Ancient Relics, Ancient Secrets in THE FIFTH KINGDOM

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I love to travel and it was a series of trips to Mexico that inspired not only my upcoming romantic suspense release, THE FIFTH KINGDOM, but also my earlier paranormal novella, AZTEC GOLD.

I blogged a little about those trips and an inspiring and frightening trip up a Mexican pyramid. You can read a little more about that by clicking here.

The entire time I was walking around the pyramids and down the “Avenue of the Dead” my mind was whirling with ideas. Too many ideas to fit into just one book!

While the pyramid inspired AZTEC GOLD, meeting a young merchant who was selling an assortment of obsidian objects helped to inspire THE FIFTH KINGDOM. You see, somehow I got started in collecting frogs from all my travels and this young man had a frog made of gold obsidian.

Caridad's FrogI just loved the look of it and while we were chatting, the young man explained about how obsidian, especially pure black obsidian, was actually quite rare to the Aztecs and that’s the reason that many of their sacrificial knives and the like, were made from this precious substance. Obsidian was more prized than gold in fact.

That got me thinking about a relic made with obsidian and also, what kinds of powers such a relic might have!

In THE FIFTH KINGDOM, the ancient relic is discovered in what could be Montezuma’s tomb. Montezuma was not the last of the Aztec rulers, but probably one of the best known. The relic in my novel is based on the Aztec Sun Stone sitting in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The original sun stone is about 12 feet in diameter and weighs about 24 metric tons. You can read more about the original here.

The relic in the book is similar in terms of its look, but it is small enough to hold in your hands and made of obsidian (inspired by my frog) and silver on stone. But the obsidian and silver relic is very different from the original in one important way: It has mystical powers which are released once it comes in contact with something very sacred: Blood.

Now I won’t spill about whose blood awakens the energy in the relic or what powers are revealed it because I don’t want to spoil the story for you. Let’s just say that it’s very unexpected. Very. Those of you who have read the book, I ask that you please not spill that really big surprise!

For the Aztecs, the original sun stone was not only a calendar or sorts, but also a way to tell the history of the Aztec people. It tells the story of the four kingdoms of their past history and hints at what might end their fifth kingdom. The fact that some believe we are now living in that FIFTH KINGDOM is what inspired the title of the book.

I’ll leave you with the Aztec Sun Stone and it’s supposed abilities to predict the end of THE FIFTH KINGDOM and also, the video premiere for the novel.

For now I’ll leave you with a question: Do you believe relics and other artifacts can possess unique powers?

For more information on THE FIFTH KINGDOM, please click here.

Caridad Pineiro is the NY Times bestselling author of over twenty-six paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels and novellas. Look for THE FIFTH KINGDOM, a romantic suspense from Carina Press in July 2011 and THE LOST, the first book in the new SIN HUNTERS paranormal romance series in August 2011. Caridad has also done the foreword for OBSESSED: EROTIC ROMANCE FOR WOMEN edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel which will be available in August 2011. Her popular THE CALLING vampire series returns in 2012, but vampire lovers will enjoy A VAMPIRE FOR CHRISTMAS (October 2011) which includes Caridad’s novella, WHEN HERALD ANGELS SING. For more information on Caridad, please visit www.caridad.com, follow @CaridadPineiro on Twitter, “Like” Caridad at her Facebook Fan Page or friend her at Goodreads.

Congratulations, Shannon Stacey!

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We at Carina Press are thrilled to congratulate Shannon Stacey on her very first appearance on the New York Times Bestseller List. Shannon moved onto the list at #33, with her newest contemporary romance release, Yours to Keep.

In addition, Yours to Keep has been on the Barnes and Noble bestselling Nookbooks list within the top ten since it’s release in early June, going as high as #3. Yours to Keep has been keeping company with such releases as Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich and A Dance with Dragons by George. R. R. Martin.

We’re so proud of Shannon’s hard work and dedication to her profession over the past decade, which have helped her grow her career to this point. We’re also extremely proud to have a Carina Press book place on this list only one year after we began publishing books.

And as a side note, and in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I’ll tell you that I was totally thrilled to call Shannon and give her the news last week–and when I called, I warned her I might not get through telling her without crying. And I didn’t. In fact, I was weepy on her behalf for hours after our call. We’ve been working together for many, many years, and many, many books, and I’ve watched her incredible growth as an author. I’ve loved her books since the start, and it’s a tremendously amazing part of my job to be able to say that I love them even more with every book.

Congratulations, Shannon! (now get back to work, you have deadlines to meet!)

The holiday steampunk collection announced!

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I was reminded that I didn’t announce the authors and their novellas that were selected to be in our 2011 steampunk holiday collection, releasing December 2011. The call for submission, which went out this spring, was the only such themed call we’ve done to date. It’s been asked if we plan to do more, and right now the answer is probably not more than once a year. For now, we’ll keep the majority of the collections/anthologies we do by-invitation-only, with the possible exception of one a year.

The steampunk holiday call was highly successful for us. Not only did we acquire four novellas for the holiday collection, but we also acquired five others, for release in 2012, and sent out revise and resubmits for an additional three! The calibre of the submissions, as you might tell from just those numbers, was outstanding and incredible. Thank you to everyone who submitted!

With that said, I offer my congratulations to these for authors, who will appear in the 2011 steampunk holiday collection, and will have their novellas release both separately and as a bundle. We welcome two new-to-Carina authors, and two returning Carina authors.

Far From Broken by J.K. Coi

Untitled steampunk novella (set in Australia!) by Jenny Schwartz

Untitled steampunk novella by Stacy Gail

This Winter Heart by PG Forte

As a point of interest, our other two holiday collections, which were by-invitation-only will include:

Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell, Harper Fox and Ava March in a collection of m/m romance tales.

Jaci Burton, Alison Kent, HelenKay Dimon and Shannon Stacey in a contemporary romance collection.

You can purchase all three of these collections, or the individual novellas, on December 5, 2011!

Photo Friday: Write for Carina, go to the Harlequin Party!

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Last week was RWA 2011 in New York City (was it just last week? It already feels like a lifetime ago!) So of course photo Friday has to be a pic from RWA. To see more pictures of Carina Press authors and Harlequin fun, visit the Carina Press Flickr group. As of this morning, there are over 100 photos added, and more coming every day!

This is a picture of the big screen at the Harlequin party, taken by Carina Press author Shelli Stevens. As you go in, you can get your picture taken (more than once!) and it gets flashed on these screens, which are on either side of the dance floor. It’s a lot of fun. And to all of you who asked, yes, if you write for Carina, you get an invite to the Harlequin party. Even if you’ve written just a novella ;)

Pictured here from left to right: Spice Briefs author Crystal Jordan, and Carina Press authors Shelli Stevens and Karen Erickson. Aren’t they pretty?

(This could be you next year in Anaheim, start writing and get those books submitted to Carina for your invite to the Harlequin party. Heh.)

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Male/Male and Me

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Tara Stevensby Tara Stevens, Carina Press acquisitions team

I’ve always thought of myself as a one-man woman. Boy, was I wrong! Well, at least when it comes to my reading tastes.  If you had asked me a year ago, I’d have said that the male/male niche just wasn’t my cup of coffee or type of thing. I certainly wouldn’t have had a clue what “vanilla gay sex” meant.

That all changed last September when I volunteered to read a manuscript called Muffled Drum for the Carina Press acquisitions team. I confess I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a compelling and engrossing historical romance that just happened to feature two heroes in the starring roles.

Two hot men in uniform, transporting you to a different time – what’s not to love?

Since then I’ve become a m/m go-to girl of sorts, and have read not only gay historical romance with Gothic and paranormal elements, but contemporary gay fiction with no trace of romance at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novella or a full-length novel, either – if it’s m/m, I snap it up!

Now that I know what all the fuss is about, I have to admit that my discovery makes me feel more adventurous as a reader. I’m not going to get all Freudian on you and try to explain why an increasing number of women are devouring stories about two men getting it on. I will tell you the thing I like best about m/m books: the characters are not automatically lumped into the traditional male/female roles dictated by gender. The heroes start off on more equal footing, and sometimes being gay isn’t even a major issue or big deal – just an accepted reality.

I’m lucky to live in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for quite some time. We also just finished up another fabulous Pride Week here in Toronto. Homosexuality doesn’t equal shame or silence or stigma. For me, reading stories featuring two men is my little way of understanding and celebrating our diverse sexual and gender identities.

Of course, the smokin’-hot sex doesn’t hurt. :) Having said that, gay “stroke” books with just a bunch of sex scenes strung together are not for me. It can’t be all about the nookie or feel like porn with a superficial plot line. There has to be heart and heat. The story and voice of the manuscript are more important than the sex contained within it.

As a relatively new m/m disciple, I’m happy to see that the market for these books doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, if the number of submissions and recommended books we see on the acquisitions team are any indication.

My favourite m/m books are those with substance, believable conflict and strong character development. Balancing the romantic/emotional aspects of the relationship with the sexual tension makes for a more well-rounded story.

But enough about me – what intrigues you most about m/m books? Have you tried them yet?

Curious? Explore Harlequin’s  “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”


Hunting Kat on Dysnomia Station

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The majority of Hunting Kat takes place on Dysnomia Station, a space station built into the single moon orbiting the dwarf planet Eris.

Why choose Dysnomia?

Stepping back in the timeline of Hunting Kat to Kat’s history, she came from Triton Moon Base. Triton is the largest moon orbiting Neptune. I wanted to choose another space station for Kat’s life beyond the events of Triton, a place farther from the home planet Earth and one with greater opportunities, or scope for mayhem. Take your pick.

In my research, I learned a bit of the process for naming Dysnomia. From a mythology standpoint, Dysnomia is the daughter of Eris, fitting the historical pattern of naming moons afer minor deities associated with the major god after which the planet has been named. Both Dysnomia and Eris represent aspects of chaos. This resonated with me on a deeper level because I wanted Kat to shake things up a bit when she arrived on station.

But that’s not all, the man who discovered the moon seems to have been a fan of Xena:Warrior Princess and liked that “Dysnomia” could be translated to “lawlessness”. This fun fact tickled me to no end.

Dysnomia was interesting to me. I wanted my setting for Hunting Kat to be interesting on many levels, even if the depth might not be a direct part of the story. From the mythology to the meaning of the name to the fun facts revolving around the moon, it was perfect.

So I hope you’ll visit Dysnomia Station with Kat and pull up a stool at Dissention Bar. Have a scotch.

Hunting Kat is available now at Carina Press.

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Influences can come from many sources

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Don't be fooled. a VERY old photo.

My very first Carina Press novel: MUFFLED DRUM came out on the 4th July 2011 and I’m still reeling at the beautiful cover. (see the end of the post, if you can’t wait!)

What’s “Muffled Drum” about? The Austro-Prussian War. More correctly called the the Austro-Prussian-Italian war. It lasted a whole seven weeks in the summer of 1866 and I bet most of you have never heard of it.

Why then would an author choose to write about a small war which few people remember?

Well, at the risk of sounding entirely vacuous. It’s this:
jacket

Yes, I have a button, a military button fetish. My mother did papers on this war when she was in her teacher’s training, and probably something rubbed off on me. But add my love of horses to the love of buttons of braided gold and silver frogging, then I was a real sucker for military uniforms. Who doesn’t love the scenes in those lovely costume dramas where the officers are all dressed up to the nines? [gratuitous Sean Bean Picture Here]

vronsky

or soldiers, sweating and grimy, working their.. canons?

sharpe

*fans self*

Oh dear. I’ll stop now. Too many Beans can be overheating.

So I always knew I wanted to do something with uniforms and the story fairly fell from the sky one day as I was driving home from Dad’s. (I get a lot of plots when driving, there is a medical explanation why this happens, which I won’t bore you with.) As it turned out, I don’t concentrate hugely on the war itself other than one battle, but there’s enough buttons and brass and frogging and horses and shakos to keep a girl like me hoping that Vronsky will eventually turn up and whisk me off on his horse. (and no, that’s not a euphemism.)

Muffled DrumJoking aside, though. It was buttons that fuelled this story. Men in tight cavalry trousers (so tight that they had fastenings up the inside of each leg seam to facilitate removal in an emergency) and tight frogged jackets. But it was probably all the revising that my mother did on the war that made me plump for such a (relatively) small war.

It’s odd, that–although she’s been dead now for 4½ years–my mother is still such an influence on my writing. Despite being 76 when she died, she embraced the subject of my writing, and was my biggest encourager and helpmeet. I could talk to her about homosexual history and she’d read the same text books and we’d discuss whether my characters were staying in character for the time–and that’s always been important for me. I was just pleased that my first book “Standish” went into print a few months before she died. We always used to joke about one day me writing gay historicals for Harlequin/Mills and Boon–I hope she knows that that joke came true!

My Dad, too–he’s still around–is also a big influence. He does have Alzheimer’s and he’s not able to help much but he listens to me and that helps a lot. And memory is one of the themes of Muffled Drum. Memory loss and how that can affect the lives around the victim of it.

I’m very proud of my parents, and although I know that it’s buttons that started this story, it’s my parents who helped shape it.

Who r what are your influences? Have you ever had something as trivial as a button spark a story? Do tell!

Thanks for listening!

Erastes

——

Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives on the Norfolk Broads in England. She’s been writing 2003 and her second novel “Transgressions” reached the finals of the Lambda Literary Awards for gay romance. Her next Carina novella (yet to be named)  is a paranormal set in 19th century Florence and is out Spring 2012. Find out more about her and her novels at her website: www.erastes.com

A Conversation with Vic Andrews

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Vic Andrews here. I’m the hero in a romantic suspense book called MAN LAW. Personally, I think Adrienne was smoking crack when she decided to make me the hero of a romance novel. I mean, God help you women because what I know about dealing with the female persuasion would fit into a .22 caliber bullet casing.

Adrienne: What are you doing?  This is my interview. You need to wait until I ask a question.

Vic: You were slow on the uptake. I jumped in.

Adrienne:  You can’t just take over the interview.

Vic: Who says?

Adrienne (sighing): Never mind.  Tell everyone about your Man Laws. And no swearing. This is live.

Vic: No swearing? That’s a bleeping challenge.

Adrienne: No swearing.  I just bleeped you.

Vic (laughing): I can’t promise anything. You know better.

Adrienne: Believe me. I know. Now, the Man Laws? Please?

Vic: I don’t know why women make such a big deal about Man Laws. Don’t we all have some personal code we live by? The Man Laws are my personal code. They’re basically the only rules I follow.

Adrienne: Hang on, fella. As I recall, in the book you break a lot of your Man Laws.

Vic: That wasn’t my fault.

Adrienne: Really? The one about never messing with your best friend’s sister?  That wasn’t your fault?

Vic: First of all, Gina helped with that. There’s gotta be a sister to help break that law. And what a sister she is. Who could blame me? Second, I didn’t break that sucker, I bleeping obliterated it.  Hey now, you censored me again?

Adrienne: I did. I told you no swearing.  Anyway, I’ll give you that Gina helped break that law.

Vic: Damn straight. She takes fifty percent of the blame. Gina likes me.  Must be something with the name because your editor likes me too.

Adrienne: Gina Bernal? How do you know she likes you?

Vic: I read your revision letter.

Adrienne: You read my emails?

Vic: Sure.

Adrienne : You can’t do that. It’s personal. Boundaries!

Vic: Please. What do I care about boundaries? Besides, I was looking for something and found the letter. Your editor says she can’t get enough of me.  I’m telling ya, it’s the name Gina.  All women named Gina, come find me, I must have something you ladies need.

Adrienne: O-kay then, I’m going to move beyond the fact that you invaded my privacy, but what the heck were you looking for in my emails? By the way, Gina Bernal didn’t say she couldn’t get enough of you, she said she couldn’t get enough of your voice.  Right now, I’ve had about enough of your voice.

Vic: Blah, blah. Kill me now. I was trying to find out why you shortened that scene with my aunt. I liked that scene.

Adrienne:  That was my editor’s suggestion. I guess she had enough of you that time.

Vic: So harsh, darlin’. Oh, hey, here’s my girl now. We started without you.

Gina (heroine): I see I got here just in time because he’s starting with the darlin’ nonsense. Adrienne, I cannot believe you are letting him do this. You know he’s going to say something that will infuriate someone.

Adrienne: Hi, Gina. You’re too late, he already infuriated me by reading my emails.

Gina (snorting): He’s lovable, but he’s an idiot.

Vic: I also found your other revision letters.  I notice your editor didn’t say anything about not getting enough of the other mopes in this series. I can’t wait to tell them that.  Especially Monk, the self-proclaimed alpha dog. Those boys got nothing on me.

Adrienne (gasping): You obtained those emails by invading my privacy.

Vic: What’s your point? It’s not like I hacked into your computer, although, you know I can make that happen if I have to.

Adrienne: No hacking. Just stop reading my mail.

Vic: But information is king. Plus, I didn’t get caught, which is another Man Law. Never get caught.

Adrienne: You broke that one in the book, too.

Vic (grunting): Again, it wasn’t my fault. I did everything I was supposed to and someone sold my bleep out.

Gina: You just swore. She bleeped you.

Vic: Eh, whatever. I hate that bleeping censorship.

Adrienne: You need to control that potty mouth of yours.

Gina: Good luck with that.

Adrienne: Gina, what’s your favorite Man Law.

Gina : I don’t have a favorite.  I think they’re all dumb. Especially the one about a man not using another man’s grill.

Vic: It’s true. If it’s my grill, I’m in charge. Just like the radio when I’m driving.

Gina (laughing): He’s such an idiot.

Adrienne: Does he ever let you drive?

Gina: You’re kidding, right?

Adrienne: Sorry. Silly question.

Vic: Damn straight.

Adrienne: Gina, what do you want people to know about Vic?

Gina: Oh, I could have fun with this one.

Vic (laughing): Easy now.

Gina: Aside from the goofy Man Laws, I think he’s funny. And, have you seen the picture of him on the book’s cover? Whew! On the serious side, he’s extremely loyal and will do whatever necessary to protect his loved ones. Mess with someone he cares about and he will take you down.

Adrienne: Vic, do you agree with Gina’s assessment?

Vic: All but the part about Man Laws being goofy.

Adrienne: Vic, what do you want people to know about Gina?

Vic: Well, she hates when I call her darlin’. Something about me forgetting her name. As if I’d do that.  At least not if I didn’t want my nuts handed to me. Really, she’s unforgettable in every way. She’s got a great bleep. Stop censoring me!

Adrienne: Too bad. I warned you.

Vic: Anyway, the really important thing is she’s an amazing mother. She’s tough, but understanding and she is always willing to give people another try.

Adrienne: Gina, would you agree?

Gina: I guess. I absolutely think it’s important for the people I love to know I might be upset with them, but I’ll always love them and try to see their side.

Adrienne: You guys are the best. Thank you for letting me interview you.

Gina: Sure. And Vic only got bleeped a few times. Excellent progress for him.

Vic: No bleeping kidding. And readers, remember what I said, any Gina’s out there, come find me. I’ll put a smile on your face. If you’re name isn’t Gina, well, I could probably still put a smile on your face.

Gina (laughing): You are such an idiot!

Adrienne: That’s it. He’s done.

Vic: One more thing—

Adrienne: No. You’re done.

Vic: Wait, this is serious. I want to know if anyone out there has their own set of Man Laws.

Adrienne: Oh, well, that’s okay then.

Readers, please share your own Man (or Woman) Laws. Vic would love to know!  And for added fun, if you leave a comment I will enter your name in a drawing for either a copy of Man Law, a bullet keychain or a set of bullet earrings.

Adrienne’s Bio: Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and women’s fiction.  She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her work-a-holic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaton Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog. Adrienne’s debut romantic suspense, Man Law, will be released by Carina Press on July 4, 2011. Her second book, A Just Deception, will be available from Carina Press on September 5, 2011. For more information please visit http://www.adriennegiordano.com/.  Adrienne can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Man Law available at:

Carina Press

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

It’s not just a place

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The wind pushed and pulled at him like a hundred hands. It whipped at him, stinging through his clothes. His eyes watered as he neared the surface, stung by the bright glow of the sun reflecting off the ice. Despite the battles he had fought, and the monsters he had fled, he had never experienced anything so hostile. He went to the deepest places in his mind, drawing on every bit of strength he could find, using it to work past the winds and grasp the rope at the top of the wall.

A Line in the Ice by Jamie Craig
When we set out to write A Line in the Ice, we knew from the start it was set in Antarctica. The idea germinated from a dream Pepper had, and as we discussed it, the more vivid and vital the setting became. It wasn’t just that we were both fascinated by the possibilities it presented to our hero and heroine. We loved the fact that we could turn it into a character in its own right, a presence felt throughout the book, no matter where the action was taking place.

Our love for using setting as a character goes back a long way. Pepper is a longtime fan of westerns and Stephen King, both notorious for doing the exact same thing. Vivien grew up with science fiction and fantasy, where world-building is often crucial to sucking the reader into the story. When the setting is as real as the characters, it’s that much easier to immerse yourself into a strange new world and get lost laughing, fighting, and loving with your hero and heroine.

Our determination to utilize Antarctica as a setting was reinforced when we saw the BBC Top Gear: Polar Special episode. In it, hosts Clarkson, May, and Hammond were challenged to be the first people to drive a motor vehicle to the Magnetic North Pole. Okay, it’s not actually Antarctica, but it’s still a dangerous, ice-covered end of the world, and the stark beauty and vicious hazards that the show presented excited us anyway.

What would it be like to be stuck in such an environment? How would you survive? What if you weren’t expected to do much surviving at all? What if your worst enemy wasn’t even the cold and unforgiving terrain? All these were questions that drove us forward as we hashed out the story.

Turning Antarctica into a character in its own right ended up dictating how the other characters evolved. We knew the people who could battle and win against such odds had to be tough. We also knew we wanted our heroine to be pretty kick-ass. Charlie Weller is an Air Force pilot assigned to what is known as the Spook Squad, a team of six who are trained to live in such extreme conditions as well as fight in them. One of two women assigned to guard the rift, she’s an expert at both hand-to-hand and arms fighting as well as a superb pilot. If she goes down, it’s when she’s swinging.

Because Charlie and the others were so tough, we needed to find some balance. Lysander Davies is just as capable physically as any of the soldiers he finds, but he’s more open emotionally, with a deep, fervent passion for the classical literature he was raised on. He quotes Shakespeare and considers honor as important as honesty. That doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own. Oh, that’s definitely not true. But he brings a different side to these soldiers with a mission, one that puts a human face on the war they’re trying desperately not to lose.

Would it be the same book if it wasn’t set in Antarctica? Absolutely not. Because it’s not just a place.

It’s a presence.

Think about your favorite stories. What have been some of the settings you absolutely can’t forget? The places that were as full of life as the characters? Is it Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland? Ilona Andrews’s Atlanta? Share your favorites so others can fall in love with them, too!

———————————

Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza have been writing and publishing together as Jamie Craig since 2006. You can find them on Twitter and Facebook.

A Line in the Ice is available now from Carina Press.

Photo Friday: Scheduling

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As advanced as technology is, and as modern as we like to think of ourselves, there’s one thing that we still like to do in a pretty basic, analog way: scheduling. Because we have such a variety of lengths, genres and authors. And because we also have to be aware of how the editors’ books are lining up, we’ve found that it’s easiest for the team to gather in a room with index cards, on which we’ve written the book, author, genre, word count and editor and them sort them into weeks this way.

It might seem unsophisticated, but it allows us to talk it out, get a visual idea of the calendar, and move things around as we brainstorm marketing ideas, editiorial concerns and look at how the schedule is balancing. It totally works for us!