Wednesday, December 16, 2015

All Good Things...

I'm borrowing a title from one of my favorite Star Trek episodes (taken from a Chaucer quotation originally) to lead off because I can't think of a better way to begin this bittersweet post.

Ten years ago (give or take), a gentleman by the name of Marty Greenberg called me at home. Marty, if you don't already know, was an amazing guy and a big personality in the publishing world. Back then, he headed up Tekno Books, a book packaging company that had its corporate fingers in lots of projects -- far too many to mention here. Also back then, Tekno worked closely with my first publisher, Five Star. I didn't meet Marty face to face until the Chicago Bouchercon in 2005. He was a heck of a great guy.

Anyway, when I answered the phone ten years ago, Marty got right to the point. He wanted to know if I'd be interested in writing a new series, one featuring the first female White House Chef as amateur sleuth. It didn't take longer than a heartbeat for me to answer "Yes, definitely!" Marty assured me that I wouldn't have to come up with recipes. Denise, an amazing woman on the Tekno team, would serve as editor and chief recipe-provider.

Aunt Agatha's
And so, over the course of several months, I went to work creating Ollie and her friends, writing the first three chapters of what was to become State of the Onion, and devising plots for three additional books. Marty and Denise worked with me and presented the package to Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin). To my absolute delight, the wonderful editor in charge liked what she read and offered Marty (who then offered me) a three-book deal.

Now, here's where I want to emphasize that the entire White House Chef Mystery concept belonged to Marty and Tekno Books. I didn't (and still don't) own the copyright. This is what's known as a Work-for-Hire. Even though I created every character -- even though I came up with the plots -- even though I wrote every single word of every single story -- I don't own any of it. The contract I signed was for a small advance on each book, and an equally small portion of the royalties.

From day one, working with Berkley has been wonderful. I can't say enough about the people there. I've been treated well and really feel valued. And, when I was working with Marty and Denise at Tekno, I felt the same way. Even when Tekno started having financial difficulties and had to let Denise go, I still felt as though my efforts were appreciated.

Marty Greenberg died in 2011 and with his death, Tekno changed. A lot. I don't know the legal intricacies that went on behind the scenes. What I do know is that the editor I'd been working with after Denise left -- John (an awesome fellow I'm still friends with to this day) -- was soon let go, too.

Although the people remaining at Tekno all seem very nice, the company was different -- at least it seemed so to me. I no longer felt as though I was part of a team, I felt more like a tiny cog in a very large conglomerate. The new editor I was assigned to was very nice, but didn't bring the same enthusiasm to the recipes the way Denise had. Where I'd been able to work with Denise to plan menu themes for each book, my new editor seemed considerably less excited about coming up with dishes for me. I'll admit to getting a bit frustrated.

What was also frustrating was that -- at one point -- Tekno experienced cash-flow problems and my royalty payments were delayed. Very delayed. I can't remember if this was before or after Marty died. But, because of my frustrations with getting paid on time, and because my portion of the royalties was so small, I asked my agent to negotiate my third contract with Tekno, for books # 7, 8, and 9. Up to that point, I'd been negotiating on my own. I'd hoped that involving an agent would get me a better cut of the royalties. I'd also hoped that involving an agent would mean that future payments would arrive on time.

Before I go further, some specifics:

* You may already know this, but most of the traditional publishers pay their authors twice a year. The cut-off for the first half the year is June 30th with checks expected to arrive in authors' accounts around October 1st (yes, you read that right). The second payment of the year cuts off December 31st (checks expected to arrive in authors' accounts around April 1st).

* Even though Tekno owns the series, they don't do much (if anything) in terms of promotion. If they do, they've managed to do it in such a way that I remain completely unaware of their efforts. All promotions, whether offered on FB, here on the blog, via newsletter, etc. are all on me. All costs for giveaways are on me. All mailing expenses are on me. That's no different than any other cozy author, right? But in my other series (Manor House) where I own the copyright, I earn 64 cents per paperback sold, whereas I only earn 21 cents per White House Chef paperback sold. Tekno earns the remainder. That means that the cost of postage for sending out a single postcard costs me more than I can earn on the sale of a book. And that 34 cent expense doesn't include the cost of the postcard itself. That means operating at a loss.

* My agent at the time (a very nice woman and a good agent in other matters) wasn't able to negotiate much in terms of a better cut. My increase, in fact, was so minuscule that (because I now also have to pay her commission out of my royalties) I'm no better off than I was without her intervention.

* I did not get into writing to get rich. I got into writing because it's all I've ever wanted to do. I signed my contracts with Tekno knowing full well that I would be paid very, very little for my hard work. But that was okay with me. When I signed that first contract with Marty, I had a gut-level feeling that this series would be very good for my career. And it has been.

* Involving an agent in the Tekno situation actually made things a little bit worse for me. I take responsibility for that. It was my decision. As a rule, payments for books #1- 6 for my WHChef series come much later than do my payments for the Manor House series. (Berkley ALWAYS pays promptly) Payments and statements for Books #7, 8, and soon-to-be 9 come even later than that.

Remember how I said royalty checks are expected to arrive around October 1st? I received my Tekno checks for WHChef #1 - 6 in mid-November. I will receive nothing for book #8 (All the President's Menus) this year, and the payment for book #7 (Home of the Braised) -- because it needed to be routed through my former agent as well as through her former agency -- didn't show up until mid December. And even then, the royalty statement had been left out. Sigh.

*In my opinion, an author should not have to chase her royalties and statements.

So, sadly, the time has come for me to say good-bye to Ollie and the gang. As much as I love her and everyone in her life, the reality is that things have gotten to the point where it makes no sense for me, business-wise or sanity-wise, to continue.

The good news is that Tekno (recently acquired by another company, btw) can hire a new author to continue the series if they like. I have no idea if they plan to keep Ollie sleuthing, but if they do, someone else will be writing the books.

Aunt Agatha's

The last in the series, Foreign Eclairs, comes out January 5, 2016. Nine books is a good run, isn't it? I think I've ended the series in a way that's satisfactory and yet leaves the door open for possibilities. Let me know if you agree.

I truly hope you've enjoyed Ollie's adventures. I know I've loved every minute of writing them. I love Ollie, Gav, Bucky, Cyan, and even Peter Everett Sargent. They became my dear friends and I will miss them terribly. I hope when you read the final installment you look back on the series with fondness. It's been a heck of a journey for our intrepid chef. Maybe she'll appreciate some time off.

As for me, I'm still writing for Grace in the Manor House mysteries. The seventh in that series, Grace Sees Red, comes out in June. If you haven't met Grace yet, I hope you'll give her a try. But you'll probably want to start with the first book: Grace Under Pressure.

Thank you so very much for all your support.

Oh, one more thing:
My editor at Berkley really wanted the series to continue. Please don't write to Penguin Random House to complain. They've been wonderful and tried to work on my behalf to acquire the copyright from Tekno. But, all good things must come to an end.

How many times can the White House Chef save the world anyway? ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

DARK JUSTICE Story Bundle!

I am very lucky to have my (non-cozy) Chicago PI novel, PLAYING WITH MATCHES, included in this amazing story bundle. 

Take a look at these titles, take a look at these authors!

And for the next three weeks only you'll have the opportunity to download them all for one pretty reasonable price. 
I'll let Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Kris Nelscott) explain:

Curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
This bundle comes as close to crime fiction perfection as possible.
When I put the bundle together, I considered various authors and stories. I wanted books similar enough to attract readers (and to allow me to name the bundle), but different enough to provide a sample of the crime fiction genre. (Insiders call "mystery" fiction "crime" fiction because that word is much more accurate.) I also wanted a mix of long-established writers and up-and-comers.
I achieved all of those things and more. This bundle boasts one Grand Master, several award-winners, bestsellers who've hit lists like the New York Times and USA Today with multiple books, household names, and writers who've just entered the mystery field—sometimes with a bang.
We also have a lot of diversity here. Our investigators include an African American detective, a Canadian doctor of Asian extraction, a disabled stockbroker and a group of retired cold case detectives. Throw in a few amateur detectives, a disgraced ex-cop, a female bounty hunter, and the famous Matthew Scudder, who has appeared in film (most recently A Walk Among The Tombstones), and you'll encounter the full range of characters the mystery genre has to offer.
I've read and loved the work of each and every one of these writers. Some of them I've read since I started reading mystery and some I've read since before they ever had a book published. In one of my other incarnations, I'm an award-winning editor, so believe me when I tell you that if there were some kind of Kristine Kathryn Rusch Gold Seal of Approval, the books in this bundle would receive it.
For those of you who have never purchased a bundle from StoryBundle before, welcome! StoryBundle makes ordering and downloading these books spectacularly easy.
The initial titles in the Dark Justice Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
  • Cold Call by Dean Wesley Smith
  • And Then She Was Gone by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • An Eye For Murder by Libby Fischer Hellmann
  • Code Blues by Melissa Yi
  • A Fatal Twist of Lemon by Patrice Greenwood
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus these outstanding books:
  • Fatal Destiny by David DeLee
  • Playing With Matches by Julie Hyzy
  • A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott
  • The Night and the Music by Lawrence Block
  • The World Beneath by Rebecca Cantrell

Julie here again:
So there you have it! This fabulous collection of crime fiction will be gone before you know it. Don't miss out!

Here's the link to DARK JUSTICE.

PS: In case you were curious, I am still plugging away at the "purge-atory" piles here. Making headway, at least!

Monday, October 26, 2015

I'm in Purge-atory!

What a mess!
My husband has been complaining about the state of our carpeting for years and rightly so. The carpet in our house is 18 years old and some of it started to look worn ten years ago. We did get rid of the worst of it back in 2009 when we installed hardwood flooring in the living room and dining room, but our room? The upstairs hallway? Family Room? My writing cave? Yeah, they've suffered long enough. It's time.

I put this day off for as long as I could. Not because I don't like new and pretty things, but because I knew what an ordeal it would be to clear out the rooms -- especially this one, my writing cave. The installers can't be expected to move the several hundred (:::cough::: thousand) books that keep me company in here. Or my files and supplies. Or the piles of paper from the millions (only slight exaggeration there) of story ideas I constantly jot down and stuff into file folders.

Here's a glimpse at the pile (literal!) of pain ahead of me.

Even though the installers won't be here until tomorrow, my pain started this weekend. I'm achy from moving everything out. Now it's time to wade in and start sorting. My "purge-atory" has just begun.

How much do you want to bet that it will be at least another 18 years before we change carpeting again?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Resurrecting the blog part deux

My plan to return to blogging regularly didn't quite work out, did it? 
Thanks to a friend's comments (back in July - yikes!) I realized that folks online actually do check this space out from time to time and I really ought to either put up (a post) or shut up (take the blog down entirely).

So with big thanks to Dave (I say to you: "Hi!"), here goes:

Anderson's Bookshop

Foreign Eclairs, the 9th book in the White House Chef Mystery series, comes out January 5, 2016.

I'll have more news to share about Ollie in the coming months, but in the meantime, here's a little snippet about the book:

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has served plenty of meals to foreign dignitaries from around the world. But someone is ready to serve her an ice-cold dish of revenge...

Things are about to really heat up for Ollie. News of a bombing and attempted breakout at a federal prison reveals that the brother of a terrorist she helped defeat is back with a vengeance. And after she gets mugged on her way home from work, the Secret Service won’t leave her side, fearing she is now a target.
When a White House staff member is murdered, officials rush to action over a possible security breach. It may be time for Ollie to trade in her apron for a bullet-proof vest as she becomes part of a bold strategy to make sure this terrorist gets his just desserts...

Another fun update:
All the White House Chef mysteries to date and several of the Manor House Mysteries (Books 1 - 3) are available on audio!! Woo-hoo!!

And with these updates, I'm back! I hope to post more updates very soon!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Resurrecting my long-neglected blog

Hello lovely blog-readers! You may not remember me. I'm Julie, the owner of this blog. I've neglected this space for so long that I'm afraid everyone has forgotten it exists.

My goal today is to ignore all the crazy busy-ness going on in the real world to bring you up to date with book news.

Coming June 2nd - MANHATTAN MAYHEM

Best-selling suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark invites you on a tour of Manhattan’s most iconic neighborhoods in this anthology of all-new stories from the Mystery Writers of America. From the Flatiron District (Lee Child) and Greenwich Village (Jeffery Deaver) to Little Italy (T. Jefferson Parker) and Chinatown (S.J. Rozan), you’ll encounter crimes, mysteries, and riddles large and small. Illustrated with iconic photography of New York City and packaged in a handsome hardcover,Manhattan Mayhem is a delightful read for armchair detectives and armchair travelers alike!

And... my short story, "White Rabbit," is included in this gorgeous volume. I'm so excited. Hope you get a chance to read this amazing collection (and it really is amazing. But then again, with all those illustrious authors, how could it not be?) Woo-hoo!! 


Also in June:

The fabulous Chicago Tribune sponsored literary fest will be held June 6th and 7th

I'm on a panel on Sunday, June 7th at 1:00 and will be signing books at the Mystery Writers of America tent immediately afterward, until 4:00. Hope to see you there!

And...summer's coming soon and you know what that means:
A new Manor House (Grace) Mystery!

GRACE CRIES UNCLE comes out July 7th

When Grace’s estranged sister Liza shows up on her doorstep, the timing couldn’t be worse. Grace’s beloved boss and benefactor, Bennett Marshfield, has finally gotten her to agree to a DNA test to establish if he is, in fact, her uncle. If so, Grace would move from being the trusted curator and manager of Marshfield Manor to Bennett’s heir. And her duplicitous sister would be right behind her in the line of inheritance.

Liza is not the only mysterious visitor to arrive in town. A man claiming to be an FBI agent has shown up, and a swarm of avaricious antique collectors have descended on Emberstowne for a prestigious convention. When Bennett reveals he’s in mind to acquire a secret antique and the FBI agent turns up dead, the plot thickens. And Grace can’t help but wonder if Liza is at the center of it all…

I'll have a WHOLE lot more news to share in the coming weeks (book signing party, Alex St. James news, Midwest Writers Workshop, and more). Tune in again soon!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Story Bundle

If you haven't read my first Alex St. James mystery, DEADLY BLESSINGS, here's an awesome opportunity to download it along with other mystery titles and pay what you like (minimum $5). If you choose to pay $14, you'll unlock even more great stories.

Details here:

I hope you'll take a look!