Rants

It’s an awful place to be. Stuck.

I got nothing.

Nothing going down on the blank page. Nothing running through my brain for blogs… I’m out of words. And that is such a bad place to be. It leads to …

Panic!

Which I am working very hard to push away. Obviously if the words aren’t coming, the stories aren’t unfolding, the work isn’t getting done and the books aren’t heading out the door to be published. Without new books there aren’t new readers finding my writing. It’s such a bad place. I’d like to think it’s the time of year … but it’s been “that time of year” for nearly a year. Of course being in limbo since the spring of 2011, with no place to settle and now no job for Mr. Nina. (Fingers crossed that situation is changing soon.)

I’m floating around to other writer blogs and they’re announcing their new releases… I’m happy for them… or they’re talking about the book they just finished… you go author… or how their book was a huge sell this month… yay… or how another indie-pubbed author just bought a new house … see me enthusiastically celebrating with them… NOT!

Now don’t get me wrong. I truly don’t begrudge them their successes, a part of me is happy for them, but a bigger part of me wonders why I can’t have that? Ideas and words falling onto the page and success just banging down the door.

I’m impatient.

I know this. It’s one of the really bad things in my personality that I work hard on. I see it. I want it. And hell and be damned if I have to wait for it.

*Sigh*

But that’s the name of the game in publishing. Patience.

It’s an awful cycle. The block, the panic, the depression. Okay, so I’m not depressed… but the situation makes me mopey. Since it seems to be the topic on several panels, I suspect I’m not the only one in this situation. Little Boy Blue thinks I need some time away from my computer and maybe he’s right (pretty smart for 21). A little time to decompress and regroup. A change of scenery. Perhaps I’ll take the boy’s advice and choose some books from my HUGE TBR pile and just veg in the sun. A good read is always good for the soul.

So how’s you’re September going? This week is the official beginning of autumn … and it’s beginning to feel and look just like that outside my window! Let’s hope the change of seasons brings a change in my mindset!

Question of the day … is your laundry basket overflowing?

I’m visual. My memories are in pictures, usually very detailed. I can tell you what someone was wearing at the family get-together last year.

So in my writing I have to “see” the scene before I can write about it. I don’t have to draw out the house plan, but it has to be in my head so I can visualize how characters move through their surroundings.

I enjoy the same thing when I’m reading. I don’t want the author to gloss over the details. (And I’m not talking about character description… which isn’t really that important to me… but that’s a subject for another blog.) Unfortunately purple prose are out these days. Most readers don’t enjoy reading one or two paragraphs of scene description. So writers are left adding strong adjectives to give clues to the surroundings without resorting to long descriptions.

I love adjectives. They’re a great part of the English language. But just as they can make writing stronger, they can also tear it apart. Look at this piece of writing.

His capable hand found her silken thigh and slid up to the soft curve of her hip. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner thighs, opening them wide. Willingly, she gave way to his powerful leg and heard him moan quietly as his thick fingers found the velvet softness between her trembling legs.

Oh, I had all I could do not to scream as I read the above paragraph. Where I got it doesn’t matter, but the point I’m trying to make does.

Obviously, this is a love scene. This is the point in the book where I should have been swept away into the moment and been right there with this couple. After all, I’d been waiting and hoping these two would stop being so blind to their own sexual attraction and actually do something about it.

And there’s my reward.

Only, the author threw me out of the scene. The overuse of adjectives stuck out more than the action. Instead of being swept away I became more annoyed with each word. *sigh*

What I learned (and continue to learn)… is go sparingly with the adjectives. Give enough to the reader to make them “feel” and “see” the action, but don’t kill them with unnecessary words.

Books flying against the wall just aren’t pretty.

The first mistake the author made is that the scene is in her point of view. She’s not going to think of her skin as smooth or silken. And when you use the word “heard” or “felt”, you’re separating the character from themselves and in turn, distancing the reader.  I also think if we could get a sense of the heroine’s emotion it would pull the reader deeper into the seduction. And what about other senses? How does he taste or smell? Most of these adjectives have to do with the sense of touch. What if the scene added a few other layers?

His capable hand found her silken thigh, and sliding up to the soft curve of her hip, trailing goose flesh in the heat of his touch. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner trembling thighs, opening them wide. She wanted this–wanted him. Her breath caught when he found the velvet softness brushed her most sensitive flesh. The scent of her arousal wrapped them in a sensual cocoon that seemed to drive his passion. He deepened the kiss, his tongue seeking and possessing, pushing away any coherent thought. When he pressed his thick fingers into her core, the moan of pleasure filling the air could have come from either of them.

The italicized words are mine. So what do you think? Did it read better with a few less adjectivesor am I all wet?

When you read do you find things like that jarring or have I become hypersensitive? Am I finding problems where none truly exist? I’d love to hear your opinion. Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.

Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write a book? I mean getting from Once upon a time to They rode off into the sunset is not only a difficult process … doing it well takes a lot of brain energy! (Well, for me anyway.)

There are all kinds of people who believe they have a book in them. Very few sit down to actually give it a try. A smaller number of those who try ever get to the end. A small portion of those that finish actually edit their story and send it out or publish it themselves. That’s an itty bitty bit of the population who actually have books available to readers.

And there are hundreds of thousands of readers out there looking for their next book to read. When they’re surfing Amazon or B&N do you think they care if it was published through a big NY publisher, a small press or if it was self-published? Okay, yeah so some of them do, but there’s a huge majority of readers with kindles and nooks and iPhones (and a whole bunch of devices I know nothing about) who are downloading books onto these devices and all they really want is to be entertained for a few hours.

And if the readers don’t care how the book they’re reading got to be published … why would another author?

I’ve only been in this publishing world for 7 years. In the grand scheme of things I’m just a toddler. I’ve never written a manuscript long hand. I’ve never typed my manuscript on a typewriter and piled the accumulated pages. I’ve never worried if the print on my computer was set so there was exactly 250 words a page (because a publisher wanted to know how many pages a book would be in the print version). I’ve never gotten my edits through the mail with red editing marks on my printed manuscript. My “call” came in the form of an email. I even signed my first contract electronically.

But even in the short time period since I began this journey, publishing has changed.

When I published my first full novel with a digital only publisher, many writers (and Romance Writers of America) felt I wasn’t really published. I can’t tell you how many people looked down their nose at me even as I cranked out eight books in two years. It took years for many people to realize e-books were here to stay. I think it began right about the day that Oprah announced on her television show that she’d discovered a Kindle. Oh, well if Oprah said …

Yeeeeah, I’ve already been through an “us vs them” attitude.

And you know what? It’s starting all over again. Only this time it’s “traditional” publishing (meaning NY authors who have chosen to sign a contract with an advance and a print book) throwing stones at the self-published (also called indie-published) faction. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, the name calling, hair pulling and clawing is going both ways. There are some big name authors who have blog posts claiming all self-published authors put out unedited drivel with no entertainment value. There are indie authors claiming all traditionally published authors are literary snobs.

Really? All?

Let’s face it, with so many people reading, everyone feels there is crap on both sides of the publishing aisle. And the fact is … what one person sees as crap another sends to the top seller list. (50 Shades? Twilight? Hunger Games? Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?) There are authors that are auto-buys for me, but a friend would never pick up.

This whole thing is really dividing the author community and I just want to scream WHY? On the one hand authors are some of the most giving people I know. There have been many who have helped me when I didn’t understand the publishing process. Many who critiqued and taught and took time to point me in the right direction. But they can also be some of the most stubborn, judgmental people I know.

Just this week I put out a long post about all the roads to publishing a book. Do I care how someone gets their book published? No. Do I feel they’re only valid if their agent got them a six figure advance? No. (Though I will be just a taaaad envious for a little while.) Do I care if an author’s success came from books they self-published? No.(Though again with a short pause to entertain my envy that they just bought a new BMW with their last royalties.)

I’m really sick of people pointing fingers and being angry and screaming that one way is more right than another and saying mean things about other authors. Really? What right does someone have to tell another author what’s right for their writing career. They don’t. And I’m not even sure why they would want to spend the time trying.

I’m a scientist in my soul and a teacher at heart. I research and I share. I don’t judge. I answer questions when asked and support when needed. I’m not interested in taking sides. And I’m getting really tired of people who do.

***NOTE I guess I’m not alone. Check out this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and this post by Dean Wesley Smith and an open letter by Anna Elliot. Guess LOTS of authors are tired of this finger pointing and name calling.

Okay, I seem to be in one of those moods where the world is just making me scratch my head. (I rarely step into personal opinion mode, but I just need to spout today.) First RWA and now the American Humanist Association. If you’re not up for another rant you’ll want to move along now …

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure I want to let you know I’m Catholic. Baptized. Confirmed. And married in the Catholic church. And though I’m not practicing it’s who I am to the very soles of my feet. This information will become significant in a moment.

A few months ago a 16 year old high school student in Cranston, RI decided that the prayer banner hanging in the gymnasium of her high school violated her constitutional rights because it contained the words “Heavenly Father” and “Amen”. You see, she’s an atheist. She was forced to see the banner every time they had mandatory school assemblies in the gymnasium where it was displayed. And I suspect during mandatory gym classes as well.

Now wait … let me finish. She is welcome to her beliefs. This isn’t about that. This is about AHA standing behind this young woman to try to make a point. This young lady sued the school system to have the banner removed. The argument for the banner wasn’t to display the Christian beliefs, but to preserve an historic artifact. The prayer was written by a member of the first graduating class of the high school. Yes, the student body at the time the school was built in the 50’s was no doubt a homogenous group of middle income Christian young men and women. And it is true life has changed and that is no longer the case. But students with other religious beliefs didn’t find the banner offensive. They didn’t bring a lawsuit that cost the town and school system $150,000. (Like a school system in this day and age can afford that amount of money out of their budget. *headdesk*) It was this group standing behind this young lady (and covering her court costs) trying to make a statement.

I get it. There are atheists among us. So? There are also muslims, jews, buddhists, protestants, catholics and agnostics rubbing elbows with us at the mall or sharing a seat with us on the bus. Why do I care if they’re reading a Bible or the Koran next to me? I don’t. Can’t we all respect each other?

Because now it seems like the AHA is emboldened by having the court decide in their favor and now they’re going after a soldier memorial in Providence. The memorial is on city property in front of the town hall and displays a cross.

Seriously folks … why? I can honestly say that if this soldier had been jewish and the monument had a Star of David displayed, I would not be offended as I passed it going into the town hall. The monument is historical. Is this group of activists so intent on making sure nothing religious is displayed in public that they’re willing to erase all historical artifacts from every piece of public property in the United States? I seriously believe they’re going after another Rhode Island landmark because they know the state won’t spend the money pushing the lawsuit up the judicial ladder.

And it just irks me. I understand this group doesn’t want to be bombarded with religious symbols. But it’s a part of who we are. The United States is a melting pot. That means people of all races and religions are living within our borders. For goodness sake stop trying to act as if there is no religious history in our nation.

Am I way off base here? What do you think of all of this? Because you know me … I’m always curious about stuff like this.

This is just a little rant about something that is in such short supply these days it’s nearly extinct … common sense. Yeah, you remember that? The part of your brain that tells you not to cross the street when traffic is moving or not to spend money you don’t have or hold the door for someone with their hands full. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it seems fewer and fewer people are using this part of their brain.

It seems every day there’s another example of people in the news that win some court battle because the judicial system especially has lost its commmon sense. A woman who spills coffee in her lap and gets a huge settlement because she got burned and no one told her it was hot. The stories of inmates suing victims, prisons, and states for unlawfully keeping them behind bars could fill several wastebaskets. Stories of student victims who speak up and get punished while their bullies walk away without any repercussions seem to fill the news every day.

Recently in a public high school near where I live, a student stepped forward and said a framed copy of the school prayer gifted to the school by the graduating class of 1963 was offended by the wording (because she’s an atheist) and asked the courts demand it be removed from the auditorium wall. The judge ruled in her favor. Families are flabbergasted that this is happening. It’s not that they don’t understand people with other faiths are now attending the school, they just feel this banner is part of the school’s history and it should be preserved for that reason. I tend to agree with the majority on this one.

I’m just wondering when we’ll find our common sense in the midst of one person who feels their wants are more important than the majority’s needs. Can we save it from total extinction in a world filled with people who feel they’re entitled to have everything whether they’ve worked for it or not? I’m beginning to wonder.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my publisher? Over the last few months I have really developed an appreciation for all they do. Why? Oh, because I’ve been self-publishing a few of my books.

Now don’t get me wrong. Putting books up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is so easy, you can do it without losing much sleep. BUT I went further and uploaded it to All Romance Ebooks which required downloading Calibre and formatting issues and … in the name of all that is Holy, I should have paid someone to do that for me. LOL!

And did I learn anything from that. Ohhhh nooooo … Nina thought it was a good idea to combine the three books in the Tilling Passions series and put them out in print. I know, right? … what the hell was I thinking? Because here’s the thing. I didn’t choose some easy single manuscript to upload, but an anthology. Now think about anthologies. They come with title pages and different headers and hidden page numbers and … a whole frickin’ lot of hidden problems that I didn’t anticipate. Let’s just say I jumped in on Friday. Worked all day and night Saturday (like until 4 am) and got right back at it on Sunday morning by 8. The pages are FINALLY loaded this morning.

So what did I learn?
1. That my high school typing teacher had no idea that setting margins would get so friggin complicated.
2. Word 2007 is an evil empire hell bent on keeping secrets from its users.
3. That when you ask for “advanced word help” it seems everyone only knows the basics.
4. I had no idea that gutters weren’t just for removing water from the roof.
5. Headers and Footers are magical environments where the normal laws of Word don’t apply.
6. That just because Createspace says you can upload an rtf they forgot to mention … it doesn’t really work.
7. I’m so damn stubborn and every time I said “one more upload” it didn’t mean anything when it didn’t work.

And lastly …
Writing a book is only hard until you decide you want to self-publish it.

And that’s what I did this weekend. How was yours?

(And today my tour continues at Jade Mystique, Kay Dee Royal and Romance Lives Forever. Whew. Busy. Busy.)

This is the story of an avid reader. A regular JoAnn who stops at Starbucks and buys her double double mocha latte with extra foam on her way to the bookstore. It’s a wonderful day. She’s visited her favorite author’s websites and has her list all ready.

The bookstore is bustling and JoAnn gets all caught up in the excitement of adding to her “to be read” pile. She peruses the paranormal shelf, choosing a couple of books, even picking up a book written by a debut author. She then heads over to check out the latest releases in the historical section. gathering several more books and finishes her visit in the erotic romance section bashfully picking out the backlist of her favorite authors. With two bags filled with books, she heads to the front of the store.

But on her way to the register she comes across someone who has all the books in her bags for free. That’s right. Completely free.

“Why are you buying those books. I’ll give them to you for free.”
“Wow, why don’t they cost me anything?”
“Oh, I got one copy of the book and made more copies. I’m happy to give them away.”
“Well, if you’re here in the bookstore, then it must be legal.”
“Who cares if it’s legal. Everyone’s doing it. Besides authors are rich. They’ve already been paid to write the books.”
“Well, then I’ll take one of everything you’ve got.”

People wouldn’t do this. Of course it would never happen in a bookstore. But it happens all the time on the internet. As much as authors shout from the rafters about internet piracy and their bottom lines, readers don’t seem to understand how much money authors and publishers are losing to these thieves.

I don’t usually get too uptight about people pirating my books. I’ve never had many downloaded. But in the last two days, one of my best selling books has been downloaded 22,000 times … for free. I made no money from these books that were stolen from me. I’m sick. I’m not foolish enough to think that all of these people would have purchased the book, but even if a third of them had, I could make my mortgage payment from the royalties off those sales for THREE months!

THREE MONTHS!

And now I’m pissed. Downright indignant that people continue to think this practice is all right. Worse than the torrent sites offering books for free are people who go on ebay or create their own sites and SELL illegal copies of books. Talk about adding insult to injury!

I’m not sure if everyone understands that authors who write for digital publishers don’t get paid advances. My hard work is only rewarded when people BUY my books and I get royalties from the sales. Writing is what pays my bills. There isn’t anyone who wants to work a full week making widgets only to have all the widgets given away and the business not paying them for their time. Yeah, it’s the same thing.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here on the blog. You’re all wonderful authors and readers and I appreciate all of you. But seriously, I’m beyond frustrated with this particular website that’s giving away my book and all the people who visit it and steal from me. I’m fortunate that my publisher actually has someone who sends out cease and desist letters, but they take time to get the books taken down. Congress is working on copyright infringement laws, but they’re just not coming through fast enough for me. I believe if the music industry was able to fight the illegal downloads, the publishing industry will be able to follow suit.

In the meantime, please get your books from reputable sites where the author and publisher are making money from the sales. Secretaries, editors and cover artists also depend on book sales for their salaries.

Because seriously, this kind of pirate isn’t sexy at all!

I love going to the movies, the whole sitting in the dark with a box/sack/feedbag of popcorn and a cup/gallon/drum of soda (because let’s face it the size of the snacks is insane … but I digress). I love the theater surround sound and the whole big screen experience. I go to be entertained.

Now, I’m no artsy critic. I rarely go for the deep meaningful movies that have everyone walking out of the theater quietly because they’re still trying to wrap their heads around the deeper message of the movie. And I love intelligent slapstick humor as much as the next person, though it can’t just be stupid for the sake of stupidity. What I dislike even more than stupid … degradation.

I can’t help it, I’m a middle child. It’s part of my psyche to make everything all right for everyone. I can’t stand when I think the underdog is being bullied. Which brings me to a couple of summer movies that have recently been released. (And let me preface this by saying I haven’t seen either of these movies and I’m judging them solely on the trailers.)

Bridesmaids is a movie about a woman who’s asked to be the maid of honor for her friend. I know it’s Hollywood’s answer to the “Hangover” movies, but I don’t think any of the men in those movies were made to look like idiots and losers. Just from the trailers I’ve seen, the main character is looked down upon and made to feel small. Then there is the part played by Melissa McCarthy. This actress worked all last year changing the image of plus size women in her role on “Mike and Molly”. And here she is playing a larger woman who is crass and very (in my opinion) man-ish.

And more recently released, Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Now this one–even in the public trailer–shows a teacher bullying her students. Whaaaat? There is just too much wrong with what I’ve seen in the previews for me to even consider watching it.

I know both of these movies are supposed to be funny. And I have no doubt there will be a really sweet ending in both of them. They’re about a couple of mindless hours being entertained and not about teaching life lessons. But I think some of these movies are just stepping over the line. In a world where we continue to encounter rudeness and bullying, prejudism and stereotyping, I’m just not sure some movies aren’t depicting the very things we’re working to stop.

I know this blog post sounds kinda preachy and it’s not really what I intended. It’s just that some of the movies that are coming out of Hollywood make me cringe and I was just wondering if I was the only one who felt this way.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America. Mostly I keep up my membership because I can then be a member of smaller chapters like Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal, Maine Romance Writers and the New England Chapter, all of them full of wonderful authors who offer advice and support my career.

When I started writing six years ago I was alone in the world with no clue how to navigate the waters of the publishing world. I found RWA and then my local Maine chapter. Thanks to them and several RWA sponsored writing contests I was able to learn my craft, hone my writing skills and publish. Of course back then RWA didn’t consider me published because I had chosen to work with Liquid Silver Books, a digital publisher (whom I would highly recommend). With no advance coming to me for my books they considered me little more than a hobbiest. Yeah whatever.

As the electronic industry grew and e-readers became part of the book buyer’s landscape, RWA could no longer ignore the fact that many authors were choosing to contract their books to digital publishers. For many writers, the high percentage of royalties was now outweighing the desire to sell books to publisher with low advances that rarely “earned out”.

RWA now recognizes authors as “officially published” who earn $1000 or more with a single book title either as an advance OR in royalties. Okay, well, no kidding authors of e-books who have received awesome reviews and have a readership have known this for a long time.

But if there’s one truth about publishing … nothing remains the same for long.

Now, authors are finding financial success publishing books directly to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And RWA has no idea what to do with these authors who earn sometimes more than the traditionally published mid-list author in NY. Because … get this … that author is only a hobbiest. They aren’t looking at their writing career as a profession.

Wai … wha?

It’s true. And there are some authors who are jumping on that bandwagon. Now don’t ask me why, in this time of Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath and Barry Eisler, who are making amazing money publishing their own books, why RWA would NOT consider this a viable publishing option for an author’s career. To me it’s a sound business decision to make sure I’ve tapped into all aspects of the publishing market.

I consider myself a “professional” writer. I intend to contribute substantially to the family budget, not just offer a movie and dinner night to Mr. Nina once a month when my royalty check arrives. But it is the rare author who makes a living wage right out of the starting gate. It takes time to market onesself and find a readership base. When will I consider myself a success? Hmmm, I’m not sure. I suspect every time I reach one goal I’ll be stretching toward another. What I do know is that I can’t decide for someone else how to define their writing.

There are some who really are just happy writing their stories and getting them out into the world, even if they don’t make much money. And others who are happy squeezing their writing time between a fulltime job, kids and the hubster, thrilled to have extra money every month or so to feed their book-buying addiction. Are they not professionals? That’s not for me to decide. And I know that’s not much of an answer.

The truth is, RWA is trying to juggle many writers with a lot of needs. It just seems to me that the organization is once again fighting the US (those who are published with recognized electronic publishers and traditionally published authors making a living wage) vs THEM (everyone still finding their way including those “self-pubbed” to Amazon) battle. I don’t know where the organization is going or what will be decided about authors who make their living publishing direct. I just hope the powers that be are looking at this from all angles, not just the one down their nose.

So, as an author does any of this affect you? And as a reader, does it matter to you where your favorite books come from (recognized pubs or Amazon/B&N directs)?

Okay, I’ve got just a little rant. Walk away now if you don’t want to hear it, but it’s just gotta come out or I’m going to burst!

Here’s the skinny. For those of you who visit here regularly you know I’m a contest whore. Really. As soon as my first manuscript was finished, I entered contests. Everyone says … decide why you’re entering. Pshaw I wanted to WIN and get the coveted contract. Yeeeeeah, so didn’t happen, but I did learn a lot about writing from judges who were willing to lay it on the line and say WTH?. They didn’t sugarcoat what was on the page. Because my writing at the time was ba-a-a-a-ad! It wasn’t even salvagable.

(Now, I must also admit at this point, I have the self-confidence of 10 people. Seriously. If I could bottle it and sell it, I’d retire a rich woman. I’m not saying it’s deserved, it’s just a cocky arrogance that makes me believe I can do or be anything I want. That being said … obviously I wasn’t deterred from my plan to write and publish. Anywho…)

Now I want to return the favor. I’m judging contests of unpublished writers. I know where they’re at. I know what they’re hoping for. But here’s the thing, I refuse to pretend their writing is wonderful if indeed … it isn’t. Nope, I won’t do it. I honestly believe not everyone who wants to write books has the talent to do it. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn if they are driven to do it. Because I also believe if you want it bad enough then keep pushing and you can make it happen.

I don’t fall in the camp of giving nothing less than a three when judging. No. Nope. Won’t do it! Because there are 2’s and 1’s in the scale because it is possible for a new writer not to have developed a skill and warrent the low score. Of course when I give that score I explain in detail why that skill didn’t come through in the writer’s piece. The true writer, the one whose characters scream at them in the night and whose stories have to be told, aren’t going to be deterred. They’re going to cry and scream and hate that nasty judge for a couple of days and then they’re going to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, look at the comments objectively and learn their craft.

I’m not mean by any stretch of the imagination, but I state my honest opinion as tactfully as possible. It’s what I want. If my book isn’t up to snuff I want my critique partners to tell me.

If I send something to an agent or editor it’s their job to tell the truth. If the story sucks … it sucks. There’s no nice way to say “really Nina, this isn’t ready to be published. I think you need to step back and hone your craft.” Their job is not to coddle my tender ego. They don’t have to be nice, they have to be honest.

Publishing is a tough business. It hurts and it exhilirates. Every high comes with some really crappy lows. It’s a wild roller coaster ride. It’s not meant for the faint of heart or people not willing to learn their craft. Get over it. Honesty may hurt, but sugarcoating the truth doesn’t get a person anywhere.

There you have it. Don’t ask me if you don’t want the truth.

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