The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

What People Don’t Tell You About Blogging

What people don't tell you about blogging.

 

When you first start out writing, or want to be writing, or want to be publishing, or whatever it is you want to do to sell books, poems, short stories, non-fiction, people tell you to blog as part of your platform. And that’s all fine and good. Blogging is fun, you’ll build an audience, a fan base, and your content will sell like hotcakes because they like your free stuff.

But then the questions start popping up. Where do I set up my blog? What do I blog about? How many times do I have to blog, per week, per month, per year? Where do bloggers get those awesome graphics? Are they expensive, do you have to make them yourself? How much are the pictures?

In my last blog post, I wrote about my lack of time, and I said I would give up blogging to write. Blogging is writing, but I don’t see it being a huge moneymaker some blogs can be. I don’t do affiliate links, I don’t support advertising on my website. Partly because I’m not popular enough to make any money from it, and partly because I don’t want to be known for my blog. I want to be known for my books.

But if you haven’t blogged yet, or need some tips to get your blog on track, here are a few that I’ve picked up, and a few that I’ve read about. Maybe you can turn your blog into something amazing!

 

Figure out who you want to blog for.

I blog for indie writers. I blog about non-fiction books I’ve read and liked, editing tips, publishing tips, formatting tips, making-your-cover tips. If it has to do with indie-publishing and writing, I’ve probably at some point blogged about it. And so have countless others. While we’re humans with different experiences, thoughts, and feelings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something in this area no one has written about yet.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (1)

That said, I wish I would have started blogging for readers. I would have blogged for my fans, my people who love my books. The problem is, when I started blogging, I didn’t have a book out yet. Was that detrimental to writing for my readers? Not really. I mean, your readers will want to know where your ideas come from, maybe how long it takes you to write your book. They like the cover reveals. And maybe if you’re prolific, you have a lot to write about. The problem with blogging for your readers, however, is that all that you’re blogging about should go into your newsletter. There is only so much content to go around, you know? At any rate, it doesn’t matter who you write to, as long as you make the choice and know what you’re getting into.

 

Decide what you want to blog about.

I’ve read that when you blog, you need to choose 3-5 topics and write about only those. Always. Your readers follow your blog for a reason. If you write about publishing tips and news, then your readers want that. Not your thoughts on Trump, or the rogue blog post about how sick your kid is. While I’ve been accused of not being personal enough, do people really care that I had a crappy day and didn’t get my words in? Maybe if I can turn it into a post about productivity even when you’re not feeling well. But no one cares if I have a cold and I watched six episodes of Castle while I ate a gallon of ice cream. Begin as you wish to continue. If you want a lifestyle blog, then find an audience for that kind of a blog. I know for me, (and I know everyone will like different things) if you get to personal one too many times, I won’t read your blog anymore. Not when I follow your blog for tips on publishing, your own experiences, what you found out, if you stumbled upon any shortcuts. I started your blog because I was interested in that. I don’t have enough time in my schedule to care if you had to take your dog to the vet. Sounds harsh, but I don’t care. I read blogs to further my own career. Write your blog assuming that of your readers as well.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (2)

***A quick word about turning your blog into an indie book review site: if you decide to do this, and you decide to be honest in those reviews. Be prepared for backlash. Posting a negative review of a peer’s book is never a good idea, and rarely can you find an indie book where you will have nothing bad to say about it. A good rule of thumb would be to have a policy such as, if a book would have gotten less than three stars, then don’t review it. It’s a personal choice that can come with big repercussions if you upset one too many people. On the other hand, if you only give out 5-star reviews and you’re reviewing crappy books, your credibility will tank. Fast. Trust is hard earned. Don’t lose it. You may never get it back.

 

Find a spot. 

I use WordPress because I like being part of the network. I don’t self-host, I let WordPress host my site because I don’t care about all the little extras you get with your website when you do that. I pay for my website address, and I pay for, I think, the business package so I can use some plugins. But if you don’t want WordPress, you can do Blogger, or Squarespace. My friend Aila did a great blog piece on Wix. WordPress was easy to set up, so I’ll recommend that. Plus the free templates WordPress make it easy to switch up your look when your site gets stale. As you add content (write books) it’s easy to add to your website. WordPress has been able to give me what I need, but it doesn’t matter where you blog. Just get an address and start producing content. Then tell everyone on social media about it.

 

Decide on consistency. 

The reason your blogging is to get your name out there, build your writer’s platform, attach a person to your brand. The more you blog, and the more people who read you, the easier it is to find you. When you Google “Self-Publishing Help” Joanna Penn’s name comes close to, if not to the very, top. Eventually, you want to get up there. Self-publishing help, top fantasy writer, the most popular romance writer. Whatever people search for, you want to be close to the top. This can take years and years and years–I think Joanna’s been blogging since 2008. She has every right to be at the top. But you want to at least stand a chance of being found in a search. That means blogging good content, consistently. This is easier said than done. I’ve heard advice to blog as much as you can when you’re first starting out. Every day if possible. Then when you start to have a following, you can ease back. I try for twice a week, but lately, I’m lucky if I can do twice a month. Even if you blog four times a month, always post on the same day so your readers will get to know your schedule and know when to look for new content. Do I do this? No. Should I? Yes. Do my blogging friends do this? Yes.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (3)

 

Where the hell do you get all those cute graphics?

Probably the best place for graphics is Canva.  Canva is cool. Just choose the size of the graphic you want, slap some text on a photo and there you go. Awesome. Canva has some great photos free to use, and I also use Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. You may not be using the photos for anything, but I still try to make sure the photos I use are free for commercial use. It just takes the headache out of it, you know? If you want to see how I used Canva to pretty up some blog posts, look at my interview with KT Daxon. I made those quote graphics in Canva using quotes from her book. Also, see my interview with Aila Stephens. I made those graphics with the cute pictures of macarons and looked up the quotes to slap on them. This leads me to my final point:

 

Figure out how long you want to spend doing this.

I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I’ve been going back and forth between Facebook and Twitter. But being distracted didn’t do me any favors, and I’ve already put two (okay, three because I went to the kitchen for a snack) hours into this blog post. And I haven’t prettied it up with graphics yet. You need to, because studies have shown, (no, I’m not making this up, but I’m not going to dig for it for you, either) that people consume content better when it’s accompanied by photos. You want to break up long-ass paragraphs of text anyway, so might as well add some pretty stuff to it. A lot of my blog posts come off as book reports, or just reports, heavily researched and referenced. There’s not often I don’t add a few links to someone else’s blog post. That’s a boon for you because you add valuable content to your blog, and it’s great for the other blogs because you are driving traffic to their sites as well. The blogging community is much like the writing community. To get any traction, you have to read others’ blogs, comment, and share. Once you start to get going in that, you’ll have others do the same for you.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (4)

 

Blogging can be fun, but it can be a drain. It can be discouraging when you feel like no one is listening to you. I’ve been at this for a while, and I still don’t feel like I reach many people. If you only have so many hours in the day, you’re better off writing your books. Chances are good if you start a blog in hopes for a book deal, it’s not going to happen. Blog because you want to, because you want to help others, because you want to share your writing journey. Blog because you want to be included in the writing community.

I’m going to bed now.

Until next time!

Important Reasons Authors Need to Think About Blogging by guest @kikimojo

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging

Why You Should Start a Blog (Even If You’re Not a Writer)

Deciding What’s Really Worth It

Because of some personal circumstances, I went back to full-time work a couple weeks ago. To say that I have not adjusted well is an understatement. I don’t want to sound whiney, like a little kid being made to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it’s definitely a rude awakening when all of a sudden all the writing time I’ve enjoyed is gone.

I know most, if not all, my adult writer friends also have some kind of full-time job, and many of those also add small children to the mix. There, at least, I am fortunate. My son is 18 and will be graduating from high school soon. My daughter is 12 and as soon as she comes home from school, she runs and hides, all her energy gone from putting up with her peers all day long. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have laundry to do, dinner to make. By the time I have a free moment, I am spent. Not maybe physically, but emotionally, all I want to is mindlessly scroll Twitter until it’s time for bed.

So, lately, I’ve been exploring what I can give up, and what I want to keep, in order to have the time and energy to keep writing.

office-620822_1920And it’s more than that, too. I consider myself an indie writer, publisher, marketer of those books. That means staying on top of publishing trends, practicing writing, reading about craft. I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing. There is always something to do when you are an indie writer: build your platform, market your books, run ads.

What do I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Let’s explore:

Daily:

  1. There isn’t anything that I do absolutely every day, except be on Twitter/Facebook (and I can’t even claim I post regularly on my FB author page, either!). I enjoy it, and I follow influencers, top people in the publishing industry. Agents, editors, other writers. It’s easy to write this off as a time waster, but if you follow the right people and use it for more than watching weird gifs, it can be a great networking tool. I’m fortunate to have the account I do, and for that reason alone, I like to try to keep up with it. I have a lot of friends and support on there. Sometimes I do fall behind, and for that, I apologize.
  2. I should add writing to this, but for the most part, I can’t. Sometimes I am physically unable to write. Lack of time or whatever, sometimes I just can’t. It doesn’t help that right now I am formatting and creating my cover for my current novel. Any free time I have is going to that just to get it done. I’m tired of looking at it, and I would love to start a new book.

 

Weekly:

  1. Listen to podcasts. I try to keep up with these as they come out. To give myself a podcasts-2633018_1920two-fer, I try to go for walks as I listen, to get my exercise in. There are two that I absolutely love: The Sell More Books Show and Print Run Podcast. The Sell More Books Show talks about indie news, and I keep up on a lot of things going on in the indie-publishing world. Print Run is run by an agent and editor out of Minneapolis, and they talk about the traditional publishing industry. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things, and to their credit, they are candid about their jobs. Others that I try to listen to:
    a) The Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. I don’t write fantasy, but a lot of the guests on there talk about their marketing strategies that can work for everyone.
    b) The Creative Penn. Joanna runs a great podcast and keeps you updated on everything from indie news, craft, author interviews and more. At this point, she’s a staple of the indie writing community.
  2. Write. Finally, I can put this on the list. I would go nuts if I couldn’t write. Even when I have to write longhand at work, it’s better than nothing. When I was working part-time, I could write 5,000-10,000 words a week. Especially if the story was going well. Now, well. I haven’t been working long enough to fall into a routine to see how far I can push my limits. And now with summer coming, I just don’t know. All I can do is my best, and so far, I feel like I am failing miserably.
  3. Read craft books/editing books. Being I can read at work if it’s slow, (no internet/computer/device access though, that’s why I buy my books in paperback) I can read a lot. I read Stephen King’s book in two days. I read lots of books, which is a major boon for me. It’s harder to write at work on certain days since a) I can only writing longhand and 2) if it’s busy, I lose track of what I’m doing and my writing becomes choppy. It depends on the day, and what calls I’m scheduled to take. Weekends are better for writing.

 

Monthly: 

  1. Blog. My blogging schedule leaves a lot to be desired. Some of my most dedicated arms-3404941_1920friends will crank out two blog posts a week. I can’t do that. Not only do I not have time, Good Lord, where do they find the content? I’ve added book reviews to my blog schedule (of craft and other non-fiction books) just to add some filler. But contrary to what others say about how important blogging is to your platform, this is the one that I let slip first.
  2. Helping others. Sometimes I’ll edit for free for someone just because I know how hard it is to find help at a reasonable rate. While I limited that to once maybe every three months, or when I come across someone who really needs the help and have nowhere else to turn, I fear I may not be able to do any of that anymore. Which saddens me, because I really enjoyed it.
  3. Author interviews. I don’t do this often, but this falls into blogging, and while it might be easy to email questions, formatting the answers into an enjoyable blog post (see my lovely interview with Aila Stephens) can take a lot of time.
  4. Spend some time on Goodreads. I try to add all the books I’ve read to my shelves, and give a star review, even if I can’t write a quick review on there. Sometimes I’ll try to copy and paste the review I write for my blog into the review on Goodreads, like I did for The Continent.

 

So, obviously, as an indie writer, you need to make time to write. If you’re not writing, you’re not doing much of anything. But if you are writing and publishing, it’s hard to figure out what you can drop since you’re running two or three businesses single-handedly while working a job and raising a family.

business-3385079_1920What could I drop? Blogging, probably. I blog for indie writers, and well, indie writers don’t read indie books. That is not where my audience is, and it was one of my mistakes when starting up my blog. I could give up Twitter, but it’s my main source of writerly companionship. Sometimes I don’t walk as much as I want to, and that’s sad, because MN weather is really nice right now, and I don’t want my podcasts to pile up (when I don’t walk, I listen to podcasts to make the chores and errands go a little bit faster).

This probably isn’t a good time to figure out a writing schedule since I’ve only been working full-time for three weeks, and in that time I’ve been editing Wherever He Goes and have moved on to formatting and creating the cover. I’ll have a more accurate depiction of how I can figure out a writing schedule when I start my next book.

All in all, I’ll just have to try to find some balance like everyone else I know. Pull up my big girl panties, and write when I don’t feel like it. Walk when I’d rather take a nap. Be careful not to burn out.

Lots of people seem to have a handle on it, and lots of people seem like they don’t, too. I’ll just have to look at this as a speedbump in my writing career. It’s not easy to think that way, since I write romance, and romance is notorious for the pressure. It’s not unheard of for a romance writer to publish anywhere from 5-10 books a year. I’ll never get to that point. Even if I didn’t have to work, at all. I’d never make it.

So, I’ll echo the advice I hear over and over, and something I have even told others: Find a balance. Do the best you can. Work with what you have.

It’s all you can do.

The Continent~~Book Review

This book has had a bumpy start. No one in the publishing industry or Writer Twitter missed all the controversy surrounding this book and the original ARCs people had been able to read last year.The Continent

While I acknowledge that, (I was not one who read an original ARC) those controversies and/or original content of the book are not what this review is about.

I admit I read The Continent primarily because Ms. Drake is a friend of mine on Facebook, and I was curious to see what the book was about. I’m not able to make comparisons between the original content and what was actually published, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed The Continent.

The book is about Vaela Sun, a 16-year-old girl who is given a tour of The Continent by her parents as a birthday gift. The Continent is home to two peoples, the Xoe and the Aven’ei. Their history is filled with war and violence.

Tours of The Continent are made to view these peoples and their constant war, as war and violence in that extreme are a novelty to the people of the Spire, where Vaela Sun lives and has grown up.

During the tour, Vaela’s plane goes down. Though her parents and their traveling companions perish in the crash, she survives and must make a new life on The Continent.

Luckily, she is taken in hand by Noro, and he, along with his Aven’ei friends, welcome her.

The threat of the Xoe is never far, and we watch as Vaela tries to meld the peace she’s grown up within the Spire to the violence she must tolerate and learn in order to survive.

I’ve read of the racial issues this book supposedly (I say supposedly because again, I haven’t read the original manuscript) contained, and I witnessed none of that here. Race (skin color) of the people of the Spire, Xoe, and Aven’ei take distance place to the story.

We see Vaela lose one family, but with her strength and determination, and never a loss of faith that life can be better, we see her find another.

Vaela learns a lot of lessons during her time on The Continent. The past doesn’t always lay the groundwork for a pleasant future. People deserve second chances, no matter what they’ve done. And with strength and perseverance, something beautiful can always be found in something ugly.

This book is no different. Do not judge this book on what you know or what you think you know about its history.

The Continent is beautiful. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.

And you will definitely want to find out what happens next.

Follow Kiera on Facebook, here.
Follow her on Goodreads, here.

And full disclosure, this is the 4-star review I left on Amazon. I was feeling a bit stabby and snarky, and a bit defensive on Keira’s behalf.
Enjoy!

This isn’t a verified purchase because I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble. (LIke you all should, if you don’t want the only remaining bookstore in America to close.)
Anyway, I’ve read the reviews, and this book ISN’T THAT BAD. There isn’t anything racist about this book, and there is not any “white savior” crap going on.
Vaela gets trapped there, okay, yes. And she saves those people, yes. But the fact that everyone is missing is, SHE FELL IN LOVE. She fell in love with Noro, she fell in love with his sister, Kiri, and she fell in love with the rest of the Noro’s people. She made friends, she became one of them. In the end, she was saving her own people.
There’s a lot of talk about her stupidity, and her naivety, but you know, most people who grow up with money are like that. And you can argue all you want against it, but Paris Hilton made herself a brand based on being spoiled, and the Kardashians are doing the same thing.
I’m not arguing that Vaela didn’t have a lot to learn, but her learning that the Spire was not all she thought it was, or that she finally understood she was a spoiled rich kid with an erroneous viewpoint of the Continent’s peoples, were part of the lesson, part of the character growth, part of the plot arc. She crawled to them and begged for help on behalf of her new family, and she was denied. It opened her eyes. And it made her grow up.
Anyone who complains this is slow–hey! It’s part of a trilogy. There are going to be unanswered questions.
Anyone who didn’t like it based on silly little things like, where did that Xoe Warrior find his orange?? How old are you? This is a YA novel. If you want a more complex plot, go read Sing, Unburied, Sing, or Lincoln in the Bardo, or Manhattan Beach. Those might be more up to your delicate sensibilities.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day–A book review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and may contain triggers as the review refers to child molestation.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, numerous books that copied characters and plot were published as quickly as writers could produce them.

crossfire seriesThe Crossfire Series is one of these series. comprised of four novels, I read Bared to You, the first.

The book is about Eva and Gideon, how they meet, their issues, backstories, and all their flaws.

You can’t help but compare Bared to You to Fifty Shades by the very first page, and I do not resist. Eva meets Gideon by literally falling on her ass, and later stumbling into his office, ala Anastasia Steele.

Gideon Cross, seemingly owning half of New York, is extremely emotionally damaged, not to mention drooling hot. I won’t waste time going into how much more or less he’s like Christian Grey because it doesn’t matter. Either you liked Fifty Shades enough to read these or you didn’t. So if you liked Fifty but were put off by the poor writing, you may like the Crossfire Series as they hold similar plot elements and characters, but they are better edited.

Eva is also emotionally damaged, unlike Ana, who was just innocent and naive. Eva has a heartbreaking backstory, and anyone who has triggers regarding children being raped and molested by step-siblings should steer clear of this book.

I do find it rather odd that while Eva has been in therapy most of her life to deal with being sexually assaulted at age ten until she was fourteen by her older stepbrother (and her mother only finding out about it because Eva was brought to the ER for a miscarriage), she has a mainly healthy attitude towards sex. I guess she would have to because she and Gideon do it all the time.

As natural pacing of a four book series, we find Gideon also has a heartbreaking backstory as well, but Day does not reveal what it is saving some secrets for later books.

Overall, if you like Fifty Shades of Grey, and want more of it, by all means, give the Crossfire Series a try. I read Bared to You, but I will not be reading the others. Day, like James, counted on emotional upheaval to keep readers turning pages, and all Eva and Gideon do is fight and have makeup sex.

As perhaps someone who is too old to be reading the series, I need more. More plot. More character motivation.

If they truly do love each other, as they say they do by the middle of the book, then the small spats Day gives such weighty importance to should not do the damage they do.

Maybe books two through four will have more . . .  something, but I don’t need to find out.

 

The Four Kinds of Indie Author

When I first entered the world of indie writers/publishing, I was dazzled. I thought anyone who published, published good books. I mean, I hadn’t been exposed to anything but traditionally published books, so of course, I was naive and not aware that with self-publishing, there isn’t a gatekeeper, and people can, and did, publish whatever they wanted.

garbage-heap-354510_1920

As I began reading indie, I realized there are four types of indie authors.

  1. The indie who writes poorly in an uncommon genre.
    To me, this is a double-edged sword of bad. And I’m not even talking about poorly written erotica–that’s a different category of writer. No, I’m talking about the poor writer who writes Bigfoot Romance, or anybody having sex with something that is not human, be it squids, dinosaurs, ghosts, aliens. Though alien romance is becoming more popular these days. Or other genres like a romance between a

    naomi-august-138149-unsplash

    I know, baby. It makes me sick, too.

    kidnapper and a hostage, or a specific kind of mystery/thriller where hamsters solve crimes. Not only is the writing bad, the genre is just as weird, and even if you, as a writer, could find a readership, your poor writing would turn them off. These are the writers who experiment and just throw up (literally and figuratively) anything they want. These are the writers who give indie writers a bad name, and without gatekeepers, they will continue to do so.
    Examples: Let’s not do that to ourselves, shall we?

  2. The indie who writes poorly in a popular genre.
    This isn’t terrible. I’ve heard time and time again that a good story or good pacing can save a book in a popular genre. Readers are willing to overlook a lot if they like your characters or the storyline, or you have a great twist that blows people’s minds. In a popular genre, you can find readers, or at the very least, at some point, someone may bump into you. Readers may not put you on their favorite list, and you may very well lose readers even if elements of your story are fantastic. Life is too short to read crappy books, and readers are realizing this. Too bad these writers

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    One rotten fruit in the whole bunch.

    can’t/won’t give their careers more of a chance and find an editor. Even trade beta reading with some proofreading is better than nothing.

    Examples: Well, EL James is a good one. There’s no disagreeing her writing could have used better editing. But her storyline was good, her characters solid. If someone could have gone and deleted all her adverbs, reading her books would have been a more enjoyable experience.

  3. The indie who writes well in an uncommon genre.
    It makes me sad when I see writers do this. It shouldn’t because they are writing what they like, and that’s the whole point of writing, right? That’s my writing to market side coming out, and far be it from me to judge someone’s genre choice. Being a good writer will give you readership, uncommon genre or not, just

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    Stand out!

    probably not as big if you write mainstream fiction. There’s always going to be someone who gets off reading your story about sex with dogs (pun intended) or your fabulously written story about forbidden sex with your brother. But one would hope that if you have writing chops, you branch out so more people can discover your talent.

    Examples: Let’s Do Butt Stuff. Of course I read this! I’m totally not afraid to admit it. *shifty eyes* Argh. Delilah Dallas has a decent voice. It’s a short story, and I read it all the way through. She could do well if she branched out into longer, maybe less weird, work. And I guess anal isn’t an “uncommon” genre, but it’s very niche and can be limiting.
    There was something else I read on Smashwords that struck me as good writing, and it was about a woman who had sex with her husband’s dog. I can’t find the author now, and after Smashwords went through and started being more strict with their erotica genres, they could have buried it. But the good writing stuck out to me, (no pun intended) and even after a couple years of stumbling upon it, I still remember the writing for what it was. And this story just goes to show that if she had written mainstream romance, perhaps I could have found it, maybe even recommended her writing. After all, I can’t tell someone how much I liked the writing if I can’t find it anymore.

  4. The indie writer who writes well in a popular genre.
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    Being the same can have some advantages.

    You would think this is where every indie would want to be. You stand the most to gain writing well in a genre that has lots of readers. Of course, it’s also difficult to get recognized in a saturated genre, but if you can make a name for yourself, you’ll have readers for the rest of your writing career.

    Examples: Citing examples for this genre is almost unfair because most of these authors have done it for years. Lauren Blakely, Kira Blakely, Mark Dawson. You might mistake Lauren Blakely for a trad-pubbed author, but her paperbacks are published by CreateSpace, as are Kira Blakely’s. Both have made a list. You could almost do a study on what all they are doing, and how that has worked for them in terms of “making it.” Covers, prolific releases, etc. Consistency.  They both write romance.
    Mark Dawson is also prolific, and publishes his paperbacks with CreateSpace, pegging him an indie. But his books have been picked up for a TV series, and, yeah, he’s been able to quit his day job. He writes in the thriller genre.
    I’m sure there are lesser known indies out there who are starting solid careers writing well in a genre well-received.

In conclusion, you have to decide what you want for and from your writing career. You may not want to “make it” and are fine publishing naughty short stories about fish. Maybe you’ll have three or four people read your stuff, and that’s good enough for you. No one can define your idea of success except you. If you’re happy writing books that only your friends and family will buy because you’re not interested in . . . how do I say this without sounding judgmental or derogatory . . . if you’re not interested in putting in the work to do better, then that’s your choice.

There’s no excuse for poor writing. Learning your craft can only help you find more readers, no matter your genre.

Good luck you Butt Stuff writers!

 

Swearing, Sex, and Drinking . . . What Do Your Characters Do?

I’ve always appreciated a well-timed, or a well-placed, “Fuck.” Especially when it’s supposed to be funny.

When I was in my lower teens, I read a lot, and I read one book where the character–and for the life of me I can’t remember who it was (I want to say it was Detective J. P. Beaumont, in the detective series by J. A. Jance, but it could have been in any of the books I read back then) who said, “Jesus Christ on a bicycle.” It cracked me up, and to this day, if I hear it, or if I read it, I laugh.

The phrase may be offensive to some, hell, I went to Baptist school as a kid and just for a split second, I was offended too, until my sense of humor won out.

My characters swear, and sometimes they swear a lot. This is a bit unusual, as I don’t swear much, in real life, and a lot of times our characters are us, or pieces of us. My amount of swearing depends on who I’m with. I don’t swear around my kids unless I’m telling them to stop being pissy, a futile plea, that, as they are teenagers. But my sister swears like a truck driver (is this really true?) and when she starts saying the F word, it starts coming out of my mouth, too.

I like to try to make my characters swear for a reason. They’re grumpy, or angry, or I, too, like to use a well-placed swear word for comedic effect. Take this excerpt, for instance, from the book I’m writing now, Wherever He Goes:

When Aiden came out of the bathroom, Kat was studying the cappuccino selections across the store. The gas station sold a huge selection of Monster energy drinks, and just as he opened the door to grab his usual, a low-carb flavor, the bell over the door rang.
“Nobody move!”
In the round fish-lens mirror attached to the wall above the restrooms, Aiden watched a tall figure dressed in black aim a handgun at the older lady staring out the window behind the counter.
Aiden rested his forehead against the chilled glass of the cooler.
“Shit.”

Not everyone wants to read characters swearing though, and sometimes the readers who come across it can take it out on you in a bad review:

swearing review

This is a review for Don’t Run Away, book one in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Never once did I say I write sweet/inspirational romance. I write contemporary, and that is the category my books are labeled under. I don’t try to fool anyone. A lot, if not most, contemporary romances have some kind of swearing and/or intimacy. In fact, had this reader used the Look Inside feature on Amazon, they would have known right away this book contained sex and swearing, maybe even both at the same time (gasp!). The book is long enough I’m going to assume the first two chapters are available.

I didn’t redo my blurb, per that reviewer’s request, simply for the fact that the category I put it under shouldn’t give a prospective reader any false illusions.

But it did make me wonder why readers are so sensitive, and if writers respond to it, or if they still do their own thing.

I read a Harlequin Blaze not long ago, and the author used the word pussy. It’s not such a big deal in the scheme of things–the series’ name says it all, to my way of thinking. But the person who read the book before me inked out all the words she didn’t agree with. I wish I had taken a picture.

When I think of swear words in content, I think about a lot of programs on the CW. I watched Gossip Girl from beginning to end (the show; I haven’t read the books to compare), and I watched a lot of The Vampire Diaries (also the same, watched the show, didn’t read the books).

The writers of Gossip Girl had a fun time throwing in curse words that weren’t curse words. Blair was forever calling Chuck Bass a Basshole. We know what she meant, but in all the episodes I ever watched, she never, ever, came out and actually called anyone an asshole.

basshole

Another favorite was when people would call Chuck a Motherchucker. This one, too, is pretty self-explanatory.

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Why the creators wanted to keep the show “clean” is beyond me, as all the characters drank like fish–whether they were old enough or not. The same is true for The Vampire Diaries–even though I guess you could say that Stefan and Damon were “old enough” to drink, even while portraying high school students. When you Google “Damon and Stefan drinking” there are a lot of images that come up. I could post pictures all day of them knocking back scotch!

damon drinking

And while Elena starts the show at 17-18, I would assume she turns 21 at some point. But her age doesn’t stop her from having a little fun.

elena drinking

These characters were also having sex, some of it open door, some of it not, but it surprises me that the creators would show, or even imply, underaged sex.

So, underaged sex is . . . not worse than swearing?

What is a reader’s tolerance when it comes to books? I think swearing is natural–you can’t get away from it in real life, and writing a few curse words into your books could crank up the reality factor a notch or two.

Depending on your genre, sex, too, is also natural. A detective in a high-stakes thriller could have sex to take the edge off. Most romances and chick-lit have sex in them, sometimes even funny sex. Erotica has the most sex, of course, and it’s up to the author to submit their books to the proper category when publishing.

My characters drink–probably not as much as they do in The Vampire Diaries, but they like to have a drink now and then. So do I.

Everything in moderation.

It’s a concept the Salvatore brothers didn’t understand, but I guess, there’s nothing else to do in a small town like Mystic Falls.

Taste is subjective, and it’s easy to get freaked out by a poor review, but what an average amount of swearing is to one could be an overuse to another. Contemporary romance is light on sex, but I have yet to read a contemporary romance where the couple didn’t do it at least once.  How graphic the scene turns out to be is up to the author.

I expect swearing, sex, and drinking in the books I read.

How about you?

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

 

If you’re interested, the New York Times printed an article about sex, or lack thereof, in current YA. You can read it here.

The fuckety index: how much bad language is allowed in your novel?

For Fuck’s Sake! – The Art Of Swearing And Cursing In Fiction Writing

How to Use Profanity And Other Raw Talk In Your Fiction