Curiosity

Okay, I’ve said this before … I don’t have stories just clamoring in my head. I’m not one of those writers with more stories than time. Ah hem … thruth be told … just the opposite in fact. Lots of time to fill and panicked about what story to do next.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t have writing to fill my days … I do. I just don’t have what so many authors describe as characters screaming in their heads and stomping their feet to have their stories told. Lord knows I wish I did. My stories develop slowly. Unfold page by page as the characters reveal themselves. Yes, of course it’s my subconscious knowing where the story’s going long before I do. Still, it’s a little nerve wracking having no idea the killer’s motivation until they finally spew it out at the end of the book.

Which brings me here. I want to develop a paranormal series. One that allows me to build a world of fantasy with characters that I fall in love with (and in turn brings the reader along) where I can let my imagination soar. I gotta tell you, that’s when the muse is the happiest. Since I’m such a visual writer I’ve been searching the internet looking for inspiration, wondering every time I come across a really cool picture if that’s going to be my next hero or heroine.

But I haven’t found juuuust the right place or the right character. I usually start with the heroine’s. Ya know … until this moment I didn’t even realize I did that. Huh. Aaaannnyway …

It’s really not just because the paranormal genre is exploding. Though that is a nice little perk to coming up with a great series. It’s because I’m happiest finding myself immersed in an unknown world going places I have yet to discover and causing problems as big as my imagination.

But here’s my problem. I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off. There really is nothing more fun that closing yourself in a room full of authors (or readers) and doing some crazy brainstorming about story lines and worlds to explore. I am so jealous of authors who have that kind of support system around them. But alas, I do not. When I was a kid my family would sit around the dining room table talking about all kinds of fantastic things and wondering “what if”. When my own children are home I find we still do this, but it doesn’t happen very often with their busy schedules. Ah well, I’ll muddle through. I always do. But if you have any suggestions … I’m all ears. Throw it right out there. Nothing is too odd or too strange. Erotic or not. I’m easy.

I can’t help it. I’m a Twi-hard. Okay, new term that I don’t like, but the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer … LOOOOVE! There are people who can’t get through the books and the usual assortment of nay-sayers, but I don’t happen to be one of them. I enjoyed every single one of the stories in this series. Predicatable? Sure. But then again they were aimed at the young adult reader not the *mumble grumble* aged mother of adult children.

I absolutely love the movies. I think they’ve stayed true to the series. And I am looking forward to the next movie ECLIPSE. And before you start wondering I will happily share with you … I’m team JACOB all the way! (And yes, I’ve read the whole series. What can I say? It’s the only thing Ms. Meyer got wrong in the series *vbg*) But I digress.

I saw NEW MOON a month after it was out with my sister-in-law, two neices and my daughters. And yes, I was the sighing woman in the seats when Taylor Lautner took his shirt off. Now don’t get all squicked out. I’m not lusting after the child, he’s younger than my son, but I do appreciate a nice work of art. (See this post.) Okay, maybe it was more than a sigh since my daughters completely slumped into their seats. LOL! And as much as I’m looking forward to ECLIPSE, I’m not sure I can convince my twenty-something daughter to join me. Anyone have a tweenager they’d like to let me borrow? I’m sure my sighs of appreciation over those werewolves will go completely unnoticed among the screaming in the theater.

So what about you? What do you think of the Twilight series? It’s okay, you can be honest, you’re not going to hurt my feelings and Stephenie Meyer certainly doesn’t have time to swing by my blog. Will you be among the theater goers this week taking in Eclipse?

Oh, and if you can’t wait … like me. Here’s the link to the official movie trailer.

I’ll finish out this week of marketing tips talking about actual promotion type “things”. Last year at Ellora Cave’s Romanticon a reader said, “I think of a promotional item from an author as a gift. And I really appreciate it.”

Wow. I mean, wow, did that ever resonate with me. I may be trying to get my name out there, but people actually enjoy getting something from an author. This has made me more thoughtful of what I’m choosing for promo.

Let’s first talk about the paper products. This is the least expensive, easiest to find and cheapest to mail type of promotion. I start with VistaPrint for all my paper products. First things first people, don’t and I mean DON’T buy anything full price at VistaPrint. Ah. No. Stop. Never. There is no excuse. Just get on their mailing list. And yes, this can be a little annoying … live with it. There are always free standard postcards (cover flats) and business cards and t-shirts and hats and pens and magnets and … Okay, you get the idea. And yes it’s true, nothing is completely free, but the “shipping” covers their costs.

I get a high resolution copy of my bookcovers from the art department. (Just ask, they’re happy to do it.) Use the design template and upload the bookcover on the front of the postcard. On the back I upload my blurb and website information and voila! instant postcard to send or send out as promotion. I also use the same hi res jpg to upload for magnets. I’ve found my readers really enjoy this item. I also have bookmarks. I have a design that puts two bookmarks on one postcard. When they arrive I take them to Staples and for $2 they cut them in half. Sure, they’re not exactly the size of a bookmark, but they’ve worked for me.

I have also started making CHAPTER SAMPLERS. I got a heavier stock 8 1/2 X 11 paper to print the cover and back cover. On the inside of that I put the copyright page and my bio. Then I print off a few thousand words from one or two chapters in a book form, fold the whole thing in half and staple it together. Readers enjoy this mini book of excerpts from my books. It gives them a taste of my writing style before they make a purchase. With the cost of the ink and the paper, they are a little more expensive to make, but worth it in my opinion.

These paper goods I send out to conventions across the country. Reader and writer events. Remember, this is about people seeing your name. The new flat rate boxes are working very well for me to ship these out. Now keep in mind (and we’ve all been here) that goodie bags at writer’s conferences are FILLED with paper goods, coverflats and bookmarks. If you can do something to make yours standout, it’s more likely not to get dumped in the recycle bin.

Which brings me to my next point. If you can find some THING that fits your brand and/or the book you’re trying to market a few well placed promotional dollars goes a long way. I got an emery board from an author that read “nail biting suspense” and her website … great gimmick. That file went in my purse and I held onto it for a loooong time. Find a brand of pen you like and there are reasonable places like National Pen and Earthly Charms that are great for pens as well as other promotional items. It’s taken me a couple of years to find a pen I really like, but now that I have … I’m sticking to it. Hopefully people will know it’s mine when they see it. And as a side note, both of these companies offer other promotional items at reasonable prices.

I also pick up quirky items at specialty stores that I can throw into gift baskets (a great author promotion tool at conferences) and prize packets I give away randomly at chats and such. (I’ve found a source for some great bookbags that have my logo and I love sending these to readers.) And I always put a label on the items with my tagline (Romance so hot … it melts your Heart) and my website. I want people to see my name and to think of me when they’re using these products.

THINGS in goodie bags at conferences are more likely to get tucked into a purse or set on a desk to be reused. But of course they will take more of your promotion money as well.

And there you have it. Just a tiny taste of some marketing tips for you. I hope these posts were helpful. I’d like to thank all the thoughtful readers who have been stopping by this week to share what they enjoy and how they go about making book purchases. It has been very helpful.

So readers and authors, what makes something a keeper for you? And have you ever bought a book from a new author based on a promotional item you received?

I’m getting ready to fly out to Ohio for Lori Foster’s Get-Together this weekend. To say I’m nervous about traveling is an understatement. It has nothing to do with flying, I love flying. It’s the whole MS mobility issue thing. I worry about getting around the airport and the hotel and a whole bunch of things people never worry about. And then of course … what to wear. I’m sure it will all be fine. But because of that my thoughts are scattered and all over the place. I figure I’ll give you an idea of what’s bumping around in my head.

I wonder why celebrities endorse things that look like REALLY bad deals: Like reverse mortgages and Quick Loans (which you know have high interest rates) or Life Insurance plans. It kinda pisses me off.

I wonder why people worry about saying something negative that might actually bring about a positive change.

I wonder how politicians made any decisions before the advent of cold calling every household in the state every half hour to see where the residents stand on the upcoming election.

I wonder why people who steal, pirate, post my books on the internet for free download are outraged because one publisher is putting their real name and isp on every page of that book. I wonder if they thought their screen name would keep their deceit generosity from becoming public knowledge.

I wonder what long term effects the oil spill in the Gulf will have on the wildlife.

I wonder if we’ll ever be able to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq so that our young people will stop having to make sacrifices on foreign soil.

I wonder if Mr. Nina would mind if I invited this guy over for dinner …

I fuss about them. I wait anxiously for them. I hold my breath as my computer connects to the site, wondering what I’ll find when I get there. What am I talking about?

Reviews.

Yep those little blurbs that come with numbered stars (or ribbons or books or tombs). I read them ALL. And of course I have to swallow my pride when the review is less than stellar. I mean come on. I wrote it and subbed it to my editor believing the readers would really enjoy the story. My editor worked hard fixing it here, tightening it there so it would be the best it could possibly be when it went out into the world. Publishers certainly don’t give contracts to books that they believe wouldn’t appeal to their readers. So the long and the short … I want my story to be loved.

With 10 books out in the world I’ve had my fair share of reviews and they’ve run the gamet from amazing “top picks” to the “don’t bothers”. And the funny thing is they can be for the same book. Sometimes, like scores from a contest, I learn something from the reviewer. They have a very valid point about the plot or a particular character. I really don’t mind those reviews.

But I currently have a review out that’s a 1 out of a possible 5. And the comment? “I didn’t read this book, but the cover is the same as XYZ author’s cover”. Whaaat? I have no say on my covers. That’s not my fault. Fortunately several people marked the comment as “not helpful” which I appreciated. Another low score I got was at a site where the reviewer stated “I’ve never read erotica, but there seemed to be an awful lot of sex in the middle of a good story.” I’ll let you be the judge of THAT review.

Some authors are better than I, they don’t read their reviews. I’m not at that point yet. I scour every single one of them and take every one of them to heart. But here’s the funny thing. I don’t RELY on them to help me discover new authors. When looking for a great read, I don’t ever go to review sites to see what they have to say. I buy my books based on the author and/or the back cover blurb. Period.

Which brings me to this question … How do you feel about reviews? Do they influence you to either buy the book or put it down and back away slowly? Because you know me … I’m always curious about this stuff. 

Okay, I’m going to admit it. I’m addicted to reality television. I know it’s a fad like so many other things that networks grab on to and barf out ad nauseum because it’s making them money, but I’m not sure this one is going away. And you know what? I don’t mind. I’m addicted.

The number one show I never miss is Survivor. I’ve watched it from the first season when Richard Hatch walked nekkid on the beach to this season’s heros vs villains. I’ve cheered and cussed with the best of them. I can’t help it. It’s a dumb show that has pulled me in completely and totally.

The second show is Amazing Race. I put this in the same category as Survivor. A Sunday/Thursday night 8pm ritual. If I can’t be home to see it, I tape it and watch at the first possible moment. Of course with this show at least I’m learning a little geography. But really, I think it has more to do with the host Phil Keoghan than the travel … but don’t tell Mr. Nina. *g*

Now, left to my own devices–namely the remote–I’d watch America’s Top Model, American Idol and Trading Spouses, but Mr. Nina has other ideas. 

In the summer we watch a show where newlyweds move into a house and compete against each other to win money. (But at the moment neither of us can remember the name of it.) I can also sneak in So You Think You Can Dance if I can get Mr. Nina hooked on the dancers.

I’m unwilling to pay for extended cable, so we don’t have all the reality shows that inundate the higher channels. But I suspect I’d get wrapped up in others if I given the opportunity. I’m not sure what it is about watching other people, but I love it. 

So I’m curious … how do you feel about these reality shows? Are there particular shows you can’t wait to watch every week? Hey, I’m a proud card-carrying member of reality shows anonymous. But please don’t ask me to give them up.

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not exactly sure why, but I’ve given up trying to figure out why my brain goes where it goes.

Anyway, the question is … Can an author write any genre without upsetting readers?

To clarify, what I’m wondering is … Can a man write romance women will love? Can a woman pen an action story that will have men talking? Do readers buy books based on the author’s gender? What about ethnicity?

I don’t know the answer. I’m just wondering.

Part of this came about because of some statements Nicholas Sparks made about his books and romance. Now don’t hang me up by my thumbs, but I enjoy his books. (Though I was quite unhappy about his comments regarding his “unique” storylines and how different they are from romance. That prompted this post, which he totally deserved.) Anyway … I like the way he writes and from the success of his stories, so do millions of people world wide.

But he’s a man. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard women (mostly writers) comment that a man can’t write romance. I beg to differ. My dear friend, Roscoe James writes the most amazing erotic romance I’ve read. His characters come alive. Their love stories resonate with emotion. His sex scenes are poignant and beautifully written. I laugh. I cry. I fall in love all over again even as his characters find their “happy-ever-afters”. There are many men writing romance and doing it well. Many, fearing the skepticism, skirt around the raised eyebrows by using pen names. I can’t say I blame them.

I know many women who write wonderful m/m erotic romance. One even … who’s gay! Yet their romances are best sellers and have won awards. Now granted, this may fall into a slightly different category as these women are writing romance for other women and not gay men. Still, I understand several female writers have a gay male audience. They’re not being told they can’t write m/m love stories.

And what about the caucasian author who wants to write the story of an African American heroine or vice versa? Will readers immediately turn from these books because the author can’t write that type of story?

Here’s my take on it. At the heart of writing is an author who’s a true actor. We “put on” the hats of our characters and play the role. Essentially, we crawl into their skin and listen to their thoughts. If we don’t, the reader won’t identify with that character and the story will fall flat. When I write from the hero’s perspective I have to think like a man, move like a man, talk like a man. Readers would be very unhappy if my male characters acted like women. Or my villians were boyscouts. Listen, I’ve never murdered anyone, but one of my favorite stories (still unpublished) involves a serial killer who does some really nasty crap. And as much as Mr. Nina would like to act out every scene in my erotic novels, let me just share with you … it hasn’t happened yet.

No one stopped Dustin Hoffman from playing “Tootsie” or Robin Williams from not only “Mrs. Doubtfire” but what about the robot he played that lived hundreds of years? Amazing stuff. I believe writers do the same thing. So why can’t authors cross all lines? Religious? Ethnic? Gender?

But that’s just the way I see things. I’m curious as to how you feel about it. Have you ever refused to pick up a book because you felt something about the author would prevent them from writing a story in that genre? If you found out your favorite romance author was the opposite sex or different skin color or … whatever … would you stop buying their books?

I didn’t know. How could I? I was just an innocent reader floating along on the river of the story the author chose to weave. I was happily ignorant.

But not now.

Now I’m a writer. I’m learning all those “don’ts” that come with writing a story. Don’t blather. Don’t name characters with no purpose. Don’t include scenes that don’t reveal new information to the reader. And … for goodness sake’s DON”T move from one character’s head to another. This is called “head hopping” and it’s not allowed.

Or is it?

This is a question authors ask themselves all the time. The fact is, readers don’t know this whole head hopping/point of view discussion exists. Really, they aren’t aware the hero can’t be thinking how beautiful the heroine is when the author is writing a scene from the heroine’s point of view. Authors know this. Editors know this. But the reader? Not so much.

Point of View (POV) purists will staunchly stand in front of the line drawn in the sand and say “No. No. No. One scene. One character’s head.” They believe there is no other way to write. Any other way is wrong. And with this comes the line break. If an author wants to offer the reader a view of another character’s thoughts within the same scene then they MUST have a blank line to alert the reader there’s been a change before continuing the scene.

And to this I say pffffft…

As a reader I find the blank line without a change in time or place really annoying. It interrupts the flow of my reading. I want it to just flow. Which means … I expect the author to seamlessly roll me from one character’s head to another. There are many techniques to do this which I’m not going to go into now, but I really admire an author who can do this without breaking the flow of the scene or pulling me from the story.

(Of course when I realize they did it, I stop and re-read to see how they managed it. 🙂 )

Some editors and/or publishers won’t let you get away with it. Why? I assume my readers are smart and can totally figure out who’s thinking what. I don’t think I need a big arrow pointing to the moment to say “Wait … pay attention … I don’t want to lose you here … Someone else is going to jump in here with internal dialogue.” Seriously. Cut me some slack.

I wish more publishers would allow their authors the creativity of changing POVs. And I’m not talking four times (because that totally drives me insane as well). But one seamless switch within the body of the scene without a line break just makes for good reading in my opinion.

I gladly welcome yours.

Really. Gone. phhht. Totally shot out the window. When did humans lose the ability to distiguish all shades of gray? It seems everything these days is either BLACK or WHITE.

This latest rant falls on the heels of the newly released FAA recordings of a child giving commands from an air traffic control tower. I know your first reaction is probably outrage. But hear me out. This wasn’t a random child talking willy nilly to TRAINED pilots. This was the son of one of the controllers who was home from school (probably due to snow or vacation … but who knows) and went into work with his dad. (And dare I add here that MANY working parents had to take snowbound children to school as they couldn’t miss ANOTHER day of work for fear of losing their jobs … but I digress.)

Anyway, this child (who sounds be around 8 or 9) pronounces very clearly that an airplane is cleared for take off. The pilot responds with a little chuckle. And the plane lifts into the air with the passengers completely unaware that anything untoward is going on in the cockpit.

There are only a few recordings of the young boy. Each time the words he spoke were clear and understood. He spoke to maybe 3 pilots ALL under the supervision of not only his parent, a TRAINED CONTROLLER, but the supervisor who was aware of the situation. Every pilot who responded to the child did so with the appropriate response, a little chuckle, and a quip or two about the outstanding job.

No one got hurt. And in my opinion this young boy’s presence in the control tower didn’t not endanger anyone. But some internet site that broadcasts control tower radios contacted the FAA. The dad and his supervisor have been suspended pending a full investigation by the FAA.

OMG! Seriously?

I know we have been having more incidences of controller errors and people have gotten hurt. I know airports have been the focus of terrorist activities. I know people are noodgie about flying these days. But when a child comes to work with their parent (for whatever reason) and “helps” out dad… should the whole world fall apart?

I don’t know, maybe I’m way off base on this. But I think the FAA is going too far. This is one of those gray colors that should not have been smeared all over the news.  

I’m not sure when it happened. When did humans, men and women a like, decided that nature had completely screwed up by covering their bodies with hair. Who needs that inconvenient stuff anyway?

Now don’t get me wrong … a little trimming here and there I completely understand. But this whole love of the laser mystifies me.

True, hair is an evolutionary throwback from our primate ancestors. And since we don’t live outside, our bodies don’t need the covering required by other mammals. But the fact is, the hair on our bodies does serve a purpose. When your body is chilled, goosebumps rise on your extremities leaving an air space where body heat is trapped. The hair on our head is actually a protection for our brains from heat.

But it’s not that hair I’m actually referring to. (Yep, I’m going to go there.) It’s the fascination with pubic hair. Or lack of fascination with it. Pubic hair actually serves a purpose people! Not only is it visual evidence of sexual maturity. it collects secreted pheromones making us more attractive for mating and it actually helps reduce friction during intercourse. I know, I know. Women remove the hair so they can wear those slips of material that pass for bikinis these days. *g*

But why would people feel the need to be bald? It just doesn’t seem natural to me. Am I missing something hair, errr, I mean here?  

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