January 19, 2014

Decisions, decisions

It's been a little over two weeks since I published Secrets and Sins (hope you got your copy!), and in that time, other than writing copy for my blog tour, I've essentially been kicking back...and giving some thought to what my next project will be. 

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and just about every year since I've been indie publishing I tell myself I should write a Valentine's novella. Unfortunately, I'm usually busy with other projects, and I don't start thinking about this until New Year's Day, which doesn't give me enough time. An idea popped into my head that I thought I could possibly get written in a month, because once I know what I'm going to write I do it fairly quickly (I know what you're thinking...if I write quickly, why did it take me six months to finish Secrets and Sins? The answer to that is the very difficult structure of that book...so there.). The problem regarding my hoped-for Valentine's novella is not knowing what I was going to write. I had a great beginning where the hero and heroine meet, but no middle and no end. Two-and-a-half weeks later, I haven't progressed. Idea not abandoned, but put on the postpone list.

I then experimented with two other possible ideas where I also only had a meet cute, but no story. Those have also gone to the postpone list, but I've abandoned the idea of getting a Valentine's Day novella done this year and turned to my list of books to write (the ones that are plotted out, at least loosely).

There was one story that kept popping up in my head, to the point where it would become annoying because I'd start thinking about it and jotting down notes while still struggling over improving the flow of Secrets and Sins. And since I believe in writing the story that is talking to me the loudest, my next project will be (drum roll, please)...

It Happened in Eighty-Eight.

Eighty-Eight, of course, is the Mississippi birthplace of Julia Cheeks and her late parents, Roscoe and Miriam Scott. This is a working title, for while it (you'll have to read the book to know specifically what that refers to,) happens in Eighty-Eight, only the beginning of the story is set there, with the rest of it unfolding in the Greater Chicagoland area. Then again, I might just keep that title because, to be honest, I like it. I plan to write a series of books set in this sleepy Southern town, which has more scandals than the juiciest soap opera. This will be a further introduction. Readers of Secrets and Sins have already met the heroine, Courtney Mathis, very briefly at a party in Eighty-Eight. I'm hoping you'll get to know her a lot better in the late spring/early summer.

So, what do you think?
January 13-18, 2014

Gone Blogging

This week I'm doing a blog tour to promote Secrets and Sins.  Each day I'll be introducing a different character from this exciting new family saga.  I also plan to give away a complimentary download each day, so do stop by each day, get to know the characters, and possibly win a copy!

The schedule will be updated each day as posts are published, so please check back to see where I am on a given day!

Monday, 1/13/2014:  Readin' 'n' Writin' with Patricia
Tuesday, 1/14/2014:  Shelia Goss
Wednesday, 1/15/2014:  Sister Scribbler (Chicki Brown)
Thursday, 1/16/2014:  Deatri King-Bey
Friday, 1/17/2014:  Melissa Blue
Saturday, 1/18/2014:  Cheris Hodges

January 12, 2014

Like sand through the hourglass...

There's no doubt that publishing has changed radically in recent years and continues to do so.  When you think about it, prior to a few years ago, little had changed in the publishing world in regard to how things were done for years and years. While the industry continues to evolve and no one knows what it will be like even two years from now, so much has changed in the world while publishing stayed the same. With that considered, it was probably time for a shakeup.

Back in the late 1940s, movie studio executives began to worry. Their receipts were down, largely because of a newfangled invention called television. Television had first been introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and its popularity was delayed by the U.S. entry into World War II. But by war's end, the time was right for it to take off. Just a few short years before, these same executives scoffed at the invention. You couldn't get much on it except for boxing matches and variety shows one step removed from vaudeville (which everyone knew had long been dead) featuring hosts like Ed Sullivan and performers like Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. But by the decade's end these large boxes with the relatively small screens were making their way into more and more American homes...enough where people were enjoying being able to sit in their living rooms, the men wearing their undershirts and house slippers and the women wearing housedresses and their hair in curlers.  Who wanted to go through the hassle of putting on a jacket or a dress to go to the theater?  You couldn't even get a cold beer there. So studio executives watched as their profits dipped.

The studio heads immediately decided they needed to cut their expenses. The first thing they did was start unloading their actors. Contracts weren't renewed. Big stars like Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart had nothing to worry about, even if their  movie receipts were down as well, and even if they were all starting to look a little craggy (all but Tracy and Bogart would be dead within a dozen years). The aging female stars had it rough, too...no one was going to pair them opposite a 23-year-old hunk the way they paired their older actors with young female counterparts (although Joan Crawford made a series of movies opposite younger leading men during this time). Some big female stars like Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck managed to keep busy, but others, including Bette Davis, were having a hard time finding good roles, and to compete with beautiful, young (a key word) up-and-comers like Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and the rapidly maturing Elizabeth Taylor. A lot of talented people found themselves without jobs and subsequently without paychecks.

As TV became more popular, movie studios fought back with a vengeance. They made more films in color, developed processes like Cinemascope and VistaVision, even experimented briefly with 3D...anything to get people to put down that beer, get dressed and come to the theaters. They forbade any of their actors to appear on the "idiot box," even to promote their latest movies.

The actors reacted in several ways.  Some big stars, like Burt Lancaster and Humphrey Bogart, whose careers were fairly secure, launched their own production companies, working with the studios for distribution but handling all other aspects themselves, to make sure they'd have projects to star in.  Others, depending on their gender, learned to ride horses or zipped themselves into tight-fitting corsets of the 1870s and started making Westerns, which were enjoying huge popularity at the time. Others stood by as the offers slowed to a trickle but refused to do television because they considered themselves movie stars, and watched their careers slow to a complete stop (Jennifer Jones comes to mind).

Then there were those who accepted offers to work in this new medium. No one had greater success than a B-movie actress who had made a good living in movies, but was now approaching middle age and also wanted to work with her husband, a bandleader who hadn't had much success in films. When Lucille Ball's new show, I Love Lucy, catapulted to #1 in the ratings and spurred many people to buy television sets, a lot of folks in the movie industry sat up and took notice. But Lucille Ball was a working actress, appearing in supporting parts in a few top-tier films and starring in the movies that played on the bottom half of double bills. She wasn't a star. It took an Academy Award-winning actress who'd been in movies since the silent days but at age 40 found herself no longer in demand, taking the plunge and signing up to do a TV show to really shake things up. No one's show was as successful as Lucille Ball's, but Loretta Young's show was popular, and with her being an Oscar winner, it brought a new respectability to the medium.  Soon people like Red Skelton, Eve Arden, Robert Young, Ann Sothern, and George Reeves were all doing weekly television shows.

For some forward thinkers, television became particularly lucrative. Fred MacMurray, one of the aging actors who spent the Fifties uncomfortably saddling up on a horse making Westerns, was approached by a network about playing the lead in a new show. MacMurray had recently made a movie for the Disney studio which turned out to be wildly successful, and Disney wanted him to make more movies for them. He told the network he would do the show, called My Three Sons, if they would have all the scripts written when they started to shoot and he could film all his scenes for the entire season in a month or two, which left him free to make movies the rest of the year. The network said yes, so MacMurray got paid for a full season for two months' work, plus movie paychecks as well. As a result, he became one of the wealthiest actors in Hollywood.

Similarly, the publishing world was forced into change by the development of the eReader. Widespread panic ruled as authors were informed that their publishers would not be renewing their contracts. Some new writers and established writers who'd been languishing in the midlist have met with astounding success (the equivalent of Lucille Ball's ascent from working movie actress to huge TV star 60+ years ago). Like Lancaster, Bogart, and Cagney so many years ago, they formed publiching companies for outlets of putting out both new and old work (not only backlists, but manuscripts their publishers had taken a pass on purchasing). Suddenly there was a run on publisher's legal departments by authors eager to get their rights back so they could start ePubbing their backlist titles. Many made gravy for their chicken (some were making enough gravy to soak their mashed potatoes as well).

Successful new writers were being offered contracts from the same publishers who turned them down previously because those publishers saw their names on the Amazon genre bestseller lists, which have become the new slush pile.

Still other authors found themselves without publishers and doggedly pushed on, submitting all over the place in hopes of getting a contract because they didn't want to indie publish for whatever reason, often disappearing for years down the Jennifer Jones road to obscurity (some still haven't surfaced).

Unfortunately, as word got out of the wide disparity between traditional and indie published author earnings, there was a lot of sniping back and forth, with some traditionally published authors rather smugly declaring how glad they were to have publishers to worry about the details of publishing their books (there is nothing wrong with saying this per se, but we all know it's not what you say, but how you say it that's the difference between being snarky and merely stating an observation), and some indie authors countering with how glad they were to have total creative freedom, as well as to be making more money selling fewer books, and that anyone who went with a traditional publisher was nuts.  At times the situation threatened to get ugly, but then the writers went to neutral corners, and then came the real winners...the hybrids who had footholds in each camp. 

Now, things are changing again.  Many authorities on indie publishing are saying eBooks sales are generally declining (something that my own numbers tell me is true). The writers at the top are likely going to stay there, as are those in the upper echelons.  Those who write specified subgenres with lots of hungry readers will also likely continue to do well.  Midlisters like myself who write in popular genres where there are too many books searching for too few readers will probably see their earnings slip.  No one knows where this is all going to end up. 

As for the war between movies and television, it had a happy ending. As fewer movies were being made and television expanded, television producers found themselves unable to create enough programming to fill the broadcast hours, so they turned to...you guessed it: movie studios.  The studio brass were happy to lease their old films at handsome fees to be shown on network television, and they loosened their grip around the necks of their actors, allowing them to appear on television, making sure they plugged their latest movie (anyone familiar with I Love Lucy will recall that in the Hollywood shows, each guest star mentioned their latest:  William Holden's The Country Girl, John Wayne's Blood Alley, Richard Widmark's A Prize of Gold, etc.  The movie business settled, with the contract system with its huge weekly paychecks to actors a thing of the past.  Things moved along smoothly for quite a while, until a new war started...this time between television, who has largely sunk into the abyss known as reality shows; and the cable networks, who are putting on quality programming and grabbing more awards than networks...

...but such are the days of our lives.
January 8, 2014


I always find it depressing when the Christmas lights go off in early January and the outdoors is no longer lit up with pretty lights.  Unmasked, the bleakness of winter sets in...the frigid temperatures, the early cloak of darkness...and this year it's more brutal than ever.

The last few days it has been colder in parts of the United States than it is in the Arctic Circle and even on Mars.  Be careful...and say a prayer for those who are living with faulty furnaces they can't afford to have repaired, cannot risk having an increase in their heating bill, or are homeless.
January 3, 2014

Do you know what today is?

It's the 80th birthday of Julia Scott Cheeks, who is at the center of my latest novel, Secrets and Sins.  She was born in the town of Eighty-Eight, Mississippi, on January 3, 1934, and back in 1955, when she was just 21 years old, she walked in on a scene that both traumatized and frightened her.  She didn't know it at the time, but there was another shock in her future, one that forever changed her relationship with those closest to her.

With that said, it seems only fair that the long-delayed release of Secrets and Sins ended up being on her birthday...

In this sweeping, 115K-word novel, Bettye Griffin introduces readers to the Cheeks family of Zion, Illinois: Eldest daughter Faye, whose placid, orderly life is about to be disrupted in a way she never could have imagined…middle child and only son Scott, who brings new meaning to the phrase ‘midlife crisis’…and youngest daughter Robin, who is divorced from but not exactly rid of her former spouse. At the center of the story is their mother, Julia Scott Cheeks, who along with her devoted husband Melvin, has tried to keep two scandalous family secrets hidden and has been successful for 55 years…but when Robin mentions the name of the former classmate she has a romantic interest in, Julia fears that the events she has tried so hard and for so long to keep her children from knowing are in danger of being exposed…

Secrets and Sins is available directly from Amazon for $5.99 (did I mention it has 115,000 words?).  At this time it is not available at Barnes and Noble, where uploads have been problematic for me.  Kindle owners have the option of ordering a MOBI file from my eStore for just $4.99, while readers needing an EPUB or PDF file can also order from my eStore.  There is no signup required to buy from my eStore, and instructions on how to load the file onto your device are listed on the site on a device-by-device basis under the Accessing Content tab.  The weather is bad this weekend in many parts of the country, and this is the perfect book to curl up with if you're staying in.

A polite request:  I love getting reviews, but Secrets and Sins contains some plot twists that I hope will catch readers off guard.  Please, please, please don't give any of them away in your reviews...let other readers be as surprised as you were.

As always, I wish you good reading!
January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of you the very best in 2014.  Through good times and bad, keep your faith, and in the bad times, remember that this, too, shall pass.

I thought I'd share with you my planned releases for the new year:

Secrets & Sins will be released on January 3rd, just two days from now.  It will be available as an eBook only at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and also at my eStore, where it will be priced at $1 less than at other eTailers.  I hope you've all read the exciting prequel, Sinner Man.  It's free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and my eStore!

Here's a brief recap of the other projects I plan to release in 2014:

Love Will Grow.  This will be the second and final full novel in my Love Will series and is about Tierney's friend Nylah Taylor, a medical records director in the depressed area of Gary, Indiana, who makes a surprising discovery at work and reports it to the police.  While questioning her, one of the detectives inadvertently lets an old secret out of the bag that Nylah isn't ready for her son to hear, marking the beginning of an antagonistic relationship, but...well, you've seen the title of the book.  This short series also includes a free prequel, Lost That Lovin' Feeling.

It Happened in Eighty-Eight.  Although this is a romance, it spins off from Secrets & Sins, which is women's fiction.  A woman who works the night shift at the local hospital wakes up at an unusually odd hour in the afternoon and is unable to go back to sleep.  When she turns to the nightly news broadcast she hears a shocking report, and suddenly she knows why she awakened at that particular hour and minute.  She must act upon the news, which will put her both in the media spotlight and in the fight of her life...and into a most unexpected passionate romance...This book kicks off a series of stories set in the town of Eighty-Eight, Mississippi, a place with more scandalous secrets than any soap opera.

I also plan on releasing at least two backlist titles as eBooks, but haven't decided which ones.  I have plenty of other projects planned, but these are the ones I feel confident I can get done in 2014.

May your year ahead be full of happiness, good health, prosperity, and good reading!