Complaints

Cigarette hanging from her mouth, the ash long and dangling. Smoke circle her head as fingers peck out a rapid tattoo on the the old Royal. Papers balled and crumpled near the waste basket as her characters chatter incessently in her ear, but not loud enough to get it juuuuust right. And as the final pages add up on the corner of her desk, she renews her efforts to finish that manuscript and get it out to a publisher.

That’s how I picture my favorite author’s careers in the past. It was all about the writing. All about receiving that boxed manuscript from an editor with redlines and arrows indicating editing suggestions. Editors and publishers had time to put time and energy into a book, to groom the author and create an image and a marketing plan for her and her books.

Sadly, those days are gone.

An author no longer has the the luxury of just sitting down at her computer and pounding out a new best seller. There are so many hats she must wear. Writer, editor, marketing guru and in many cases, publisher.

Publishers now want to see manuscripts that have had the bulk of the editing done. Beta readers and critique groups are now working with an author to find unforgivable flaws with a hero no reader can love. They’re helping fill in those small plot line holes that an editor used to discover. If a manuscript hits an acquisition editors desk with any of those problems it will no doubt receive a form email rejection. If the author is fortunate, there will be some explanation as to why it was rejected, but often there isn’t time for an editor to explain in detail why a book “doesn’t fit”.

With the advent of digital books authors are no longer receiving advances. Advances meant an author was compensated up front for months of being bent over the keyboard. Without the advance, the author now depends only on royalties from sales to make her money. (I don’t even want to speculate my hourly rate of pay for the books I’ve written.) Without the backing of a marketing department from the good ‘ole days, it also means she has to go out and pound the pavement to let readers know she has a new book out there. Spending time on Facebook and Twitter shouting about her book, which equals time away from writing the next book.

Now, Amazon and Barnes & Noble among other venues, have made it possible for an author to actually publish her own book without going through an agent or publishing house. And as exciting as this has become for authors to have full control of their books, it’s also a heck of a lot of work. It becomes the responsibility of the author to find her editor and cover artist. To make sure the book is formatted correctly for all digital platforms. And as you can imagine, this means more time away from writing.

To keep up with this changing world many authors are hiring assistants who can help with the extraneous work load. Of course you need to have the sales to justify this expenditure. Ah hem, I so am not there … yet. And there are publicity companies who are hired by authors to go out and do some of the pavement pounding. But as a reader I find them very annoying and they become white noise in the thrum of all the book marketing. Since I delete these announcements from my email and ignore them on Facebook, I haven’t bothered with any of the companies.

I keep saying this year I’m going to figure this whole thing out. To set a schedule of some sort that not only allows time for all of these things AND writing. Of course before all that happens I do have to get my personal life to slow down juuuust a little.

As a reader do you see these changes effecting your buying habits or has it all happened in the background unnoticed by you? If your an author, are you happy with all the changes in publishing or would you like to go back to the days before digital books? Because you know me, I’m curious like that.

I love my life. Really I do. (This is me convincing myself of that fact.) Most days I throw my shoulders back, lift my chin and put a smile on my face and head out the door. Weeeelll, okay, not the door, but out into the virtual world of the internet.

I’m mostly a positive person.

But the last couple of weeks I’ve been working really hard on marketing. You know, that four letter word that authors hate to talk about, but which is a necessary evil sometimes. I must say, this time I really stepped in it. I have totally overextended my obligations going into the holidays and now I’m paying the piper.

Translation … I have so many flippin’ guest blogs/book uploads/website coding obligations that my mind has become a sieve. Every idea has fallen through the holes created by the spinning miasma of confusion all this tap dancing around the internet has created. Seriously, if I was making enough money I’d hire an assistant just to do all the tweeting and facebook announcements that people are asking me to do. It’s insane.

I have a hard enough time promoting myself and now I’ve committed to a $.99 Book Blog where I’ve agreed to help promote everyone else’s books (and there are some wonderful books). And this is all good because all these people are going to promote my book as well. But it does make me wonder if people are going to be turned off as it gets closer to Christmas and all they’re seeing is promotion promotion promotion. Yeah, that makes Nina a very dull writer. I like to think I can amuse and entertain now and again. But that requires I spend more time than I currently have at the moment, hanging out on Twitter and Facebook chatting with folks as if I didn’t have a real life with things to do and there was no need for me to writing another book.

Oh, yeah writing. I remember that rewarding activity.

Anyway, I can’t stay long. My to-do list includes putting some books up on a new site and figuring out how to put my digital books in print. My characters are just going to have to step to the back of the line. I’ll get them their HEA as soon as I find mine. LOL!

It’s been six years this summer since I had to give up my teaching job. That first summer I was so excited about this new writing gig I’d decided to embark upon. I got up early every morning, the romance story of two teachers living in northern Maine, churning in my head. (Hey, they say write what you know.)

I loved that summer. There was no internet for me. No emails begging for my attention. I hadn’t started my blog. Facebook and Twitter were just in their infant stages and definitely not on my radar. It was me, a computer and two characters looking to find love.

Of course that book is buried deep under the couch because, as much as I loved the story and the characters, I just don’t think I can save that manuscript from itself. I was too ignorant of writing rules (I’m a scientist remember) and story structure to worry about doing it “right”. I just let my imagination run wild and typed. Writing it was fun. Working my way from “once upon a time” to “riding off into the sunset” was a huge learning journey for me. Enough so that I could go on and write another romantic suspense thriller that will hopefully find it’s way to publication within the year. I was thrilled with my progress and the stories I discovered in my imagination just waiting to get written.

But the last couple of years, I worry more about cliches and character growth and act structure. The joy of writing the story is gone and I don’t know where it’s disappeared.

I think part of my issue is watching authors who started writing when I did, running away with accolades and big contracts. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I wish all my friends well and hope for only the best for all of them. It’s just that … it’s hard for me to not want what they have or to compare myself to their successes. I know. I know. Every writer is different. Every journey unique. I have been blessed with some wonderful contracts and I’m grateful. Really I am. But I want to find that story that sets my muse on fire. The one I just have to write because it’s keeping me awake at night and filling my mind with images and … enthusiasm. I want the passion back.

I know I’m not the only writer who’s gone through this. Others have survived and come out better on the other side of their personal crisis. I will too. I’m just a tad bit impatient at the moment and want it all to work out now. Anyway, I’m throwing this out there. Have you ever run into a personal wall that you needed to get over? Did something you love lose it’s luster? I’d love to know how you got through it. How did you rediscover the joy. Walking away from writing isn’t an option at this point in time. This is my job. I’d just like to figure out how to get out of bed again with a smile on my face happy to face the keyboard.

I write romance. I read romance. I talk and interact with romance writers every day. So yeah, it’s true I may be the only one feeling this, but I’m thinking not. Because here’s the thing. I’m getting just a little over some of the sexy images landing on romance novel covers.

I know … right? What’s wrong with me? A well-toned athletic body with gorgeous eyes … what’s not to love?

*yawn*

Oh sorry. What I’m trying to say is I definitely enjoy drooling over the male physique. It’s just that the same couple of guys are inundating the cover market and it’s losing its impact. Covers are supposed to pull us in, but when I see certain cover models my first thought is not “oh I’d like to check this book out” it’s more like “seriously? again? boooooring!”

I’m equating this to the “Fabio years”. I mean come on, this guy is sexy. I would love to lick those abs. Oh, sorry, what I meant to say is those abs certainly inspire wonderful images for the writer in me. *vbg* But when Fabio was at his peak, every time a reader turned around he was adorning the covers of their favorite romances:

When ebooks first became popular it seemed art departments were all drawing from the same image pool. Many books had the same couples with different titles and author names. It got very confusing for visual readers such as myself who weren’t sure if they’d bought that particular book or not. I think publishers are getting better about changing it up. Though I have to admit I actually got a one-star review because the reader couldn’t get past the cover image and the fact that it was exactly the same as the cover of her favorite author. (Nope, she didn’t buy my book.)

But with so many authors self-publishing these days I think it’s happening all over again. There are just some cover models that I’m seeing over and over and over and over and … well you get the idea. I don’t fault them for being wonderful business men and making their stock images not only easy to acquire, but affordable. I’m just saying I’m over their sexiness.

So is it only me? Is anyone else getting tired of the same sexy men showing up on your novel covers? Tell me what you think, because you know me, I’m curious about these kind of things.

I love all the new technology. Weeellll, not all of it. Okay, probably not most of it. I’m what you call a techno-idiot and I resist upgrading or downloading anything until the device has wires hanging or so many error messages that I can’t make it function.

But my children? Totally in love with anything gadget.

And I was going to say it is their generation, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of people my age who wouldn’t go anywhere without their Smartphone where they can tweet, email and update their facebook status from anywhere.

Ummm, what about interacting with the people standing right in front of you??!!

When my children were going through school we didn’t have the internet. No, it wasn’t 1970…it was within the last decade and I didn’t want to have to deal with policing them when I didn’t really know much about it myself. They had to do their research the old fashioned way … encyclopedias. *Gasp* Oh, the horror! There was no facebook and cyber-bullying wasn’t even a word.

Simpler times for sure.

Now, they’re as plugged in as their friends. (And mom is getting there.) But we’ve banned cellphones at the dinner table (because we get together so infrequently these days). But on our recent family vacation, every kid under the age of 25 had their phone in their hand nearly every minute of the day. I have no idea if they were texting or updating internet sites. The point is…they didn’t put them down.

And companies are making it even easier for them to stay connected. Cars and phones with facebook status update technology have made it so people (not just the twenty-somethings) don’t EVER have to unplug. Crazy. Where is the mystery of the morning-after phone call following an awesome first date? Where is the living in the here-and-now?

No one is going to stand up at a funeral extolling the number of friends on a Facebook page or how fast someone could text. I just worry that we’re going to get so caught up in the technology and forget that life is NOW and you need to enjoy the people you are WITH.

And yes, I completely see the irony of putting this whole diatribe on my blog … just go with it. 😉

I know, I really have no excuse for dropping out of the blogosphere. Though I was on vacation last week, I totally could have uploaded some posts and didn’t manage to get that done. I’m hanging my head in shame.

And to top it off, I see Facebook and Twitter drawing so much attention, I think fewer and fewer people are finding time to peruse blogs. And I have to admit, since I hang out there a lot I’m kind of finding it hard to find interesting things to chat about.

But just as an update, we were in the process of buying a house and ran into a huge glitch. That’s after waiting 4 months for the bank to make a deal with the sellers who are upside down with their mortgage. Now this. I hate giving up on this house as it really fits our needs AND we’ve been putting money out to get things done that won’t be reimbursed to us if it all falls through. So yeah, that kind of is taking some of my time.

And all three of our children are going through MAJOR transitions. We continue to support them with hand holding and love. Lots of love. But seriously, with all of this swirling around me I’m trying to figure out what weird karma I may have sent out into the universe to have all of this happening at the same time.

Fortunately, this week I have a book release and I’m really looking forward to WEDNESDAY!

So how are things in your corner of the world? Any advice as to how to handle the craziness that is my life would be greatly appreciated.

I’m a creature of habit. I don’t pretend otherwise. I mean there are times I can be spontaneous, but mostly I’m happy plodding along with some semblance of a routine. Yeah, it’s sort of boring, but it works for me.

Which means when something screws with things the way I like them, it makes me all prickly. Like this blog for instance. For years … years I happily typed up my posts and posted them to the Internet. Yeah, there were always these big strips of yellow on the top of my dashboard proclaiming how behind the times I was and wouldn’t I please update the WordPress software. But I refused. Because I knew their new fangled up-to-date version wasn’t going to look or act like the old version that was as comfy as the jammies I was working in.

But then I had the wonderful idea of doing an overhaul and Tracy Cooper-Posey just did a slow eyeroll when she realized how outdated the platform was that I was using. After we revamped the Block, giving it a sexy new look that fit better with my website, she made me promise, promise to faithfully do the updates when they appear. And I have. I close my eyes and go through the steps, knowing when I open them again, nothing will be the same.

URRRRRRRR!

It’s not fair. There should be an option to update the backend (that’s all the stuff I can’t work anyway) but keep what I see exactly the same. But nooooooo, they have to screw with something that’s already working.

Oh, and WordPress isn’t alone. Goodreads changed where they put things in their drop down menus. Followed by photobucket. And then Twitter wanted me to upgrade and add all their new bells and whistles. (Of course that only turned me off and kept me from going over there for the longest time.) And don’t even get me started on Facebook … the update, new fangled app, change-your-settings-every-other-day KING!

And even Google changed how I view images! Why?

Don’t they understand there are techno-idiots like me barely hanging on by a cyber thread pulled so taut that one more new-fangled-who-dinger may be just the thing that drops us into the deep pool of 404 error … page not found!

What about you? Are you one of those tech-savvy people who love everything new and sparkly or is the cyber-verse a territory best left to the professionals? Because you know me … I need to know if I’m alone in all of this!

Why? Why do they want to cause the

I find sitting down to write a daunting task some days. But then again, isn’t that the way with everyone’s job no matter how much they love it? There are just mornings when you’d rather not show up and do that thing that today … is nothing more than a paycheck. But then you get to the office/classroom/wherever and somthing happens, whether it’s a conversation with a co-worker, a cold call that went just right or a student’s lightbulb of understanding filling your classroom, it realigns the stars and your job once again becomes your passion.

The problem with writing is that it’s such a solitary endeavor. Yes, there are writer’s groups and your critique partners, but when it comes right down to it, no one but you and your muse can translate your imagination onto the page. Word choices and characters create a world unique to you and your voice. Which means, when I show up at the computer dragging butt, there ain’t no one who can help me find the motivation, but me.

I’ve discovered my favorite part of writing is editing. The flesh and bones of the story are there and now I have to go back and make them lean and sexy. There’s nothing I like better than taking a mediocre sentence and turning it into something that strikes a chord in the heart of the reader.

But I’m not editing right now. I’m rewriting. Yep, I’ve got several stories that I recently got the rights back to from earlier in my career that require an overhaul. The premise works and 85% of the story is good, but that other 15 … well, it requires finesse to get it where I want it. The problem is, I’ve got no real idea how to do it. I’m muddling along reworking scenes, deleting others and writing new ones and trying to make sure it all mashes together in an enjoyable and cohesive story for my reader.

I don’t do rewriting well. The whole thing seems a tad overwhelming. Way worse than a blank page! If anyone has any suggestions or tips on how to survive this, I’m listening. Feel free to share. Because Lord knows my muse is ready to take a long summer vacation without me.

So the other day I was shopping in a new store in a new state which meant finding replacements for some of the “standards” I keep in my cupboards. One of those basics is carbonated soda water. Not quite tonic, but similiar. I drink it all day instead of tap water. In Maine, we bought the store brand. Well, obviously I wasn’t going to find that in Rhode Island, so we found something that looked like it would fit the bill. Reasonably priced and 0 calories. Perfect.

Yeah, well, I poured my first tall glass and took a long swallow … and promptly spit it out. It was like drinking kool-aid with bubbles. GAH! A mouth full of sugar. When I looked at the ingredients I discovered it contained aspertame. Blech! I don’t like aspertame. I find it overly sweet. I ended up dumping 3 bottles of the stuff because I just couldn’t drink it. I was so bummed. I really felt that the product should have been more clearly labelled.

What’s this got to with writing? A lot actually.

A while back I bought a book that sound very intriguing. The title was about vikings. The cover showed a viking. The back cover blurb talked about vikings, ships and characters from different worlds falling in love. Yay! I was going to read a viking story. I settled in and within the first chapter was introduced to a “space bridge”. Wai … what? The “ship” turned out to be a space ship. The “other world” turned out to be outerspace. Now don’t get me wrong, I love science fiction stories. I read them all the time. Heck, I’ve even written a sci fi erotic romance. But I didn’t lead the reader to believe they were picking up a contemporary romp. The cover for A Touch of Lilly shows a planet with three moons and one of the guys has red skin … red skin. There is nothing that could lead a buyer to think they were picking up anything that didn’t include an alien of some type. Even if you never read the back cover blurb, you’re not going to think you’ve picked up a steampunk novel or an historical.

I felt totally jipped. The thing is, it might be a good book. I might even have enjoyed it, but I didn’t get past the second chapter before I set the book aside in disgust. It’s not what I plunked my money down for. I was looking for an historical romance and what I got instead was an eclectic mix of sci fi and historical which is totally awesome for the author, but not so much for the unsuspecting reader.

So how do you see it? Am I way off-base on this? Have you ever picked up a book you felt fell in one genre and actually turned out to be another? Did you feel like you got the old bait and switch? I’m just wondering if I’m feeling a little overly sensitive about this.

So this week Los Angeles is becoming party-town for readers and writers of Romance at the ROMANTIC TIMES CONVENTION. Other than RWA Nationals it’s the biggest gathering of all things romance.

And though I could be blogging from anywhere, I’m actually comfortably settled in at my work desk with my cuppa joe, working in my snuggly jammies and fuzzy slippers. Because as much as people LOVE to go to these conventions, I’m just not sure they’re for me. Yes, I want to meet readers. Yes, I’d love to sit and visit with other authors over a cocktail (or two). Yes, I’d like to chat with agents and editors about the publishing world … but … well, just but. But there’s the expense of traveling across country. But I don’t know the likelihood of meeting new readers. But there’s the whole mobility issue and trying to get around not only the convention, but the city itself.

And then there are all the costume parties. What’s up with that? I don’t know when this whole thing started, but it seems no matter how large or small the writing convention (with the exception of RWA Nationals) everyone is sponsoring themed parties as part of their convention. Whyyyyyyy? Maybe it’s just me, but I have no interest in figuring out how to dress up as a vampire or an alien.

Since I was young, Halloween has been one of the most stressful holidays for me. Around mid-October, I’d break out in cold sweats, and panic everytime I thought about Halloween. Like most people my age, my family didn’t buy costumes. And with five children my Mom left the costume ideas to us. Most of the time we were left scrambling in my parents’ closet after school on the 31st, trying to find oversized clothes to dress up as a vagabond, or my personal favorite, the old bed sheet for … you guessed it … a ghost.

Yeah, they were sad costumes, but served their purpose. I always came home with a pillowcase of candy and some great stories of wandering the neighborhood with my friends.

So anyway, as an adult I’m not really overly thrilled with the whole idea of dress-up. It doesn’t even sort of sound like fun. Is it just me? I mean, I LOVE a good party. But do I have to do it in fangs and wings? Okay, so maybe I’m just a party-pooper. I’m curious are you at RT? As a reader or a writer would you like to be in the middle of the action? And how about these costume parties? Does the idea intrigue or overwhelm? Because you know me, I’m dying of curiousity.

And don’t forget to check out THIS POST for a chance to win an ebook from Tracy Cooper Posey.

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