The Evolution of my indie-pubbing journey

I know it’s been a while. I held off blogging until I had something worthwhile to blog – over the last few months I’ve been writing non-stop. During this time the changes to the WIP were so big it was like writing a new book all over again, and it literally took up every hour outside of work. I also made several decisions. That sounds like it was a consciously thought out plan, but in reality, these evolved.

The first is that I am working on a series. In brainstorming what would happen next, I realized that I could write a series all based on the same theme, and that I had enough material for a number of books. When I was planning on short stories the idea was to bring out one a month. For short stories you can do that. As the size evolved, it looked more like one a quarter. Planning to bring out four books a year when you’ve never done one is so audacious as to border on hubris. Still, if you don’t have a plan, nothing happens. I already had rough plot outlines for several more in the same vein. It could work.

Another evolutionary event occurred when I started preparing the information I would need for the catalog entries – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. There was a spot for Publisher. In looking at the way other authors filled it out, the ones who had a real name struck me as a little more professional. So I invented a publishing company. Amethyst Publications now has its own web site, and handles at least one promising author (Guess who?).

And we come to size. As I revised and edited the book (Spanked Princesses: The Pianist) grew considerably – from the first draft of ten thousand words it grew (in my last post) to novella length. At this point it is well over fifty two thousand words. It is a novel. The heroine’s story arc evolved. The hero became much more developed, and he got several chapters in his point of view. The plot grew more complex. Hopefully it is a better reading experience for those who buy it. I just rewrote the whole story and that was the length it came to. Maybe that’s the depth of my consciousness at the moment. Maybe that’s how my mind works. Whatever, it sets the length for the rest of the series.

Time passed, and I slid over one deadline after another. Advice I’d gotten was not to bring things out, not to place ads or start blog tours, not to schedule anything until I was satisfied with the book. I was getting there, I could see that. It was the best I’d ever done in terms of craft, of quality. But I wasn’t there yet. In addition to finishing the book, November brought NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it twice before, and I’ve used it to try something different. This time, though, I felt like I couldn’t afford to waste the time. It needed to contribute to this indie-pubbing project. So I spent the month of November writing The Gambler, the second book in the series. It worked out to be the same length. It also gave me some time away from revising The Pianist. I needed the space.

At the beginning of December I began to feel I was close to ready. I started back on Twitter, bringing my presence back up. Started checking some of the back emails. Started working on the tasks left to be done, now that releasing the book might really happen, bearing in mind that I had gotten a lot done before I stopped everything to write. Some of them were new, based on new knowledge. Buy a block of ISBN’s from Bowker, for example. Download all the conversion software, and get all of the procedures for each of the three channels printed out and in one notebook, so I knew where to go when I was ready to upload everything. Finish the blurbs and product descriptions and author bio’s. I was sneaking up on a release time, which I thought would be sometime in late January by the time you included time for advertising to be set up.

In one of the emails was a suggestion from Amazon. I have to paraphrase it – something like “if you have a book that’s close to go, you really should get it out there for Christmas because we expect to sell millions of Kindles and you really want to have your product out there for them.”

Well – that’s a thought. I brainstormed with Maureen and soulmate. If I skipped the long lead-time items, if I did the promoting after the fact instead of prior to release, if I only depended on the exposure in the catalogs, expecting the customers to be driven to me instead of driving them myself… I could get the book out by when? Hmmm. It’s a backwards way to do things – the one advantage is that as I add promotional items one by one, I may be able to get a feel for what is working. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they do this, this, and this, and they’re never sure what really worked. This will be kind of a laboratory. I’ll post on the results.

Even limiting what I do, there are 35 entries on the task list, and some of them break down into more yet. The best I could see was… December 22nd. That’s nine days from today. We’ll see if it works.

Wish me luck!

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Little Big C

I’m writing this for me. Usually when I write, it’s for you, but I need to get this out, somehow. Sorry.

I’ve been beating my brains out rewriting the book, and I was feeling good, so good I finally squeezed in my annual trip to the doctor and listened while she told me everything I was doing wrong, and a few things I was doing right. After she looked over my skin and zapped a few ugly little lumps off, she started to peer at my face, making me nervous. Now I’m sure everyone at some time or another has had the feeling that the little zit on your nose is about the size of the starship Enterprise, but this time she spent a while examining it.

“I don’t like the way that looks.”

Truth be told, I didn’t either, but wishing wasn’t doing much, and eating right didn’t seem to be helping either. Even cutting down on chocolate.

“I’ll send you to the dermatologist and let him decide.”

I view all these little skin bumps as the price of living in sunny California and I figured okay, how bad could it be? So I walked into his office a week or so later (never thinking about how quickly I got an appointment) and sat. He looked at me and smiled.

“I’ll be operating this morning to remove your cancer.”

Umm. Me? It took a while until I could breathe. Or swallow. All I could do was nod dumbly and try not to fall off that frumpy little half-bed.

Now I’m not so stupid that I don’t realize I don’t have one of the biggies. In the greater cosmic scheme of things it’s pretty small. In fact, it’s just barely big enough to rate the big C. An inordinate number of our friends have had far worse, and we’ve lost several, and we lost a dear older relative because he ignored skin cancer until it metastasized and took his life. I don’t care. It’s my body and I… just didn’t know, I guess. Or expect it. I always thought if something was wrong with me, I’d sense it. I was absolutely blindsided. I had no clue. All I knew was if the diagnosis contains those six letters, it was frightening no matter how tiny the spot is.

Somehow I pulled myself together without drama, and sat there while he competently wielded his scalpel – do you know how big the blade looks when it’s right in front of your eyes? Something a Highlander would swing… Anyway, after an amazingly short time we were through. He’d call me if it was anything serious. In the meantime keep a band aid the size of a horse blanket on your nose, change it often, put tribiotic ointment on it… Yes, nurse. Oh, and we want you back to look at every place on your body. We worry about other sites…

Soulmate was… well, matter of fact. It isn’t life-threatening. It isn’t serious, nothing to worry about. You’ll be fine. The love of my life cared, but what I needed was reassurance, not facts. Yes, even me, for those of you who know me in real life. Sometimes you need that no matter who you are.

I got another appointment in record time – by this time I’m getting smart enough to be suspicious. I did get a lovely letter letting me know the biopsy from my nose was fine, nothing to worry about, and I figured this would be just more of the same. The Physician’s Assistant was a really nice, personable guy (at least it wasn’t an all-up doctor), and he looked at every place either of us was the slightest bit concerned about. I do have this little thing on my ear – it just never seems to heal right, hasn’t for years, but it’s tiny, I always thought it was just a recurring zit, but now that you mention it…

It took one look before he was calling for the nurse and his scalpel – I never knew a PA could do that but I guess they can, and they can sure move pretty fast too. What I needed was removal and a biopsy. Same thing, nothing to worry about, I’ll call you if it needs further work, but it’s pretty unlikely, here are a couple of brochures…

He called yesterday. In a month or two I go in for outpatient surgery – they work through a microscope to make sure they get everything. It’s not malignant, it doesn’t grow very fast, it shouldn’t invade the rest of your body, but there isn’t a way in the world he could convince me it was good. It was a long time after I dropped the cell phone before I could do anything but stare at the wall. It’s an inch from my brain, if that. What if…

That way leads to madness. You don’t have a choice. Stop it. Don’t even think about it.

We all carry our experiences into our writing, and this one – being scared out of all proportion to reality – is something I’ll use sometime. It gives you tremendous respect for anyone who’s had to deal with little big C’s more threatening brothers and sisters. I needed to share with you all – if you haven’t had the experience I don’t recommend it, but then you may be able to see it coming.

I sure didn’t.

———————-

They caught this early because I take care of myself and  go in for regular check-ups. No matter how busy you are, make sure you do too.

———————

Included in the emails I got when I posted was the following link – just to back up my urging that you all get checked…

Skin Cancer

Please watch it. Thanks Kathy.

 

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A stumble on the journey to indie pubbing

I promised I’d tell you the dumb things I did as well as the smart ones. Well, I have to admit I made a mistake, one that forced me to delay my release for a month. It’s a little embarrassing to admit. Live and learn, I guess. Sharing is done in the hope you consider your situation and don’t do the same thing, for whatever reason.

I need to explain the background first, and it starts months ago. I had spent a lot of time learning the craft, and I needed to start understanding the business side of our art. There were a number of presentations at our RWA chapter, and one of the first I went to taught us about PR and the importance of branding. I bought the presenter’s book, and read (and reread) it. Before I began, as she suggested, I brainstormed with soulmate about what brand Erika Moran would be – what kind of things did I want to write about, how would I position myself in the market. At the time I did this I had no plans whatever about indie-pubbing, but everything I was learning emphasized that an author must be prepared to do her own promotion and PR.

I have seven or eight handwritten pages of notes from that session, but the important one was a summary. I want to write romantic erotica. I want to tell stories that I enjoy, that are sexy, and that deal with my favorite things, but they should not be so immersed in sex that you would be ashamed to be seen reading them. On the other hand, they don’t have to be so squeaky clean you want to share them with your mom. It’s a hard line to walk, but I want to tell stories that are sexy, not smutty. Well, not too smutty. There is a point at which it stops being romantic erotica and just becomes a dirty book…

I began to submit stories to different e-publishers. I had no chance whatever of making it with a big time print house, but I thought I had a chance with the smaller publishers. I used the other stories I found in my genre as a guide to the appropriate level of sexiness. And, even though I haven’t got a contract yet, I feel like I succeeded in what I wanted to accomplish – the stories I wrote and submitted met my standards.

Of course, during all this time the whole indie-pub thing was growing, from a whisper, a few people talking about it, to a viral buzz. It often came up in blog posts, websites I found, and finally, in RWA chapter meetings. On my first visit to a new chapter there was an intense discussion, and one of the things of interest to me was that one author who was discussing her success wrote romantic erotica. Several of us cornered her, picked her brain, and that was the start of my becoming serious about it. In the course of the conversation she made a comment which stuck – “Just put Spanking in the title and anything you write will sell like hotcakes.”

Uh… Okay. But how about the rest of the book? I decided to do a study of the competition when I got home. That night I looked (I don’t recall if the first search was Amazon or Barnes and Noble) and she was right – when I searched for spanking I found several hundred titles. When I looked for Erotica I found a lot too. But when I searched for Romantic Erotica I only found one. One? I found that difficult to believe, but that was the way it looked. I started reading some of what was there, and it was… squiggy. It kind of left you with that Ish feeling – many were barely literate, others read like something a twelve year old boy dreamed. Many had the same phrase – something like “And then he f***ed her c***” repeated three times on most pages. This is why I went to college? More to the point, this is how everybody is telling me to make my mark in the world of letters? Not to mention a lot of money?

I took a deep breath. Yes I can write this stuff. It kind of gives you the feeling that you are, to use a word none of likes to see applying even remotely to ourselves, prostituting my art. But I can do this. I guess.

Much of the rest of this series of blogs relates to the nuts and bolts of getting there. All of us deal with our creative issues our own way, and I decided to just do it. This was, after all, an alternative to the way I have written everything else. I banged out (please, no snide remarks) a 10,000 word short story, literate even, and way more biased towards erotica than romantic. I wasn’t really happy about it – I kept having the nagging feeling that I was violating my own standards, but – this is a solitary profession. Sometimes the only validation we get is from our fellow authors. And soulmate will love me no matter what I write.

I have both Beta Readers and Critique Partners – the difference being that many of the first group are not just friends, but true believers – involved in one way or another in the world of kink – while the latter group are authors, published authors in fact. Of course I get different kinds of response.  I got the responses I expected from the first group – they have diverse tastes, but I had chosen them for that reason, so no one person would like everything but as a group, they keep me honest. So far, so good.

At first the critique response was mostly about the kinds of things we all think about – voice, POV, sensuality, and we went back and forth once. Bear in mind I was getting over the flu at this point, and just getting back to working on the story. What came next was beautiful, was wonderful, and changed everything. I want to quote from the email…

“Got a question for you, as a friend gently prodding you to consider your decision from another angle: if you are writing this story as erotica, not as erotic romantic, and you have established Erika Moran as an author who writes erotic romance, why are you writing this story under her name? Seems to me you are going against the brand that you have beautifully established on your web site.”

Thank you, so much, Chellsie. Having a friend who is willing to tell you is worth everything in the world. I thought about it for twenty four hours, searching for understanding to go with the enlightenment, but it was the classic a-ha moment – I had been thinking more about fitting the story in with its competition rather than staying true to my own principles. I went back and re-did my research and I have no idea what I did wrong the first time – maybe it was because I was searching from a PC instead of a Kindle, but anyway I found close to a thousand books under the keyword romantic erotica – far more than the straight erotica I had found before. More than that, most of them would pass a casual literacy test, the excerpts and the first few I read were interesting, and I didn’t see the repetitious “f’ed her c” at all. Well, at least not much. I felt really good about myself. I was back where I belonged.

So I blew off the schedule, replotted the story, and started writing. Rewriting. And revising. Yes, it has to make another pass out to everybody, and yes, it has to go to the editor again, and yes, I need to talk to the ad guys to change our dates (Maureen. bless her heart, is doing that part for me). I think I lost a month, but it’s worth it. It has grown into Novella length in the process, and I have something I’m much prouder to put my name on. I guess Mom was right – stay true to yourself, and if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it.

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My Indie Publishing Jouney Continues

The last post dealt with lofty goals and ideals, questioning the basic things. This one will be much more nitty-gritty, dealing with practical stuff I’ve stumbled over. In this post you’ll see the word ‘know’ a lot. Knowing matters. Knowledge is power.

I also want to stress that in everything that follows I am not in any way criticizing the author of the original spreadsheet I worked from. Rather, she gave me an insight I couldn’t get anywhere else. She was absolutely great for sharing her skills with us. The issues below have more to do with me being a newbie in the business. I’m sure she couldn’t imagine someone as naïve as I…

To put things in perspective, I’ve been away from writing for a long time – since early college, when I suddenly discovered (so I thought) that I had lost the ability to be creative in this wonderful world we call storytelling. Never mind why – but my career begins later than many of yours – on a dare I did a flash fiction thing two years ago and I was amazed that a lot of people liked it. So I wrote for around seven months, being prolific, until I decided (with a little help from my friends) to go for it. Thus far I’ve written a lot of things, but I’ve only tried to sell a few. So I am naïve as far as the market and the business of writing goes.

Because I didn’t know much, I thought the set of spreadsheets would be a complete guide, giving me a check off list for where I wanted to go. I have some idea of marketing, we’ve had a number of presentations at RWA and I’ve been exposed to it in business. I started with the list for the Online Promo tab, since that was where I thought the most work would be. Twitter Account. Yes, I had already established that one. Enter Yes and the cell turns green. Oh, I like this, it is satisfying. Next line is for a Facebook page – we’d already had a post about the place to go for that one. I went through their process and bingo; I was now Erika Moran, public person (author). Wow, that was easy, and a lift to the ego too. Another square turns green. I kept going and most of them were easy – setting up tweet deck, and accounts at YouTube,  and Bit.ly. I could do those. Set up a website – already did that. More green squares. At this rate I’d be done before I had to start dinner. How hard could this be? Two squares remained – my author accounts at Amazon and PubIt. It even gave you a URL to click. I knew something had to be done – I had read the FAQ’s at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I remembered that there was an account required. This must be it. However, when I clicked, there was a slight problem – I needed to have a book already for sale on their sites.

Wait a minute – this wasn’t what I remembered. I went back and looked at the FAQ’s again- it’s easy, just click here to set up your account. I did, and it was a completely different account. Much more basic. Welcome, Erika – it is one where I could even buy books, and download to my Kindle. The one I hadn’t bought yet. Ummm – there seems to be a disconnect. Barnes and Noble seemed to be the same. And my guide didn’t even talk about Smashwords. So there was a time-ordering to these things. I couldn’t even start to build author accounts until after I brought the story to market. Meditation seemed to be in order.

It’s a little disconcerting to discover that you’re so far below the radar for an experienced writer/promoter that the baby steps that look huge to you aren’t even mentioned. I suppose it’s so obvious you should just know. I once got to attend an awards dinner in a very competitive sport, and I heard a statement from a top level winner to a newbie – “It’s been so long, I can’t teach you what you don’t know because I can’t remember what I didn’t know and when I didn’t know it.” I needed to know. And, if I was going to make it, I had to know soon.

I’ve found brainstorming a useful tool – I’m sure many of you do as well. It works best, of course, when you have someone else to play off, but I wasn’t even to the point I could form questions. I couldn’t interact with someone else because I was unsure of what I knew and didn’t know. I had talked to a lot of authors, and I thought that was the most reliable information. I’d surfed a lot, bookmarking useful stuff I could go back to. I began to notebook the stuff I wanted to get looked at often – the FAQ’s, terms from Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Things I wanted to be able to annotate. Finally I had recollections from all those marketing seminars and presentations. And everything else I remembered. This was my database.

Because Google doc’s was open I started another spreadsheet, just to record everything I could come up with. I have that sheet shared (see below) and it is a chronological sequence of what I thought I needed to understand. Bear in mind, everyone will have a different list. Mine is driven by what I didn’t know, the genre I write in, and where I thought I wanted to go. Some of them were basic – what helps me sell the most? A one size fits all checklist can’t help with that – you have to think about what works for you. But when I got down to line seven I realized I had some serious issues. Cover art wasn’t even touched. For an indie publisher, this is a major issue, since we don’t do it every day. Where do I even find it? Is it hundreds of dollars? Thousands?

I guess the first dozen list items or so I wrote down that night. Every question needed an answer, and I tried to write those down as well as I found them. I wound up with a whole bunch of tables on that spreadsheet, but that’s a story for later. The first one, the first time I started looking at what else I had to do – that was the breakthrough for me personally. Rather than being a one-stop-shopping experience, I had a foundation, something to build on. The rest would be up to me.

At this point I was confused. Dazed and confused. I thought I had something to guide me, but I’m back in the trenches dealing with a million details. How did I get back here? Let’s review… I started with a set of spreadsheets that made everything clear. What exactly did it make clear? I went back to re-reading, and I also looked at the introductory section on my original guide/spreadsheet – I learned something I hadn’t realized. The thrust of her work was promoting. My problem, in addition to promoting, was to make sure I took all the steps necessary to have something to promote.  And then the light bulb appeared above my head. Love it/hate it when that happens.

The biggest takeaway from her work is that what everything is leading up to is the launch of a product. Its up to you have to have a product to produce.

No, it’s not a product. I just wrote a story. A nice, sexy story. It will sell itself…

No way, Jose. You have a product launch to deal with. All this stuff, the tweets, the Facebook status updates, the press releases if you do them, the advertising if you do that, the blog posts, the guest blog appearances, the TV appearances – all that stuff – it all does one thing – it gets the whole world to know that a brand new book is out, is available, and everyone in the know is going to want to buy it. (I was going to say a brand spanking new book, but it would be self- promoting) Of course, you can skip all this crass promotional business. And sell twelve copies the first month. I hope I can do better. I guess we’ll see.

I was working towards a story launch. Backtiming from the launch, fitting in everything, gave me a launch date of August first. So on that day, my first story, The Pianist, will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Getting there is the next step of the journey. I’ll be sharing it with you. Thank you for reading my blog. You all are great.

————-

The first sheet – my notes as I tried to understand the process I was following – may be found at https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArbCq0IlfGVSdHJhTE9hUmZTVG53YlpLa2Y5amhNOUE&hl=en_US
It is where I recorded the questions I had, and, where I found them, the answers. I used the color code to show when I’d finished something (or handled it, at least). In the end, there are ten sheets to my spreadsheet, and I’ll share more of them next time. If it reads somewhat incoherently, it reflects my thought processes at the time – I was desperately trying to understand what I had to do.

I worked those questions over and over, searching for enlightenment. What it led me to was a simplified list of the things I had to do, and when – these I then mapped onto my Google calendar, so I got reminders every day (both email and pop-up) of the things I had to get done. I found it useful – the down side is you feel driven to finish your tasks for the day. But then, that’s the idea.

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My journey into Indie Pubbing

I thought I’d share a few things today about writing. I constantly feel like a newbie, because no matter how much I learn, no matter how I change, there always seems to be so much more ahead of me on my journey. Sometimes it’s a little daunting, but you can’t give up, I can’t anyway. I want to share the stories I write with the world, and this process, this business of being an author, no matter how difficult, as far as I know this is the only way we do that. I have a total of four pieces on submission to three different publishers, one full-length novel and three short stories. I’m proud of that – not proud because I want to brag, but proud that I stuck to it, proud that represents all of my spare (and not-so-spare) time for the last year and a half. I’ve had to give up other things, things I really wanted to do, in exchange for finishing my writing.  I’ve had several rejections – that is part of the game, for me anyway – and while I’m not happy about them I think I handled them pretty well. I have several other works in progress, but I wanted to try something else before I continued on the same path. Sometimes it’s time to lift your head and look around. This is one of those times.

I’ve read a great deal, as I’m sure you all have, about indie publishing. I’ve talked to other authors, both experienced writers with dozens of books in their name(s), and those, like I am, who are still struggling. I’ve heard success stories, both from those with backlists to sell, and those with no established fan base. I’ve found tools, exhortations, and those precious few who attempt to dissuade us from anything other than the New York City big six. I think I see another road, one I hadn’t known was there, becoming visible through the mist.

Before going there, though, I felt I had to ask myself a few questions. The biggest, I think, is the hardest. Am I doing this because I’m too lazy to pay my dues, because I’m so arrogant I think that my judgement about my own writing is better than an editor who’s been looking through the slush pile for thirty years? Of course, it’s easier to make that decision when you actually get an input from the editor. Waiting the two to twelve months while you migrate through the process is difficult, even though it is just “the way things work.”  The second is a little easier – can I manage my expectations well enough, and am I up to this? By the time I got to the third question it was simple. Can I find enough information to try this and make it happen?

While trying to think my way through this, I came across an extremely useful tool. There are many facets to becoming an indie publisher, and I felt like a juggler trying to keep them all in mind, all the balls up in  the air. And I hadn’t even started yet. I read a post by Christine London with a set of spreadsheets intended to help organize for self-publication. Suddenly everything fell into place. It also got me started using Google documents, which I had seen before but never used much. There was this sudden, serendipitous thing where I could see everything that had to be done, could guess how long it would take, and could make an informed decision.

Examining your soul is best done in private – but I can share the results. I decided that I will try this. If I succeed, I will have established a closer relationship with my readers than I might otherwise, I will have put my work on the open market and it’s been bought, and I will have learned a new set of skills. Who knows when they might come in handy? If I fail, well, at least I tried. If I didn’t do everything I could to become an author I’d consider myself a quitter. Quitters never win, and winners never quit.

So I am off on my journey. I thought I’d share it with you all. Perhaps if I make mistakes and am honest about them, you may avoid the same ones. If I share my successes, it may make it easier for you to try the same path. I’d love any comments from the rest of you as I go forward – sharing helps us all.

For reference – the pointer to the original spreadsheet set is

http://www.thedominoproject.com/2011/06/a-spreadsheet-for-the-self-published.html

Thanks, Christine, for making a hard decision easier.

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The Roundup

Last weekend I watched something straight out of the old west, an annual event that hasn’t changed for one hundred fifty years, at least – probably longer than that. I’m talking about rounding up all the calves, branding them, and all that.

It’s still done by a bunch of sweaty (mostly cute!) guys strong enough to grab a calf and wrestle it to the ground and hold it there until the work is done.

 Poor Little Guy

The stars are the ropers, the cowboys who maneuver their horses in the small corral, throwing their lariats over the calves head, and – even more difficult, over the back legs. What surprised me, though, was that half the ropers were girls! Imagine, sitting astride a horse, working alongside the men as an equal, star of the show even. Equal opportunity started in the west, and it shows. I know our host’s mom was a working cowgirl from the time she was twelve years old. None of them called it a lariat, by the way – it was always just a rope.

 

We were staying with our niece at her fiance’s ranch, a smaller (smaller compared to six thousand acres) ranch. The road passed the edge of the front yard, and the day started with truck after truck going by, horns honking and waves. Some had horse trailers – those were the ropers – others just families, the kids leaning out and yelling hello. There were a few cars, but not many. On a ranch everything has to work.

Country folks are very family oriented, and this event was no exception. The ranch we were on has been in the family for one hundred and twenty years, and we are tied in on two counts – soulmate’s cousin was married to one of the owners (he’s since passed on), and, more recently, our niece is marrying onto the family as well. I must have been introduced to sixty or seventy people, mostly related one way or another. Or neighbors. Or friends. There were no more than five guys working on the ground, and never more than four riders. There was a table twenty feet long with enough to feed an army – everyone brought something.

 

The work took no more than a few hours, the rest of us leaning over the fence around the corral (the more daring ones sitting on it), those in the know making snarky comments whenever a rider missed with his or her rope, or the calf got loose and the guys had to scurry out of the way. There is a certain ambiance to a working ranch, sounds, smells, out-buildings, people. Not to mention twenty anxious calves, most of them being weaned. The calls of their mommas was a background for everything going on. The calves’ mooing, their hooves on the dirt, smashing into the fence right in front of us. Burning hair as the branding iron marks the animals forever as to ownership. One of the most amazing things to me was that even though there were a lot of young guys, there were also men in their seventies and eighties as well, bodies work-hardened, well able to keep up.

 

And then there’s the – um – castration, done by an eighty year old guy with a pocket knife. I’m not kidding.

Watching something male get its balls removed with a pocket knife gives you strange feelings… Or some ideas for your next book.

 

Love,

 Erika

PS. Sorry I’ve been busy with all those things – life and family and everything else. I just couldn’t get to blogging. I’ll be better, I promise.

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Reader Frustration

So let me give you the background. As long as we’ve been together soulmate and I have two rules: Every night we’re apart we talk at eleven at night. That’s eleven for whoever is earliest, and sometimes when it’s hard to connect (think Australia or China) it might be every other night. The other is if we can possibly be together, Friday nights are sacred. So we were planning to be together last Friday night, but mother nature intervened (no, not THAT way). A foot of snow – snowed in, snowed out. We couldn’t be together. So I started reading Debbie Macomber’s new book, “An Engagement in Seattle.” I picked it up the same time I bought Nora Roberts’ new one. (More on that later).

Being somewhat frustrated already I didn’t want to “Read Like A Writer” (A good book, by the way) – I wanted to just read for enjoyment. So I started in. I’ve been reading two books lately that are excellent for my genre – Passionate Ink, by Angela Knight, and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance (which is much better than it sounds) by Alison Kent. So even though I wasn’t consciously doing it, I was following the subtle building of sexual tension in Debbie’s book, marveling at the excellent use of Goals, Manipulation, and Conflict. I thought it was almost text book – for the first time I was following a lot of stuff I’ve read about, and it really added to my enjoyment of the book even though that wasn’t what I intended.

I’ve been in editing mode for the last several months, and I was even able to giggle when I came across an obvious typo – unfortunately it was the kind of thing that just pulls you out of the book until you figure out what she really meant. (Note to self: Don’t do that) But I kept on going. For one hundred and forty nine pages I loved gentle kisses, sensuous touches, and subtle innuendo. I’d like to quote what came next…

“He removed her bra and panties.

Then his own clothes came off…

Afterward neither spoke.”

What? Dot-dot-dot? After that long teasing beginning? What is this, Mama Mia? (which we’ve all seen seven times and know all the words to, right?). Angela constantly refers to a reader getting frustrated with our work and throwing the book across the room. I’d never read something that made me feel that way. Until now. I literally haven’t picked it up since. I’m not mentioning this to bash the book. In many ways it’s a beautiful read. That’s not the point. For me personally, it was an object lesson. Do NOT disappoint your reader.

This is a New York Times top 10 best-seller. Unless I’ve got her confused with someone else I think she has described coitus considerably less succinctly before. Then I looked at the stuff in the beginning of the book you always skip over. Turns out the two stories were written nineteen years ago – she and her editor decided to blow the dust off and send them out. A lot of girls must have bought the book to make it to the NYT list.

Ok, so maybe it makes sense. Maybe nineteen years has made a lot of difference in our expectations. Or… does that mean that there are a lot of disappointed readers out there? Or does that mean that mainstream romance just became slightly less explicit? Or does it mean anything? Can’t help but wonder. Let me know what you think.

Love,

Erika

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