Monday, March 26, 2012

Passing Strange: Not Your Ordinary Love Story

I love exploring tales of forbidden love, and one of the most interesting I've ever read about was that of Clarence King and Ada Copeland.  Their story is told in Martha A. Sandweiss's book, Passing Strange.

Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth century western history.  He was also a brilliant scientist, best-selling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War. Secretary of State John Hay declared King “the best and brightest of his generation.”

However, King hid a secret from his friends, as well as the prominent Newport family from which he hailed:  He lived a double life.  For thirteen years King was known  as a celebrated white explorer, geologist and writer.  But he was also known as James Todd, a black Pullman porter and steel worker.

The fair skinned blue-eyed son born to a wealthy China trader passed across the color line.  This was not the usual case of a black man passing as white--but a white man passing as black!  And he didn't reveal his secret  to his black common-law wife, Ada Copeland, until his dying day.

Why did King do this?  To be with the woman he loved.  To marry Ada publicly, as the white man Clarence King, would have scandalized him and destroyed his career.

Passing Strange is a fascinating account of a sacrifice made for love.  If you like history, romance and forbidden love stories, then you'll enjoy Passing Strange!

Can you share a rather strange love story you've heard about?

Thanks for visiting!  BTW, the release date of my new novel, Escape, will be sometime in late April!  And if you haven't read my forbidden love story, The Governor's Sons, be sure to check it out

Monday, March 19, 2012

KDP Select: To Enroll or Not to Enroll

Should I or shouldn't I?
I admit, when I first read about the Kindle Direct Publishers Select Program back in December, I was a little skeptical.  I didn’t like the idea of removing my work from other sales outlets and making it exclusive only to

My sales were decent on after I'd published there in October.  However, when KDP Select  arrived on the scene, my sales dropped.  Over the next few months I read lots of blogs from other authors discussing their experiences with the program and why they did or didn’t choose to enroll. Click these links to see some.

Following my worst sales month ever, I decided to sign up.  Why? Because I wouldn’t know how beneficial or non-beneficial it would be for me unless I tried. 

After enrolling, I thought I’d see a zillion borrows!  But in two days, there were none.  So I considered dropping out—you have three days to do that, but after that you’re locked in for 90 days.

I decided to stick it out and try a free promo day. I’d read about authors who’d seen 3000 to 5000 free downloads of their books.  The promo period isn’t about the money, but promoting your work and getting it into readers’ hands. 

In a 24 hour period, I was amazed to see 11,100 free copies of my book downloaded!  Now, out of those 11,000 customers, there are those who won’t read it for a while, or maybe not at all because they just hoard free books.  Some will read it, but won’t be able to get into it, and some may think it sucks. 

But there are those who will read it right away (or sooner rather than later)--and like it!  So if 5000 people read it and like it, I have a chance of getting a few reviews, and perhaps a shot at 5000 potential purchases, because those readers might tell at least one person that my book is worth buying.

Since the free promo day, I’ve seen an increase in my sales.  I joined in early March.  I’m not a math person so I won’t go into the “my piece of the pie” regarding that $600,000 to be divided among books lent out. I believe the rate is $1.70 per borrow, which is nothing to complain about.  For me, the lending has not been nearly the same rate as the sales, which is fine.  But the increase in my sales has been worth it to me, so I'm glad I enrolled!  Yet, I never would have known this unless I'd tried KDP Select for myself.

Every case is different, but the bottom line is, you must make your own decision. After reading the KDP Select Terms and Conditions thoroughly, here are a few other things to keep in mind:
·  If you enroll, make sure your work is not available anywhere else
·If you take something off of Smashwords, it’ll take a few weeks for it to be removed from all the ebookstores they distribute to (Kobo, Diesel, Apple, etc.). Check those stores periodically to make sure your work is no longer available there before enrolling in KDP
· If you sell the majority of your books through, this program is worth looking into
·   The enrollment period is only three months. If you don’t like it, quit, if you do, you’ll be automatically re enrolled
·    If you choose not to re enroll, you have to do that manually, otherwise, you will be automatically re enrolled
·   Make sure your book has a appealing cover, you want it to grab attention
·    If you have some favorable reviews, include snippets from them in your product description
·     Make sure your book is well proofed and edited. If someone gets something for free with poor editing, they might mention that  in a review--and then add they were glad they didn’t pay for it!
·    Do your research, check out what others are saying (see the links above to start with)
My experience with KDP Select has been a positive one. Have you thought about enrolling?  Are you currently enrolled?  Share your experience.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Esther Williams: Fighter, Champion, Star

If you read my blog last week, you know I'm a huge fan of old movies.  One of my favorite stars from Hollywood's Golden Era was the beautiful Esther Williams, a swimming star of several MGM movies known as Aqua Musicals.

Something you may not know is that Ms. Williams was a proponent of civil rights--keep reading to see how! 

I love watching anything filmed underwater, and seeing Esther Williams swim in those pictures is amazing and a real treat.  If you've never heard of Esther Williams, check out this video to see what I mean!

Prior to becoming a movie star, Esther Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records while part of the Los  Angeles Athletic Club swim team during her teens.  She had wanted to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics, but couldn't  because of the outbreak of World War II.  At that point, Ms.Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, where she spent five months swimming alongside Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer and Tarzan star.

While performing at the Aquacade, Williams caught the eye of MGM talent scouts. After appearing in several small roles, Williams began making the Aqua Musicals, featuring elaborate numbers with synchronized swimming and diving.  From 1945 to 1949, Ms. Williams had at least one movie among the top 20 grossing films of the year.

Not long ago, I read her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid.  If you do enjoy bios of the stars, don't pass this one up!  I was thoroughly impressed by her candor, zest for life and positive outlook.  She lived through experiences that might have been crushing to some of us, but made her a fighter, champion and star!

The most devastating time she endured was the repeated rape that began at age 13.  The older teen who abused  her had been charitably taken in by her family.  Orphaned and left on his own, this young man was an exceptional student and athlete.  Ms. Williams had lost an older brother years earlier who was the "golden child" of the family, and this orphaned youth filled the void in her parents' lives.

As a victim of abuse, Esther remained quiet for two years, fearing his threats.  Finally at age 15, she told her parents.  Their reaction was hurtful to her, and I almost cried when I read it.  They were in denial at first, but finally confronted him.  When he admitted the truth, her parents were more upset with him for not living up to their expectations of who'd they'd thought him to be, rather than the fact that he'd repeatedly raped their daughter for two years.

Esther listened from another room, completely demoralized.  Why hadn't her father been ready to kill the guy and kick him out?

The pool at the athletic club was her solace, and after hearing her parents' exchange with him, that's where she went.  But when she'd changed and was ready to swim, the rapist confronted her.  To his tearful apology she responded, "If you touch me again, I'll kick, I'll scream and I'll fight!" After this, he left her family's home and joined the armed services.

During Ms. Williams's days in  the Aquacade, she had fight off Johnny Weissmuller's aggressive advances and endure substandard treatment from bosses since she wouldn't "give in." 

Prior to stardom, Ms. Williams survived an abusive marriage, and after stardom, the loss of her fortune through another husband's gambling.  She also lived through some near death experiences from swimming mishaps during filming.

But in addition to the painful times she shares, her story has some humorous ones as well.  Here's the civil rights anecdote I referenced earlier.  She was the mother of three children and employed the same African American babysitter for a number of years.

While performing in a live show, Ms.Williams wanted her babysitter and the sitter's husband to attend one of her performances.  However, the establishment where she'd be doing her show was segregated, but this didn't deter Ms.Williams, who thought the whole segregation system unfair.

She procured Middle Eastern garb for her guests and told the management that they were friends of hers from a royal family.  Needless to say, the sitter and her husband had the best seat in the house that night, and the last laugh!

Are you an Esther Williams fan?  Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hollywood: Land of Illusion

Let me open today's post by bragging on my big sister, Donna Figueroa! She's an actress in Hollywood and her latest work can be seen in this Poise webisode featuring her as a reporter interviewing Kirstie Alley, the Poise Fairy.

This is an entertaining ad, with the fun illusion of my sister as a reporter and Kirstie Alley as a fairy with a purple poodle.

I think we all love illusion and escape.  Writing, reading and movies are three of my favorite past times, because there's nothing like running away into a world of fantasy!

In my novel, Masquerade, Part II of the Unchained Trilogy (which takes place in the 1880s, and is due out this summer), my main character is Lavinia Taylor.  Lavinia is the product of an interracial union.  Raised in a straitlaced home, she runs away to pursue a life as a stage actress in New York, and passes as white (I'll save "The Tragic Mulatto" post for another time).  Lavinia's parents are devastated by her choices.  She rejects her mother to pass as white, but worse yet, seeks a career as an actress!  Back in those days, actors were considered rather disreputable characters! 

Now, I've been a fan of Hollywood and its illusions ever since my mom took me to see That's Entertainment when I was about ten years old.  After seeing that film, I fell in love with old movies, watched them whenever I could, and admired several of the stars who made all those wonderful, fluffy stories from days gone by come to life.

As I grew older, I read several biographies and tell-alls (like Hollywood Babylon) that shattered  many of my illusions.  A few weeks ago, one hit the market that will probably destroy any that remain. I've already read several reviews, and from them learned lots of shocking revelations, including that two of the greatest love affairs from the twentieth-century were complete shams!  If you're a movie buff, you probably know the book I'm referring to, Full Service by Scotty Bowers.

All the stars mentioned are dead, but their legacies will be forever tarnished.

If you're a movie buff, do you plan on reading Full Service, or are you content to live with your illusions in tact?

Thanks for visiting!