goodnight Samhain

The sad news in Romancelandia today is that Samhain Publishing will finally be shutting its doors after 12 years. Although The Striker’s Chance released first, Secure Target – released by Samhain – was the first novel I completed and submitted after a six-year writing hiatus. I went on to publish five books with Samhain and as an author, couldn’t fault the outstanding editing, beautiful covers and awesome marketing support I received.

The Samhain site will go dark on the 28th February and their titles will begin disappearing from third-party retailers. There may be a big gap before I’m able to get these titles back up for sale, so if there are any backlist books you’ve been contemplating, now is the time to buy! That goes for any and all Samhain authors whose books you’ve ever enjoyed. Some have built their entire careers on Samhain’s foundations and will be much more greatly affected than me, and I know they’ll appreciate every last penny of support.

Onwards and upwards!

shoes, ships, ceiling wax

Oh dear, I’ve taken my time updating this poor old blog, hey? Well, there’s plenty to discuss today, so let’s get on with it!

#ROSACon2014

This past weekend was the inaugural South African romance writers’ conference, nicknamed ROSACon, held over a day in a half in Johannesburg. I think all of the attendees would agree it was a complete success! (Full disclosure: I was on the organizing committee.)

ROSACon2014 audience

Rapt audience at #ROSACon2014

We had about 30 delegates, and the activities ranged from Skype pitches to editors at Mills & Boon and Harper Impulse, to a first-page critique session by a panel of authors, to a fabulous talk on category romance writing from our local celebrity Joss Wood. Other than the massive highveld storm during Saturday night’s gala dinner, the weekend went without a hitch and it was a fantastic opportunity not only to meet so much of the South African romance writing community, but to be energized and enlightened by a variety of experts on a whole range of writing-related topics. On that note…

Facebook

Having learned during Tristan Banha‘s social media talk at #ROSACon2014 that Facebook is the most popular and fastest-growing social media outlet in South Africa, I’ve created my very own Facebook fan page: facebook.com/rebeccacrowleywrites Will I be better at updating it than this blog? Doubtful! But in the meantime feel free to cruise on over and check out the gorgeous banner the Samhain marketing team made for my next release. Which brings me to…

The Homefront Trilogy

This set of military-themed novellas is steaming ahead! I’m currently working on edits for the third installation (Thunder Running) and have just posted the cover for the second book (Alive Day) on the Books page. Meanwhile, tomorrow is release day for Homefront #1, Boots on the Ground!

Boots on the Ground

Sexy Sergeant Grady Reid and his erstwhile heroine Laurel Hayes are already garnering some lovely reviews, most notably from USA Today, Desere at Romance Book Haven and Nanee from Up All Night. If you haven’t already pre-ordered, you can one-click your copy tomorrow wherever ebooks are sold.

Last But Not Least

In case you didn’t spot my subtle announcement on Contemporary Romance Cafe (cleverly tucked in after the gratuitous photo of Jensen Ackles), the biggest news of all is that Baby Crowley will be having his or her own release day somewhere in between Alive Day and Thunder Running (March 3rd, to be precise). The good news is there’s no need to book a blog tour or organize a release-day blitz. The bad news, well… 😉

announcing…

Considering my dad concluded his brief stint in the army way before I was born, my fascination with military heroes in romance is maybe a little odd. I can’t get enough of the transient lifestyle, the lethal prowess beneath an ordinary exterior, the distinctive combination of remarkable bravery and vulnerability. The late photojournalist Tim Hetherington did a series of portraits of sleeping soldiers that beautifully illustrates this stunning intersection of impenetrable strength and totally susceptible humanity.

'Doc' Kelso sleeping at the Restrepo outpost in the Korengal valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan, July 2008. Photograph: Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos

‘Doc’ Kelso sleeping at the Restrepo outpost in the Korengal valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan, July 2008. Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos

The space I particularly wanted to explore – and which I’ve struggled to find satisfyingly interrogated in what romance I’ve read (and I’d love recommendations on this front!) – is the Stateside reality of life in the military. I’m not talking about superhuman Navy SEALS and Airborne Rangers and elite intelligence operatives. I want to read about your garden-variety infantry, guys without college degrees, who can’t kill you seventeen ways in six seconds, who don’t have super-stealth training or high-tech equipment, who enlisted because they weren’t sure what else to do and never quite got out. What happens when an unremarkable, working-class guy is thrust into remarkable circumstances? And what happens when the dust settles and it’s back to life in the barracks?

With that, I’m truly delighted to announce the forthcoming release of The Homefront Trilogy from Samhain Publishing. A stone’s throw from the gates of Fort Preston, the small Kansas town of Meridian has seen soldiers come and go since the Civil War. But when the 13th Infantry’s Echo Company rotates home from a catastrophic nine-month tour in Afghanistan, the men in its ranks carry much heavier burdens than the packs they left with – and they’ll need a lot of help to ease them off their shoulders. This series of novellas explores duty, honor, and sacrifice as returning soldiers find love, rediscover life, and redefine what it means to be home.

The first novella in the series, Boots on the Ground, will release from Samhain in October, followed by Alive Day in January and Thunder Running at some point after that. Now I know what you’re thinking – will all the serious, analytical chat above be redeemed by a super-sexy cover reveal? You know it will!

Behold, possibly my favorite cover ever for any of my books thus far:

Boots on the Ground

With a life that started in foster care and nearly ended in the mountains of Afghanistan, Grady Reid is more than ready to hang up his sergeant’s stripes when his Army contract expires. Small-town Meridian, Kansas seems as good a place as any to finally put down roots. He’s dumped his savings into a ramshackle farmhouse and is on his way to trading bullets for bull breeding when an exquisitely beautiful, totally unattainable blonde turns his head faster than a pivoting cutting horse.

Dr. Laurel Hayes longs to escape the confines of stuffy, small-town life for an adrenaline-
fueled, transient lifestyle delivering medical aid in unstable regions around the world. Then she meets Grady, a man with enticing eyes, a slow smile—and not an ounce of the wanderlust that tugs at her soul.

Their lives are headed in opposite directions. But as something more powerful than attraction, desire, or even lust draws them together, something’s got to give…or their hearts could break under the strain.

Expect more details and even more gorgeous cover reveals in the months to come (I’ve seen the mock-up for the second cover and…y’all…let me just say the word muscles) as I endure months of excitement waiting to introduce these characters I love so much to the world of romance readers!

harper harlequin

The internet is abuzz with the news that Torstar has agreed to sell Harlequin to Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation, where it will become a division of Harper Collins. Though not normally one to get embroiled in romance industry happenings, I thought I might as well share my $0.02 – or R2 in South Africa – this once.

Rupert Murdoch: the Dark Lord of global media

Rupert Murdoch: the Dark Lord of global media

Putting on my management consulting hat for a moment, I can’t say I’m totally surprised. Torstar reported a 7% loss in revenue at the end of 2013 and book publishing – especially in the US market – was one of the segments that decreased. When the COO was swiftly appointed to replace the retiring CEO (rather than finding and appointing a big-name external with an editorial background) I did wonder about what felt like a playing-it-safe hire given the degree of flux in the industry at the moment. Surely this was the time to bring in fresh blood and big vision? But executive moves are my bread and butter and I tend to consider them far more than most people, who probably couldn’t really care less.

With today’s announcement, the recent C-suite reshuffle leapt immediately to mind. Retrospectively it makes sense – who better to steer a company through a merger than the tried-and-tested operations guy? Equally it’s not hard to see how a shift in the top brass could open the way for a merger; without the advocacy of a long-serving CEO, a newer executive may struggle to influence the relevant stakeholders. At the end of the day Torstar needed the money, and Murdoch was willing to pay it.

From an industry perspective I think it’s a bit sad. It’s certainly the end of an era, plus it’s almost never good for a company to be subsumed into a huge corporate as that almost always means cost-cutting and big compromises. News Corp will see value in the Harlequin brand but not necessarily its culture or identity. Harlequin as we know it may eventually go the way of Silhouette, now not much more than a logo.

As an author published by Harlequin’s Carina Press, it’s hard to see the positive side. Harlequin’s existing value is in its distribution and readership, so it’s unlikely authors will see either of those increase. It also already has a large, well developed marketing and publicity department so it’s unlikely authors will feel anything there, although if HC decides to run HQN’s marketing on its own, I’m the sure the job losses in the HQN department will be palpable! From an administrative angle I wonder whether, as happened to Lyrical Press authors when it was acquired by Kensington, existing books will be temporarily pulled from sale while authors sign new contracts. And what will the terms of those contracts be?

So much remains to be seen here, but as a slightly tangential aside I wanted to take this moment to acknowledge how much I love my other publisher, Samhain. I don’t know whether it’s down to Samhain being a genuinely independent, private company or simply its culture, but my author experience has been that of a small, intimate start-up while the sales numbers comfortably compete with Carina’s despite its much greater resources. Soon I’ll have some exciting news to share about an upcoming project over in Samhain’s corner, but in the meantime I’ll settle for feeling grateful I’m one of their authors.