just a few illustrations.

So if you want to check it out, and let me know what you think, or just have fun with it, here's the link:

 Right now it's the #12 Historical Romance on the Kindle Free list.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Illustrating for THE MUDLARK

Things sure get busy this time of year! Now that my three new Montlake books have been launched, I've been catching up with other projects. And night I finally finished and posted one of my most ambitious projects, THE MUDLARK, ILLUSTRATED. It went live on Kindle this morning and is available on the Kindle Prime Lending Library.

I lost track of exactly how many illustrations I have in the final version-somewhere around 35, and I was sad that I couldn't keep all of the ones I had designed. But I think I'll put up a page on my web-blog for all of them. I had about 70 total. Or maybe I'll find more uses for them in other books. I originally put up many of the illustrations in a running blog about 2 years ago, published at one chapter a day. It was fun, but I took it down because I needed to do a more professional job. Not all of those illustrations could be used, and I had some new ones I wanted to add.

I didn't make any strong attempt to stick to one style of illustrating because I was having a grand time finding old engravings and paintings and re-imagining them with modern photography and my own art to illustrate this particular story. I used the couple you see on the cover (Yuri Arcurs, photographer) in several illustrations partly because there are so many photos available and usually with their wonderfully brilliant smiles, but even more because they look to me just like I think Izzy and Tristan would look. But to place a modern photo against a 19th century engraving or watercolor means both images have to be stylistically manipulated to make them seem to fit together. This cover design, for instance. has the couple rendered int a sketch-like look, using the original photo to color it. But Izzy also is wearing a dress and shawl taken from a fashion plate in 1812 (and altered to fit). In the background, you see a re-rendering of a watercolor, Cascade at Rydal Water, by one of my favorite 19th century artists, Francis Nicholson.
Cartoon Tristan and Izzy against Berkeley Square engraving

On the other hand, I didn't mind at all using other photographic images to portray my characters, or to use engravings or paintings from different eras it they portrayed the story. Since there are sort of allegorical allusions to knights in shining armor and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it was fun to use those pictorially too. For this story, a bad joke is every bit as useful as a good one.

So far, the main thing I can say is that I LEARNED A LOT. I didn't really have anyone who could tell me important things like how big illustrations could be, or what the resolution size should be. I'd seen a few books with a few photos in them, but nothing like what I wanted to do. I wanted the illustrations to be major contributors to the book's humor. This is not something I intend to do for every book I put out, and I'm sure not very many authors would want to try such a project. But many might want to add at least a few illustrations.

I'd gotten some guesses on maximum size for an ebook at "maybe 5 megabytes", but the reality is, nobody seems to know, and it probably has changed a lot. Since images take up so much more "room" in a file than text does, I thought the images would have to be very small, or low resolution, or if a decent size, limited in number. So my first mistake was starting off too small. The images had no real impact. And the little text banners I'd put on each one were so small, they couldn't be read. That defeated the whole purpose. So I "un-published" and went back to the original images which were much larger, and reduced to a "medium" size. They still weren't big enough. I had to publish and re-publish three times so far before I got it right, each time re-building the size I wanted from the original images. In some cases I was stuck with just enlarging an image that was pretty small in the first place, and those are just a bit fuzzy. But it can't be helped.
Cruikshank's Dandies Dressing

Another thing I learned in the second round of publishing was that the images didn't enlarge on the Kindle when I enlarged the text. They stay exactly the same. Darn. And they wouldn't center properly. Well, some would and others didn't, in spite of all the settings and positions being exactly the same.

Part of this is the difference between an ereader and a print book. The print book has no flexibility other than to re-print in a different edition. At least the ereader lets us have larger text if we need it. But it functions much like a computer when it comes to the screen. With a print book, an image needs to be high quality (sharp, high resolution). But for the ereader, getting the size large enough is more important. Somehow, my brain locked into the notion that the resolution needed to be high. I ended up setting most of the images at 100 dpi resolution, only about 1/3 of the original, but setting the maximum dimension in inches, at around 5 inches.

much better
too small
This resolution works just fine on most photos on a computer, and it's slightly better than what we commonly see on the internet, but think is just fine. But if I had used the full 300 dpi resolution for each image, the entire project would have been impossibly big, much too big to download. That's because each image would be 3 times as large in height, and also 3 times as wide, or a total of 9 times as big in terms of the amount of data in it.

Placing the images is different too. When I'm doing a blog, I often want the text to run alongside the images. And in books, we often see the type set to allow room for image placement alongside the text. But this doesn't work well on an ereader. In fact, I wonder if this problem can be worked out without making the text always a fixed size, something I don't want to see happen. Another problem is that text can break for the next "page" at any line. But you want any image to appear on the "page" all at once. You don't want to see only part of the image and then have to refresh the screen to see the rest.

So in setting up the document with images, I did a Page Break (Control + Enter on the PC) at the top of each image. For really large images, I did another Page Break at the bottom. But I found out that most of the time I had better flow if I allowed the text to immediately follow on the screen, so I omitted the bottom Page Break. By setting the maximum size of the image at 5 inches, I'm assured that whether the reader uses his Kindle Fire in landscape or portrait mode, the image will display on the screen all at one time.

Sometimes there are the oddest sort of errors that just won't go away. When I downloaded the book the third time, I saw that the image at the beginning of Chapter 5 was still duplicated at the end of Chapter 4, and overlaying some of the text in a very odd way. But it wasn't visible on the original document. No mark or anything to indicate an image was there. I'd already tried deleting the correct image and replacing it, thinking it might be some kind of ghost or mirror of that one. I'd seen something like this happen in blog entries and the only way to fix it for someone like me who doesn't know code is to delete the section and replace it with a clean one. It's darn hard to delete something you can't see!

So this time, using the Kindle Fire to show me this mirage image, I went back to the original and deleted from a few sentences before to a few after the image. I pasted this to a new document blank page, meaning to go back to the original for clean replacement copy. But as soon as I pasted, the "ghost image" re-appeared. I just deleted it and then re-copied the section to put back into the final document. It looks like it worked.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Faerie releases Oct. 9, 2012 and to celebrate, I'm running a SUPER contest.

1st Prize: winner chooses between:
a mint condition Barbie and Ken Collectors set of Jude Devereaux's The Raider 
a $100 Amazon Gift Card
(Sorry, the dolls are limited to USA residents due to shipping problems.)

Ten 2nd Prizes: a $10 Amazon Gift Card each 

Contest ends Tuesday midnight PST, Oct. 16, 2012.
No purchase necessary but it is always appreciated. And "liking" the book is good too.
On FAERIE Amazon Book Page 
below Book Description in the Editorial Reviews section,
find the answer to the question below:

Historical Romance authors Colleen Gleason and Delilah Marvelle commented on FAERIE.  The comments have only four words in common.
Other than the title of the book, the words "and" and "is", what is the fourth word they both use?
(HINT: It's the first word in one of the comments.) 


Email your answer to me at delle@dellejacobs.com

One entry per person for this contest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

FAERIE Release Coming Up Fast!

Look at this wonderful quote from Delilah Marvelle!
"Beautiful and mesmerising, history and magic collide in this incredible, sweeping romance youwon't ever forget.  Faerie is absolutely enchanting!"
Delilah Marvelle, http://delilahmarvelle.com 
 Winner of RT's Best Sensual Historical Romance of the Year

I'm so tickled with this wonderful e-flyer Montlake sent out. Not only does it focus on FAERIE, but it also spotlights some of my other books.

The Pre-Orders are going fast, and already the book is moving up high in the rankings.

Pre-Orders are really important because they help position the book advantageously on the day of release. And that's great. But that's not all. Because it's drawing attention, but isn't available yet, it is leading readers to find my other books, and some of those are climbing rapidly in ranking. LADY WICKED, THE MUDLARK and HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS are all selling wildly, in addition to the two previous Montlake releases, LOKI'S DAUGHTERS and FIRE DANCE.

This is one thing I love about ebooks. They all have their cycles that rise and fall. But ebooks
aren't limited to just one cycle. They can be found again by a whole new group of readers over
and over again.. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Celebrate with me! Giveaway!

Won't bore you with the details of success for my newest releases, so instead I'm doing a
giveaway to celebrate and encourage you to give them a boost into the Best Seller ranks. (LOKI'S
DAUGHTERS is just a few sales short of making the Historical Romance list.)

MESSAGE ON FACEBOOK EMAIL OR TO: delle@dellejacobs.com

This giveaway is good until tonight at 10:00 pm. It will be repeated several times in the next
week so you can have lots of chances. You can enter only once per day, please.

1. FREE five copies of either LOKI'S DAUGHTERS OR FIRE DANCE to the first five people
who send me a valid email address to send it. Or if they've already got both and don't want a copy
to give to someone else, they can have a free copy of FAERIE when it releases on Oct. 9 (not
sure if it's possible to give FAERIE away before its release date).
2. I'll give away TEN $1 Amazon gift certificates to the first ten people who ask for those.
3. Any names received after these will go into a drawing pool for more books and more options.
4. ONLY IF YOU WANT, I will also sign you up for my newsletter. Or you can sign up on your
own by checking out the newsletter link on my blog, http://dellejacobs.blogspot.com/

Many thanks to all of you for your friendship and support!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Watching the Numbers

One thing I love about being an independent author as well as an Amazon Montlake author is the way I can watch the numbers pretty much as they happen. With my Indie books, I can see both their rankings and their sales numbers, although with the Montlake books I don't have the exact sales counts. But with the two combined, I can get a strong concept of sales as well as compare with what's happening in promotion and other influences.

In the long run, three days of statistics don't seem to say very much. But watching the movements for different books at the point when some new books have come out tells me a lot about how books sell, what might influence that, and what reader prefer.

Here's what intrigues me right now:

Yesterday: FIRE DANCE and LOKI'S DAUGHTERS were released. They started out a bit slow, but that didn't surprise me since each of those books has a long history and over 130,000 books in circulation. The sale started to mount, but didn't jump off the charts.This is kind of normal for my books, which usually start catching on once word of mouth gets going. There had been some sales the night before, too. But I don't know if those were pre-orders or if the book was already being delivered.

By the end of yesterday, LOKI was doing very well, with FIRE DANCE not quite keeping up. But interestingly, my other books were picking up steam. I did put up a new cover for HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS, which might account for some of the gain. And more surprising was the rise of FAERIE in the rankings, even though it hasn't been released yet.

Today: Rankings started the morning a little lower than they were the night before, but then started picking up steam again. FIRE DANCE started catching up with LOKI. But then I started watching the others. The last I looked, FAERIE pre-orders were moving into the range of my already released books, and all of those older releases except one were continuing to climb. Books that had been out several years and had dwindled to maybe a few sales a month were suddenly back in the ranks of real competitors. Will they stay there long?

I hadn't done much with those older books in the last few months, being so busy with the upcoming releases. And we all know that book sales almost always follow a standard bell curve, that varies in both length and height, according to the success of the book. So I mostly figured those books had done their jobs and would continue to sell mildly as people looked for the back list.

BUT: has that changed? I saw last year that four of my books, each in their turn, took off rapidly, reached a peak, then dropped off, only to repeat this pattern one to three times. Will there be yet another rise and fall? Just how much does the introduction of one new book affect the older ones?

Well, I don't know. But maybe we're about to find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Conflict in Our Fiction, Conflict in Our World

When I first learned two of my Montlake books would release on September 11, all kinds of emotions zinged through me. A very strange time for the excitement of releasing books. But I didn't ask to have my release date changed. Why? Wouldn't a less somber day be better? Maybe. But I think perhaps I have something to say. And fiction often gives us a safe way to explore painful things.

It's a day that will always bring me to my knees on its anniversary. It was a pivotal day that changed our world forever. Nearly three thousand people died as a result of those attacks.We've had eleven years of war, of vengeance, of sorrow, of pain. And we're not done yet. We will never be done.

An ancient Celtic depiction of warriors
I was still doing social work when I wrote these two books, and social workers deal with a lot of painful, ugly stuff. We might start doing the job thinking we have a lot of answers, but it isn't long before we realize we don't know much at all. But when I started writing fiction, I discovered that in making myself go inside the heads, becoming the characters I wrote,  I was gaining insight into people. I was learning in a different way why people do the things they do.
While LOKI'S DAUGHTERS began in the idle, silly musings of a stormy Sunday afternoon with two of my grown kids, I realized the world of a thousand years ago was a harsh one, full of violence, superstition, anger, death-not a funny place. Yet one thing I'd learned about people is that they don't just quit because life isn't fun. And somehow, even if only in the little moments, they find joy. They can turn the oddest things into humor. Gallows humor, it's often called.

I also realized I had two opposing groups of people, both groups (I was thinking originally of races) didn't know much about the other, and didn't think of their opponents as worthy of being called humans.  In a college course on Culture Clash, I had been told that when cultures meet, they clash. Both cultures have their belief systems, their world views, and it's not just a simple matter of talking things over and agreeing to disagree. A group that has different beliefs and actions is a threat to the other's way of life- to their life as a culture. And things can be pretty calm initially but later on as the cultures come closer together, the conflict usually increases. These days, one of the most obvious conflict is with the increasing numbers of Hispanics in the USA. As more contact occurs, more points of conflict occur. However we choose to look at it, there's an aspect and a feeling of threat on both sides. Maybe it gets easier in some ways, but in others it seems to get harder.

An artist's vision of the Battle of Hastings,
Norman against Anglo-Saxons
LOKI'S DAUGHTERS was once criticized because the reader thought the Celtic heroine should just get over it. Talk things out with the hero. She had a point. But in the real world, people have a very hard time letting that happen. There's often something just too deep, something we can't or don't want to let go of, that's getting in the way. That's because culture conflict goes so much deeper than what we admit on the surface. Arienh has this problem because she feels that accepting the invaders is a betrayal to all the relatives and friends who have been murdered. She has no idea that she hasn't finished grieving, and in fact has almost not begun, because she fears it so much. Prejudice is deeply rooted in us, and usually we don't see its real roots. We often choose to blame the surface conflict, which is often plenty adequate to cover our grievances. But that's barely scratching the surface. Underneath is the fear that our world, everything we know and love, how we do things, is all threatened with extinction. And on at least some level, that's usually true.

When I first published FIRE DANCE, I sent a copy to a friend in England, who read it. It deals with one of the most impacting events in English history, the Norman Conquest and settlement. She had a lot of comments, but the one that stuck with me was that she had a hard time sympathizing with the Norman hero because she was a direct descendant of Hereward the Wake, a famous leader of resistance against the Normans. (Read about him-he's fascinating.) Nine hundred years after the Conquest, people in England are still taking sides. But in their time, what the Normans did wasn't all that unusual. They saw, they conquered.

An artist's concept of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. 
Culture clash was as real a thousand years ago as it is today. Muslims and Christians don't do things the same way. As groups, each feels threats from the beliefs and actions of the other. The term Infidel  means far more than "unbeliever", and it's been around since the Crusades. Yet despite this seemingly impossible to surmount conflict, somehow people did begin to blend, meet, marry, get along. Not all of them, not all the time. But that's just as true today in most rather ordinary families.

How could the Celts, Angles and Saxons of the Dark Ages possibly have looked on the invaders from Norway, Sweden, Denmark as human when they saw their kin hacked to pieces or carried off to slavery? But if they'd had a good grasp on their own history, they might have known that their ancestors invaded the British Isles in pretty much the same way. They hadn't just pushed the original inhabitants into boats and said, "Go find someplace else to live". In fact, DNA testing shows that not many of those earliest people survive in today's gene pool.
The Duke of Wellington directs a vital assault
at the Battle of Waterloo 
Even not knowing that, probably the ordinary people of 9th century Britain were just farmers, gatherers and herders, and they weren't well-equipped to fight or resist attack. They just wanted to survive. And the invaders? Why did they think taking from the inhabitants was acceptable? One thing we're sure of is that the Northern people who came to the British Isle wouldn't have had much influence if they'd just raided and left. Their dramatic influence on everything from language and customs to genetics of the British people says they came to stay, not just raid. And in the end, they were really more like the Celts, Angles, Saxons and others than they were different.

So who's human and who's not? Why do our cultures enforce our beliefs that "we" are the good people and "they" are not worthy? In thousands of years, we have not solved this problem. Will we ever?

I don't know. Do you? What do you think? When will we all be human? I do believe, though, that through all their turmoil and pain, people as a group keep on being people. They do fall in love. They do learn to love. They do care about and help each other. Whatever happens around them, they don't stop living.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Big Promo Ad!

I was going to post something else today, but this is what I got from Montlake, so I had to show it off!
Links don't work-it's for release tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Thanks to Jacqueline Hopkins for tagging me for 'The Next Big Thing'!

If you have been tagged to participate, you have to answer 10 questions about your WIP (work in progress) and post on your blog. At the bottom of your post, list your five author volunteers who will answer the same 10 questions on their blog the following Wednesday.

Below, are the answers to my WIP, and Soon I'll finish lining up the next five volunteers are listed below with links to their blogs. Head over to theirs next Wednesday, August 29th to read all about their answers.

Come on, you know me. Did you actually
 think I could write a book and not
 design a cover for it?
1.  What is the working title of your book?
I'm actually working on two at once, but I'll pick the one I think I'll finish first: GILDING LILLY.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?
I love reading and writing Regencies, especially those with strong historical appeal and strong character and plot development. I had been thinking of a Cinderella type story in which the heroine learns she doesn't want to be deliciously elegant after all, and I knew her name was Lilly, even though her real name was Camillia, but somehow her family had let that slip away from them. So the title came to the story quite naturally. Since I first worked on the book several years ago, I've seen another story with a similar title, but I still think I had mine first.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?
It's a Regency-set historical.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always have trouble with this question. I don't think my characters are quite like anyone else. So who would play them? So maybe you can help me with this.
Lilly is a dark-haired, tall woman whose features could be considered "striking", but which look marvelously elegant when she makes up her mind to be attractive.
Gabriel is dark-haired-but maybe I'll put some light sun-streaks in his hair. He has a devilish look to him, yet an angel's twinkle in his eyes. For a viscount, he's a hard-working outdoor man who is trying to rehabilitate his family's nefarious reputation.
Darius is Gabe's very troubled six-year-old nephew who carries on the family's devilish/angelic appearance. And he's the devil himself to live with.
Amy is Lilly's younger half-sister, an exquisite blonde, blue-eyed, petite and charming-the ideal of beauty.
Lord Mabry is Lilly's step-father and only living parental figure, if you could actually use that term for him. He is utterly irresponsible, and leaves the running of everything to Lilly.
There are some normal people in the book too. I'm pretty sure there's one or two somewhere…

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
One sentence? Too bad.

As plain, penurious and blue-stocking as they come, Miss Lilly Fosbrooke has no thought of marriage, until horribly handsome Gabriel, Viscount Sylvaine starts treating her like the most beautiful woman on earth. But her romantic bubble bursts when she learns Gabe is only courting her because her wacky step-father has something Gabe wants badly. So Lilly and her other on-the-shelf friends form the Society of Ape Leaders to avenge their  humiliations by the arrogant gay blades of the Ton, and together, they make Lilly over into a diamond no man could resist.

They don't know that gorgeous women have ruined everything for Gabe from the time he was a child. All he ever wanted was a normal life, plain, ordinary, bland as over-cooked flummery. But, beauty or not, Gabe has no idea how much he'll come to crave Lilly's hidden dragon-like fire.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don't know. Montlake Romance (Amazon) is my new publisher, and I might use this as my option book. But I've done pretty well for myself as an indie author too, and I really enjoy managing my own career. My Regencies have sold very well, so GILDING LILLY might be better as a self-published book. I've had a cover done for just ages, but I couldn't seem to find the time to get back to finishing the book.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft is only half done. I stopped writing it when I had to go to other projects, and I didn't like what my attempts to make it into a sequel had done to it. Now I've changed the plot again, and am making it a stand-alone story.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are lots of other Cinderella type stories. This one veers pretty far away from the prototype, but it does have a happy ending even if it's not in a palace. Hero raises carriage horses, though, which is kind of close to having a horse-drawn coach.

9.  Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I'm always spinning ideas for new stories, and I think mostly they come from just plain hard work. So I'm not really sure what my first clue was. But putting it into words today, I'd say the basic thought was, "What if you got to be Cinderella, complete with coach, ball and even Prince Charming—then discovered you didn't like who you'd become? I'd have to say, in this story, the same dilemma applies to both the hero and heroine.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There's a bit of suspense too. What first appears to be harmless pranks begins to escalate, and it looks like someone is seeking genuine harm for Lilly. Or is it Gabe? Or-both?

Sorry I haven't firmed up my list of tagged victims for Week #13, but I'm looking at a few authors who are on the fringe of publication and haven't firmed up the way they're going to go. And some longer term authors who are also seeking new avenues for their careers. I'll post them later.

Tag! You're (almost) it!

To participate in this blog tour, here's what is expected of you:
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) ***
Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. It’s that simple.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing
1.      What is the working title of your book?
2.      Where did the idea come from for the book?
3.      What genre does your book fall under?
4.      Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5.      What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6.      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
7.      How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
8.      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
9.      Who or What inspired you to write this book?
10.    What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New Covers! Releases Coming UP!

Don't let the two tabs above for Books and WIPS confuse you! They're temporary only, while I work to combine the two in this odd combo of three blogs in one to make one web page. Today I'll install links back and forth to all of them so you can find everything. Then I'll combine and delete one of the pages.

My book covers for my three Montlake releases have been approved so I can show them to you now. I just got my full covers for two of the books and I'll post those tomorrow.

Coming Oct. 9 on Amazon.com

Coming Sept 11 on Amazon.com
I am so thrilled that Montlake allowed me to design them myself! Edits and everything else is done so they're in production now. I just checked the Amazon site and discovered the price for the print books is only $7.77, unlike the unaffordable $13-15 most publishers have had to charge. I'm attributing that to their ability to directly access CreateSpace, rather than go through an outside printer like most small to medium publishers must do.

Coming Sept. 11 on Amazon.com

FAERIE releases October 9, 2012 and FIRE DANCE and LOKI'S DAUGHTERS both release September 11,2012. Some people wondered if I might be worried about that date. No. It's a time to talk, to explore difficult subjects. And I think those two books, especially LOKI'S DAUGHTERS, speak to the many hard issues that have always set one group of people against another.

I've got lots of fun and amazing stories to tell you from the RWA conference, so as soon as I finish the synopses I promised my editor, I'll share. Lots to say about changes in self-publishing and e-publishing. And the questions so many people asked me: If I love self-publishing so much, why have I chosen to sign with Montlake? And now that I've been working with them through the development and production of three books, what do I think of them? NEXT WEEK! That will be my first topic!

Friday, March 16, 2012


The Romance Review LADY WICKED is The Romance Reviews nominee for Best Historical Romance of 2011! The competition is extreme, which makes it even more exciting!

But for an author, there is little that can top having one of her best loved, hardest fought stories be appreciated as a best book.

I'd love it if you'd click on the picture and give my beloved book a vite. And thanks many many times!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who Am I? How Do I Know?

Last fall I signed up to participate in Ancestry.com's DNA project. I figured I would be in for a surprise or two. My family has not been very good at keeping a record of our history. As near as I can tell, I'm about as much a mongrel as a person can get (my kids, even more so). But the kind of surprises that showed up with the results I got last night really threw me for a loop.

64% Scandanavian (Norway, Sweden, Denmark)
15% Finnish/Volga/Ural (What looks to me to be a broad Russian Steppe area, following the extremely long Volga River)
14% Southern European (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mediterranean)
7% Central European (France, Germany, Austria)

The surprise is the middle two. I knew of nothing in my family tree that could account for either of those. And at the same time, what happened to my 75% British heritage? No sign of it at all?

What I didn't understand is just what DNA tests could and couldn't do. For one thing, I'm female, which means I don't inherit the Y-DNA from my father. I do inherit mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA from my mother. If I want to know my patrilineal line, the best I could do would be to get one of my brothers to have the Y test run.

I didn't quite comprehend that the mtDNA doesn't mean lost genetic inheritance. It doesn't, in fact,have anything to do with all the non-sex-linked characteristics that have been passed down to me. It serves as a sort of genetic map that could be traced through my mother and her mother, and the entire matrilineal line back to one original woman who lived perhaps 200,000 years ago. Although my brothers received this same piece of DNA, they can't pass it on to their descendants. Likewise, since I do not have a Y chromosome, I didn't get a copy of the Y-DNA  at all, although I obviously did get lots of genetic material from my father.

So from each generation, only the mtDNA of one ancestor, through the females only, is passed down. Not father's mother. Only mother's mother. And this line shows essentially where the genetic mutations occurred over a very long period of time.

And as it happens, this maternal line is probably the least known of all my ancestry.
Nadele Mitchell (Jacobs); Nelda Norton (Mitchell); Pearl Hatton (Norton); Mary Matilda Stafford (Hatton); Nancy Garraway (Stafford); Elizabeth Moody (Garraway); Jane Grindstaff (Moody); possibly Mary Catherine Smith, or possibly Stonecypher (Grindstaff), born Rowan Co. N. Carolina, but nothing else on her parentage.

And there the trail ends, at 7 or 8 generations. I can see a path from the Carolinas to Georgia, which in that time did include Alabama and Mississippi. When territory opened up in Mississippi, and later Alabama, several branches of the family moved west. But there's nothing that shows me where this line of women originated before the Carolinas in the 18th century. Did Mary Catherine Smith's ancestry reach the Americas through the Spanish in Florida? Could they have been Viking descendants in Russia? And, most oddly for folk in the American South: Were they not English or Celtic/Anglo-Saxon at all?

A very strange and completely unexpected puzzle!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Great news! I've just signed a 3-book contract with Montlake Romances! First, they're picking up my new book, FAERIE, a medieval romance that is in the same line as my highly successful medieval, FIRE DANCE.  But they're also acquiring both FIRE DANCE and LOKI'S DAUGHTERS, which I've self-published after having their rights reverted to me. Those two will be re-packaged and released tentatively in August, and FAERIE is tentatively scheduled for September. Tight deadlines!

Montlake is new. And different. They're the new Romance publishing house set up by Amazon, and they're causing a bit of a stir. I've had my eye on them since I first heard about them. And like a lot of Amazon's new endeavors, at first I asked why in the world they'd want to go in that direction. My first big question is, why, at a time when traditional publishing is having such a hard time staying afloat, and ebooks have become so profitable and successful, would anyone consider starting up a new publishing house in the traditional vein?

But it doesn't really take much objective observation to reach the conclusion that the idea is well thought out and backed by lots of data. And some of the things I'm seeing are efficiency, data-driven decision-making, strong promotion, and strong author involvement with excellent backing. When I saw how they mean to do business, I quickly reached the conclusion that this is the way I think publishing should be.

So I'm posting the covers I've been using for these books, which I admit still don't quite satisfy me. I love Montlake's covers so far, so I'm dying to see what they will do. And, as much as I can without violating confidential agreements, I'll share this different path in publishing with you as I go along.

I never have been very good at treading the main path, have I? Well, maybe I could have been richer, but I've done all right. And I couldn't have been happier. I wouldn't have been happy at all, in fact, if I'd had to write the stories that didn't feel right to me. I'm happy reading other authors' stories, and yes, I do love the traditional types of romances. But they aren't the stories I need to be telling.

About Me

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.