Thursday, April 12, 2018

Honoring Reader's Preferences

I’ve talked a lot about writing elitism. This time, it’s about perspective.

I can’t go more than a few days without seeing something ranting and railing about how “some readers” won’t read present tense, or 2nd person perspective, or other less common tenses. Mostly I find that it is done by writers who are pushing to have their own writing style “accepted” by more people.

I get it. Sometimes we write stuff that is a bit too far off the beaten path for the mainstream. I understand that frustration.

I like big “but”s.

BUT, when a writer does this, it doesn’t often come across as “oh, look, you should give this a chance.” It is more of a sneering, looking-down-one’s-nose rant about how the plebs just can’t understand how much they are missing. In case the point was missed, most of these call people some degree of stupid, narrow-minded, or uneducated. Because they prefer certain styles of writing.

Take a moment to think about that, from the reader’s perspective.

Any time a writer pushes the idea that you are some kind of fool for liking a specific genre, for preferring present tense over past (or vice versa), for liking the Hero’s Journey storyline format… they are insulting you for having a preference.

The funniest part is that most will backtrack and say things along the lines of “if you just give it a chance.” Funny, because people who read, tend to read a LOT. They have preferences because they’ve read a LOT. Most are willing to try new things, but few are willing to try something that they’ve tried (and disliked) before.

As a reader, I have preferences. If something sounds particularly good but is outside those preferences, I’ll still give it a go. That doesn’t change the fact that it is up to the author to make me want to leave my preferences.

One million new books every year are published. These books cross all genres, all styles. It is not up to me as a reader to throw out what I like and don’t like each and every time just to give a book a chance. It is up to me as an author to make people interested enough in my work to give it a chance.

That’s how that works.

It is also up to me as an author to accept that my style of writing, POV choice, 1st/2nd/3rd person perspective, etc, may not be what an individual reader enjoys. Accept it, and move on to the next reader, who likes the type of book I’ve written, or is at least interested in it enough to give it a chance.

My writing is not important enough to trump your right to have preferences and opinions. And vice versa.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Covers and Cyber Bullies

I awoke today to find that another person in the author community has been sent private messages telling them to kill themselves over book covers.

That's right, I know more than one person who has been the victim of this kind of bullying. And the reasons for it are incredibly ridiculous.

First, let me wax philo-something over book covers. I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Yeah, I'm old. But more importantly, I grew up in the hey-day of bodice-ripping romances. Maybe that's why I'm so unconcerned with whether someone's cover looks similar to another's. Back then, that's how books identified their genres.

No joke. You could tell what kind of story you were getting based on what was on the book cover. Spaceship over a planet? Hard sci-fi, likely male MC. Barbarian with a sword and sexy chick kneeling nearby? High fantasy (maybe soft sci-fi), male MC, romantic subplot. Fabio looking guy hovering over woman half-undressed?  ROMANCE! Background has a castle? Historical romance. Background is a ship? Historical romance with pirates! Fabio wears a kilt? Scottish historical romance. Fabio wears boots? Western romance...

Seriously, you could change the shirt and hair color and background just to change the covers of the romances. There were maybe three or four positions that the couple were in, but everything else was virtually identical.

Now people sit there and talk about how a different image was used, the font was changed and THAT'S ALL... and I have no idea what the deal is. It's not the same cover. The hype over unique covers is so weird.

ONE MILLION new books are published each year. That means, since I started actively publishing my books, THREE MILLION books have been published. That's a lot of covers. And many of them are going to look similar. In my opinion, for genres, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

To be clear, I'd love to see more diversity in book covers - but I'm looking more for racial, size, gender (non-sexualized women, please, for the love of whatever deity you hold dear!), ability, etc, etc.

Book covers can only be so original before all the originality either gets used, or becomes nonsensical. Let's get over that particular issue really quickly.

NOTE: the quality of a good book cover seldom has to do with originality. Just because I'm not huge on making totally original covers doesn't mean I don't want GOOD covers. It's a different metric altogether.

Now, for the bullying aspect.

To those who would send such a message, I'm just going to say this really loud and clear:
If you get so hyped up over a book cover mimicking other covers that you are willing to message the creator/author to tell them that their career is over and that they should KILL THEMSELVES over YOUR issue regarding their book cover, they aren't the one with the issues.


A book cover.

To those who have had such messages sent to them, I'm going to say this:
Screenshot those messages. Do NOT mark out the name of the sender. Share it.

Yeah, I get it. The person who sent such a message may have had a point or a reason, or whatever. Yeah, most people might not even care about the message they sent. But some of us in the authoring community are more than willing to restrict access to people who would go there.

In other words, if you want to take your possibly correct stance to the point of telling someone to kill themselves, you may find yourself with a MUCH smaller author/promo network. That is a line, and there WILL be consequences.

I don't care how much you feel righteous about your stance on someone else's work. Don't cross that line.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Chains That Bind, Excerpt Chapt 10

This excerpt is from The Chains That Bind, book 3 of the Runespells series. You can order Fluffy Bunny, book 2, published in 2017, and Too Wyrd, book 1, published in 2016. Both books are published by Black Rose Writing.

"Don't move, Nicola," Joseph said in a tight whisper. "Gods, don't move."

I stared at him, but he was looking past my shoulder.

"What is it? Snake?"

He swallowed hard. "Cat. I think its a cougar."

I nodded. "We should be okay, then," I murmured. "You're too old for her."

Joseph shot me a look. "Not a good time to be joking."

I nodded. "I'm going to turn slowly." I waited for his nod before I carefully shifted my feet rotating my body until I could peer into the trees and bushes behind us.

Crouching on a low branch, a lean, tan-colored feline stared at us. It was perfectly still, and the body language screamed that it was seriously considering attacking us.

"Damn," I said.


I unclipped the chest strap for my pack and slowly slipped it off my shoulders and down my arms.

"What are you doing, Nicola?" Joseph asked in a low, warning tone.

"How crappy would it be if, after all I've gone through, my quest ended in failure because of a stupid cat?" I asked mildly. "Random stupid dangers all around, bringing down people who have survived real tragedies. World ends because a big cat got a hankering for hikers."

I felt anger building in my chest as I focused on how unfair life could be. "My kids die in a fiery inferno caused by the world ending all because Mr. Wigglebutt there wanted a snack and we happened to come along."

"What are you doing?" Joseph hissed at me.

I stared at the cougar, letting it represent all the obstacles I'd been facing, all the unfair random things that kept me from doing the only thing I actually needed to do.

My nose wrinkled and my brows drew down. I directed every frustration at it, focused every hiccup in my plans on it. The look of hate and anger deepened.

"Nicola?" Joseph hissed again.

"Get ready to run, Joseph," I said in a low snarl. "I'm actually getting angry now."

I heard him cussing behind me as my vision washed red, then yellow. I small grin flickered over the snarl, and I tensed my body, unconsciously mimicking the cougar's posture.

"Time to die," I crowed, and I leaped at the cougar.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It Ain't a Problem for Me

Here it is, another day, another post on what is and is not “real” in the world of writing.

Sometimes it’s the oxford comma. I can take it or leave it, so long as the meaning is clear. Sometimes the meaning is clear because of the ridiculousness of the alternative in context. Silly me, I trust my readers and fellow humans of brain-having to be able to figure that stuff out.

Today, it is “ain’t”. “Is ‘ain’t’ a word?”, a metric ton of posts and memes call out to me. Well, let’s see. It is a series of syllables with a known and discernible meaning, which can and is used widely in a language.

Seems like a word to me.

All my snark aside, the question that is REALLY being asked is, “is ain’t ‘legit’?”. The larger question is, what, as writers, do we “allow” as REAL, TRUE, and LEGITIMATE in our language.
And that’s so elitist.

Let me break this down.

Historically, “ain’t” is an actual word that was used as proper English for quite some time. Po’ peeps picked it up and BOOM! It’s “just” slang and illegitimate, now.

Regionally, “ain’t” tends towards conservative areas with high poverty and low education. Also, some trend towards areas with high non-white demographics.

Linguistically, the English language, like all living (not dead) languages shifts, grows and changes with use. People LIKE to come up with new ways of saying things, adding depth and nuance to their meanings. Because there is a subtle emotional difference between scary and terrifying. This means that there are colloquialisms and regional dialects. “Proper” English tends towards East coast and upper class.

Saying “ain’t” isn’t a word is classist. It’s racist. It discriminates by region, generation, and education.

Plus, writing only in “proper” English comes across as pretentious, pompous and pedantic. See what I just did there. You may have to look this crap up, now. :P

If you are a literary writer, well, everyone has their own thing. I don’t like reading OR writing literary fiction. Unless it’s science journals and other non-fiction. For my fiction, I love genre fiction. Easy reading, yes, but then there is more possibility to engage in emotional metaphors, satirical social commentary, etc. because people don’t really necessarily want to dedicate brain space to grand philosophies AND grandiose language at the same time. Not for entertainment reading.

Plus, it’s hard to convey universal experiences when you write like an East Coast Prep School Silver-spooning Yacht-sailing Trust-funded… person. Just my thoughts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Different Strokes of the Pen

Different writers have different ways of writing.

Some people throw a whole bunch of words out, then edit up to a dozen times, doing rewrites and changing the order of scenes. This type of writer usually writes faster in the beginning.

Some people write much slower, resulting in a cleaner first draft. They often have less rewriting, because they are more methodical in the initial writing.

In the end, each of these takes about the same amount of time to write and finalize their books, with generally the same level of quality, depending on the skill level of the writer and their editor(s).

I am very much the second type. NaNoWriMo is a very real challenge for me because I tend towards slow, methodical writing. I end up doing maybe five rounds of edits, max, but the initial writing is emotionally draining for me.

Now that NaNo is done, I’ve still got a bit more to write on The Chains That Bind, book 3 of the Runespells series. Then I will take a few days off to recover from the emotional trauma… lol.

Once that is done, I’ll run through the first round of edits and send it out for Beta Reading. While I’m waiting for those to come back, I’ll be working on one or two other projects, one of which will be determined by my patrons on my Patreon page! (Check it out HERE)

In 2017, I put out 1 novel, 1 novella, a collection of short stories, and 4 short stories in anthologies. In 2018, I’m going to shoot for 2 novels, 1-2 novellas, and up to 3 short stories in anthologies. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Chains That Bind, Excerpt Chapt 9

This excerpt is from The Chains That Bind, book 3 of the Runespells series. You can order Fluffy Bunny, book 2, published in 2017, and Too Wyrd, book 1, published in 2016. Both books are published by Black Rose Writing.

A small rustling noise caught my attention, and I skidded to a stop. I peered into the branches of the hedges, looking for the source of the sound. A small spotted skunk wriggled out of the leaves and squatted down, staring up at me.

"Hi," I said hopefully. "Can you help me?" I pictured Stella in my mind and sent it towards the creature. It sniffed the air for a moment as if tasting the thought, then it shuffled away.

I noticed the skunk musk as I followed, but it was light, as if it had faded away. The skunk moved quickly, and I had to break into a jog to keep up. A small opening appeared in the hedges along one side and the creature darted into it.

I crashed through the tiny space, branches and leaves clawing at my arms. The skunk was gone. A huge tree towered over me, roots exposed and clinging to the rocks around its base.

I stared in awe at the branches soaring in the air a hundred feet over my head. My eyes tracked down the trunk, covered with a rough bark. The roots entwined across the granite and hung down in a curtain over a dark opening among the boulders.

I stepped forward tentatively and pushed the trailing roots aside. The cool air of the cave brushed against my face as I stepped inside. The darkness of the cave morphed into a soft glow in the air with a push of my will and desire.

I moved through the tunnels, hoping for a sign of Stella or the skunk, or anything else that could help me. Twice I tripped on roots arcing up from the floor of the tunnels. The second time, I reached out to the wall to catch myself and scraped my hand against the rough rock. Blood glistened against my palm, but I wiped it on my pants and kept moving.

I turned a corner and the tunnel opened into a large cavern. Stalactites and stalagmites lined the walls like the teeth of giant monsters. Quartz glittered in the rock walls, and water dripped rhythmically from somewhere I couldn't see.

I moved through the space, shivering. My eyes darted around, latching on to each glint of light and shift of shadow. I rounded a large stalagmite and froze.

The creature before me stared with yellow eyes that flashed red in the shadows. Huge teeth filled an elongated jaw, and its fur flared in a ruff around its neck in shades of black. The beast lurched to its feet and shook itself out.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Author's Hierarchy of Needs

I’ve been thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lately, and how it applies to writing.

In the interest of context, here’s the deal. I am a full-time author. My husband just came out of a year of schooling to be an electrician. Due to some politics and technicalities, and some bad luck and bad timing, he’s been having trouble finding a job that is more than just temporary. He is currently working in manufacturing, which isn’t a bad job, but not at the rate to support a family on a single income.

I’ve tapped out our resources pretty thoroughly to get us through this, but we are doing a lot of extras: plasma donations, free/reduced food options, and I’m looking for a job that will work with my kids’ schedule. It would be either prohibitively expensive or functionally impossible to find the type of childcare we would need for most jobs I could get quickly, so it’s going slowly.

That said, we are doing okay, but there’s a lot of time and mental energy going into keeping us going until we break through this very short rough patch. Which brings me back to Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Essentially, this theory states that humans can only really focus on one level if the lower levels are being met. It’s not completely exclusive, but it makes sense. The first level is immediate safety. You probably aren’t going to ponder your spiritual development while being chased by a lion. (Why is it always a lion in these scenarios? Why not a rhino or a wolf?)

The second level is food and shelter. If you are safe for the moment, you can plan on these things. Then you can focus on larger safety issues, such as environment and neighborhood. After that is interpersonal relationships, such as family and friendships.

Next is self-esteem, or the ability to believe you are worthy. Self-actualization follows, covering your place in society. Ie, career, status, etc. And finally, self-transcendence, which is the personal spiritual experience.

Since only a threshold has to be met at each level, you can have some deficiencies in a lower level while still focusing on a higher level. But if those lower levels are threatened in some way, the focus gets drawn to them again and again.

Anyways, this is probably why I’m having so much trouble prioritizing NaNoWriMo this year. It’s not that writing isn’t as important to me, it’s that I kinda have to make sure we can pay rent before I can focus on my career.

This leads me to thinking about authors, pirates and self-care.

Pirating books is pretty bad. Authors don’t make much as it is, and anything that is taken from them makes it less likely for them to be able to meet their own basic needs. If they can’t do that, they can’t focus on the making the words stuff. Knowledge is free, and most authors are willing to do giveaways, etc. But it’s something that the author CHOOSES to do, based on their own risk-benefit assessment, financial ability, etc. Stealing from them is just that: stealing.

Authors also need to spend a certain amount of time and mental energy on self-care. People like to think that writing is easy, and in many ways they are right. But writing novels that are well-crafted, interesting and meaningful? Well, that takes skill, mental energy, and technique that has to be developed over time. By the time an author puts out their first decent book, they’ve already put in years of practice, reading and studying writing skills.

I think authors should put more emphasis on knowing their own worth, and the worth of their works. But, at the same time, readers need to put more worth on the books that they love so much.