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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

To Review or Not Review

Bottom-line: for indie writers at Kindle, reviews make or break sales, or so I have read. Will reviews from say a newspaper lead you to buying a book-- or not buying it? Do you do reviews on books you have read?

When friends of mine reviewed my eBooks, I was happy to get their opinions. worried a bit that they might not have liked the books, but still writers learn from positive and negative -- when the negative is well thought out for why the book doesn't work or something seems inconsistent.  I never asked them to do it and haven't actually asked others to review my books although I have heard there are some sites where you can submit your book to get honest reviews-- but those are booked up for months ahead of time.

I have to be honest, this book marketing stuff makes me feel like Rapunzel in the Disney film Tangled. She is leaving the tower, where she has been living since she was a baby, one moment she's ecstatic, the next in deep depression and she keeps repeating that. Well I do that with marketing. One moment-- wow, this is great. I love it. Next moment-- this is horrible-- I hate it.

Even with over 4000 of my books having been given away on free days, I haven't gotten reviews from strangers. I have had a few people tag them or say they like them... The tags have been a mixed blessing as I mentioned in the previous blog. I'm still mulling that one over. One even listed a book as having been a free book when it never was.

It's not like I can blame people for not doing reviews. There are reasons beyond mine of simply never thinking about doing it. For instance, I read in forums, that readers don't trust reviews by other writers as they feel it's payback time. I wonder if they realize how common those kind of reviews have been in books published through corporations. There you will see a writer's name you recognize praising the book and you know that book was mailed to them as a galley and intended for them to do reviews-- which their books will likewise garner in their turn. That doesn't mean the writers lied either. It just means reviews by writers are a technique used to sell books and it's not new to eBooks. 

Actually, it turns out, there is also a rather peculiar side to reviews at Amazon. Evidently (or so I read) writers can pay puff sites to do glowing reviews for their books. So those people who want to only buy a book with twenty totally positive reviews, might find those reviews weren't all regular readers. How does one tell? Amazon does have a place where they validate that the book was purchased through them but until I read that, I never looked for that information. It still wouldn't tell me if the review was fake but maybe no details about the book would be a better clue-- like couldn't put this down which really tells you nothing about why the reviewer liked it.

To add to the difficulty of evaluating the fairness of reviews, coming out of the consumer forums are apparently a group who regard themselves as almost professional reviewers as they do many of them. From what I have read from their own comments in the forums-- they can get it in for a writer and post something scathing about the book which is totally because they hate the writer. If enough of them hate the writer, that could look pretty bad for the book.

Before I really got into this idea of how important reviews are, I was reading some for a book I was considering buying for my Kindle. A reviewer had written how much they hated that book. They said they hadn't bought it. They had gotten it from a library. Now that is really hate!

I won't say that the readers are all wrong either to get irked with a writer. Some writers post links to their books on any topic whether it relates or not and they'll do it many times. In my blogs, I call that spam. It evidently ruined conversational threads and especially when (in the opinion of the readers) a lot of those books were of lousy quality. After all in the Wild West, you can publish any book-- quality or not. And we all think our own book, which is our baby, is quality, don't we?

When I got into ePub, I felt it would be like the Wild West with only minimal if any rules. Well the further I get into looking at the politics of it, the more I feel I was right and more than I knew. It's like walking into that saloon in Dodge City and knowing the marshal doesn't go there and everybody in there could take a dislike to you-- irrespective of what you do. That might be better than the alternative though which is totally ignore your post and existence.

You can probably guess that for someone like me, who loves understanding the dynamics of relationships and why people do what they do, the whole thing is fascinating to watch-- although most often from a distance. But before I post words anywhere, I double-check to be sure it's in Meet Our Authors and that this particular title for subject hadn't slipped into my list from the 'other' place ;). I bet  a lot of other indie authors get the shakes at the very possibility of wandering into a consumer forum and getting into trouble-- well except those with phony IDs who can cause all kinds of trouble and walk away smiling ....

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Life support for a book?

The mystery of what makes a book appeal to readers who don't know me and choose the book from the title or cover page, is what I have been looking at as I considered whether to pull one of mine off life support before it has even had its own free day.

I mentioned earlier the three things that serve as leaders to bring a reader even to try the sample-- title, cover, and product description (i.e. promo). Of those three, I cannot change a losing title without totally resubmitting the book; and since mine are in the Select program to enable free days, that's not happening.

What I did, when I came to believe something wasn't working for one of the books, was to pose the question in the Kindle Author Forums-- When a book doesn't sell? I didn't get a lot of comments but what I did get was valuable for me to gather some ideas on what went wrong with Golden Chains in terms of its promos (try everything and not capturing the real feel of the book in any of the three).

I wish I'd used a different title since frankly this one didn't seem to help people understand the theme as I had thought it would. I will use something that more gets to the story of Prometheus when I redo that title. I am still not sure what it'll be. Prometheus's story is in my book and,  besides being the subject of a sculpture, is also a clue to the kind of man I see my hero as being.

Now I really liked the first cover but several people put a tag under it that indicated it was erotica or adult fare!! Say what!! Eeek. Yes, all of my books are adult in that I wouldn't want a young girl to read them-- they have sex in them. But erotica, no, they are not. Unfortunately, you cannot undo such a tag although I guess you can ask other readers to put up a disagree. I won't do that; but when I can (which is when its Select contract runs out), I will redo the title and resubmit the book  with a new title (I hope) which might get rid of the erotica tags.

Now I do get why they labeled it that way. It's something in our culture where nudity is somehow seen as erotica or porn. Being an artist, I don't see it the same way. I have worked with painting and sculpting the nude. I already know how much flak galleries get for even putting up a nude sculpture of a male and heaven forbid (literally) that in our day and age it would be in a painting. It simply doesn't happen. Women yes. Men no. Yet, my story is about a college art class where you do have nude models of the male and female sort. They are not considered erotica. They are a study of the human form. I get it though that in our culture-- all nudity is porn.

So listening to suggestions from my question in the author forum, I tweaked my cover by first shifting the woman's eyes to give her a less assertive manner, and then put the model into a pair of jeans. Modesty is protected and it does not damage the meaning of the story.

 Anybody, who bought this book thinking because of its cover that it was erotica, will be disappointed. Yes, I have read erotica (it's different than male porn), and I know this isn't it.  Someone looking for erotica will be disappointed. Unfortunately it also probably will scare off a few people who might have liked its subject matter.

One of the critics in the Forum said the cover looked amateurish. I think they are used to the slick, stock models that are so common. The thing is I dislike those models for the slickness; so that is not going to happen. My covers look painterly.  They depict my characters or will now hopefully capture the 'feel' of the book. I've seen covers like mine, but there is no good in being defensive about it because it's a different world in Kindle and indie authors are looked at with suspect. But I was open to changing that cover.

Overnight I thought about it, debating what kind of concept would work for the cover if not the main protagonists. I thought of using Prometheus himself, except that would look like a sculpture textbook.  Although sculpture is in the story, it's not the heart of it. Then it came to me-- rivers..

Since a lot of this book happens on the banks of the Tualatin River, it was the right choice for this one (I am also changing another cover, not because its been labeled erotica, but because I got into the idea of using scenery for some instead of the monotony of it always being people. Unfortunately the new cover won't erase the tags I don't like but so goes life. When it has its free day next week, maybe more people will find it interesting enough to read the sample (always a smart move for the reader) and take one free.

One commenter to my Forum question said she had been told it takes six months for a romance author to catch on with Kindle. It's not like I don't have the time to wait on it. I didn't put money into the books and will take the small amount of money I get from them and use it for advertising or promotional ideas.

Finally, the question an author has to ask themselves when one book out of six is simply not getting any attention (other than the wrong kind)-- maybe it's the subject matter. If that's the case, I can't change it as this is the story it is and should be. I like second chance love stories, this setting, and had fun writing about the art world because I know it better than many other worlds.

I had however been told, some years back when I was working with editors, that artists for heroines or heroes are simply not popular with readers. Maybe they can't identify with that career. I don't know, but anyway the story is what it is. My heroine is not about to become a nurse. If her being a sculptress is what turns off readers, there isn't anything I can do about it.

Frankly where it comes to what a reader likes, they cannot be wrong. It is what it is. The only thing a writer can try is to tempt them to try something new to their world-- or not.

One good thing about this learning process is I have four more contemporaries where I can consider the title and cover more ahead of their being published later this spring. Maybe I should not have done six so fast but frankly what I have to sell is my name where if someone likes one, they will look for others. Having up more than one or two is how I hope to do that. Meanwhile I'll look at that blurb again to see if I can better get across what the book is about in a few short paragraphs. When a reader won't even try the sample, you know the blurb isn't working!
Golden Chains will be on free next week, not sure which day yet but it will definitely be after the cover is right.

And my next blog here will be on the other problem my books all face.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Free on Thursday a romance set in the world of cults

So far my free days have been successful in terms of getting people to possibly try a book they would not otherwise. Each of the three has gotten over a thousand takers. The numbers surprised us a lot as some of those had come from Europe.

So I hope this free day for Hidden Pearl will also draw in readers, maybe even some new ones who are attracted to not only the romance but the book's underlying premise which is why do people choose cults, what are they hoping to find. The hidden pearl isn't a real thing but rather that for which we seek-- often with unintended consequences.

Hidden Pearl will be free for 24 hours on Thursday, February 23. Just be sure if you want it that you get it before the sale ends. Sometimes people goof and end up paying $2.99 when that wasn't their goal. Fortunately Amazon refunds their money but better is to not have it go wrong.


A contemporary western romance, with a mystery at its center,  explores the question of what is worth dying and even more living for.

Life's plans often become derailed by events beyond our control. Such a life changing day begins for S.T. Taggert with a call from his Navajo mother asking the multimillionaire builder/architect to find what has happened to his sister, Shonna, whom he has not seen since he left home in his teens. At the same time he learns from the newspaper that Lane Brown, a colleague, has just committed suicide.

 S.T.'s day just keeps getting better as a photographer for a slick magazines shows up to do a photo spread he had not agreed to do and turns out to be the beautiful and spirited Christine Johnson. Sparks fly.

The two are both drawn south in Oregon toward a mysterious cult where Christine has an assignment to photograph its successful evangelistic leader, and S.T. finds a possible cause of the disappearance of his sister and a connection between this cult and Lane Brown.

Hidden Pearl
is about a couple who are naturally attracted to each other while they have a lot of reasons to not become emotionally entangled. Their love story unwinds as they try to find what happened to Shonna, Lane, and survive the intentions Peter Soul has for each of them.

So love, mystery, adventure, and an exploration of what humans hope to get when they look for a spiritual answer to life-- not only from such cults but from also other spiritual traditions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fairy tale or reality driven love stories

When I speak of the word fairy tale, I don't necessarily mean fantasy as such although certainly all fiction is to some degree a fantasy. Some is a fantasy aimed at being made as realistic as possible to fool the reader into thinking it might actually happen or a fantasy that the reader knows couldn't but is happy to go along for the ride.

When I watch movies, I see some of this same difference. Even the best of them depend on some meaningful coincidences to keep them interesting. If they really were just like most people's every day, who would watch them? We like going along for a ride and with a book, the ride lasts a little longer than with a film.

I've written before about how I consider a really good romance to be like a roller coaster with ups and downs, some whoosh out of the lungs to some quiet moments before it all starts again.  There is an element always of suspending reality. Nobody thinks a roller coaster is reality but it's a nice ride to build up our own energy before we get back on the ground and go on with life as it is.

My stories are always set in realistic settings but then things happen that do stretch the imagination. The kind of love that a romance is based upon can require some of that suspension of belief. Although it's a very real sensation and most people have experienced it in the beginning of their own love story. It just doesn't last. A romance takes the reader there again and adds a little adventure possibly that they not only didn't experience but certainly don't want to experience.

Even fairly reality driven romances like Pride and Prejudice have a place where as a reader you must suspend judgement. Darcy is so dramatic and perfect as a hero and yet he starts out rejecting our heroine. Then he does everything he can to get her to become his wife. He's not an average guy doing this but the richest, most handsome man in the realm. Life certainly didn't work that well for Jane Austen.

What I think makes a love story work is to set it in a very realistic environment and then go for the roller coaster, have some fun, and get the reader to suspend their demand for realism in every event which is what the fairy tale driven love story will do.

Now a reality driven love story won't have beautiful people, won't have things always work out tidily. You might get a happy ending but it's the kind people are more likely to find in real life than in a fairy tale. No handsome prince to carry away the heroine to a life of plenty. The reality driven is as apt to end in a boring marriage or even eventual tragedy as it is with a happy ending.

In thinking about a reality driven romance, Bridges of Madison County comes to mind. Now that story is exactly how an affair can and does happen. It has the same complications that reality does bring to love. There is no happily ever after, just a lifetime of thinking of that moment which could be healthy and okay as it gives the energy to stick to a life that doesn't have much romance in it on a daily basis.

In such a reality driven love story, you still have an element of coincidence as that photographer didn't have to stop and ask for directions from the one woman with whom he could fall in love and have an affair. You do not need a happy ending because reality doesn't necessarily hand those out as do fairy tales.

I suppose I could write reality driven love stories. I actually do have one of mine, not yet published, but will be, where the ending is not guaranteeing a happily ever after. They are together but with no certainty that they will find a happily ever after. The story though is full of fairy tale moments; so it still is under the fairy tale type of love story at least in my judgment.

In the end, a writer probably chooses what they want to write based on what most satisfies them, what they most want to read, and what they are willing to spend months or years buried within.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Character driven versus plot driven stories

When I began publishing books on Kindle, actually even before when I used to send query letters to editors hoping to get interest in my stories, I found it complicated to figure out in a few words what my stories were. With Kindle, the best chance an unknown writer has to get their books seen is to find meaningful tags that will bring their books closer to the front when someone is looking for their next read.

One of the potential tags that has come to my mind is whether a story is character or plot driven. They really are very different types of stories. Generally speaking romances are character drive as it is the personalities of the two people that will drive what happens in the stories. I have already said I don't think my books are romances as such. They are love stories. Love stories have more potential to be plot driven or can be a mix of the two. The love story is woven into the plot and either one can be dominant-- although hopefully both are there. IF though I want to put a tag on it, I have to get more specific.

A reader who likes a character driven story will not be as fond of say a Tom Clancy book. Often you know very little of his characters' personalities. They are loosely defined,  even stereotyped, because plot is everything and the character is a vehicle for that plot which is complex and goes in directions you sometimes never see coming.

On the other hand, a lover of plot driven stories will go nuts with Jane Austen who wrote very character driven stories that when you look back at them, you think nothing really happened-- and yet everything did-- but in the character's development as a person or as two people slowly reveal themselves to each other.

Most of my stories are more of the character driven sort, but when I began to think about this subject, I realized I have also written those that, although the characters are hopefully not totally shallow, they also are not more important than the events into which they have been set.  They don't spend their time trying to work out emotional problems. They are too busy working out physical survival.

An example of one of mine that is more plot driven than character driven-- even though both aspects are in the story-- would be Hidden Pearl. Here we have a man and woman who are thrust into two mysteries regarding a cult which is gaining power. Although they are also falling in love and their personalities are important, a lot is going on as they work through the problems with which they are faced. If I were writing a tag about Hidden Pearl, I'd be hard put to decide if it was plot or character driven.

Hidden Pearl had an added problem with tagging. In a lot of ways, a title is a bit of a tag on its own. It tells the reader what to expect in a subtle way. Hidden Pearl's title is never fully explained in the book. There is no time (as there was with Evening Star) where it is explained why that title. Its meaning is to be shown through what is happening. The idea behind the title is that humans are looking for something that isn't easy to find but that is worthwhile in life. The hidden pearl is that for which it is worth dying and even more living.  I don't lay out that underlying reason for the title, but hopefully, the reader will know what it was about by the time they finish reading it.

An example of one of mine that is character driven, probably the best clear example is Evening Star. In that, a lot is happening that is plot but the story is told through the eyes of a woman who is revealed to have some dysfunction in how she handles personal relationships. When she meets a man who challenges her fear of meaningful emotional connections, she basically has to dig deep within herself to find her own answers for how she got to where she is and what can she do about it. There is a plot, adventure, danger, uncertainty, and spice (all my books have spice), but it really is very character driven.

Even if someone doesn't want to go the self-published route, I think coming up with tags for your story is a good idea. It forces some focus in a writer. It is important to add to your sale's pitch. Readers who want a plot driven story will be disappointed and think nothing really happened if they get hold of a character driven one. Equally someone hoping for real depth of personality in a lead character in a plot driven story will probably be equally dissatisfied with one that is character driven. Like enough of the thinking already-- get with the action!

Tags are important in writing and in marketing. Even here at the blog, I have to think up labels for these articles; so that if a reader comes here, they can find more on the same topic. It has come a little easier to do that here than it has with the tags for the books. Both places matter and I am trying to come up with meaningful tags that will alert the reader to a story they will really enjoy not one that will disappoint them.

In writing about this, I thought of another aspect of a love story-- the fairy tale versus the reality driven. I might write about that next.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thursday-- free contemporary western love story

Usually when I do an Amazon Kindle free day, it's when the book has been out awhile. In this case, I am trying something different to see how that works for a book that was only published Monday.

I am still debating the value of these free days. There is one huge plus-- they do get the books out there. The first one I did over two days got 1250 takers; the second one, as a one day, 1100. There is a satisfaction in that at least someone might be reading them-- although when something is free, who knows for sure if they do get read.

The concern I have about it is-- might it get to a point where readers only want free days and they wait for them? Still, where I am an unknown writer, haven't been publishing very long-- as in just since the middle of December-- my best hope is to get people to see the books and find they like a form of story they hadn't tried.  If they do, with eventually ten of these contemporaries, I have a lot more to offer.

This one is Evening Star and for February 16th, a free download for your Kindle or computer with a free Kindle app. Click on the link above or the one alongside this blog and be sure the price is correct ($.00) before hitting purchase. Amazon has been good at this but always check the price just in case something didn't go through properly.

There are now six on Amazon with four to go which I plan will be one a month as I look at more ways to help readers find them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Evening Star

All of my books are love stories, but some are more clearly that than others. I chose to get Evening Star out just before Valentine's Day because it is one of the latter.  Except for deadly danger, it's a story about love, the complexities, the rewards, and the risks.

It is a good example of the kind of book where you have one almost mythic character connecting with a more or less average person. In this case, Randy is the mythic hero as cowboy and cop. Marla is the stand-in for the rest of us as she falls in love with such a person and tries to find a way to get past her own fears to be worthy of that love. We see their story totally through her eyes.

Generally in a romance you switch points of view between hero and heroine to give the reader the full experience of both. This one had to show everything Randy felt through Marla's eyes. Lucky she was a lawyer and observative of everybody-- except herself, of course.

There was one exception to points of view and that was to give the reader also the villain's perspective now and then. I sometimes really like to write through a villain's eyes, and Gus Torrintino was one such example. Villains can be fun especially those who ruthlessly break all of mankind's laws with no second thoughts.

The last thing Marla Jamison wants is a risk taking, handsome as sin, younger than her, police officer to love. Sometimes the last thing we want is the one thing we need.

Marla, a deputy prosecutor in Portland's DA's office has been a woman without a star but a very satisfactory and sensible path. When the unexpected lands on that path, it diverts her and challenges all of her expectations.

Randy O’Brian has come to Portland to be part of the thin blue line but carrying a secret with him. Raised on a ranch, he’s as much cowboy as cop. For Randy, when you want something, you go after it, and he wants Marla.

Their story is one of love between very different people. It is set in Oregon moving between two worlds—the big city to the ranching community. It involves the investigation and apprehension of a dangerous crime boss.

Marla must discover if Randy is who she wants to believe he is, her own evening star, or the most dangerous distraction of her life.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's fun to be a writer

In the midst of a kind of murky Pacific Northwest winter, cow problems (which have been resolved satisfactorily by selling the cow), lambing, a cold/allergy/something that seems to know no end and has evidently evolved into something with a life all its own, political stories that are depressing, world events that are even more so, I am feeling so lucky that I write.

Instead of dwelling on all the things going wrong, I can immerse myself into a hero who satisfies all the vitality and excitement that frankly I wouldn't have energy for if he showed up anywhere but on the page. I don't have to do a thing to get all that flowing into me. Just write about him and his heroine, about the joys they are discovering and for a few hours, I am into their life, not my own.

With writing I can go someplace warm if I want and bask in a climate change created by my imagination and laid out by words. I can revisit places I have loved being but where I may never return.

When I want to dwell on some problem in my characters' lives, it's just plain different than when it's my own. For one thing I know it's going to work out for them. I am going to make it work out.

When I read the newspaper, I get all my need for misery like with a story that really disturbed me and happened last week. A young man drove up to a boat ramp and saw the car of the woman he loved had been accidentally driven into the river and was slowly sinking. Heroically he dove in to try and save her. He drowned. Not only that but she had already been saved and was down the river a ways. Now that's a real life story which still disturbs me days later because it's how life often works out but we wish it would not.

Then there is this photo taken in Yemen by Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda. Arab Spring won the 2011 World Press Photo of the Year award. The beautiful, almost spiritual photo tells us of the cost of war and of love with one photograph. But it doesn't tell us how the story ended or even what it was. Just that one moment is all we get captured with all its beauty and angst. The writer can take that moment and create a story that does end happily or sadly. It is a choice. Life does what it will. Fiction gives us an option.

In any book I write, my hero might struggle and nearly lose his life, but I have the power and will make sure he and his heroine survive. That's the wonder of fiction, and why writing is so rewarding when days are tough. For a few hours every day you can get away and be someone else as you create dialogue and actions that are equally believable to how life works, but when it ends the 'right' way instead of the tragic.

I love writing about the heroes I have created who are often a mix of men I have known and yet also someone uniquely different. I thought about these fictional fellows recently about how they react when something bad happens. Several of them are some kind of law enforcement officer which means they walk in when others run out. Several of them though are just nice guys who find they are forced into the hero role by circumstances. I love to write about both types. I gotta admit. I LOVE men!

And then the women. Sometimes they start out with attitudes that aren't fully developed for maturity even if they should be mature. Heck, always they start out that way. But the relationship, the situation into which they are thrust, it all comes together to bring out their strengths. When the book is finished, I know they will be stronger women than when it began.

My heroines will be worthy of the hero and not because they have some cute, sexy figure, but because they have strength of character. They become women I'd like to have for friends. Women I'd like to be if I was reliving my own life in a different way. They take more risks than I do. I can take those risks through them where in reality, probably I still wouldn't because I'd be counting the cost-- and I wouldn't know it will work out happily in the end.

To 'grow' characters is sooooo satisfying. You know life isn't always that way. We've all known people who just wallow in the same mistakes year after year after year. That might be 'reality', but what fun is it to read about it or spend months writing about a character like that.

To me, writing should be fun. Save the angst for memoirs. They are where you can't keep control because you are telling a true life story. In fiction why wallow in angst? I can't think of a reason; so when I do have my characters go through tough times, which, of course, has to happen to have a story be interesting, I know it'll be worthwhile. Sorry but in real life, not always so.

And the best part of writing is you know there are all those ideas for the next book floating around in your head. This one was good but that one, that one will be even better. Writing is a way of both being in the world and out of it. Sometimes that is a very good way to be.

Marketing the books...  Now that's not so much fun!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Books that don't fit genre

One of the things I am beginning to 'get' where it comes to marketing books. It's easier if you write the same kind of story over and over. In short, I think if you have a type, readers will then follow up on the first purchase with a second. IF like me, you write a lot of different kinds of stories, it makes it tougher.

When I put Desert Inferno on free, it drew a few buyers to From Here to There because both are contemporary western love stories. It didn't help the other three I currently have up on Kindle because the readers apparently don't see the connection.

In my writing, all of it, I create characters and dynamics of stories that will be set in very different situations yet always offer some basic similarities for the action and energy of the stories. I don't want to write stories where over and over it's the same thing with different faces.

When I write fiction, I like exploring issues, as I do with the blogs; but in a fiction story, you do it with characters to make it more interesting than a straight lecture. It's fun to write like that-- to put out ideas through the vehicle of a story. But it may not be that marketable for an assortment of reasons, not the least of which is that the books don't fit in boxes.

The other problem in thinking about all of this is I am slowly realizing I don't write romances. My first hint to this being the case should have been that I can't stand to even read romances. What I write are stories about life,  about problems in the country, about issues, but with a man and woman at the center experiencing it all while they fall in love. What the heck is that called?

Moon Dust is a story about education in our country, about the aftermath of childhood abuse on adult relationships, and about the militia movement and what some will do to maintain power. Oh wait, it's also a love story based in the Willamette Valley

Then there is Golden Chains which is about the art world both how art is created and forged. It is also a murder mystery. Oh wait, and a love story. Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast.

And of the five I have on Kindle, Hidden Pearl doesn't seem to be attracting attention at all. This might be because the people looking don't know what to make of that title. The thing is the title is critical to the story as this story is about the human desire to have a leader who can help us understand life, how we give over power to those people and the damage that can come from such misplaced trust. In our seeking something, like the hidden pearl, we can entrap ourselves with phonies that look real but are fakes. So it's about that struggle, about cult misuse of human desire, of hypocrisy.  Oh wait, and a love story based in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

These stories simply don't fit into a niche-- nor are they a lot like the two books I have put on give-away on Kindle. But then those two books weren't a lot alike either. The five books I have yet to put up, because I am thinking about all of this, they aren't like these five either.

When I began with ePublishing, I knew there would be problems with the kind of stories I wrote because of my earlier experiences with editors and publishing houses. What they wanted, I wasn't delivering and didn't want to deliver. My books do not fit into niches and niches are what sell. In some ways the stories I choose are literature. In other ways simple stories with no pretensions. And yet in other ways they are about the relationships between males and females, the dynamics, the mystery, and the wonder of it.

What I thought with ePub is that there would be a way to get past genre and simply interest readers in good stories at low prices, that yes, did talk about some serious issues but in a pleasurable read. Now I am not so sure that works. Do readers of romances want to think beyond sexual encounters and silly women enticing wonder men by their tiny perfect bodies? If my stories though are not romances, then what can I call them?

That's the issue for me to figure out right now. Really for any writer who doesn't fit the boxes publishing houses have established. If you fit the boxes, no problem. If you do not, then you have to find a way to convince readers they don't want those boxes. Not an easy task.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A free day for a hybrid romance

On February 7th,  Desert Inferno will have a free day on Kindle. It is in Kindle's Select program which enables these occasional days of giveaways with the hope of interesting new readers, who might not otherwise try something out of their usual habit.

This book has had a hard time getting interest because it's such a nontraditional romance. It really needs nontraditional readers to give it a try as it's not so much a simple romance as also a story of adventure. In fact, the more I look at romances, the more I wonder if any of my stories qualify. I once though they were because they are stories of a man and woman meeting, falling in love or trying for a second chance at love, human sexuality, but always, in the midst is something else, a theme, problem, or issue that really is as important as the love story.

When I was submitting manuscripts to publishing houses, I always ran into this problem of their need to fulfill genre expectations. That often meant heroine in trouble. Man saving the day. I didn't like that kind of story to read or to write.

Desert Inferno is a western with a strong emphasis on the love that I feel for Southern Arizona and set in a part of it that I know pretty well. Jake is a U.S. Border Patrolman, and an unusual hero because he's a man most people consider ugly. Well a lot think the desert is ugly also.  Beauty often is in the eye of the beholder and in Rachel's eyes, he's beautiful as is the desert country that surrounds her.

Rachel is a strong woman, successful as a landscape painter, independent in her thinking, but it really is love at first sight for her when she sees Jake. He feels a woman as beautiful as her will never be for him; and so their story begins.

It would be a love story like so many others except for what else is happening. Jake has an old enemy, one who wants to kill him. Rachel's father, owner of a big ranch but in trouble financially, has gone into business with that man smuggling Mexican antiquities into the United States . What he didn't count on was it would also involve murder.

The cover is one of those I have tweaked again and again but think maybe this time I have it as it will stay.

February 7th is a good chance to give one of my hybrid romances a try for free. You might learn you like something you didn't expect; and if you don't, you didn't put out any money. ;) I am sure learning a lot through this whole process. Marketing is a LOT harder than writing is all I can say.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Writing and rewriting promos

As hard as it is for me to create a good author profile, I think even tougher is creating an enticing title, cover, and product description (henceforth to be known here as promos) for my books. Here are the basics-- I wrote it, I love it. I know all about it and consider it to be wonderful-- absolutely. It's my child. I still have to convince a reader of the same thing.

For those published by big publishing houses, promos used to be, and maybe still are, taken care of by them. They often even redo titles. Likely authors who don't self-publish haven't wanted to create a cover, but the image in their mind might not be what the House wants. Those  pro covers will all be done by commercial artists using generally professional models. Some of those models, like one called Fabio, became so famous they even did other ads-- and pretty much ruined the books for someone like me who didn't want the book's hero to look like him. Still the importance, of covers, titles and promos, has not been missed on the publishing houses. They are how you get people to read the story.

In the world of self-publishing, the writers are working with an added problem. Many readers are predisposed to think it won't be good. I mean if it was good, it would be published by a corporation, right? So the reader is looking for an excuse to reject the book. Their turnoff can come fast and for many possible reasons. Some the writer can fix. Some not if they happen to be part of a story that doesn't fit the genre market of that time.

First promo is the title. As a reader myself, I will only rarely override a terrible title to look beyond for more about the story. What might convince me to look twice after an awful title (which that writer likely felt was wonderful) would be a great cover.

In the Kindle Forums I have read that you absolutely must hire a professional artist to do your covers. They say it's worth the money. I don't know about that since I am turned off by the professionally done romance covers I see in the stores.

When I decided, since I have done a lot of digital painting, that I wanted to do my own covers, I went into the bookstores to see what was 'in'.  Why do readers like the cover guy to look like he's on steroids or spends his life working out? My characters are not that. It appears, however, that real people on covers are not popular with the romance reading population.

I went against the grain on this one and did my own anyway. I had several reasons besides feeling I'd enjoy doing them. One was my belief these books may not generate enough profit to cover a commercial artist let alone leave anything left over. I don't have money to put into it. I won't know for about six months whether I am right on that; but I have a lot less pressure with not putting any dollars into the project than if I had been spending money and still finding they didn't meet what the buying public wanted.

To be honest, when I read a promo from bookstore books, I generally can't stand them. There are exceptions, but too often heroes and heroines aren't interesting and the stories seem repetitious. How many feisty heroines and tough bad guy heroes who turn soft when they fall in love can a person read before throwing up? So if that's what the public wants, I am not going to be selling books. My only chance is aiming toward the atypical romance reader. Which leads to the real problem-- how do I get to those and convince them to give the books a try?

I could use any of my stories to illustrate this but will use the first one I put onto Kindle-- Desert Inferno. I have tweaked various aspects of the promotion through the month, but the cover does seem to suit the characters. But they don't look like movie stars or professional models. Will that hurt it when potential readers look at it?

Then I am asking myself if that title, which speaks to the climax, maybe it isn't working. I am open to changing a lot of things where it comes to promos-- just not the story I wrote as if I start changing that, it's all over for me. I can correct mistakes but I can't let myself lose that story in trying to promote it.

After title and cover comes writing something about what this story is, what can a reader expect from it? How do I get across the essence of that in few words? Somehow with this story I fear I have not been projecting the adventure, the danger, the excitement and the essence of this love between two people very different on the outside but inside, soul mates.

But the thing is my books don't fit a genre. I knew that and it was part of the problem with publishing houses. What can I do about that if anything?

The hero in Desert Inferno is probably one of my favorites but he's very unconventional in that he's not handsome. He describes himself as ugly although the heroine sees him as very attractive to her. BUT unattractive simply doesn't happen in romances. The heroes are always supposed to be gorgeous. What can I really do about that aspect?

So I know this much. I'm not the usual romance writer. How do I find others like me-- the offbeat readers? That's where this is still a learning process. I've only been doing it about a month; so I am trying to just kind of back off in terms of trying to figure this all out. I do read a lot on the subject.

 The last thing Border Patrolman Jake Donovan wanted to find at the end of a long day in a remote stakeout was a beautiful woman who had reported a dead body. For a lot of what he considered very good reasons, Jake avoided emotional entanglements of any sort especially with a woman like Rachel O'Brian, spoiled probably and rich without a doubt.

 As soon as she saw this rugged man, Rachel was equally determined that what he wanted was not what he needed. A successful landscape painter, who lived on a remote ranch with her father, she had finally found the man she wanted. So the chase was on as this time,  Jake found he was the prey-- not only of the beautiful Rachel but of an old enemy from his past.

 This is a story of love of the Southern Arizona desert, its dangers and beauties. It's about smugglers of Mexican antiquities, with a villain who has a taste for the macabre. It is most of all about passion and a man who doesn't yet know that love will be his salvation both physically and emotionally.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writing a good profile?

Profiles are one thing I really hate to write. My own that is. If you write or have to promote yourself in some way, you probably don't like it much either.  I'd rather everything rested on the books, not about me. There is no choice though as it is part of marketing. I got more interested in doing it when I thought about my writing philosophy.

There was a time when I wrote but never even liked to talk about writing. I just liked to do it. After reading different topics in Kindle Forums, I've had more interest in hearing what other writers think, their philosophies, and what works in their view.

The following is the most recent profile I wrote for Amazon. The photo isn't with it but just playing around with black and white and it seemed like a good one for a writer profile.

A good romance is like a wonderful song for the way it carries the reader along with highs and lows, tension and release, action and waiting. These are the kind of stories I aim to write and also the ones I want to read.

When I have created a story of two people coming together for the first or even second time, finding their connection and also the places they have to let the other go, falling in love and then working out a relationship, I feel a real satisfaction. That's what I hope my readers find also.

A good romance book is being able to reclaim the moment we fell in love through someone else's experience. We want to go along with the roller-coaster ride they are on. My favorite books have elements (sometimes a lot of it) of danger to add to this emotional high. I call mine hybrid romances because they also explore other things that fascinate me which might be art (I am a painter and sculptor), history, science, metaphysics, etc.-- whatever fits the situation these characters have entered into.

When I write, I try to apply the craft I learned from my teachers but also the inspiration I received from all the authors I have ever loved.  I edit, re-edit and edit again leaving slack times between to get fresh perspective. I try to cut out anything not needed. I want my stories to make their point, not be everything that happened, but everything important. I want them to have pace and a destination that leaves the reader and me the writer satisfied. My goal is to provide the wheat and not the chaff, to write a story of yin and yang, darkness and light, softness and hardness and the rose with the thorn.

When defining myself I am an animal, nature loving, rural living woman who is fascinated by both people's stories and their choices. 'Why?' has been a big part of my life. I was born into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, grew up in the front yard of Sasquatch with wilderness out my backdoor and a gravel road out front. Schooling began in a 2 room country school which meant a mile and a half walk to school along a gravel roads where in the spring I could watch pollywogs turn into frogs.

Today I live on a small ranch in the foothills of the Coast Range of Oregon where my husband and I raise cattle and sheep. The grandchildren come to visit when they can and they are also being raised to love nature, animals, and the outdoors. I don't see my life even now mapped out or where it might be next year. I have always liked living with changes possible.

This is all reflected in my stories which are of love, of men and women finding relationship, and struggling with all the things humans do. Perhaps romantic love has not always been so available but has been in the hearts of men and women from the time they first became recognizably human. We don't have a breeding cycle as so many animals do; so there has to be something to draw us together, make us willing to sacrifice, and that something is not simply lust but a far deeper connection that goes into our souls and some call soul mates. I love to tell the stories of these soul mates.