Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Friday, November 30, 2012

politics in my books

Although I think all of my books express a life view which can be thought of as political, I only have a couple where politics is a plot element along with the romance. An example is Sky Daughter which delves into politics and the paranormal.  When I began writing it, I debated whether it would have a real mystical aspect. I could have written the whole story without it. We can do a lot of imagining something is there when it's not. But what about when it is? I liked that approach better and so it became.

The political side to Sky Daughter is when a small, mountain community is being taken over by a fascist type group. Talk radio is the tool to convince the citizens that they are about to be invaded by the United Nations. A local radio personality becomes a dominating influence. The man uses fear of the 'other' presenting himself as their chance for safety as he builds his power.

My demagogue is modeled after those I have heard when traveling through the area where the story is set. While they are simply spouting off on the radio, this guy has a bigger plan. When I listened to the spiel and heard the fear in the callers, an idea for a book began to germinate. I began writing it in 2002. I don't define what year the story is set as this kind of thing has happened again and again in history. I consider the issue, of such ideologues who seek power, to be timeless which is the best way to use political thinking in a romance.

My heroine has come to to her grandfather's mountain home to emotionally recover from a series of losses. For awhile she's oblivious to what is happening and then she begins to see a difference in the people, how they are being influenced to fear the outside world as they are trained to defend their world. The brainwashing techniques use fear and a sense of patriotism to build up their paranoia.

The hero is Jewish, born to a Jewish mother, Puerto Rican father and has seen such abuses in the past but he finds something up in the mountains that he hadn't seen before. Besides the political power grab,  there is a religious aspect as wicca is part of the story. I don't have my witches flying on broomsticks, but they do have a concept of how power can be used. At first my heroine is edgy at what she is learning about her deceased grandmother until she comes to realize the world is not as she thought.

When I wrote this story, I knew the condemnation of right wing political thinking would turn off some readers, but I also knew that the region where I was placing the action was actually seeing some of this-- if not taken as far as I did in the story.

Likely a writer does lose some potential readers when they add a political element which might please some but will turn off others. For me part of writing is being able to project ideas that I believe are part of a healthy life and I like to use my characters and their situations, when possible, to illustrate those truths. The way the heroine learns to combat the unknown is something we can all learn to do-- even when we don't have a monster to combat.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Politics and the romance novel

Here's an issue you don't see discussed much for romance novels-- how politics influence or should influence the stories. In many romances, maybe most, there isn't any political element. And by this, I don't mean partisan but conservative versus liberal, exploring how far government should go, where does it have a right to intervene, etc etc.? They stick to love with some barrier between the couple. Some of the finest romances though, like those of Jane Austen, very much have a political aspect woven into the plot-- sometimes very subtly.

Probably a lot of writers, who aren't writing say an espionage novel, try to avoid a political bent because of its potential to turn off half the readers from the get go. In contemporary romance novels (there is a little more of it in historical romances but not a lot) having a political aspect is in my experience rare. Oh there is the lesson that love is worth what it costs, that doing right is the right thing, helping others is good, sometimes a religious one,  standing up to bad guys is necessary at some point, but contemporary stories about deeper governing issues, not so much.

Should there be or is the very nature of a romance novel to find one place you can forget about all that? To some point, I can agree with that. Probably the last thing any romance reader wants is preaching a political doctrine when they came for a good plot, set of characters, and a connection to their own lives for the emotions generated by the reading.

Except, when you consider the difficult issues our world faces, it seems to me at least some romance writers might give some thought to inserting plot elements into their stories that do explore what is good or not on a political scale. Not a party or candidate (which would be outdated all too fast) but what should we want from government? How accountable to us should it be? When does it become a problem? etc. etc. which obviously would be seen differently whether one is a right or left wing oriented writer.

I'll write more on this an example from one of my own books; but for now, take some time and watch this video. It's an interview with Jeremy Scahill as he discusses what I consider a very powerful moral issue for today (I got it from a blog called Hattie's Web). When I see something like this, I think now how could I explore this subject with one of my books? My next blog here will discuss an example of one of my books with a political theme within it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

sexuality and the romance novel

 purchased CanStock photo

Are romance novels pornographic? They don't have to but many do describe sexuality between a man and woman (romances today are sometimes between same sex couples). Whenever one describes sexuality does it become pornography?
 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.

A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

I sat under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth among the lilies.
I could go on but won't. Obviously most know those words as from the Bible and no romance novel is any flowerier and most not much more sexual. Some have tried to desexualize those words by saying it's about humans and god... except clearly if you read them, there is no way that's a possible interpretation. It's a man and woman and makes very clear that sex is about pleasure. So are romance novels. Yes, some are more explicit than others but they all make the point that sexuality between a man and a woman is a good thing. They can even improve sexual relationships between couples as guilt is taken away and pleasure is left.

Romance novels are mythic stories set often in modern times. They are imaginary and meant to depict the powerful energy there can be between a male and a female. She looks at him across the room and the way he carries himself, the words he's saying maybe to a shopkeeper, they stir her juices. That is just the nature of romantic love. It inspires. It encourages. It dreams.

In the film Magic of Belle Isle, Morgan Freeman's character is crippled. His beautiful, much younger neighbor, a single mom,Virginia Madsen, isn't really possible for him to have nor could he possibly dance with her and yet one night he dreams of their dance to a waltz. It is so real that later she surprises him when she speaks of their dance-- it was all about the energy. That is what a romance novel does when it's at the top of its game.

Romance novels don't encourage people to run off in search of that dream. It gives them the energy to make the most of what they have right where they are. Energy is what we take within and use various ways to improve our lives. Romance novels can give us

energy and

I won't claim they all do this but it's the goal of every romance author I know-- including me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

free for the week-end

Beginning at midnight November 24th and going through Monday, I am putting my contemporary western, From Here to There, onto a free period at Amazon Kindle.  It has been free before, but I gave it three days this time because it won't be free again as it goes out of Select the middle of December. Always remember to look to be sure the line is through the price and it is free. On any book you buy and thought was free but wasn't, you can return it if you do so right away.

People sometimes ask writers from where their stories have come. Often I couldn't really say because I've had so many inspirations, but this one came out of my own life, my dreams, and the influences that began very early on my character. Like most kids, I read children's books, then teen books, which there weren't nearly as many back then, before I moved into the adult section. The books I loved most then were the westerns and in particular those by the author Zane Grey.

 painting of Zane Grey at Kohl's Ranch Lodge on the Mogollan Rim, Arizona

It's surprising how many female authors of romantic westerns were influenced by Grey or maybe it shouldn't be. He wrote about the West he knew, wrote about it beautifully and with a romantic flair. His heroes were strong men and his heroines, if they didn't begin strong, they became it. Always the land is at the center of his stories.  I'll write more about him some other time.

My story, From Here to There, is about the land, those who work it, and the mythology of the west as well as its reality. The following is a snippet from the book where my eastern hero, Phillip is beginning to get a feel for what working on a ranch means:

 Phillip rubbed his hand over his bristly jaw, reluctantly forgoing shaving. He dressed quickly in old jeans and cotton shirt. Pulling on his boots, he looked up to see Curly was already back with a truck which had probably been pale blue. It was now mostly rust colored. Dents covered fenders and bed, and the engine seemed to die a lingering death when Curly stepped on the brake in front of the bunkhouse.

 Outside, as he looked at the truck more carefully, he saw that there was a missing door on the passenger side. Maybe this truck wasn’t more likely to keep going than the even older one down by the barn. He wondered how far the near antique was capable of being driven before it became a permanent part of some junk pile, and if he was driving it when that happened, would he get the blame?

 Curly climbed out the cab. "Everything you need's in back." He pointed to a reel of barbed wire, clips, tools, and metal posts. From his back pocket, Curly extracted a pair of cutting pliers. "You ever do fence afore?" he asked as he put them with the other tools.

"No, but how much can there be to it?" Phillip asked yawning and reaching for his cigarettes.

"Not a whole hell of a lot," Curly said with another sly grin. "You ever use a posthole driver?" The answer was obvious, but Phillip shook his head anyway as he lit the cigarette. Curly showed him roughly how the piece of modified pipe worked, then added, "Just make sure you tighten 'er up afore you call 'er done. Leave that wire loose, and you might as well of saved yourself the trouble of driving up there." He pointed to an odd metal tool in the bed of the truck. "Ever use one of those?"


Curly snickered. "Bout what I figured. You're a dude, ain't you." It was not a question but a statement.

"What gave me away?" Phillip asked sarcastically.

"Heck, if you ain't a dude, you oughta to sue your face for damages and get a verdict," Curly cracked, chuckling and slapping his bony knee.

"Very good," Phillip retorted dryly. "You think that one up all by yourself?"

Curly snorted. "Wished I had."

"So, if you didn't, where's your source of great Western lore? Maybe I can get in on some of these one-liners." Or at least look up their meanings.

"Tell you the truth, I changed a word or two, made it fit better, but I got most of it from one of the greatest Western writers ever was."

"Louis L'Amour?" Phillip guessed, naming the only Western author whose name he knew.

"No, dangnabit. Ain't him. He was an upstart, come along later. Not that he weren't a great writer, but I'm talking about William MacLeod Raine."

"Never heard of him."

Curly's mouth dropped. "Never heard of him! Dangnabit, that ain't possible." Phillip only smiled. Curly shook his head with disgust. "I got near every book he wrote. He was a ranger hisself. Wrote about the Old West just about the time it was all ending, but that man... he knew his people, knew the men, the country. Maybe he did kind of sissify up the gushy parts, so's to appeal to the ladies, but he wrote dang good stories."

Phillip snorted. Another unrealistic Westerner, dreaming of a past that was dead and gone--and a good thing too. He smoked a moment. "Isn't there anybody out here who doesn't either listen to country-western music or read Western fairy tales?"

"Wal, I don't know why there'd be. Them books was writ about country like this, about men coming in and fighting the Injuns, building ranches, drivin' off rustlers." He shook his head, a look of regret in his eyes. "Ain't never going to see the likes of them days again."

 Rather than to say it was a good thing, that the pioneer West had offered a lot of hardships as well as adventurous times, Phillip said, "You know the pulp writers didn't always portray the west the way it really was. A lot of it was made up for Easterners."

Curly sneered. "If even half of it was so, it'd be enough to make a man wish he'd been there. Man could make his fortune in those days." He looked slyly at Phillip. "Shoot men who got uppity with him."

"Or end up on boot hill himself," Phillip said under his breath.

"What'd you say?"

 "Not much." He smiled. A wisely unspoken question was how cowboys got any work done if they were constantly reading stories of the old West. Instead he commented, "I wonder if the Indians around here like those Western books so much as you cowboys."

"I've seen plenty of them reading 'em. Like take old John Eagle. He can answer most any question about anything Zane Grey ever wrote. He knows all the books, the characters. You ask it and he's got the answer practically afore you got the question out of your mouth."

 Phillip's question didn't pertain so much to why the man might read Zane Grey, whoever he was, but more as to why he'd take the time to learn so much about it.

Curly shook his head. "I'll tell you this. Men were men in those days."

"What are they today?" Phillip asked with a humorless grin. This was one question to which he already knew Curly's answer.

"Soft. Don't know how to hammer in a nail straight, ain't never broke a horse, can't work more'n an hour without getting blisters on their soft hands." He sneered derogatorily toward Phillip's own long fingered hands. "I'll tell you this. My pap, he could've still worked rings around any young whippersnapper twenty or thirty years old." He looked derogatorily up at Phillip as he added, "Even when he was seventy."

"Interesting. How'd he ever get work done, if he was always talking about the West?" Phillip asked sardonically.


Phillip has a lot to learn but the westerners who think they know all about men like him, they find out a thing or two also. Toughness isn't just found on a ranch. I did a trailer for it but then added a second filled with images that inspired the book-- both from my own life and my imagination. Check out the blurb for more info and remember-- From Here to There free November 24, 25, and 26, 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Editing or promoting

Rainy Day Romances
 Recently on the Amazon Forums, the question was asked-- what is most important-- editing or promoting? Actually I thought it's like so many such questions-- why does there have to be an either/or? Both are important. One comes first but without the other, who will see that perfect editing job?

One writer said their readers would do their promoting by word of mouth. Now that's a nifty idea but how often do we tell someone else about all the books we are reading? I've certainly read a few books based purely on word of mouth-- sometimes regretfully. Most of what I read I stumble across one way or another.

It's a given that if the books are not well edited, it won't matter how much you promote. Or... is it? The Fifty Shades of Grey books are not particularly well-edited or well-written and yet millions of copies have sold (I bought them to see what the heck the excitement was about), and a movie will be made from them. I can think of others like that. So, poorly edited but wisely promoted can sell if they have that certain something-- whatever that is.

I work hard on editing, making my stories tell the story I had in mind, but accept that they aren't necessarily going to appeal to all readers even in their genre. Writing and editing go hand in hand and you can't have one without the other.

come up with an idea
think where it's going
stir imagination
use dreams
give it a break
edit again
wait at least a month
edit again
ready it
look at it one more time

Editing is a lot of work. I learned a lot about it from years in school as well as spending some serious money working with a professional consulting writer, whose credentials were the books she'd edited which had sold well.

Basically, editing is about grammar and learning how to make the words take the reader where the writer wants. Bad writing, not caught by good editing leaves for confused reading and betrays the story.

Promoting is harder for me and probably a lot of creative people. Some of my difficulty is that I don't quite fit the niches-- and never did. I literally don't know how to be sure my books will be seen by those most likely to enjoy them. How do you learn such? You keep trying and working at it.

There is some chance my titles will be found on a search engine which is why I have this blog in my name. To add to that possibility, I've added a new blog as a way to reach a few more of the search engine readers.

The new blog, Rainy Day Romances, will be just about the books with no how-to-do-it part, nothing about me beyond what the profile says. It will be a simple approach to what romances are about-- I hope with an easy way to find mine. It will be open to reviews of romances that others have read or written. Besides promoting my books, it'll be about the genre and why it has value.

As happens so often with promotional ideas-- I'm winging it. Will it work? who knows? I know a lot more about editing than I do promoting.

Image on top is part of one I purchased the rights to use. In one form or another, it'll be on the cover of the second in my Oregon historical romance series-- assuming I figure out this promoting business. I truly do feel there is no reason to bring out more books before I have a way to get them seen by those most apt to consider buying them. I have a feeling there is a way, and I will find it :).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

cooking and creativity

My philosophy on creativity is that it involves a lot more than the so-called fine arts. I see it in many arenas of life; one in particular is cooking. I am not a particularly creative cook. I cook basic meals and don't experiment a lot. I admire gourmet cooks who know all the spices and the latest vegetable combinations. As part of that admiration, I've had several of my heroines be gifted cooks. I find it fun to write about cooking.

Now given that, I have something I am proud of regarding cooking-- my pies. I am good at pie crusts. I have always felt it takes a light hand to turn out a good pie crust. Too much mixing, too much working with it and a tough crust is the result. It has a lot in common with good writing or painting.

In particular I am currently proud of a pie crust I just turned out for a family week-end. I made two apple pies using our own apples which meant no spray. The one with regular flour came out fine but nothing unusual. But because one of our family is gluten free, I've been interested in gluten free recipes. I wasn't too sure how you'd ever do a good gluten free pie crust as gluten free flours are different. Well I made one last week, and it was not only good but it was the easiest pie dough I have ever worked.

Bob's Red Mill
Easy-as-pie-crust (gluten free)

1 1/2 C. GlutenFree All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. (stick) margarine
4 to 6 TB. cold milk

Combine flour and salt, cut in margarine with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle milk, one T at a time while blending until all ingredients are moist. Using wax paper, place dough on one sheet, flatten with palm, place another sheet over top and roll out to desired size. Remove top sheet, invert into pie pan.  

If baking crust alone-- 15-20 minutes 400 F. With filling-- 400º F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350º for 40 minutes.

I doubled those ingredients and used it with my favorite apple pie recipe (always I like extra dough more than barely enough). I did sprinkle a bit of sugar over the crust before baking since I was unsure about the flavor of the gluten free flour but next time I'd not bother with that. The crust was tender, flavorful. I have never had a pie crust work so easily and think for our own pies, even though we don't need gluten free, I would go this route again.  Next time though I'll give real butter a try.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November at the Oregon Coast

A week-end at the Oregon Coast with the family where we experienced pretty near every kind of weather possible for a coastal late fall. It was a good time with the grandkids, kids, and for thinking. As usual, I took a ton of photos. The quiet time without my computer was something I needed.  I returned to the farm feeling  inspired about life, beauty and possibilities. The Coast, in all its moods, is always rejuvenating to me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What to do instead...

Sometimes a writer or painter or sculptor or whatever is just plain flat. Not that it means nothing is happening inside, but there is a feeling of mental fog. The question is often asked-- what do you do then?

Some say just keep doing it. It doesn't matter if you feel it. It's that you set yourself up a schedule and hew to it. So you paint even though everything you are doing is coming out blah or looks like everything you earlier did. You write so many words a day and it doesn't matter if you feel it. You stick to a schedule and it will work itself out.

Frankly I've done that. I've written and painted when I didn't 'feel' it. It's both worked and not worked. Sometimes as I start to write, the energy changes and I see where it's going. Like that film Field of Dreams-- build it and they will come. It's a fantasy but it has some truth to it but not always.

Mostly when I don't feel it one place, I am better off to switch to something else. For instance with writing fiction, I might have a good idea where the character is going but need some time to consider it. The reason I don't feel the inspiration is because what I'm trying to do is the wrong way. Giving it some time can help to develop a better sense of what comes next.

Some of the things I do when I'm in one of those in between times is move to a different media. I might look for photos that fit the stories I am writing, photos to inspire me. Now I have mentioned my favorite source for this is CanStock. I try only to buy photos that I know I can never take for myself. That means scenery I almost never buy. I also have a lot of wildlife shots; but lightning strikes, which are symbolic of both power and threat, those I am unlikely to ever take to the level I can buy.

What I learned this last year is that buying images of heroes, heroines, and secondary characters helps me get a feel for them.  I didn't think it would work that way, but it has ended up bringing a level of reality and inspiration to my books that my dreamlike imagination wasn't managing.

When I was going through one of my rather flat times (election hasn't helped with this), I began to play around with improving book covers. One led to another. It was a break from plots and character development and ended up surprisingly upgrading a couple of covers.

The one at the top is an example. I had been satisfied with the cover as it had that couple with a black background. The hero of Her Dark Angel is going through a bleak time when the book opens. He's in the midst of something very dangerous. The last thing he wanted to do was fall in love especially with a woman he knew he could never have. Lightning is apropos for his situation as well as later plays into one of the critical events. When I originally did the cover, I had no lightning photos. Now I have a couple and they prove useful every so often.

On such a day when the words aren't flowing, I will also do something I dislike but is essential to getting books out-- marketing. I go around, see what subjects are being discussed in forums, put up an advertising blurb (something I have yet to see sell a single book), write a Twitter, put up a Pinterest image, just generally do something to show I am still out there.

Finding something else to do, something to do instead, keeps me from feeling I am accomplishing nothing. Writing when the energy isn't right often just means I later go back and take it out or totally rewrite it; so it's not the best choice for me. Finding something else is because while doing that there will be those ideas  swirling around in my brain for what would happen next in the plot. When I get back to it, it'll go smoother.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sticking to a genre

 Now I am not sure about this, but think it's mostly true and publishers long ago discovered it. If you write, you are better off to stick to a definable genre. Some writers can bounce all around, and it seems to work out. The ones that appear to sell the best-- they stick to their genre.

This isn't just true in writing. A few years back there was a painter whose work I admired for its color, lighting, subject matter, but never purchased because it would not have fit with other work I owned. She did mostly landscapes of wildlife. Beautiful images and romantically traditional. She had an auto accident. In injuring her 'painting' arm, she decided to try painting with the other. The work surprised her as it turned out to be very impressionistic, full of vibrant colors and nothing like the others.

Not long after having read about her change of style, I was visiting a gallery and saw they had her traditionals; so I asked if they had the others. They did and led me to a dark corner of the gallery and there they were. They said it wasn't what the clients wanted. Recently when I checked out her work, it was all the traditional animal paintings. Beautiful but the buyers wouldn't go for the others, which I had thought was great, very exciting work.

Another example of how it works with painting was in Jerome, Arizona. A couple had taken over what had been a school as well as at one time a hospital and turned it into a gallery for their paintings (this is one place that really should have had ghosts). They kept the styles in different rooms, but they did all kinds of work. I said something to them about galleries not liking that much-- and they said it's why they now had their own.

Is this need to fit a niche a good thing? Not so much for the creative personality where many like to experiment with different approaches to depicting their idea. That said, I suspect it's true of many things. It sells best if the creator sticks to something that they can develop, get people to admire, want to purchase, and not disappoint them with something totally different. Basically at some point turn it into a craft instead of an art and voila!

I have not felt that my books, even though they are romances, fit their genre's expectationsy. And they aren't going to. This will be even more true when I begin to bring out the historical romances. Even before that though they simply didn't fit the niches that help to sell a lot of books. Most have some adventure in them, maybe suspense, but also other kinds of interests from art to ranching to detective work and on it has gone.

Although my plots are always going to have a love story at their center, they're not series type of romance. I remember one editor telling me that my writing was good but they wanted the heroine more 'vulnerable' with more angst. Another didn't like the hard issue one of my heroes had to face. I have a story where the hero wrestles with commiting suicide, something I can't recall seeing in another romance.

If a reader loves western contemporary romances, I have a couple... Romantic suspense, some of that (if they don't mind some art thrown in), paranormal, etc. But I can't say these books fit together. The romances have some sex; so aren't 'sweet' but they also don't go far enough to be erotica.

The reason for my plots comes I think because of my own interest in so many different things. Tell me a Libra who isn't like that? I am eclectic in my home decor, interests, and it follows through with my writing.

Maybe someday the marketing world will change or humans will not want 'more of the same.' Maybe someday the cross-genre writers will have their own genre... Except, what would it be?

Image at the top was created from a purchased CanStock photo and then digital painting to play around with possibilities. It was part of redoing a cover. When I do that, I save the stages by different names in case what comes next doesn't work. I liked this one well enough to keep it when the cover was redone. If these had all been oil paintings, I might have a photo of the stages but that'd be all. The ability to save the levels is what I love about digital painting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

reviews of books-- the downside

I wrote about the upside of reader reviews particularly for indie writers who are not going to get reviews from professional reviewers (short of paying for them). There is a downside, but it's as much for readers as writers. Reviews aren't always reviews.

A lot of readers apparently decide on what book to read by looking at the reviews below the blurbs. There can be a lot of them. Readers also rely on the likes. If a lot of people liked the book, positively reviewed it, what could go wrong?

Well one thing is fraud. The best book reviews money can buy.  You see the reviews full of effusive praise for the book, and you think it must be a great read. You get it and wonder what they read when it's poorly edited with stereotypical characters and a ridiculous, manipulative plot. The link tells you how some are getting those wonderful reviews. Some of this buying of reviews comes from the difficulty of getting independent books even seen by the reading public.

Amazon has done what they can to let the reader check the validity of a review by a notation above the review certifying it's a purchased copy. Since legitimate reviewers also request a copy, I am not sure this helps much.

A sneaky tactic suggested, even in some of those books on how to sell a million copies, is to acquire a bunch of emails with various sites and names. Then the author can flatter themselves with effusive reviews from say five different people, who are all them.

Various places, I've seen the writers come in asking for 'likes' for their book. You don't have to buy it, just 'like' it for me. They know that it will influence some purchases, maybe enough to get their book into the top 100 list of some category.

Sales are the only way readers can find a lot of these books. The average reader will not go to Amazon Forums to get recommendations. They will do a search and if they go past the first 100 titles in that category, it would be surprising. It's not hard to see why writers do whatever they can to get their books there.

Writers who mean well ask for the likes if the others like their book but it's implicit in the asking that they want it and will do it in return. It pretty well makes the 'like' category meaningless since it can be based on friends clicking the button without reading the book.

So what's the answer for someone who wants to purchase books they will enjoy and not be defrauded? I'd think checking out the blurb for whether the plot sounds good, and then taking time with the free sample chapters. (If they aren't offered-- most are-- skip the book as there is a reason).

For writers like myself who don't ask for reviews (a few of my friends have read my stories and done reviews without the asking), what is the answer to getting them? Pretty much I think independent writers have to stick to writing the best story they can and do what they can to get the word out-- but honorably.

I do more reviews now than I ever did before I got into the ePub world. Back then the only place I would write a review of a book was in my blog and had never done one at Amazon. I understand how important it can be to a writer, but I won't do one by request and don't write something I don't believe.

Basically I don't do negative reviews as I tend to think one person's poison is another's delight. I've seen some poorly edited books; but what if I put that in a review, they get it fixed, who's the one with a review looking foolish? Mostly I think that if the problem is a plot device and say discussing it would give away the plot, then a review would not only be mean but unfair to readers. The next reader might and often does love what I, as a writer, feel was a gimmick.

Finally I have read the opinion that writers should not do reviews at all. I  disagree with that. Their logic is a writer cannot be fair. They might do a negative review to squelch competition or a positive one as payback. That implies writers are all dishonorable which is ridiculous. Writers are like anybody else with the honorable, who write because they have a story to tell, but also those who'd sell out their mother to get a book in the top 100. I think writers should do reviews and can offer tips to another writer for why their book works or does not.

Either way reviews should come from those who read the book, truly liked or hated it, and are willing to take their own precious time. If they were all done that way, they'd be of value to readers and writers.

From August, the photos are of summer gardens along the Oregon Coast. I love gardens there as they can grow things that would freeze out here. Some are lush, overgrown but with a rush of colors. They bring back memories to me of the years my grandparents lived on the Coast. I like the funky sense of style mixing flowers, lanterns, planters, and colorful beach buoys.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

reviews of the books-- the upside

 Of all the things I have learned through becoming an indie writer, I'd say near the top of the list is the value of reviews by readers. I do not get a lot of them; but between those at Amazon and the ones I come across elsewhere on the Internet, I have gotten enough to see their value for any author.

Reviews by someone who likes my books are of course the most pleasurable. It makes a writer feel good to meet the needs of someone else. It's a little wahoo or a big one sometimes. It's even better when it comes from someone I personally know who tried one of my books. I feel the most potential responsibility and nervousness when a friend has taken the risk of buying one. If they like it, it makes the reward of a positive review even sweeter. I do not have the kind of friends who'd lie about it or write a positive review somewhere that they did not mean. I wouldn't do that for their art or writing either.

Part of reviews, of course, is the negative ones. Now if they are about something I cannot change, I simply have to accept that I can't please everybody. I've had a few where they said they'd have liked the books better without the sex. Well I consider healthy sexuality to be an important part of my stories. I don't go on for pages and pages, am not too graphic, but in the end, writers have to write what is their story.

One reviewer wrote that they read 80% of Bannister's Way, got bored and quit. That was like wow-- really! Not even curious enough to skip to the end for how it worked out? That's what I do when a book is turning me off.

Well I went looking for what happened at about that time, had to guess, but decided any of the possibilities were things I would not want to change. They were an important part of the essence of the story. I just have to feel bad for that reader that they wasted their time, but it's part of the deal for a writer to accept that it happens. Our stories simply won't meet the needs of everybody.

When a negative review deals with something I can change, a mistake that I made, or that I should look at, that's when I truly feel reviewers do the most for me. One of those occurred coincidentally (or not) for Bannister's Way.

I have to say this book has had some of the most disdain from readers of anything I've written, but it was usually involving its title or cover. It had another title when it began, Golden Chains. It seemed apropos to the story because it's about love which can be a sort of chain (but one worthwhile) and also about Prometheus where chains are part of the mythology and the sculpture for which the hero will be posing. That title really turned off readers. I was and always am open to thinking of a different title-- hence was born Bannister's Way which also suited the story.

Once in awhile I write a book that does fit into a series and Bannister's Way is one. It arose from another book, Desert Inferno, where David Bannister was an important secondary character. I had liked him enough that I began to think of writing a book using him.

That led to five years later when David went undercover to solve a murder as he hoped to reconcile with his ex wife. I set it in Portland and gave my artist heroine the kind of home along the Tualatin River that I'd love to own. (Incidentally, two of the secondary characters in this one were the hero and heroine of Evening Star).

Now the review, that led to a changing this book once again, was actually positive regarding the book itself, but the person said that was despite its cheesy cover. Huh!!! I had some concern that the hero might look a little too young on its cover but cheesy? I looked the word up although it's hard to say if it meant that to the writer. It said-- inauthentic, trying too hard, unsubtle. hmmmm

I was a bit in shock but reconsidered it once again for the umpeteenth time. You know, our books deserve the most we can give to them; so I began looking through the model images I had purchased this year from CanStock. Some I'd gotten after I had done that cover. When I saw the right face, I knew this was going to be a positive move and went looking for some of my recent ocean photos.

Thanks to that negative comment, I am soooooo much happier with how the cover portrays David Bannister. I think he now looks stronger, the right age, has more of the Michelangelo's David look, and seems tough enough to do what I wrote he was doing. Yes!

It did require redoing the trailer too but that wasn't too difficult (other than giving up the viewer numbers I had had for the old one). Good things come with a cost but that is a small one. And that reader, who made the cheesy comment, will never know how much they helped me.

Positive and negative reviews really can be good for the author. You can't run around changing everything that someone else doesn't like, but sometimes what they don't like can lead to an improvement.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another free eBook-- November 5

To be able to ePub my books on sites other than Amazon, I have cut down to three (by mid-December that will be two) the number of them in Select. When you are in Select, you cannot have your books anywhere else. Having them there is what enabled a free day now and again. November 5th, Bannister's Way, will have one of those.

David Bannister was a secondary character in Desert Inferno. This story opens five years later in Portland, Oregon. It is about a couple who were married young, divorced, and now meet up when the husband comes to Portland hoping to reconcile as he sets out to find a murderer; there are four (what I considered) delightful old ladies in it.

The two above, have a Seaside bed and breakfast, and helped David before. They are there for him again with their wisdom as he takes his ex-wife, Raven, to the Coast hoping they can iron out their differences. I enjoy writing about elders because I have had some wonderful ones in my life. Of course, at 69, I am an elder now too but not yet to their point.  I'm getting there-- hopefully.
Bannister's Way is an adult romance with some mystery, danger, mythology, and art. For anyone not familiar with Kindles, you can read them on your computer and other eReaders by downloading a free app from Amazon. A free book is a good way to try out a new genre or writer.

Free time begins at midnight and in this case, being only one day, ends the next midnight. Always double check to be sure they are still free by seeing a line through the price and it will say-- you save. In this case that means $2.99. Photos purchased from CanStock.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Energy of covers

If you have never self-published a book, my writing so often here about covers might seem kind of a so-what kind of thing. Why does it matter? Isn't it all about the plots, characters, dialogue, editing, words?

It's important because if I have learned one thing through my time of reading reviews and the forums--  readers won't even get to the words without the right cover. Title and cover are the first things to attract someone. Many won't go beyond that to the blurb or sample chapters if the first two don't hook them.

Now if you are self-publishing and paying a graphics artist, you don't have to do your own work, but you will still have to care. It's up to you to help that graphics artist understand what the energy of your book is about.

Whether you pay for it or you do it, your cover is an attempt to capture the energy of your story in one image.  With a trailer, you get the opportunity to find more images and music to go a little further-- assuming the possible reader is intrigued enough by that cover and title to take time with the trailer.

When I began doing covers, I thought I would have no problem since I'd been doing digital paintings for a few years as well as had a lot of beautiful photographs. What could go wrong? Well turns out you need to satisfy the genre. So what I write about with a romance cover won't be what you would run into if you write a memoir, spy drama, or book of poetry.

When it was suggested my cover for Hidden Pearl wasn't matching up to the others, I was torn on it. I liked that cover. Even though photographic, it was very painterly, I thought.

Here's where the conflict between attracting readers and the energy of the book must be considered. I wrote Hidden Pearl to explore how people can look for that thing of great value and think they have found it in various ways-- some of which are beneficial and some not so much.

Pearls are hidden behind shells. They are created by irritation as they grow into what will be found by humans and regarded as of great value. If this book wasn't a romance, a pearl in a shell might've made a great cover-- but it is a romance as well as adventure. If I had been a well known author, I also could have probably used the pearl in a shell; but I think, as an indie writer, I have to attract readers to my hero or heroine.

Hidden Pearl, for a title, works because its hero, S.T. Taggert, is a man who has achieved much despite coming from a difficult background. He's wealthy, successful as a builder and architect. It would appear he has it all. When his mother asks him to find his sister, a woman he's never seen as an adult, he only reluctantly agrees. His past is something he's put aside. When photographer Christine Johnson comes into his life, he doesn't want anything she offers. Irritations build up for S.T. but as with the pearl, those irritations lead to him to becoming a stronger man, one of more value even to himself.

I think the new cover is probably better at capturing the interest of a reader browsing through books. I didn't change the trailer though and left the original cover there as I still have a good feeling about it. I think the change, however, is a positive one with less clutter and more emphasis on the key players in the book.  It doesn't hurt to re-evaluate the books and covers every now and again. Are they still the best I can do? For now, with this book, I think they are.

Friday, November 2, 2012

networking and such

In looking at how you get your books seen, when you aren't part of a major publishing network, the emphasis is on finding networks. Mostly this appears to mean joining into groups and there are a lot of them out there. You join, get others to support your work (or buy it) and hence get the sales you need to become visible to the broader population of readers.

It is very logical because a tiny drop of water is nothing. Put it together with others and you have something. A writer alone has less power than one in a group etc. etc.

That all sounds good but then arises the question of how you do it and what is the actual cost-- emotionally and physically. Suppose you are part of a group for your type of book, say science fiction, you visit the site, spend time chatting, encouraging others about their books, discussing sales, making friendships, and hence upping your own visibility in that world-- how many hours a day will that take? If you get them to buy your book, do you then buy theirs and how does that average out for you all?

Besides finding those who write and support your kind of writing, there is another type of group. It's when the writers all agree to write in a certain region, a certain length of book, around a certain topic. It becomes like a small Harlequin for romance novels. You lose some control over your work, but you have more than you out there promoting it.

Networking is a big part of selling anything; and, of course, it's logical writers who are 'going it alone' would look for a way to not go it alone. I can see the value of it and maybe if I hadn't gotten into chatting when I first came to the web, maybe I'd be more willing to do this. As it stands, I am not because to think about putting in chat time just to get books sold (even if with nice people), it makes my teeth hurt. That's always a sign to me that it's not a good idea.

I am not sure I could do such groups even if I wanted. My books don't exactly fit category writing. Maybe the historical romances would but they don't seem like it when I look at what is currently out there.  My contemporaries are all based in a geographic region-- the American west of today; but they don't have a common theme other than the love story. It's possible that even if I wanted to try to join such a group, I'd be out of luck.

However, I write this blog for more than me; so for writers who may be looking to put out their books, I can see value (especially if you weren't burned out on chatting years ago) in trying to find groups of those already doing the kind of thing you plan to publish. It could be informative for the pitfalls, but might also help you get the likes and reviews that so many readers rely on to decide on a book for themselves.

Amazon's Meet Our Authors forum is one place to begin to find those writing what you write. Go there, check out the threads, click on the names of those commenting, and you might find groups other places. Another possible place for such networking is GoodReads. They are two places I do go and have established a kind of sort of bit of a presence. I haven't yet done though what might help me get those 'reviews and likes' there and maybe won't... although if thinking about doing it ever doesn't lead to my teeth hurting, maybe I will :)

I created a new cover for another of my books. One that I hadn't intended to do at all but my publisher (Farm Boss also referred to as husband) said the one I had wasn't working  as well as the others. I had asked him to look at them for just such a thing-- but that cover? I loved that cover. Very arty... Then I remembered some of my recent waterfall photos, and I began to think how a change might work better than I was imagining. More on that next blog.