Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to self-publishing...

Two interesting things came up this week since my mini rant that I thought I would share. Turns out there was a sampling done (very small) among 1007 self-published authors. I don’t’ know if any of these authors had been traditionally published previously.

Some were earning more than $100,000 per year, but the average was around $10,000 a year with less than 10% of the authors earning 75% of the total revenue. And half of all authors earned less than $500 in a year.

I thought this was a perfect mini picture of what reality looks like. It shows there are definitely going to be top earners, but most are going to be lower earners.

Guess what – that’s very true of traditional publishing too. Some are going to be Nora Roberts. And some are going to be… well me.

And then I read Sarah Mayberry’s blog regarding her self-publishing effort Her Best Worst Mistake (which if you enjoy her books or category novels in general you’re going to LOVE this.) This was a perfect example of how a combination of traditional publishing and self-publishing can work for you. She had a project that didn’t really work for Harlequin and was a nice compliment to her category career. Harlequin gave her permission to use the characters previously printed in a Blaze book and because she’s an established category author with a great reputation for writing quality books she’s probably going to make out really well with this title.

But she makes the point that the one thing that was missing from this project was Wanda Ottewell. For those who don’t know Wanda, she’s Molly’s and Sarah’s and my editor with Harlequin. I think we would all raise our hands and say she’s amazing and has made us all better writers. And to Sarah’s credit, she has obviously learned enough from Wanda over the years to know what she’s doing. Her book was awesome. But still there is that risk.

And I thought that is it. That’s the choice we get to make. Sarah made a great point about not standing on either sideline and wagging our fingers at one another. And I thought right – I don’t want to be on the sideline either. I’m a traditionally published and self published author. Now I know which I prefer and what I think works for me, but the great part of this new shift in the business is that we have options.

What’s important is that we recognize the pros and cons of each option.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I love it when Shatner shows up

We're watching the season premiere of Rookie Blue. I sort of constantly want to smack Andy and Sam because they can't follow the rules for more than like two seconds. Then all the sudden, William Shatner stumbles out of a car and the whole show just got better.

Say what you will. He can be melodramatic. Still I just love him. Maybe it's my memories of how goldenly beautiful he was back in the Stark Trek days. Maybe it's remembering him calling people maggots when he was TJ Hooker. I even liked it when he kept saying his character's name on Boston Legal. Of course, let's not forget his turn as my uncle on Sh*t My Dad Says. He just makes me happy.

So does Patricia Clarkson, for that matter. She's another one. She makes everything she's in terrific.

Do you have anyone like that? An actor or actress that makes you tune in?

Monday, May 28, 2012

I loved Battleship and I'm not afraid to admit it

I did, I loved that movie. There is a good possibility that the two beers I had before hand were what made it so special, in which case I can only urge you to have two beers and then go see a really fun movie.

I think Peter Berg must be a nice guy. All the stuff he does, seems to have such a warm beating heart to it. He takes the time to show the small moments that create not just character, but special character. This is a total action movie, no real surprises, but he gives us little moments with the characters that are special. Different. The winks and nods to the game Battleship were really clever. The bombs, the fact that for a part of the movie the two opposing forces were fighting each other blind - really clever.

Maybe it's my love of Taylor Kitsch that has blinded me to possible flaws in this total popcorn, summer, special effects driven blockbuster. It's possible. I do love him and this movie could have been called Tim Riggins Gets a Haircut and Saves The Planet. Honestly, Kitsch's character even drives the same freaking truck as Riggins. Not joking. And there are some other nods to FNL. All fun, for the four of us in the audience that had actually seen that show.

As a side note did anyone watch Simpson's last night? Lisa wants to be a YA writer but can't actually sit down to do the work so she does all the procrastinating that all of us do, including watching all the season's of FNL. Very funny. A good wink at the YA world.

Anyway - there are worse ways to spend some time. Have two beers and go watch Rigs save the world.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mandy Patinkin is breaking my heart

I got my hands on Homeland and watched the entire series in less than two weeks, because it is amazing. It's tense and the characters are amazing and complex and the plot twists are awesome and Claire Danes plays possibly the most interesting, driven and screwed up woman on TV right now and she's totally believable.

But hands down my favourite part of the show, (and Damian Lewis is on it, so this is saying a lot) is Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin. I love that on a show with so much tension, he is so calm, almost understated, a pretty wonderful foil to the Claire Danes character.

He is soft spoken, so when he does yell it makes more of an impact, he is a voice of reason and somewhat of a power player in Washington and during the course of the first season, his life sort of falls apart. Sorry(Spoilers ahead), stop reading here if you don't want to know, but in a show with lots of twists, this is one of the minor ones.

His wife of 25 years leaves him. It's quiet, no yelling, no hysterics, just the extreme sadness of two adults. She wants a husband who can be with her, is interested in what she loves and he wants a wife who is there for him when he needs her, but their needs do not line up. He loves her, because when she is in his life, he isn't lonely, but she is often lonely, because his job takes up so much of his life, which is shown perfectly in the first episode when he goes to pick her up from the airport and he gets called away and he has to take a cab home.

In a show where a lot of plot is a little over the top, life and death, this subplot, in it's understated and quiet way, was the perfect counterpoint. Saul, while being the backbone for everyone around him, sees his own life falling apart and no one really notices. Especially the main character who is caught up in the drama in her own life and job, and yet the relationship between Saul and Claire Danes doesn't change because she is not his backbone.

It's a fascinating relationship, and one of the many things the show does really well. Anyone else watched it? (Maureen has, and is the reason I watched it)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Defense of Harlequin...

So I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t post last week on the heels of Maureen’s post about Owning your own Decisions. (Darn day job!) But I have to say I was startled by the Peterson blog. Yes, I think it’s great she wanted to share her numbers, but I feel that new authors reading that post might not have all the facts and without them could be making the wrong decision to go with self-publishing vs being published through a traditional publisher.

Now, I don’t know this author and don’t know her work. I think it’s great she was able to sell through her advance on all her HQ books the first time out and was actually earning out at such high numbers. Truth – I’ve never earned out more than 20K on an HQ book.

But I would contend that the only way she is going to make any money in the self-publishing world is if she takes the readers and fans she’s cultivated through traditional publishing with her. And in my opinion it’s totally uncool to have the advantage of writing for HQ and building a following from those books, to then turn around and call them a crummy company because of contract rates she agreed to. Sorry.

Harlequin is a business. Its purpose is to make a profit. It offers writers contracts which we choose to sign or not. My agreement with them - I write a good book on time. Their agreement with me - they content edit it, copy edit it, design cover art, brand it with the HQ label and put it in stores and make it digitally available so people will buy it.

If a writer thinks she can make more self-publishing go for it. But let’s look at the facts. I don’t know the actual numbers (I’m sure it’s out there somewhere) but I have to believe the mass majority of previously unpublished ‘self-publishers’ will make SIGNIFICANTLY less than what they could earn with HQ. I know RWA did a study to show how significantly less “digital only publishers” ultimately paid out rather than traditional publishers.

I know this sounds harsh - but I think Konrath is selling some kool aid folks.

I spent 6 months writing a book, months beyond that editing a book. I had beta readers (at no cost to me – but cost in time to them – thanks DWT). I spent $400 plus dollars on a copy editor. $150 dollars on an ad at Goodreads. I blogged. I tweeted. My agency spent ad dollars at Smart Bitches and sent my book to Netgalley for reviews.

Ask me how much money I’ve made in the near 6 months since its release.

I’m a traditionally published author. I’ve written fourteen books for Harlequin. I’ve won an RT award and have been a Top Pick twice. Ask me again how many people rushed out to buy my self-published book? A book I priced (I thought fairly) at $4.99 given that it was 90 thousand plus words. Which is now on sale for $3.99.

Okay I’ll tell you. In 6 months I’ve sold less than 75 books. I’m just about to crack over $125 dollars with my next month’s sales. Let me say that again $125 dollars!

Now the traditional publishing critics I’m sure will abound. Maybe I wrote a book no one wants to read. Maybe it’s the cover. Maybe I didn’t do enough publicizing. I recognize all those things.

But here is the kicker do YOU want to do those things? Do YOU want to spend every 30 minutes tweeting and promoting when you could be writing? Do YOU want to constantly be giving away FREE material in an attempt to attract readers to your PAID material? Do you want to compromise your craft by rushing feverishly to produce content in order to build momentum and attract enough readers that will finally make your self-publishing efforts worth it?

Last time I checked Harlequin never asked me to write anything for free.

When I read the comments on that post – I was amazed at the numbers I was seeing. People talking about hundreds of thousands of copies sold. And maybe it’s true, but if you’re selling those kinds of numbers it’s because either a) you have some built in platform/fan base already b) you’re doing absolutely everything you can to promote/push your books including writing A LOT for free c) you’re focusing on erotica which is still the best money maker in ebooks. Or d) you’re damn lucky – which I know happens.

If you’re not one of those things – if you are a newbie – then you have to ask yourself is it worth taking 6% 15,000-20,000 sold or 70% digital only of 100 books sold?

What’s misleading I think is for an HQ author who is consistently selling 15,000 copies per book, who has been released consistently maybe two or three times a year, who then decides to migrate to self-publishing - to say how much more money they are going to make self-publishing. Obviously their numbers are going to be better! They have a following. 70% of that following is better than 6% of that following. And truthfully if you’re willing to take on the risk, be your own editor, do your own cover art and your own promotion then you deserve 70% of that money. But to suggest that Harlequin or any other publishing company is out to rob, cheat or give you a bad deal is just not accurate. They gave you a great deal. They gave you a leg up in the self-publishing world.

Newbies beware! Is Harlequin perfect – hell no. Is any option perfect - hell no. But when someone starts throwing around numbers like all anyone has to do is put a book up on Amazon and start raking in the dollars – I’m here to tell you – that just isn’t true.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recent YA Fiction is Not Written for Kids

A mutual friend of the Toronto DWT contingent recently read a short story that I recently had published in a High School English text (how cool is that, BTW!). Midway through reading she looked up at me to say something like: I like how it's written as if it were for adults, not for kids.

I took that as a great compliment. But was thinking later about the surprise in her voice when she said that. This is a friend who doesn't read a lot of YA. If she did,  I don't think this would have been a surprise. That is, I don't think I'm the only writer who writes YA but doesn't tailor the work "for kids".

And it made me realize yet another reason why YA fiction is gaining so many fans of late.

While the "New YA" books are about teens, most aren't written for kids. The language and writing style of the best YA's I've read hasn't been dumbed down because the target readers are teens. And why should they be?

I mean, let's face it, teens often read way more than adults (primarily because they're forced to for school) so even teens who are not fiction fans probably have better (or at least as good) comprehension levels as adults. In fact, teens might be slightly more sophisticated readers than your average adult.

Now, when I say that, I'm not comparing all teen readers to an avid adult reader. I'm comparing an average teen reader to an average adult reader. Comparing those two, I'd guess the average teen reads more fiction than the average adult, even if it's just stuff he or she has to read for class. And the voracious teen reader? Well, she's got more time to read than most adults and reads a lot.

So, it makes me think again: what was with all the YA books written in the past that used simpler language, or had easier ideas, or spoon fed information, or contained on-the-nose "lessons"? I mean... no wonder teens didn't read them.

And thank goodness for all the awesome teen fiction available today! I sure wish books like that had been around when I was a teen! Instead I read adult books that, while entertaining, had little in them to which I could relate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Desperation Exhaustion Exhilaration

I am at that point in the book. I am so close to done that I can taste it. I almost had the final scenes written today, but couldn't quite get them done before I got too hungry to write anymore and had to break for dinner which then apparently sapped my will to do anything but watch a TV show and work on my plarn bombing project.

The amazing Golden Heart finalist AJ Stewart helped me figure out how to accomplish a major plot point at dinner on Friday night. I should be able to write that scene on Wednesday some time. Now I just want it to happen. I want it to be done. I want to hit send. I don't even care if it's any good. I just want it gone. I am having memories of how good it feels to have it be over. It's a little like finishing a long run. I'm thrilled to stop, but so glad that I did it.

Everyone knows I'm almost done because I keep referring to it as "the f*cking book" which is apparently my tell. I hadn't realized that until about the third person said something about it. Do you have a tell? Can everyone in your tell when you're almost finished?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sometimes I just want to be entertained

This is my post where I try and explain why I might consider going to see Battleship.

Sure, it looks awful, bad dialogue, stiff acting, plot ridiculousness, but things do go boom, and Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Scarsgard are really pretty and sadly, that's enough for me.

Apparently it's a pretty fun movie and those are my expectations going in. Make things go boom, have pretty people and I'm pretty sure it can live up to that. Now, it's great when a movie can go beyond, ie. Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers, but not everything has Josh Whedon attached to it (the poor man would be exhausted)

 I'm also looking for some entertaining books. I just finished, on Molly's recommendation, Courtney Milan's The Governess Affair, which is awesome. And I'm holding buying Insurgent until I finish another edit on a book, but I also want something really, really fun to read. Something funny, and light, and sexy would nice. (I've already Molly's Can't buy my love, but if you haven't, it's coming out soon)

 So any recommendations, I love a rich, emotional historical, or paranormal, but right now, give me a great, cute contemporary or chick lit to switch things up.

 Or should I just re-read one of the Susan Elizabeth Phillips on my shelf?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Own Your Decisions in Publishing

The writer loops have been all a-flutter with Ann Voss Peterson's very honest and well-reasoned post about why she's decided to no longer publish with Harlequin.

I applaud her frankness and her willingness to provide hard numbers to back up what most people who pay attention to the business side of things suspected or knew about publishing with Harlequin. It was great to see the bottom line of the number of books sold and the actual amount earned over various titles, and to see what the average royalty rate is (after sifting through all the various rates for different formats and different sales channels and different foreign markets.) I also applaud her right to make this decision and own it.

But what bothered me about some of the reaction out there in writer-land were the: "this is another example of publishers ripping us off!" comments.

Um. No. Harlequin isn't ripping authors off.

They aren't violating their contracts (like some publishers have), or failing to pay what they agreed to pay (like some publishers have)... They paid her what she was due according to the contract she signed.

To suggest that publishers are taking advantage of authors, infantilizes us. I don't know about you, but I consider myself a grown up. Immature, sure, but a grown up capable of making my own decisions.

Authors who sign contracts aren't (usually) idiots. They aren't being bamboozled. Yes, as that post illustrated, if that particular author had sold the same quantity of books on her own, or with just about any publisher, she would have made more money. BUT the big question is... Would she have sold that same volume of those particular books with anyone besides Harlequin?

It's kind of moot for her, because the self-publishing option wasn't viable when she published the books in question, so perhaps it's more interesting/relevant to wonder: if you're an aspiring author today, who's written a category-style romance, and you're trying to decide what to do, would you do better self-publishing or publishing with Harlequin? (Let's assume you've written a book strong enough that Harlequin wants to publish it and you're weighing the to-sign-or-not-to-sign question.

Only the crystal ball knows with certainty how things would turn out (and mine's in the shop), but especially for an unknown author who's written a short-format romance novel--a market that Harlequin virtually owns, owns globally--one would have to consider at least two major questions:
  1. Can I compete with Harlequin and sell as many copies of my book as they could and get it translated into as many languages and into as many markets?
  2. Would I rather make more money per book, or reach a wider audience?
There's no right or wrong answer--each of us has different goals and even when we have similar goals, we might choose to bet on a different horse, so to speak, but the questions have to be asked.

In my mind, by publishing with Harlequin, you give up revenue per book sold in order to: a) get the wide distribution (that's enough for some people), and b) gain name recognition to possibly launch yourself elsewhere at some point in the future.

We all make bets. None of us can predict the future or guarantee how many copies of any title will sell. But the point I started out this post planning to make is ;) whatever you decide to do in publishing: own your freaking decisions. If you're published by Harlequin, or whoever, and not making a huge amount per copy, don't let the pundits talk about you as if you're a child who was taken advantage of by your publisher.

And don't be that child.

Read your contracts before you sign. Learn about the industry. Think things through. Know yourself (your strengths/weaknesses and how much time and money you're willing to spend on marketing/promotion) and then decide how you want to be published. Weigh the pros and cons of all the options as best you can with the information available right now.

Then, if the world changes tomorrow and you regret a contract you signed?--and at the pace at which the industry is changing right now, it's hard to believe we won't all sign a few contracts we'll later regret--then don't whine. At least not publicly. Instead, whine to your friends (within reason) and drink beer (without reason).

Rant over.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Romantic Comedies Again

So this time it's Friends with Benefits. I watched it this weekend while I was folding laundry and Andy was out gallivanting somewhere near the coast. I am grateful for one thing. I did not suggest that the boys watch it with me. It could well have rated as one of the worst movies to watch with your children ever, even if the children are basically 18 and 20. There is a lot of sex in this movie. Oh, sure, there's a lot of flirting and a lot of cuteness, but mainly there's a lot of sex. As a bonus, there's a lot of Justin Timberlake's abs and butt. That boy is so adorable. I wish it didn't make me feel like such a dirty old woman to notice it.

I'm sure you all know the basic plot. Two friends decide to relieve their sexual urges with each other and it's supposed to be a no strings attached situation. Just friends. Of course, it doesn't stay that way. That's the great thing about the sex scenes. When they start their deal, the sex scenes are hysterical. They tell each other exactly what they want and don't want in a way we pretty much never do with lovers because we don't want to ruin the moment or hurt their feelings. They joke around and banter just like they do when they're playing Wii or walking in the park.

Then comes the big moment when the sex totally changes between them because the relationship has changed. I thought it was such a great expression of that. Really well written and well acted, too.

It wasn't a perfect movie. I wasn't really sure why Justin Timberlake finally realized that Mila Kunis was "The One," but that could have been because I was trying to match socks by that point and frankly that can be complicated.

Anybody else seen it? Liked it? Loathed it? Think Justin Timberlake is hot? Think I should be jailed for noticing?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Being Chosen

We had an awesome Toronto Romance Writer's meeting this weekend. It was an author panel and the organizers selected a varied group of authors who, I felt, were all very honest and very real. The focus of the conversation was on goals - which in these changing times - is a pretty interesting and fluid conversation. Making money writing books used to mean New York houses and best-seller lists, but that's all changed and when I thought about what I would do if I was starting out in publishing right now - I honestly didn't have an answer. Would I still target Harlequin? Digital first publishers? Self-publishing? Man, the options make my head spin, and everyone you talk to has a success story and a cautionary tale.

But, I did say on Saturday that there is nothing NOTHING like working with an editor you trust and respect. The kind of trust and respect that comes from a track record of working with other authors that they have helped make into super stars, and the kind of trust and respect that comes from working together over years. If I was hiring someone would I feel the same way? I am not disparaging the many talented editors for hire out there, I am disparaging myself - I'm lazy and don't want to change things unless I have to - would I feel like I had to if I was paying someone? If I disagreed, as I often initially do with my editor, would I sort myself out until I agreed with them and did the right thing? I've got no answer.

And as I was thinking on the way home, part of publishing process that remains thrilling and affirming and special is being chosen. Being chosen by an editor or an agent. Getting the call, having a professional gush over your work, I tell you what - that shit never gets old. And there are a lot of writers out there who have worked hard to be chosen, never got the call and have struck out on their own with great success and to them I offer my heartiest and sincerest fist-pumping congratulations - way to own your decisions. Way to stick to your guns and preservere.

But to those authors who wrote one book that didn't get chosen and then they turned to self-publishing - you're selling yourself short, I think. Being chosen is still a very worthy goal, but it takes a lot of work.

I don't know what I'd do if I was coming up in publishing now and, honestly, I'm glad I'm not - too many options paralyze me. But being chosen is still a worthy goal.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why does my E-Book version cost more than the print version?

I didn't notice at first, because I was so caught up in the excitement of ordering a book at 11pm at night and it arriving directly to my E-Reader. I was so thrilled because my bookshelves are overflowing and now all my recent books are on one, small little device.

Then one night I went to go buy a Joanna Bourne novel, because, well, her writing is gorgeous and the book came with some amazing recommendations. And the price for the book was $11 canadian. Which I found weird, because the mass market paperbacks at my local bookstore are $9.99. (We pay for books in Canada, than the US, mostly because of duties). I didn't buy the book then, because I thought it was strange. I had the same experience when I tried to buy Meredith Duran, and now Sherry Thomas, all the e-book versions of their latest releases are more expensive than the print versions.

 There's a lot of chatter about this on the internet. A lot of back and forth, none of which I've really read. I do know, when I go buy a YA novel thats out in Trade paperback, or hardcover, on my kindle, I pay a little less than the print version. This is really something I've only noticed in mass market paperbacks which is primarily how a lot of single title romances are released.

Here is my problem with paying more. There is a cost to printing a book, a much larger cost than downloading an electronic file. There is a cost for publishers in sending books to retailers, because retailers send back the mass market paperbacks they don't sell. This cost isn't incurred in selling an E-book. I'm not asking for a major reduction in cost, but paying more just doesn't make any sense to me.

I will happily pay for the editing of the book, the cover art, but all those costs are incurred in the print version, so it's not like they are an additional cost to the E-book. And given my love for my kindle a lot of my books are being bought through Amazon, who clearly state, price set by publisher on their sale page of each book, so Amazon isn't setting the price.

 I know there is a war being fought by the publishers and Barnes and Noble against Amazon, but as a consumer, I don't care. I've bought more books since getting my kindle, which works well, at least for the publishers.

But I still haven't bought the Bourne, Duran and Thomas books. It might only be a $1.00, but that dollar bothers me. Do they think I don't notice, or care? I may be the only consumer who cares, and maybe these author's sales haven't been affected.

But in the end, a book I would have happily bought the moment it was released, I'm now going to borrow from a friend, and the author and publishers lose out.

I just don't know why they don't see that?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canonical Books

So I’ve been battling my insomnia lately with Sleepy Time tea and DBSA podcasts – which are Sarah Wendell (SBTB) and Jane Lit (Dear Author) talking about various different topics. I had this idea that some chatter in the background would help me drift to sleep.

Not so. Instead I hang on every word because it’s fascinating to me and then I join in on the conversation – they don’t know I’m doing this – and agree or disagree with the things they say. Needless to say I’m not getting any sleep during these podcasts but I’m really enjoying having very smart conversations about books and romance in particular. The last one I listened to was about Romance Canon and since Molly likes lists I thought we would do one for fun. Now the distinction is - these are not books we would use to introduce someone to romance – but instead are the romance “mothers” let’s say of their particular niche. Jane and Sarah broke these into new canon and old canon. There are many many of these types of books – but I chose a particular few.

My list

Old Canon – historical – Anything by – Kathleen Woodiwiss - A lot of people go Flame and the Flower but I think any of her books signifies at least for me the start of historical romance.

Old Canon – contemporary – Whitney My Love/Knight in Shining Armor – Judith McNaught. For me especially WML was the introduction into that torturous hero who just broke the heroine’s heart over and over again. I’m sure I would throw this book at a wall today – but when they mentioned it I was like YES! That book!

Old Canon – Paranormal - Gift of Gold – Jayne Ann Krentz – I loved this book and I don’t think Jayne gets enough credit for stepping outside the boundaries as early as she did. She was doing Sci-Fi Romance in the 90s which was pretty gutsy.

Old Canon – Category – This is a big fat tie between Nora, Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell and Jayne Ann for me.

New Canon – historical – This is a tie for me between Stephanie Laurens – who was really responsible for bringing me back to historical romance with the Cynsters and different types of heroines. And Sherry Thomas – for changing our expectations about what a romance is.

New Canon – contemporary – Can’t Buy Me Love – Molly O’Keefe. I know - it sounds like I’m dong promoting for her, but I truly think when her books are released were going to see a shift in contemporary romance. In that the small town, homespun, light hearted sweet natured contemps that have been ruling are going to have to make way for more meatier more angstyier (I know – not a word) type of books.

New Canon – Paranormal – Zhadist - need I say more? - JR Ward. For me he is the new father of the tortured Alpha hero. And I would add to this Meljean Brooks – Iron Duke (probably just because I loved it so much.)

New Canon – Category – I’m leaving this one open. I’m reading more category now than I ever have before and I’m loving a lot of it – but I don’t know if I’m ready to proclaim a name in this yet. I think I need to read more by the same author.

And that’s it. So what’s on your list? In YA, women’s fiction, Sci-Fi, Mystery? What are those books that might not have been the most popular, or the highest selling, but somehow fundamentally changed the genre.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Short is Hard

Except when it comes to blog posts. And this one will be very short indeed.

I've been struggling to write a short story for what must be a month now and it's just not working. Why can I write 5K of a novel in 2-3 days--easily--but a 5K short story takes AGES.

Okay, I do know at least some answers, but I'm not sure when I've felt this blocked. Aaargh.

In better news, I actually had a very short story (about 1,800 words) published in an high school textbook this month! How cool is that! And it was illustrated (not by me). That story took a while to write too, come to think of it. Although once I figured out I could write the story all in one scene, it came pretty easily (then it was about revising over and over and over). With this new one, I just don't have the structure figured out yet, and when I story's short... there's no room to drift about with structure.

I need to have an epiphany. Anyone know where to buy one?

Any short story tips? Any great online how-to articles? Clearly I'm more comfortable in novel form.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Unseemly Jealousy

I am absolutely green with envy at the moment. Green, I tell you! I'm listening to Joshilyn Jackson's A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty while I'm driving all over hell and back in northern California. It is so good that it's making me almost seethe. It's funny and smart and absorbing and so full of emotion and love that it's nearly overwhelming.

Not only is it flipping' fantastic, she's reading it and doing an awesome job. Some people have too much talent.

This is exactly EXACTLY the kind of book I want to write next. I am so jealous that she is already.

Professional jealousy is a topic that comes up on occasion in writers groups. It can be a really destructive force. In this case, I'm really hoping it's a positive one. I don't want anything bad to befall Joshilyn. In fact, I want her to keep writing so I can keep listening and reading. What I want is to take this book, rip it apart into little tiny pieces and figure out how she did what she did so that I can do it, too.

So anybody you're jealous of? Has it been a good thing or a bad thing?

P.S. Maureen, look at me getting the paragraph breaks in their correctly like a big girl!!!!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Inspiration Needed

So, I'm starting a new book and I've got a great idea I'm excited about and it got some great tweaking from Sinead and Maureen, but now, I find that with the changes, I can't picture my hero. I can't see where he lives, or what he's wearing when we first meet him. I'm not the kind of author who finds pictures of hot guys and then uses them as inspiration for my hero. Usually I do that after writing the book. I don't have a pintrest board, or a collage of themes. But what I do need is a vibe. And I totally steal my vibe from the greater world. For instance my heroine the vibe is a mishmash of Elizabeth Taylor, punk rock music, the book Eat Pray Love (don't hate me, Eileen, I'm sorry!!!) New York City, feminism and little girl lost. See, doesn't make much sense, but all that stuff - it gives me a picture of her. And right now, my hero has no vibe. He's rich. A Southern Gentlemen. Needs to get married. Sometimes he wears a suit...sometimes he doesn't. Has a kid. Maybe. See...nothing. I need a movie, an actor, I need some music, perhaps a drink. I need to see his office, think of a sexual hook or deviance. He's a suit with nothing in it right now... So, my question to you - southern movies? Actors? Books? Where the rich white guy isn't a bad guy, but a good guy. And hot. Any idea?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Kick ass and are you kidding me?

There has been a small trend lately towards women assassin movies, or CIA movies, and some are great, and some are laughable.

To contrast, we have Columbiana and Haywire. Columbiana is about a girl who becomes an assassin to avenge her parent's murder. She is played by Zoe Saldana, a really lovely actress, who I have enjoyed in other movies, but weighs max 100 pounds and looks like her limbs could snap pretty easily.

In Haywire, you have Gina Carano, a woman who had very little acting experience, and there were moments it showed, but came from a mixed martial arts back ground, was as tall as any of the men in the movie and when she fought them, I absolutely believed she could kick their asses. It was in her movements, her muscle tone, the way she stood. Even when she's running, and jumping in a sequence where she has to escape from the police, there's something in her movement, and her reactions that made her completely believable. I bought that she could run faster than the two police officers chasing her down.

I can suspend disbelief for a while if the movie is good enough, but a hundred pound girl kicking the crap out of a guy twice her size - well that's a bit of a stretch.

But I believed it in Serenity, which also had a waifish girl kicking some serious ass, but that's because she'd been given special powers by the corrupt government that turned against her. We see this a lot in urban fantasy and paranormal YA, young, slender girl with special powers and if it's done right, I believe it.

But once I start to question whether she really can do that, then I'm out and I can rarely get back in. It's what I liked about the Hunger Games movie. Jennifer Lawrence looked like she could run, and climb trees, and fight her way out of trouble. She made it believable. A tinier actress would not have. And I know the movie got some criticism, for casting an actress some believed was physically too large to play Katniss, as she's described as small and underfed in the book.

We see enough small and underfed on the large screen already. I'd rather see someone believable, rather than stick to the exact descriptions of the book.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Trending... Dominant Men

So I posted a couple of weeks ago about the 50 Shades phenomena and why this book in particular was such a success. Recently I was watching an episode of Girls which is a new HBO show about twenty-something girls growing up in New York and a lot of it seems to be focused around their sexual lives.

One of the girls is in a committed relationship and has been for years – I think since high school. We see her getting frustrated with how sensitive her partner is. She’s clearly getting bored with the sex. Then along comes a co-worker she’s been flirting with and suddenly at a party he pulls her aside and basically tells her he’s going to f*** her and she’s going to like it. This sends her absolutely over the moon with excitement.

Forgetting the sex element, what surprised me about this episode was how once again we see this dominant, man taking control over woman, scene being played out. And I definitely think we need to take notice because I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a trend that’s going to dominate (no pun intended) stories, in particular romances.

Uber alpha males are on the rise. Certainly not starting with JR Ward’s Brotherhood series, but there we see it being taken to new extremes. And now he’s becoming even MORE dominating. We all know that millionaires/billionaires have always been popular. But their alphaness seemed to be defined by buying things for the heroine (like her car which no longer works) and protecting them and being fiercely jealous of any man who looked at them.

But now it seems we are taking this further so that in the bedroom the hero is turning her over his knee and spanking her. I don’t remember any Harlequin Presents like that!

I have my theories. I think we’re seeing a reaction by women who have broken or at least severely cracked the glass ceiling. Women can chose to work or raise a family. They can buy their own cars, pay their own taxes and make their own decisions. Let’s face it in the last 10, 20 years our dependence on men financially has changed radically. And more people are single now than they were before, mostly because in cases where women have divorced they are not rushing back into second marriages like they used to in order to be supported.

I’m no social psychologist. I don’t even pretend to think I might be right in my theory. I just think it’s not a coincidence that the stronger women are getting, financially, politically, etc… we’re seeing some trends in fantasy land (and let’s face it that’s where all of this stays) where women want to be f*** by men who are strong and dominating.

I might have offended people with this post. Not sure. But comment away!

Free Book Overload

I remember the first RWA conference I ever went to. I was bowled over by a lot of things--mostly all the great information and how much I learned about writing--but another was all the free books.

This was true at the first regional conference I went to in New Jersey in 2003 (especially since I won a big basket of books in a raffle) but even more so at my first National conference in Dallas in the summer of 2004.

At my first National RWA conference, I went to as many of the publisher sponsored signings as I could, glommed onto every free book I was offered and seriously needed another suitcase, or two, to get home. (It's not so easy to ship books back if you live in Canada...) Possible, just a slightly more of a hassle.

It took a few years of going to these conferences before I started to get pickier. I'd only take books home I thought I was likely to read, or thought one of my CPs might read, or books written by friends.

But even so, and even after giving away TONS of them, my house is still overloaded with books I haven't read, and let's face it, will probably never read. I ran out of shelf space even before the Disastrous Bedroom Bookshelf Collapse of '11 (disaster movie coming).

I have piles of books everywhere in my house. I could be on Hoarders. No joke. I already had a bit of a book shopaholic problem before I started getting free ones at conferences.

When Stephanie visited last fall, she looked at a row of books in my TV room and said something like, "For a girl who says she doesn't read much romance, you sure have a lot of them." And I looked at the row of books she was looking at, and she was right... About 15-20 romances. But guess how many of that row I'd read? Zero. Sad, but true. Some I kind of still mean to. Or at least mean to start them to see why that particular author is so popular or whatever... And some are by friends and I bought them at a literacy signing and don't feel right giving them away... But not one of them have I read. And they take up space. And attract dust. And add to the clutter in my house and mind.

I figured one thing that having an e-reader would fix was this book overload problem. And it is helping. A bit.

But, you know what I noticed recently? I've got kindle clutter.

After I first got my kindle, I'd click "buy" pretty much any time I found out about a free book written by someone on one of my writer loops or on facebook or twitter, etc.. I figured, not only might I help the author move up in the Amazon rankings, hey, it might be a good book and even if it's not, it's free! And it's not like I'd have to find room for it on my shelves. What the heck. *clicks buy*

But I've hit my saturation point. It's not like I'm running out of storage space (and that cloud business solves that, even if I were) but I'm running out of brain space to even organize or process all the stuff I've downloaded that I really have very little intention of ever reading. And I end up forgetting that I've bought books that I really wanted to read that are now buried below a bunch of free or super cheap books I'll probably never read more than 5-10 pages of and I've already lost control of the quasi organizational system I'd set up.

Just because something's free, doesn't mean it has no cost...

Does anyone else have this problem?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Wrapping up In Plain Sight

So we're big fans of the USA Network series here at the Rendahl Ranch. They're wrapping up one of our favorites right now, In Plain Sight.

I did have this witness protection fantasy about being swept out of my life after witnessing a murder because of the show. Beyond that though, we love the cranky main character (Mary), her brainiac partner (Marshall) and even her dysfunctional family. I miss her boyfriend (Rafe) from the first season like I miss an old friend that moved away.

They're wrapping up the series. I like that they're tying up the story lines and bringing closure to a lot of things. It's nice. We get to see this character have her final arcs. I'm really worried about the romantic side of things, though. There's always been this tension with the brainiac partner. Throughout the series, they've both been with other people, yet there's always been those lingering glances and a few other instances that make it clear that they have feelings for each other.

Normally, I'd be all in favor of the two of them getting together. This time, though, I'm not.

I want Marshall, the brainiac partner, to stay with his current girlfriend/fiancee. I'd rather have her end the series alone with no one than have her end up with Marshall.

First of all, I love the relationship between him and his fiancee. It's sweet and supportive. Second, Mary would eat Marshall alive. Every day would be a battle and eventually he would get tired.

 She can't get back together with the boyfriend from the first season because he's already with someone else who is nice. She can't be with her baby daddy because ... well, he's unworthy. There was this military guy from last season that there was a glimmer with, but he'd have to come back in the very last episode and I don't want her to be swept off her feet. She's not that kind of woman.

I don't want her to end up alone, though. I really don't. She deserves love.

Is anyone else watching this show? What's your feeling? Who should Mary end up with?
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