Archive for the 'Craft' Category

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Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
A Note of Warning to Those Who Self-Publish

Cross-posted to Between Fire and Ice

In an increasingly tight and tumultuous traditional publishing industry, self-publishing has become a viable and profitable option for writers. It’s a bright spot in an otherwise murky publishing future for many of us. And everyone knows who the heavy hitter is in the self-pub market—the Kindle.

I began self-publishing my backlist about a year ago and am writing a few original novellas as well. I’ve been surprised and pleased at the income I’ve been making from my self-pubbed works and wish to continue self-pubbing in the future. About 80% of my self-pub royalties come from, you guessed it, Amazon.

In my opinion, without the ability to publish works for the Kindle, self-publishing is a no-go. Not worth it.

Bottom line is, no matter what you may think of Amazon and their business practices, if you want to self-pub you must play ball with them.

So I was pretty upset when I logged into my Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account last week to find it terminated. After some investigating, I found a warning email in an account I hadn’t checked in over a week (I’d been out of town). It appeared that the Amazon bot had located a copy of one of my novellas online and had decided that perhaps I’d plagiarized someone else’s work. It was asking for proof I hadn’t.

Since I hadn’t received the email and hadn’t responded within five days (which was totally my fault, I know), they’d terminated my account.

As I looked into the matter further I became alarmed that I would never be able to publish anything for the Kindle again. If your KDP account is terminated, I was told, they almost never reinstate you. I also knew from their TOS that if my account was terminated I would never be allowed to have another. In short, if your account is terminated with Amazon, you’re prevented from ever again publishing anything for the Kindle. That’s it. Out of business. Black balled. Some 80% of your self-publishing income is gone, just like that.

I understand Amazon is trying to prevent plagiarism and I applaud them for it. However, the bots can’t reason out what they’re finding the way a human can and mistakes are made.

I KNEW I hadn’t violated anyone’s copyright. I’ve never plagiarized in my life, never “scraped” content from the internet. All my works are 100% mine. I own all the rights to them. So I knew the Amazon bot, which is just a computer program after all, had messed up. It had found something innocuous and confused it. Or, I thought, it had likely found a PIRATED copy of my work somewhere, perhaps on Scribed.

I spent an extremely frustrating day attempting to contact someone HUMAN who could help me. There is no customer service for KDP, no number to call, no human being to talk with. There are only the bots and email. So I sent off my email explaining what I thought had happened and felt sick for the rest of the day, thinking I’d never publish for the Kindle again….and therefore never self-publish again.

Luckily, once I reached an actual, live, human being, they could see the truth. Yes, indeed the bot had found pirated copies of the novella on Scribed and one other site like Scribed (that I didn’t even know existed).

Number 123,000 why pirates suck. I hadn’t violated anyone’s copyright—it was my copyright that had been violated.

My account was reinstated, but I lost at least a week and half of sales and I’m still having trouble getting everything re-listed in the Amazon search engine. To top it off, that one novella is STILL blocked because the bot (again) found something pirated, so I’m still not done dealing with this.

I didn’t write this blog to vent. I wrote it to illustrate something self-pub authors need to understand: Amazon has A LOT of power over us. The agreement we sign gives all the power to them. I was appalled at how quickly my self-publishing career had been eliminated—80% of my self-pub income gone, just like that.

Keep this in mind and be careful about relying purely on self-publishing income because it could be taken away very easily and very quickly…all by a bot that can’t properly interpret what it’s finding on the internet.

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
Whose Head am I in today?

This morning I heard an author on NPR (don’t know who, sorry) say something to the effect that a writer should always put themselves in the place of their audience when writing. I got me to thinking (this is the part where you should run away and hide).

I do think of my audience when I’m writing, but it’s usually before I start a novel, when I’m the plotting/outlining stages. For example, I write paranormal romance. That means an HEA is a must or I will be strung up by my neck by my readers and left to die a slow, choking death. There also other considerations when crafting a story for the romance reader that I always take into account when plotting and planning. Sexual tension, placement of love scene, character development, ect…

But once I start writing, I’m really not thinking about y’all anymore. 😉 At least, not when I’m sitting there looking at my MS. When I write, I’m not in the head of my audience; I’m in the head of the POV character I’m writing at that moment.

Creative visualization is a must-have tool for a fiction writer. The ability to place yourself in the environment your character is in, to smell what they smell, see what they see, hear what they hear. The hardest thing about this is, of course, thinking the way they think because those characters are not you. They have different backgrounds, different ways of seeing the world, are driven to make decisions differently than you would. The mark of a skilled writer is getting the reader to believe the characters, but in order to do that (in my opinion) the writer has to be fully in the head of the character, not the reader, when they’re writing.

This is on my mind right now because I’m writing an especially tricky character. It’s easier when a character is sort of like me. I can name a few of my heroines to whom, were they real people, I’d probably relate pretty well. Then there are characters like, oh, Daria from The Chosen Sin, who are so different from me that they’re a real challenge to write. That’s okay, I like challenges. Prefer them, in fact. Makes the experience more interesting.

Sometimes people tell me that my writing is personal wish fulfillment. This is the comment non-writers make. My characters are not fulfilling wishes I have. They are entities unto themselves, living out their lives in my imagination. I see the world I’ve created from their perspective which is usually pretty different from my own.

So, you see, as much as I love you all and appreciate the absolute hell out of you and HOPE like a crazy person you like the end result, I am not thinking of you when I’m writing. Or of myself, for that matter. I’m only thinking of the fictional character on the page and trying to get them right.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
The Crucial First Kiss

Cross-posted from Fire and Ice.

In view of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d talk a little about that all important first kiss in a romance novel.

Kissing scenes are hard to write anyway, but the first kiss scene? Argh! The pressure! The expectations! It makes it all the harder. You have to get it just right, you know? The charged erotic climate. The blossoming attraction between the hero and the heroine that might, juuuust might turn into something more.

You have to nail the sensuality of it. The slow glide, lip to lip. The taste of each other’s mouth. The scent of their skin. The slip of tongue against tongue that sends tremors of want through them both. The twining of their breath, a little bit of their souls. How to get it exactly right… What are their hands doing? Are his hands at the small of her back, holding her flush against his chest? Are hers curled into the fabric of his shirt at his shoulders?

It makes me crazy getting the details straight.

I’m not holding this one up as an example of a good first kiss scene (I’m way too critical of my writing to ever think that), but I do really like this one from an older, less popular title of mine, Water Crystal (Ellora’s Cave).

~*~

Excerpt

The room was empty save for the two of them. Steam billowed from the surface of one filled tub. To its right side stood a shelf containing shampoo and soap. On the other side stood a rack of large towels.

Angelo uncuffed her and turned to leave, but hesitated at the door. “Let me check the boards on these windows, Bianca.” He went around the room, making sure the windows were nailed tight enough that she couldn’t pry them off.

“I’m not going to try and escape.”

He turned and gave her a look of disbelief. “After what you pulled at Hank’s, am I supposed to believe that?”

“Angelo, I swear. I’m much safer with you than without you at this point.”

“I agree with you for the first time since we met.”

“The water’s getting cold,” she complained.

“Just give me a few more minutes, okay?”

She gave him that sly, secret smile that was fast becoming her trademark. That smile meant she was up to something. “Well, if you won’t leave me alone, I guess I’ll just have bathe with you in the room.”

Before he had a chance to protest, she unbuttoned her pants and sent them sliding down her legs to pool at her feet. Shapely calves flowing into strong, beautiful thighs met his view. Above that was a peek of blue material under her shirt, blue cotton with tiny, faded red roses.

She kicked her pants away with one slim foot and the smooth muscles of her legs rippled. He couldn’t look away from her. Damn, he couldn’t even move. There it was again—that tightness in his body, settling in his groin. He hated that she had such power over him. He hated it even more that she knew she had that power over him.

Her hands went to the bottom of her shirt, as she prepared to slide it up over her head. Her flat abdomen came into view.

His paralysis broke and he went to her in four fast strides. He caught her hands and pushed them down, forcing her shirt back into place. She looked pleased with herself. Too damned pleased. She knew that she had the upper hand, and that she could bring him to his knees if she tried hard enough. He knew it and so did she.

Playing with fire, that’s what Bianca loved to do…but she could she handle the inferno once it was started? Angelo doubted it. Maybe it was time to turn the tables. Maybe it was time to push her buttons and reveal the truth at the same time.

Winding one arm around her waist so she couldn’t step away from him, he caught her chin in his fingers and tipped her face to his. “Are you going to be ready for me, Bianca, when I finally call your bluff?”

She looked uncertain for a moment. That same raw look of innocence wounded crossed her features. A fake smile flickered across her face. “Bluff? What do you mean?”

He drew his thumb over her lower lip. It was soft and smooth. He couldn’t help but think about how her mouth was going to feel under his, so lush, warm and wet.

“This is what I mean.” He lowered his face toward hers, and he felt her stiffen.

“Look, I’m sorry I teased.” She snaked her hand between them. Her palm pressed against his chest. “This is a bad idea, Angelo,” she whispered so low he almost couldn’t hear her.

He nodded his head slightly, his intent gaze on her lips. “It’s the worst idea I ever had.” He drew his hand from her chin to the base of her spine, and then pressed her into him while his mouth descended on hers.

Her lips were unmoving at first and then her body relaxed, curving to fit him perfectly. Her mouth moved under his, returning his kiss with a sudden urgency. He coaxed her lips apart and let his tongue explore within.

Her hands came up tentatively, fluttering against his arms as though she was unsure what to do with them. She finally curled the fingers of one hand into the hair at the nape of his neck. The other she pressed tight against the back of his shoulder. It almost seemed as though she was willing more of him against her.

Her tongue found his and moved against it artlessly. Her inexperienced strokes simply served to stoke the fire that was already burning hot and high within him. All his resolve about staying celibate dissolved like sugar stirred into water at the press of her lips and tongue against his.

He brought a hand around and cupped one small breast, brushing his thumb back and forth over her erect nipple through the material of her T-shirt. She moaned deep in her throat and arched into him. Reveling in the feel of her taut breast pushing against the thin fabric, he pressed his hard cock against her so she could feel what she was doing to him, and how much he wanted her.

She pulled away a little, gasped, looked surprised for a moment, then smiled and sealed her mouth back on his with a new urgency.

He found the edge of her T-shirt and pushed his hand under it to caress the skin of her lower back. She felt firm and warm. He wanted so much more than she was going to be able to give him. His body ached with the desire to lower her to the floor and help her discover all the ways a man and woman could find pleasure together, because for all her teasing she didn’t know.

He’d been right all along about her. The truth of it was in her kiss. She wasn’t ready for him. Suppressing a groan of frustration, he released her and backed away.

He looked at her and couldn’t help but smile. Now who had the upper hand? It had nearly killed him to get it, but he’d savor it while he had it.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
One Star Reviews

Why am I displaying my bad reviews from Amazon.com in this blog? Well, it started over here where John Scalzi posts snippets of his one star reviews from Amazon, then issues a challenge to other authors to do the same. Rachel Caine took it up. See? So, I thought, HEY!, all the cool kids are doing it and it’s not like I don’t have some one star reviews to choose from. Heh.

Bad reviews are part of the writing life. It’s not like I expect everyone who picks up my books to like them. People come to their reading with different perspectives, different life experiences. All that stuff colors their reading of the book. Reviews are opinions, nothing more and nothing less. Everyone is entitled to theirs.

I’m very self-critical, (I’m MUCH harder on myself than anyone else is), so if a negative review is well thought out I almost always find a place to agree with the reviewer. I try to learn from those particular negative reviews and make my next book free of the errors the reviewer has said I’ve made. (However, being human, I probably just make different errors.) A good review will make me smile broadly for two hours. A bad review will make me depressed for two days, but I try to use them as a learning tool.

In the end, bad reviews make the good ones all the sweeter. And luckily I have far more good reviews than bad.

So, with no further ado, here are some of my all time greatest hits from Amazon.com. I didn’t have a whole lot of one star reviews, so I took the two stars too.

Witch Fire

One star — “Not romance, not erotica, basically porn – what little plot there is exists to connect the sex scenes, note I didn’t say love making scenes. Altogether distasteful and I won’t waste money on this author again.”

Two star — “The writing was rather…Blah. Not awful, but sort of boring.”

Two star — “I was disappointed in this novel. I found it difficult to get into and kept putting it down.”

And Lady Makes Three

One star: “I was gullible enough to follow an Amazon recommendation on this one; it turned out to be on of my biggest mistakes. I wish I could give less than a star.”

Blood of the Raven

Two stars — “I would have given this book a 1 except it did have a plot. I like my books a little “steamy” but this is a little hard core for me.”

Seasons of Pleasure: Summer and Autumn

Two stars — “I am a big fan of fantasy and romance. My favorite thing about both these genres is the nice escape from everyday life they usually provide. This book did more to annoy me than relax me. The prose style is belabored and switches between “fantasy” and modern style intermittently. Characters are hollow despite the repetition of supposedly meaningful backstory. The author uses the same expressions over and over again, especially during sex scenes. Dialogue feels inauthentic and is ultimately unconvincing. A very unsatisfying read.”

Seasons of Pleasure: Winter & Spring

One Star — Style hasn’t improved from the first in the series. “I am a big fan of fantasy and romance. My favorite thing about both these genres is the nice escape from everyday life they usually provide. This book did more to annoy me than relax me. The prose style is belabored and switches between “fantasy” and modern style intermittently. Characters are hollow despite the repetition of supposedly meaningful backstory. The author uses the same expressions over and over again, especially during sex scenes. Dialogue feels inauthentic and is ultimately unconvincing. A very unsatisfying read.”

Anya says — same reviewer as the one above it, obviously. She read the books in the wrong order.

I own these bad reviews. I revel in them. If I could I would turn them into sudsy soap bubbles and take a bath in them. (Er? Did I just say that out loud?) Point is they are part of the glorious trip of being a writer. If you can’t suck it up and accept your bad reviews as part of your journey, then you should get out of this business.

Okay, I’m challenging authors too. Bring out the baddies! Let your Bad Flag fly! I want to see all your one/two star reviews. Own them, babies. Embrace the failure and make it yours.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
The subconscious can be a wonderful place

Yesterday I brainstormed a bit on the past and future of a secondary character in Witch Blood whom I hope to make a main character one day. He needs his story told. Up until now he’s been a tough guy with a sense of humor, but also a man with huge commitment problems and an inability to really get close to anyone. In order to figure out why he’s like that, I explored his family and his childhood, all that good stuff. Eventually, it became clearer to me why this guy is the way he is.

Then I thought about the woman who would shake this man up and give him a reason to care again. As I wrote, she became clearer in my mind. First came her name, which just popped into my head…but it was perfect. Then came what she did for a living, her past history, her background and family–all the things that helped to shape her personality.

When I was done, I could fit the two characters together and see that, while they’re opposites, they each have what the other needs.

What struck me about this whole process was how I pulled stuff from my subconscious. Sometimes it happens like this. I’m just writing and poof there’s this character and gawddamn it she wants to be written.  Like I’m channeling some person in an alternate reality who really needs her story told.

Yes, I know. Call the men in the white coats.

It doesn’t always happen this way. Most of the time I struggle when I write. I weigh and reweigh, delete and revise until I get it right. Writing is not usually easy for me in this way. But once in a while my subconscious gives me this gift and the characters just flow right into place.

I haven’t started writing these stories yet. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity in the near future. Maybe when I start this book the characters won’t make sense at all together. However, at the moment, I’m pretty happy with the part of my brain that spit them up so easily.

Fellow writers, does this happen to you? Does your subconscious ever hand you anything on a silver platter?

Friday, April 20th, 2007
The Spicy Side

One of the things I love most about writing on the spicier side of the romance genre is showing how the relationship evolves between the hero and the heroine via love scenes. I like writing sex scenes anyway, and I love the depth of emotion they can show between the main characters.

I see a lot of criticism of sex scenes out there, especially explicit sex scenes. People say they’re not needed, are gratuitous or vulgar. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. I’m absolutely not offended when people say they don’t enjoy the hotter love scenes, but I do think that sometimes people overlook the ways in which sex scenes add to the emotional content of a story.

In Witch Fire I attempt to raise the emotional stakes every time the hero and heroine come together. I wanted them both to risk something during each sexual encounter and for those risks to grow exponentially. Jack risks the destruction of the safe emotional barrier he’s built around himself. Mira perceives that she risks her independence and power every time she succumbs to Jack, only to find independence and power in ways she never thought imaginable.

The emotional growth of the relationship as illustrated through sex scenes is important for me to try and achieve because sex scenes aren’t just about body parts and the physical act of intercourse. Let’s face it, they likely aren’t just about the physical act in reality either, (well, this is likely true for most people, anyway), and so why should they be treated as such for characters in romantic fiction? Love scenes should be about the physical act and more — the psychological push and pull between the hero and heroine, the emotional give and take, the laying bare (pardon the pun) of what each character holds private and concealed.

They shouldn’t just be about titillation (though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that once in a while. Whatever floats your boat). Ideally, they should be about trust, the giving and receiving of pleasure and, above all, love.

Hope you all have a great Friday!

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
Reader Perception

I’m back! All is well, no worries. Life is muchly busy right now, but when is it not?

I recently read this post over on Lauren Dane’s blog and it made me wax philosophical in my pea brain about reader perceptions, including reviewer perception.

In an ideal world ruled by moi, Queen Goddess of All She Surveys, everyone would luuuurve my books and I’d be on the NYT bestsellers list. However, it is not an ideal world and I certainly have only limited control over it. So sometimes I get a not-so-great review. There have been times, even, (*cough*) that I have received bad reviews.

They might prick my ego a little, might make me pout for a while and eat some chocolate but I know they’re inevitable. I know that each and every person who comes to one of my books has had a different life experience than I’ve had. I know their perceptions of Life, The Universe and Everything are different than mine. I know they probably have a different favorite jam than I do (blackberry!) and they may have voted for the other guy in the last election. I also know that because of these differences, every single reader sees my books through a different lens. Not all those lenses will be rosy.

So I tend to try (note the word try) to be philosophical about bad reviews and those readers who are less than enthused about my writing. Otherwise, I’ll make myself crazy, you know? And I don’t need more crazy.

Mostly, what I aim to do in my writing is create worlds of escape for people to slip into for a while. My goal is to build places where readers will want to spend time and characters they want to spend time with. Well, and I also aim to heat up the pages. 🙂 I love to build emotion between my characters through hot sex scenes. I love writing sex.

But, basically, I just love to write, (I do it the very best way I know how), and I’m thankful to each and every reader and reviewer that supports my work and allows me to do more of it.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about three books I’ve read/am reading now: 1. Blood Bound, by Patricia Briggs, 2. Hitting the Mark, by Jill Monroe, and 3. Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, because not only do I love to write, I love to read.

Thursday, February 15th, 2007
A Crafty Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Elements of Synopsis Writing

1. Be a sexy hooker. Find a line that’s intriguing, or humorous, something that immediately grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on.

2. One paragraph describing the internal conflict for the heroine or hero — usually the protagonist comes first. In romance the story is about two main characters, but you still have a protagonist. In my books, that’s generally the heroine. It’s mostly her journey.

3. One paragraph describing the internal conflict for the other main character. Ideally, the internal conflicts of both the h/h should dovetail and grate against each other. (For example, in Blood of an Angel the heroine has a special grievance against vampires and, as luck would have it, the hero is a vampire.) In these two paragraphs explain why this is the worst possible match for both characters.

4. A paragraph describing the external conflict. This is whatever external circumstances are bringing and keeping the h/h together long enough for them to fall in love. The external conflict, ideally, should magnify the internal conflicts.

5. The inciting incident. This is whatever happens that pulls the protagonist and/or main character from his/her ordinary circumstances into the external conflict.

6. Alliance. The characters decide to overlook their differences and work together to resolve a situation, the external conflict.

7. “Holy crap, I’m attracted to you.” First intimacy occurs. The heroine and hero discover they’re attracted to each other on whatever level — sexual, emotional, both.

8. “What the hell was I thinking?” When the brief interlude ends and the h/h remember all their fears and internal conflicts

9. The external conflict draws the h/h back together. They must work together to resolve the situation, no matter how they might feel about each other. Of course, they’re still attracted to each other. They’re falling in love despite the odds.

10. The black moment. Just when you think everything might turn all right, disaster strikes. This could be a result of the external conflict coming to a head, the internal conflict coming to a head, or both.

11. Resolution. When all conflicts are resolved and the h/h find their Happily Ever After (this is must in the romance genre).

12. Make sure you: Show the first meeting between the h/h, show their first kiss, include the loves scenes (esp impt for erotic romance).

13. Make sure you don’t: Write a synopsis that reads likes a textbook, leave out the ending or try to hook the editor at the end, or overcomplicate things.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. Shiloh Walker

2. Rhian

3. Vixenwriter – Lauren Dane

4. Annie

5. Joely

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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