Curiosity

When I was a kid Halloween was very low budget in my house. We lived in the country so there weren’t a whole lot of houses around, which meant my siblings and I weren’t overly invested in donning costumes to visit a dozen houses. But we knew we wouldn’t be successful gaining access to the candy stashes if we didn’t at least put forth some effort. So my costumes usually consisted of my dad’s oversized suit jacket, some charcoal rubbed on cheeks and chin for a beard and a stick thrown over my shoulder with a bandana hanging from it. Not the most inventive, but hey, it got the job done at 4:00 Halloween night.

When my children were young we lived in a neighborhood by the elementary school. LOTS of parents and children roamed the streets. It looked like the trick-or-treating scene out of ET (one of my favorite movies of all time). I was the one who stayed home and doled out candy … in costume of course (a witch dress and hat that slipped on after dinner with no hassles and served me for many, many years). The pumpkins the family had intricately carved were lit up in the front window. But still … it was all for one night and low-tech. The pumpkins were recycled the next day. No fanfare. No hassles.

NOW it seems Halloween has gone the way of Christmas. What’s up with all the decorations people put on their front porches? Everything from blow up pumpkins to witches stirring cauldrons (a mere $160 at Wal-Mart thank you very much). Seriously? I can barely get decorations up for Christmas and then they stay there until nearly Easter. Do neighbors actually expect people to put the cornstalks up around the porch posts and fall leaves in the window boxes?

Lord help me if that’s the case. I’m soooo not into that. When did Halloween become this crazy commercialized holiday? It seems to have snuck up on me like last year’s extra weight and I’m not very happy about either situation.

Even costumes are crazy. Rarely do I see the sheet over the head costume of my youth. (Hey, don’t knock it. If four other siblings do this it means everyone can hit the same house several times to get the good stuff … who would know?) Now, babies show up at my door dolled up like pea pods and cows. Yeah, they’re adorable, but we all know it’s not that 18 month old who’s snarfing down the candy. And don’t be coming to my house with the four year old sibling who’s holding a second bag for baby sister. Cut me some slack. If you can’t eat it … you don’t get to trick-or-treat for it.

I know. I’m the Scrooge of Halloween. I’ve completely lost the spirit. The Grinch of Samhain who’s heart just isn’t in it. I just can’t help myself. I’m feeling the pressure to keep up with my neighbors and I don’t like it. Hey, the mall is decorated for Christmas. Maybe I’ll just put up my Christmas decorations as well and call it good for the year. What do you think?

I’m traveling again this week. (After Beautiful Girl’s wedding this past weekend, I’m exhausted, but we’re hoping one of these trips nets Mr. Nina a new job … so it’s totally worth pushing through!)

Anyway …

I was working with a new writer recently and I kept saying show me … don’t tell me. And she looked up and burst out “What the heck are you talking about? I’m telling the story, not showing you pictures.”

The lightbulb went on for me. I wasn’t explaining myself well. And then I wondered how many authors out there keep hearing “show don’t tell”, but really can’t wrap their head around it. (If this isn’t you, then you’ll probably want to just skip this post and come back Wednesday for a little more blog fun. 😀 )

Telling is saying things like:
1. She was tired.
2. He was angry.
3. The weather was bad.

You’ve simply stated the facts. You didn’t “draw” a picture with words.

If you want to engage your reader and pull them into your scene, then paint a picture with your words. Throw out adjectives and emotions and some deep point of view and let them form an image in your reader’s mind and let them draw the conclusion you stated above.

1. Bethany dragged into the house, her legs wobbling with the effort, even hefting her satchel onto the end table seemed like a Herculean task. Flopping on the couch, she let the stress of the day drain from her muscles.

See how that shows the reader so much more? Jees, I feel like I should take a nap after reading that. Bethany’s not just tired … she’s exhausted!

2. Ryan didn’t bother to knock. He pushed through the door and stalked into the livingroom. Bethany lay sprawled on the couch, her hand covering her eyes. He didn’t care. What she’d done to him at lunch was unconscionable and needed to be dealt with now.

Ummm … as a reader I’m thinking poor Bethany doesn’t want to deal with Ryan at the moment. The man is coming unglued. (But it certainly sounds like she deserves it. (Hee hee) If this scene were from her point of view she might notice his furrowed brow or red face. Showing me, the reader, his anger.

3. The wind lashed through the tree tops, rattling the windows and throwing its fury against the glass. The storm brewing outside was nothing compared to the pain and anger radiating off Ryan in waves.

And now you have the whole thing. Her tiredness, his anger and the terrible weather. But showing your reader has made things just a little more interesting. Hmm … maybe next week I’ll talk about getting them into bed … maybe. LOL!

And just to engage my visitors … boxers, briefs, or commando for your guy?

Writing. *sigh* I’m avoiding it like the plague this morning. I’m not sure why, just am. The laundry and bills seem to be shouting louder than my WIP and I’m having a grand time flitting around blogs and visiting with my friends. I turned to my own blog in hopes of channeling my energy into something at least semi-productive.

I know what’s slowing me down. I’m trying to come up with an idea for a western series … because I’m totally enamored with cowboys. But I know there are readers who are looking for the third book in the XTC Resorts series (and I do love Ethan). So I’m stuck. I’m not working on either one.

I’m like that. Sort of a one-book woman.

There are authors who have multiple projects going and thrive on the schizophrenic jumping around of plots and characters. That is so not me. Which may be why I get stalled. I know I’ve mentioned this on numerous occassions, but Ethan Jacobs is just being uncooperative. He’s dragging his feet, unwilling (or perhaps unable) to find his stride and let me unravel his story. He’s a great matchmaker, but doesn’t seem to want to find his own forever love. I’ve promised him all sorts of stuff including some very hot sex in the dungeon with a very sexy woman who’s never explored her submissive side if he’ll just help me write his story. Ah hem. But does he throw me a bone? Um…. no.

So we go ’round and ’round but don’t make any headway. Now I’ve put him on the spot. I keep dangling Jonathon (Maid for Master) and Derek’s (Invitation to Ecstasy) happy stories in front of him, hoping Ethan will be so jealous he’ll want to jump on the band wagon. I’m not above a little peer pressure.

But it doesn’t seem to be working. My CP says move on. Write a story that’s singing to me. I can’t.

Don’t ask me, I just can’t. It’s not that I don’t have partial projects sitting on my computer … I do. But I’ve given them all a fair go and finally had to abandon them for lack of research, character motivation, or (dare I say it) lack of sufficient plot. (That’s not the case with Ethan, he has all that in spades.)

I know some of you out there are shaking your head, wondering what the heck I’m rambling about this morning. But the writer friends of mine totally get this.

So it made me wonder. How many projects are too many to work on? Are you the incredible juggler keeping several things in the air all at once or the jockey sitting astride one horse, focused completely on finishing this single race? Do tell. Inquiring minds want to know.

Here are 13 books that have made an impact on me. I can’t say they’re all necessarily my favorites … some are just memorable.

1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Okay, I lied. This has to be my all time favorite book. The first real romance I read and I was probably 13. I’ve since learned I jumped right over all the wonderful Judy Bloom books most girls my age were reading. Ah, well, that’s me … I never do anything by the book … get it? By the … oh, never mind.

2. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel – Actually the whole series. Many people didn’t like her detailed descriptions of the main character’s intimate relationship. I can’t lie … it’s one of the reasons I dipped my toe into erotica. (Yes, I’ve fallen head first into the pool!)

3. The Reef by Nora Roberts – This is the first book of many I read of Nora’s. From here I read everything she had in the local library. But this book will always remain one of my favorite of hers. (I have several more, but I didn’t want to clog the list with all of her books.)

4. Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown – Again, only the first of many Sandra Brown books I have plowed through. A lover of suspense, I go back to this again and again to learn from this incredibly talented author.

5. Freedom Series by Anne McCaffrey – Anne McCaffrey is an amazing science fiction author. There are many of her books I have loved. But this is the first series that literally held me captive until I got through all of the books. If you’re looking for amazing world building, you couldn’t choose a better teacher.

6. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – Not assigned reading. As a matter of fact, it was banned from the school library and the English curriculum in my high school. So of course … I had to read it. Without the benefit of someone wiser than I to help interpret all the nuances, I didn’t find anything more than a lot of swear words and odd drivel by a young man. I’m sure I missed something.

7. A Death in the Family by James Agee – Now this is a book we had to read in English. The author did an amazing job of setting the reader up for an obvious death, but then twists your gut by killing off a main character instead. Amazing writing. Enough that the impact of that book has stayed with me all these years.

8. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – A quick read definitely. There are arguments among authors as to the place this book holds in the literary world. For me, I almost fainted when I found out this book was only 55,000 words. The same length as Harlequin series books, but half the length of most main stream novels. With an economy of words this author told the life story of two lovers. Even if you don’t care for the writing, you can’t help but admire the success of this novel in all it’s media forms.

9. The Hostage by Susan Wiggs – Looove this story. (I’m a huge fan of Susan Wiggs and had a hard time choosing just one book.) I’ve read and reread this book to learn how Susan Wiggs weaves a tale. She’s an amazing writer and I continue to learn from her every time I pick up one of her books. (I actually got to meet her at the writer’s conference I went to last spring. Nice lady.)

10. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I didn’t have to read this classic either in high school or college. Feeling I had missed something, I went to the local library and pulled this from the shelves. It shocked me. But mostly the last few paragraphs have stayed with me. I thought it a rather odd ending. I know it was rich with symbolism, but hey … it just didn’t work for me.

11. The Loop by Nicholas Evans – Many who read Evans would have chosen The Horse Whisperer and though I’ve read it, my feelings are tainted by Hollywood’s gross interpretation of his story. So, in an effort to remain pure to this author, I’ve chosen this book that hasn’t been altered by a movie.

12. Firestarter by Stephen King – I don’t like to read horror, but I do like stories of regular people in extraordinary circumstances. King hooked me in the beginning with the very real possibility of college students being paid to participate in a drug experiment followed by a subsequent government coverup. The ending was just as memorable as a young girl takes her story to the only place that would believe her extraordinary tale … Rolling Stone Magazine. Love that twist. The man is truly a master of words.

13. Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – I’m old enough to have read this when it originally was published. I lived on the Maine coast at the time and was enthralled with the idea of gulls being more than birds. It really taught me some new ways to look at my life.

So do you have some books you’ve read that have just stayed with you? Why do you think you couldn’t let go? Of course I want to know … I’m curious about stuff like that.(And now I’m off to have a little something to eat. Which begs the question … how do you feel about cooking nekkid?)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Publishing is a tough gig! Since I’m only in my adolescence when it comes to writing and publishing I can’t tell you if the days of the typewriter and printed manuscripts were harder than publishing is now. I really don’t know if the number of digital publishers and the ability to self-publish is making life easier or harder for the author.

What I do know is that there are a TON of books being released every day. No, I didn’t look up the exact numbers. (Feel free to google it.) But just think of all the traditional publishers, then add in small e-presses then add in self-published books and you have a lot of authors trying to find readers. It’s a regular cacophony of word music and it’s definitely hard for an individual instrument to stand out among all the overlapping songs.

There are only a few soloists who stand out, which means most authors are trying to find that one little trick that gets them heard. What will make their melody resonate above the river of music? Figuratively turn up the volume.

Okay, enough music metaphors. LOL! You get the idea.

Let’s face it, we all tag and like each other’s books. Why? Because there are rumors that the “likes” on Amazon affects the algorithms for a book and possibly give it a little extra to get up on the lists. (Since no one knows for sure, that information can’t be verified.) At the very least, when a reader pops over to a page and only 6 people have liked a book, it doesn’t quite have the psychological boost that a book with 231 likes gets. People wonder what they’re missing if that many people like a book. Is this gaming the system? Could be.

Knowing the impact of reviews, last year I began writing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for the books I’ve read. And guess what? I read a lot of self-published writers because that’s who I’m hanging with these days. If readers wanted to start pointing fingers they could say I’m padding the reviews of my friends … even if my reviews are totally honest.

The internet is a buzz about authors buying honest reviews. Yet, publishers (and authors) buy advertisements in romance magazines and books get reviewed. Isn’t that the same thing? There are stories of bestselling author buying thousands of copies of their own releases to have the new release climb the charts. So is all this gaming actually cheating the system? How far does it have to go before it steps over the line?

Is offering a book for free as a loss leader considered cheating? Some say yes. I don’t think so. What I think is that it’s one of those tools that’s allowed my books to actually stand up in front of readers and scream “Try Me!“.

I’ve had three self-published books out for nearly a year. And you can see March Sales, May Sales and June Sales were nothing that could be called a living wage. But after several backflips (which ain’t easy for a woman with MS) and lots of groveling (see the post with the June sales), I finally got Amazon to price match BLIND HER WITH BLISS, the first book in the Tilling Passions series for FREE.

And guess what? I can actually say my writing is starting to make the kind of money I’d always hoped it would. Here are sales for the last six weeks.

Amazon:
Blind Her With Bliss: 80,000 Free, 14 sold = $30.00
Blind at UK site: 4663 Free, 0 Sold = $0.00
Deceive Her With Desire: 760 books = $1550.40
Deceive at UK site: 34 books = $35
Cheat Her With Charm: 563 books = $1148.52
Cheat at UK site = 22 books = $23

Barnes and Noble:
Blind Her With Bliss: Free
Deceive Her With Desire: 47 books = $91.18
Cheat Her With Charm: 39 books = $75.66

Smashwords:
Approximate sales for Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel = $480.33

As many of you know, I released a 4th self-published book this week. I’m hoping with an excerpt at the end of the third book that readers will begin buying that book and sales will only go up.

Will this last? I don’t know. I’m really pleased after all my back-breaking work last year that something is finally falling into place for me. All I can do is keep writing the best books possible and hope the readers continue to enjoy them.

So, what do you think? Do you think there’s too much “gaming” going on in the book business? Are the truly great books rising to the top or is it the author who knows how to play the system that comes out ahead? Let me know what you think, I’m curious about stuff like this.

Okay, so with all the book noise and chatter out there authors are always trying to figure out how to be heard in the din of thousands of books. We’re always trying to find that little gadget that will lead a reader to our books. One reader actually said “an author’s promotional item is like a little gift to me”.  And maybe little doo-jiggers don’t have readers buying your books, but simply seeing your name. It’s a general rule of thumb that someone needs to see your name 10 times before they stop and look into it.

So the question becomes … how do we spend that promotional dollar effectively?

On all the loops I participate in authors are discussing what draws a reader to buy your book. In e-publishing this it’s even more difficult as your product is sort of nebulous… not something the consumer can put their hands on… and that makes it a difficult sell.

So with all sincerity we’re discussing bookmarks and postcards; sticky notes and glitter pens; emery boards and flashlights; trying to come up with the gimmick that will make a person so fired up they just can’t wait to get home and download your book!

I’ve spent alot of time designing and printing romance trading cards for my books. I send them out to reader conventions that I’m not attending. I’m fortunate in that I have an artistic eye and putting something together like that is enjoyable. Anyhoodles… I thought they came out beautifully. But left to their own devices, sitting among all the other glitzy author material, will they entice someone enough to 1) pick it up and 2) buy the book or at least 3) check out my website. Frankly, I don’t know.

Through this whole process it’s occurred to me… I don’t buy books. (Or I didn’t until my friends started publishing, now I buy their books. And forgive me for even thinking this… but if it’s coming out in print… I wait to buy that version… oh, I should have my hand slapped!)

So, what’s the point of all this rambling? I’m just curious… if you can’t pick the book up in the bookstore and you only have promotional material available to you… what makes you curious enough to investigate the author/book? A snazzy bookmark? A postcard with a blurb about the book? Some cute trinket?

Tell me… I’m dying of curiousity.

Oh, and here’s a sampling of my trading cards. Email me Nina (AT) NinaPierce.com if you want a full set for yourself.

I love to talk. I don’t mean just the usual dialogue that happens between friends and neighbors or a phone conversation with my sister. Nope, I’m talking industrial sized, get the earplugs out, run for the nearest exit, Nina’s opening her mouth kind of chatter.

Seriously. Mr. Nina once bet me that I couldn’t carry on a one-sided conversation for the duration of a three hour car trip—once. The poor man’s ears were bleeding by the time we arrived and I was still going strong. LOL! I have no trouble finding things to talk about.

Marketing on blogs, twitter and facebook are not a problem for me. It releases some of those pent up words. But I digress. This post isn’t really about social media and marketing, it’s about how much I love to share.

So it’s no wonder when I finish reading a really good book, I’ve been known to send the author a note to tell her how much I enjoyed the story. But then I’m quick to give compliments as well. All of us hear so few good things in the course of our day, I like to be that little piece of happiness (and it goes back to my need to chat with everyone) that brightens someone’s day. But I’m an anomaly I’m sure.

It seems like so few readers are willing to write a review for a book they love, let alone pen a quick note or email to their favorite author.

And I wondered why. Is it a new trend created by a generation that would rather text a brief message 40 times a day before sitting down to write a newsy letter? Has it always been this way? I’m curious, have you ever written to an author? Have you thought about it and didn’t for one reason or another? Let me know. I’m curious like that. Because trust me authors love to hear from readers.

Last week I couldn’t bring myself to blog. I just couldn’t do it. This is going to sound really silly, but earlier in the week I’d read a blog by RONI LOREN who was actually sued for using a copyrighted photo on her blog.

I have yeeeeears of photos on this blog. Let’s face it, it’s so much more interesting if all the words in a post are broken up by pictures. It’s fun for me to find and include cool pictures in my post. I’ve always been very careful not to use photos with watermarks or anything that obviously belonged to someone else. But I’ve never worried so much about whether someone is going to come after me because I googled an image and used it.

I honestly believe that 80% or more of the images we find on the internet have been posted by people who don’t mind if we use them. But what if like this poor author some photographer claims I had no right to the picture posted? Roni (and many authors I know) went back and actually removed every photo from their blog sites. *sigh* I just don’t want to do that.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t understand intellectual property and being pirated … of course I do. (Been there. Done that. Cried as I watched my book being pirated in the thousands.) My issue is trying to figure out what sites freely allow people to use their pictures. Until I figure that out, I’m using photos I’ve paid for from stock photo sites. But here’s the thing, I already threw this out on my facebook page and a couple of artists said they like it when people use their pictures … with attributes and links of course. Again, how do I know who doesn’t mind and who will sue?

Of course this is spilling over to Pinterest and facebook. I really believe status updates with pictures get read more frequently than those without. I mean come on, they’re more interesting. I haven’t really seen people slowing down with their e-cards, inspirational or humorous sayings or LOL Kats. It seems like only authors have stopped posting all that man candy that makes me stop on a post and sigh.

Now why did this affect my blogging … because I’m a visual person. I’m actually motivated by the pictures I choose. I was so bummed I couldn’t include a picture with my posts last week that it stifled my muse. Silly I know … but hey, it’s how I’m wired.

So what now? I’m not sure. What do you think? Is this going to change how you blog? Will you find it less fun to visit blogs without fun little pictures to add to the posts? You know me … I’m curious about this stuff.

When I was in high school I was very active in drama. (I know … such a surprise right? LOL!) When I was on stage I got to become anyone. A fat Russian spy. A traveling dancer entertaining a MASH unit. A woman married to a murderer. I loved it!

Being an author is a lot like acting on stage. When I write a scene I crawl into the skin of that character. Burrow into their heads and think like them. And I really enjoy writing from the man’s point of view (POV). Many female authors I read are very good at creating flawed male characters who rise above their pain and backgrounds to save the world and fall in love.

And I started thinking about this. Why are women so good at this? I think it’s because we’ve spent so much of our lives studying the opposite sex. It starts at a young age with our dads. When I wanted something–to borrow the car or stay out past curfew–I knew when to ask my dad and when not to broach the subject. I also grew up with three brothers. There’s a lot you learn with three male siblings as they go about their days just doing guy things.

I realize not every writer grew up with their dad or male siblings. But it doesn’t matter your home life, every day we interact with others. From the playground to the classroom to the office, we connect with both sexes. And since most women are intuitive, we pick up on little nuances of behavior that most men don’t see or recognize. Writers simply learn how to extrapolate that information and turn it into a believable hero readers fall in love with.

Here are a few guidelines in writing a male POV:
Men aren’t complicated
– They don’t say one thing and mean another
– They don’t mask their thoughts
– They are what you see

Men are Visual
– They have better light detection and depth perception
– Conversations often stem from visual cues
– Sexual attraction starts with what he’s seeing

Men are Problem Solvers
– They are “doers” not “thinkers”
– They like being in charge (or think they are)
– They rarely admit being wrong (and it’s even more rare they apologize)
– They aren’t detail oriented. They prefer the big picture
– They rarely ask for opinions

Men are conservative in communication
– They speak around 7,000 words per day (Women are more around 20,000)
– Connect to the physical rather than the emotional
– Don’t use euphemisms
– They rarely listen without giving advice
– Don’t use adjectives
– Don’t enjoy small talk
– Rarely use agreeing noises (uh huh, oh yeah)

(Any major characteristics I missed?) So what about you? Do you think female writers create believable heroes who act like real men OR do they create men who act and talk the way a romance reader would want a man to act? What do you think? I’m always curious about stuff like that.

When a book is put up on Amazon, whether directly by a traditional publisher or an indie author, Amazon offers the opportunity to make the e-book “lendable”. Unless you choose the 70% royalty option and then it’s not an option … it’s required.

I’ve always thought this was a great idea. What better way for a new reader to find my books than to have someone “share” it, even from their kindle?

When I first published with a digital publisher, kindles were a mere twinkle in Amazon’s eye. A high majority of readers enjoyed their digital books on their laptops … e-books they received via email. Even back then authors were aware that legitimate readers forwarded files to friends and vice versa. Was it illegal? Of course. Did it stop them? Nope. And you know why? Because these friends generally went out and bought other books by that author. Thereby taking one sale and turning it into several. (I did hear from one author whose over-enthusiastic reader actually emailed an ebook to every person in her address book … oops. Okay, so that didn’t work out for that author. And therin was the problem. One file could be forwarded an unlimited number of times.)

Lending is a little different. And lending is not pirating. Let me repeat. Lending is very different from pirating. Pirating is uploading a book to a torrent site and making unlimited copies available to anyone for free. It is illegal and authors lose thousands of dollars a year to these thieves. (Though many argue that those frequenting pirate sites wouldn’t buy a book anyway. So it’s not really a sale lost. Either way, we’re not talking pirates today…)

Lending allows a reader to purchase a book and loan it ONCE to one person for 14 days. During the lending time the book is not available on the purchaser’s kindle. Again, this sounds like a great perk for kindle owners. As an author, I can only hope that the person borrowing the book will love it so much they’ll buy their own copy for their “keeper” shelf or perhaps buy another couple of my books.

The reason this particular program came to my attention last week is that there are now sites popping up like virtually libraries. A kindle reader can register at these sites and list books they have to “lend”. Or they can request a title to “borrow”. It’s still one purchase = one borrow, but much more global than immediate family or friends.

Some authors are feeling very noodgie about the this … others not so much.

What about you? As a reader do you borrow books from your friends? Have you found new authors this way? If you’re an author, how do you feel about the lending program? Of course I asked, I’m curious about stuff like this.

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