Friday, February 12, 2016

Disruptive Forces: Politics and Publishing

Disruptive Forces: Politics and Publishing by Debra H. Goldstein

I should be writing my blog, but instead I’m glued to my television set. The New Hampshire results are coming in. This is anything but the end of the political campaign, but a commentator just used a phrase to describe one candidate that I think probably could be used for the entire process. He called the candidate “a disruptive force.”

During the past few weeks, I’ve been concerned about many issues: health care, terrorism, poverty, international relations, immigration, cultural diversity and criminal justice to name a few. Although no candidate and I could ever agree on solutions for all of these issues, my hope has been that I could identify one that either holds most of my views or has rational proposals I’ve never considered.

The fact is the rhetoric is different every day. Muddled, middle, disruptive, and changing are all words being used by the pundits to describe the campaigns and how the process will whittle down the number of candidates in the race. These same words can be applied to the writing arena.

During the past few years, the multitude of large publishing houses shrunk, as has the subsidiary banners these houses published under. Recently, the mystery world was hit by announcements that Berkley Prime and Cengage, the biggest textbook publisher, will be discontinuing mystery series/lines. For writers and readers in the cozy and traditional mystery world, these announcements translate to at least one hundred books a year that will probably never be published. Some authors may find homes for their works or derivatives of their series with smaller houses or may choose to self-publish, but unless they already have established followings, most will find their works reaching far less readers than they would have “the way things were.”

I’m not sure which candidate will become president, but I am certain this streamlining of the publishing world will mean corporate profits rising to the detriment of readers and writers. The “disruptive forces” at work here will result in readers having less books to choose from while writers, having less alternatives, will discover their earning and negotiation abilities compromised at the same time they are having to work harder to find homes for their works.

Do you think we could add the state of the publishing world to the next debate?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Being True To Your Characters

The other day, I saw this ad on TV, and it jumped out at me.



Okay, I didn’t catch the continuity issue that many internet commenters did. As a writer, I looked at something else, at whether the creators of this ad are being true to their characters.

If they were, we know the obvious, that the woman should be in the car, and the man should be sledding with the dogs. 


We like our creature comforts. 


But, since the ad appears to be geared toward men, then it makes sense he has to be the one to drive, and he also has to be the one to “rescue” the female. A blonde woman, at that. Why? Because an Inuit woman knows her environment and probably isn’t going to put herself in this situation?


Also, taking the likely traits of a feminine character into account, chances are high she would have mapped her route before she left on her excursion into the wilderness, and would have noticed that the river is in her way and planned a different course. Does "blonde" have a double meaning here? Tell me they didn't.

 
On the other hand, the ad writers might say this situation takes place in the Swedish Lapland, and the woman is on a dog-sledding adventure to see the Northern Lights. Where the guy comes in, I don’t know, but he has to, since it’s a car commercial. 

The writers might also say they didn’t want to stereotype. 


Well, that’s what makes writing believable characters so hard, and trying to find this balance, this gray area where humans live, can be exhausting. But writers persevere, and we have to, because nothing turns off a reader quite like a one-dimensional person


And, believe me, I learned this lesson the hard way.


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Paffi S. Flood is the author of A Killing Strikes Home. You can also find her on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Equal Rights for Positives

by Bethany Maines

A funny thing happens when you read your own reviews – you start thinking about them. 

I’m about a month away from completing the manuscript for Glossed Cause, the fourth book in the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, and I made the mistake of checking out a few of the reviews on High-Caliber Concealer (CM #3).  I knew it was a bad idea.  It’s always a bad idea.  What happens when I get to a bad one, hmmm?  It’s not like I can look the reviewer up, knock on their door and explain how monumentally wrong they are.  But you think, “I’ll just look at the good ones.  Just one.  I can stop there.”

You know this a total lie, right? Reviews are like Pringles for the eyes.  Like I can stop with just one.  I open up Amazon, I’m looking and… then I read this: “If you enjoy reading about Stephanie Plum, you'll love Nicki! Maines is getting better with each book.

And I thought, “Hell, yeah!” <insert fist pump here>

Just one?  But I have popped – I cannot stop. I should read more! 

Eventually, of course, I got to one with a complaint. I’d spent too much time on Nikki’s personal life. Gah! But, but, but… Glossed Cause is about her FATHER (among other things).  What do I dooooooo????



Now I’m stuck staring at the screen, half way through the book, trying to figure out if I should turn the ship or stay the course.  “Stay the course!” my internal editor yells.  But it’s hard to hear over the crashing waves of doubt. 

I was complaining a negative comment on another project to my husband he said, “Well, I think it was awesome and my vote counts more.”  <insert lightbulb going on here>


Why do the negatives get more votes?  Shouldn’t the positives get equal rights?  Here’s what I and anyone else who is stuck in this trap are going to do:  We’re going to go back, we’re going to read the first positive review, and we’re going to believe that one.  Because Maines really is getting better with every book.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing in a Genre I Never Thought I Would

Marjorie Brody
Things I don’t do: watch horror movies, watch horror tv, read horror novels.  When Kimberly Jayne, an author of romantic comedy, gave me the opportunity to read a prerelease edition of her dark fantasy, I thought, “Romantic comedy. Horror. Romantic comedy. Horror.” Surely a comedic author would write horror light enough I could force myself through reading it. Wrong. The voice in Demonesse was viscerally powerful. And, I didn’t have to force myself to read any of it. The story compelled me to continue reading. I expressed my surprise to Ms. Jayne about becoming engrossed in this genre. She could totally relate, as you will read in her guest post below. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Ms. Kimberly Jayne.         

Writing in a Genre I Never Thought I Would
        by Kimberly Jayne

I don't like horror.
Kimberly Jayne

When I was a kid, I reveled in telling chilling ghost stories in the dark that would scare the bejeezus out of my five younger brothers and sisters; but even I could only stand to watch Carrie and Halloween in the spaces between my fingers. I managed to read a number of horror novels with no problem as I got to be a teen, but a fateful matinee of The Exorcist scared the horror right out of me in two hours and two minutes flat. When you're an impressionable 17-year-old, even the logical Mr. Spock disposition I was born with had a hard time rationalizing "It's just a movie" against the theatrical terror of demonic possession and projectile pea soup that had been embedded into my psyche like a misplaced crucifix.

No, I'm not a horror fan.

And yet, here I am writing a dark fantasy series called Demonesse: Avarus. If you haven't figured it out, "dark fantasy" is often a euphemism for horror. I didn't know that until I was well into the writing, trying to find my story's place among gazillions of other titles. I was running comps like a realtor, trying to land in an urban fantasy or paranormal neighborhood. But Amazon had different ideas. Nice try, cookie, they said, but we're going to categorize Demonesse by your keywords as dark fantasy, horror, and occult.

What? But I don't like horror!

Heh. Turns out I do. Enough to write an entire series. Compared to other works in the genre, Demonesse is more like the dark fantasy worlds of Underworld and Interview with a Vampire, which have deeper story lines and full character arcs, and far less gratuitous blood and gore. No sensible character of mine goes into the woodshed where everybody knows the bogeyman is lying in wait with a machete.

I think the horror moniker is harder for me to accept because I also write romantic comedy. That's actually my first love, and the only reason it was easy to switch mindsets from sexy, spirited, and heartrending to sexy, dark, and dangerous was because the protagonist's voice felt so natural. Maia's shadowy journey drips from my fingers like honey from the hive—viscous, organic, and sticky sweet.

Maybe, sometimes, you can go home.

So, I accept my ominous genre. Mostly. It's dark fantasy, all right. But I'm calling on my inner Pollyanna to remind me that lots of folks who like Anne Rice and Stephen King may also like my Demonesse series. And I'll live in that neighborhood any day of the week.

Kimberly Jayne writes in multiple genres. She is the author of the dark fantasy series Demonesse: Avarus and the hilarious romantic comedy Take My Husband, Please. She has been making up stories since she was five, when she scribbled on her grandfather's notepads her first tall tale about pigs flying. Yes, she started that shtick. Since then, she's written just about everything and for various websites and clients, including humor features for Playgirl Magazine. She performed in the 2011 Listen to Your Mother Show in Austin, Texas, and her writing will appear in the forthcoming anthology, Feisty After 45: The Best Blogs from Midlife Women. Visit her at ReadKimberly.com.  

Demonesse: Avarus: In this compelling dark fantasy, empath Maia Kelly is the virtuous Catholic daughter of an excommunicated nun. After months of erotic fantasies, Maia awakens into her new life as a seductive killer powerless to resist the moon's calling, and no one she loves will ever be safe again. With her pious island existence shattered, she must choose between the demon that made her or going it alone in a supernatural sphere of unseen dangers she can scarcely comprehend. Either way, her nightmare has only just begun. 

Take My Husband, Please: After Sophie files for divorce from Will, his unexpected financial apocalypse brings him back under her roof. Awkward! And if that’s not bad enough, Sophie’s new guy—a sexy and successful entrepreneur—is not keen on dating her without proof that Will is truly out of the picture. Sophie and her best friend concoct a brilliant bet to keep Will “occupied,” but things take a surprise turn for the crazy when Sophie gets roped into sending her ex on five blind dates!