Historical Homeownership

CA_House_13 Pat here:

My newly acquired "vintage" kitchen.

Since I seem to have spent the better part of my adult life hunting for houses and I’m wrapped around the process again, Jo’s recent blog at Minepast made me smile. (Not easy to do while wading through book-size stacks of real estate documents and arguing with insurance agents!)  She’s found a page that gives us a history of one of Mayfair’s more famous squares—Grosvenor

The famous characters we read about in our history books become human when we see them talking about their homes, the area where they live, the thieves who preyed on the wealthy—especially since Grosvenor was one of the last squares to add gas lights.

Reading through the little tidbits, we can watch Georgian urban development much as our suburbs develop today. In 1706, it’s little more than a cow pasture. By 1795, it’s surrounded by city and acclaimed as one of the most fashionable areas in London. By the 20th century, almost all the grand all houses had been destroyed, replaced by Grosvenor embassies and hotels—but still a very important urban center.

The Cato Conspiracy was designed to murder the leading statesmen of the time at a dinner in one of the homes on Grosvenor Square—rather like terrorists planning to attack the UN today had it not been for spies infiltrating the group. Some things never change—only the technology becomes more sophisticated.

The wealthy development even suffered an economic housing crash just as we’ve seen today—the builders built too quickly apparently, before the wealthy in St. James (on the left) were ready to pack up and move. St james Housing prices plummeted and several builders went bankrupt. Contractors are historically notorious risk takers!

They even developed a Homeowner’s Association of sorts when the park around which the square was built started to deteriorate. Of course, it took an Act of Parliament to accomplish it. I wonder if that wasn’t the start of HOAs everywhere?

My fascination with houses spills over into my books, as I’ve pointed out before. My characters tend to remodel, renovate, and redecorate frequently. I guess that’s called writing what I know! Anyway, Merely Magic, MerelyMagic-SH-2 the first of my Magic series is being reissued this month in trade paper from Sourcebooks. You should see what I do to damp, dark Northumberland castles!

Oh, and if you haven’t heard about the romance trading card craze, check out http://romancetradingcards.com/ . I’ve added my Evil Genius e-book but haven’t had time to do more yet. Jeannie Lin, one of our previous guests, and some of her friends started this Eg127x190 devilishly clever little promo device. And yes, EG contains another house as a character—a magnificent Washington DC mansion with a spook in the attic—the spy kind, not the ghost.

What other books can you remember using houses as characters?

Author Book Publishing

Girlreading Pat here:

While Amazon and Macmillan and Apple publicly tear at each other throats, and Google and Authors’ Guild wrestle over the goldmine of literary cyberspace, authors are quietly setting up bookstores on the sidelines, building the publishing industry of tomorrow.

Yes, readers can already find author-published e-books on superstore websites like Fictionwise and Amazon, the big forums encouraging authors to venture into e-publication.  Except authors pay a high premium at these sites for the simple privilege of placing a title there, often 70% of sales.

Others of us have decided there is no reason we should pay 70% of our hard-earned money to do what we can do ourselves. Equally, there is no reason for readers to have to pay the inflated price for that 70% cut. So we are gathering together to experiment with author co-ops like bookviewcafe.com, or distribution centers like AwritersWork.com.  Essentially, what we’re doing is eliminating the middle man. We’re taking titles that have already been edited, revised, and proofed, sold in paper, then returned to us, and we’re reformatting and selling them as e-books for lower prices than the big guys offer.

What we’re learning is that it’s not as cheap to sell e-books as we’d hoped, but we can still make more money doing it ourselves while keeping prices substantially lower.  NewRomantic_Couple_600x800 (image to right is my attempt at creating a cover for an anthology of historical novellas.)

Take a look at the two sites I mentioned. Bookviewcafe.com is mainly fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal. Today is the grand opening of Awriterswork.com, and for the moment, they’re romance-oriented, but the diversity for a start-up is promising.  Drop by and tell them hi and welcome them to cyberspace!

The variety of authors on these sites is phenomenal, and the prices are below anything Amazon is currently offering on comparable quality. And much of the material is not available elsewhere—pretty good for a cutting edge frontier store!

BVC is already publishing some original fiction. AWW has some original nonfiction, as well as newly released backlists, plus anthologies of novellas and short stories that have never appeared in the same editions before. (As much as we wanted to put up each story for 99 cents, we learned it cost as much to put up a short story as a full book, so it was cheaper to collect the stories.) If you find a favorite author on any of these sites, you only have to sign up for a newsletter to learn of their next release. Can you Merely_magic130x200 envision a future where you may never have to go to a bookstore again? (image left is a combined attempt by several authors at creating new cover art for Merely Magic)

I know the print model is still out there. Print-On-Demand books are already on the way for BVC and may be in AWW's future. But as e-readers and netbooks and iPads become prevalent, more and more books will find their way into the hands of readers via technology. We’re hoping readers will discover it’s cheaper to buy direct from the source, but right now, it’s a brave new world out there, and we don’t know what will happen.

Obviously, I’m fascinated with change and not everyone is. But if you can’t buy some of these books anywhere else, why not take a look around?  Now’s the time for readers to speak up and steer the future toward the next generation of publishing, so what directions would you like to see us try?