Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Staying on task ... on what?

There are some that can focus and stay on task no matter
what you toss at them.  I am NOT one of those people.
Can I finish something on time? Yes.  Can I solely focus on
just that task to get there?  Not in this life time! I seem to stumble
across little paths the deviate from where I was going and being
the adventurous sort I just have to see where this new path leads.

For example...

I've been sending out manuscripts, writing new ones, signing
contracts, promoting and editing like mad for the past year.
This is all great, much better than sitting in front of the computer
staring at the blinking cursor wondering where your muse went...
 until you sit down and figure out what you have just signed yourself
up for in the immediate future.

I sat down last night, and made myself figure out what I have to do
in the next, oh we'll say six months - actually to be totally honest a large
portion of it needs to be done in three months time!

I still have four new releases coming out every other month this year.
This equals edits, promotion and the ticking clock of deadlines.  No biggie,
I work great under pressure!!

This week I will be finished a current WIP - that is only 20,000 past where I'd
planned it to end and then its time to put on my blinders, lock my muse in
the attic and try to buckle down and finish up a few things.

Behind the scenes (aka stuff I've been pretending isn't there) I have a
whopping list to deal with.
Here's a bit of it so you understand just what I've done to myself (keep in mind I
do work anywhere from 40-60hrs a week outside of my writing space as well)
Book 4 in series - polish and submit (my editor is dying to know what happens!)
Book 1 in new trilogy - rewrites and re-submit (this is a biggie! when the
CEO asks if you can rework something .. you try your best!)
Book 3 in trilogy - finish and get to editor (this one already has a projected release date!!)
Book 1 in yet another new trilogy - polish up and submit
Book 5 (and hopefully final book) in series - polish up and submit

And that is the next three months of my life!   Now, for all you perfectly organized
people out there ... suggestions on how to accomplish this on time would be
 greatly appreciated.  I promise to at least read said suggestions, following
them may not work out, then again maybe someone will have that one idea
that will work for me.

Did I mention I am in the process of packing and sorting through the house to move on top of
all of this?

Have a great week everyone!!

P.S. Yes, Rosalie this is the time where I need you to alternate between drill sergeant and compassionate, understanding woman.  

Monday, January 30, 2012


Is it just me, or does this time of year suck balls?

I mean it. After the rush of Christmas – I don’t care if you love it, hate it, or just tolerate it – everything seems to calm down back to normal…yet the weeks spanning January through, let’s say, March, are a plain bitch to navigate. Either you have a mountain of work remaining from all the stuff you avoided doing over the holidays or business has slowed to a crawl. I guess this could be tied back to school days; January typically means the end of the first semester and the start of the second, which is nice and all but just lets you know you’re only halfway there to summer break. For adults, it means tax time (which is stressful, regardless of whether or not you look forward to sending in your W-2s) and several months of waiting before it’s nice enough outside to do anything worth doing.

I suppose it’s a little of all the above for me. After NaNo 2011, I made the conscious decision to take off December. I had exhausted myself completing my inaugural NaNo project and wanted to spend the busiest family-oriented month focused on editing and catching up. Now the holidays are over (finito for eleven more months) and I’m already behind on 2012 goals because it took a million years for my muse to return to me. Apparently, “use it or lose it” applies even to short breaks. Short, planned, deserved breaks.

Keeping momentum going is important, even if you’re not bothering yourself with being overly productive. If you find you’re currently struggling to get the words on the page—either because you took a break or because this time of year sucks and no one should be asked to do anything—I say cut yourself some slack. I can’t think of anyone who genuinely likes January. Focus on small goals. A few words here or there. A book read. An article written. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s using “it” (whatever your particular “it” might be) almost always works to get you back in the groove, even if you have to fight to get there. And sooner or later, you’re right back where you were, wondering how you lost your footing to begin with.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

As we have discussed in the past and will inevitably discuss again, as an author – regardless of whether or not you focus primarily on e-publishing – one of the things you’ll have to deal with is Internet piracy. Granted, to some authors, it’s water off a duck’s back. To those authors who live on their royalties and have families to support, it’s the absolute enemy.

I get so frustrated with people who casually pirate books with this attitude of entitlement. About a year ago on Facebook, I came across an icon someone had made that equated Internet piracy to car theft. “It’s like having your Porsche stolen—only it’s still there in the morning.”

Sorry, but that’s not only wrong, it’s insulting, and worse – it’s plain stupid.

I don’t care what your excuse is. “I’m a big fan, I don’t have money, I reaaaallly want to readdit!” None of these are good enough reasons to steal. And guess what? They never will be. It’s not legal to take a book to a copier and print off the pages for the same reason. Copyright protection. The artist or author is entitled to their percentage, as is the publisher.

Unless you weren’t alive last week, I’m sure you heard of SOPA. When I first heard of this legal measure being taken against online piracy, I was elated. I am, after all, one of those victimized by Internet assholes who don’t care how much their actions affect me and my family. I even explained to my husband that I would unapologetically support any action to halt Internet piracy.

About thirty seconds later, I ate my words.

You see, while SOPA might have sounded like the awesomest thing ever – and it truly did for those precious few seconds – I quickly learned what all it entailed. You put up a video of you and your friends drunkenly belting out “STAND BY YOUR MAN”, and suddenly that ain’t cool. You post a picture of Regis saying, “Is that your final answer?!” and the site could receive a cease and desist notification. Goodbye, Goodreads. So long, Youtube. And you better watch out, Facebook.

Thankfully, the Internet protest that occurred last Wednesday temporarily put a cease-fire on this bill, but that doesn’t mean we can all rest easy. There’s no telling what sort of riders our congressmen and senators will attempt to place into future pieces of legislation. So stay involved. These things do affect us. And if Wednesday was any indicator, citizens do have a voice. We can make ourselves heard.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Romance? What's That?

I remember my introduction to the romance genre very clearly. At the time (thirteen) I had been enjoying Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and so on thanks to my aunt's bookshelf. Then one day I came across a book with a cover I'd never seen before: a man held a woman in a heated embrace, holding her from behind, their faces gripped in passion. The title was The Flame and the Flower. Intrigued, I took the book from the shelf, settled in and started reading.

From the start, I was hooked.

There was just something about Heather, the unfortunate girl who finds herself in a strange American's embrace. An American that, despite his good looks, was alpha and possessive and a bit of an asshole. As their relationship evolved, I was right there with them. It was the first book I didn't want to put down. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Full of love and hate, it was the perfect combination of the things I loved. As soon as I finished, I hit up my aunt's library looking for more, and I found them. She was a fan of the greats like Heather Graham, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, and Connie Mason. I poured over them all, eager for more. This continued through my teens and well into adulthood.

Then something horrible happened.

One day I had company at my apartment. I had a book on my coffee table (a romance) and I got blasted for it. I still remember how embarrassed I was, of the looks everyone gave me, of their rude snickers and comments. The jibes were bad but the implication that I was somehow less "smart" for adding romance to my reading list hurt in ways I can't describe. As a result, I put romance away. It was nothing but horror from that point forward. More Stephen King for years. It wasn't until I had my first child that I got a hankering for romance and returned to the genre. Only now, it wasn't exactly the genre I remembered.

People used words they didn't previously (you know what I'm talking about -- think roosters and kittens) and the sex was far more explicit. To my surprise, it didn't turn me off. In fact, the sexual content added a depth and dimension to the books that was somewhat lacking in the past. I immediately returned to reading erotic romance, going through as many as 5 books a week. When I hit The Death Star (Wal-Mart) I always checked the books on sale. This led me to being a fan of The Black Dagger Brotherhood. So many awesome books were uncovered during this time, and I knew that no matter what I'd never stop reading romance again.

I think that a lot of people have issues with romance in general. I'm not sure why. Those I've spoken to believe that romance is for the simple minded, or that the material is purely porn. Readers know this isn't true. While it's true there are books created entirely to titillate, there are also books with a back story, plot, and enough heat to make the pages burn. Those are the books I enjoy, when I can get involved with the characters, care for them, and want them to find their happily ever after.

I recently spoke to a very good friend about the issue and she said she didn't want to make others uncomfortable, therefore she didn't discuss reading romance with them. That I can understand. However, I do think that women should stop hiding what they like. E-readers are great and allow you to read a smutastic romance without anyone knowing, but if a book comes to print first, there's absolutely nothing wrong with carrying that sucker around and getting your romance on. There is a reason romance continues to sell year after year. It continues to grow, to find a broader audience. That's not going to change.

So when you read your erotic romance (or romance in general) I ask that you do so with your head held high. No one can make you feel embarrassed about what you read unless you let them. And if you enjoy erotic romance, you enjoy erotic romance. Hell, come hang out with me. I'll take the weight on my shoulders and tell anyone and everyone that I love the books. Not only do I read them, but I write them as well. There is a reason for that.

Now that I've put away my soapbox, it's back to work. I have a lot to get done. I hope you're all doing well. Happy Hump Day!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Buried Alive

For anyone who has ever worked in customer service of any sort, I’m sure you can relate. It’s dead, then it’s busy. It slows to a crawl, and then you can’t keep up. The office will be quiet one minute, then all eight phone lines are blaring for attention, and you’re the only one taking calls.

I’m not sure if there’s a science to this or not. I’ve held, over my life, seven customer service oriented jobs, and the above has been a universal truth. Granted, with some jobs it was easier to predict than others. For instance, when I worked for a movie theatre, pinpointing rushes was as easy as knowing the showtime schedule. The same thing for the food service industry. Yet working in women’s clothing or my two-year stint as a bank teller, the rushes were harder to predict. As a writer and editor, it gets even trickier.

You see, you spend most of your time waiting. Waiting for news on a manuscript, waiting for contracts, waiting for edits, waiting for cover art, waiting for the second round of edits, waiting for lines, waiting for publication day, waiting for reviews, waiting for your royalty statements, waiting for your crit partners, waiting, waiting, waiting. I won’t pretend it’s easy—patience is a huge part of being a successful author. But then so is time management. ‘Cause guess what? After all that waiting comes the endgame, and if you aren’t ready you just ain’t gonna make it.

You know why? You subbed Manuscript A to Pub X, which had a response time of 4-12 weeks and Manuscript B to Pub Y with a response time of 8-16 weeks, and Manuscript C is in edits with Pub Z. Well, as it turns out, Pubs X and Y get back to you on Manuscript A and Manuscript B within, let’s say, two weeks. And their production time is considerably shorter than Pub Z’s, so now you have three manuscripts in edits. If you’re not exhausted yet, just wait until Pub Z wants substantial revisions, Pub Y doesn’t do much in terms of edits and, being a perfectionist, you have to go through the manuscript with your very own fine-toothed comb, and Pub X is just really efficient at getting things back to you well before their due. And between your second, third, and line edits, you have promo to do, and oh yeah, words on Unfinished Manuscript to get out.

We either have all the time in the world or we have none at all. Is the above scenario inflated? Probably a little, but I recently went through much the same thing—only toss on the fact I was editing two books editing for Mundania, and it’s a bit closer to home. Other authors might stretch their releases out. I admire that, I really do. It’s just not the way I operate. I get something done, I send it to the CPs, and then I’m ready to put a nail in that particular coffin. For as much as I need it, I lack the patience to just sit on a manuscript. And as I said, for writers, patience is a must.

Somehow, though, even with as flawed as my personal approach might be, I am able to turn everything around on time. And everyone works differently under pressure; I was one of those students who would stay up until three in the morning pounding out a 25 page thesis paper due at seven a.m the next day. And ace it, of course. But not everyone works like that. As a writer, you have to pace yourself appropriately. You have to know your boundaries. You have to realize that Saturdays are work days, too. No matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise.

So if you’re just getting into this game, think about yourself during finals week. ‘Cause sometimes writing can feel a whole lot like that. Only this time not just the teacher’s reviewing your work.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No, actually. I don’t write trash. And neither do you.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains offensive and sexually crude language.

Nikki London, who has appeared before as a guest on this blog, received news over the weekend every author longs to hear. Her debut novella has been accepted for publication. Naturally, congratulations were all around. Aside from being an immensely talented, promising author, Nikki is also my best friend of damn near fifteen years. We went to high school together, were in the same clubs, attended writer’s conferences, and now, in our upper twenties, spend time in the same office because – oh yeah – she happens to be my day-job boss. We’re more like sisters than friends, when push comes to shove. Thus when word came that her novella had been accepted, we had to fight for the right to tell those closest to us first.

Everyone was happy for her. Hell, ecstatic for her.


Except her mother.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that there are many points of diversion between myself and Nikki’s mother. She’s a fanatically religious woman, and I have an irreverent sense of humor. She also seems to think I’m going to Hell, though she’s hardly the only one. And she knows I write stories with explicit sexual content. Most everyone close to me does. She has once before characterized this material as “trashy”, which before propelled me on a ten minute tirade to anyone who would listen.

What I learned this morning is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Apparently, upon telling her mother that she was being published, Nikki was informed that her writing was equally trashy (though her mother has never read it). Furthermore, her mother was relieved to hear Nikki would be publishing under a penname, that way she and Nikki’s father wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of having a smut-peddling daughter.

I admit; when Nikki relayed this, I saw red.

First of all: to any relative or friend who would think, much less say this to a loved one upon receiving news that they’re being published, fuck you very much.

Second of all – and I cannot stress this enough – erotic romances are not trash.

This attitude is frustratingly prevalent. A few months ago, Judy Mays’ career was in jeopardy because some self-righteous asshats decided that an erotic romance author was a borderline sex fiend who shouldn’t be allowed near children, much less teach them. But for a writer’s own mother to call her work trashy? Fuck. No. It pissed me off enough when she indicated what I wrote was trashy. Trashy, indicative of trash, meaning having no value whatsoever.

You know what? I like sex. I’m a woman in my late twenties in the early twenty-first century. I am not ashamed of my sexuality. I am not afraid to admit I enjoy writing and that yes, while I have a lot to learn, I am good at what I do, and what I do is, among other things, write sex. And I like sex. I like writing it, reading it, and having it. Sex is a lot of fun, and that’s the way it should be. More than that, it’s a BASIC HUMAN NEED. There isn’t one person alive or dead today who isn’t or wasn’t alive because of sex.

But more than that – more than the sexy material within an erotic romance – is the romance. If all I wrote was sex, I’d probably be much wealthier than I am in actuality. Pure sex stories on Amazon sell like crazy. Yet in order to write just sex, I’d have to remove the following from my work: plot, character, conflict, suspense, romance, development, resolution, and so on.

Take J.A. Saare’s/Aline Hunter’s work, OMEGA MINE. Yes, there is a ton of sex. Well-written, hot, sweaty sex. You know what else there is? Plot. Story. Suspense. Action. Characters. A need to see how the conflict will resolve. Think about the plot to a porno flick where the pizza guy delivers but the poor housewife has no money. Do we give a shit if the husband walks in? Most of the time in that scenario, the husband joins the romp. And that’s the extent of it. Do we care what happens if the pizza gets cold? Are we emotionally attached to any so-called character in this rush-to-the-cumshot?

No. You know why? That’s what we’d call a guilty pleasure. That is what I would call trashy. And even in the literary world, there are any number of pure rush-to-the-cumshot stories to provide a quick fix. Then there are well-crafted, woven, character-driven stories where there just happens to be explicit behind the scenes sexual content. After the cumshot, though, most readers are eager to see how the plot is resolved. If the book is good, readers will remember the characters, stories, feel the highs and lows as the protagonist goes through their trial to get to the end. Say there had been a hot sex scene in Pride and Prejudice right before Darcy first proposed marriage. When Elizabeth turns him down, do you think a devoted reader would have felt satisfied knowing at least they “did it” once? How about Rhett and Scarlett? They had plenty of sex in Gone with the Wind; if we’d seen what their bedroom life was like in intimate detail, do you think a devoted reader wouldn’t feel Scarlett’s despair at, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”?

Calling erotic romances trashy is ignorant at best and insulting at worst. Don’t tell me what I write. Try reading it first. You might find parts trashy, and I can accept that, but I work hard to make my stories entertaining for many reasons. And honestly? The sex parts are an afterthought to the story—fun, hot, and spicy, but an afterthought nonetheless. And I can say the same for every author I know. Does this mean we won’t occasionally write something with more trash than substance? No. But that does not make us trashy authors.

And to Nikki London – congratulations. I’m sorry your mother had to rain on your parade, but as we both know now, that’s par for the course. But as an inductee into the erotic romance world, don’t let this first insult take anything away from you accomplished. Be damn proud of that novella. As your friend, I couldn’t be any more excited if it was my own work.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What does 2012 look like for you?

While the rest of the world might still be fighting hangovers, I rang in the new year with a head cold and eight different kinds of cold remedies likely canceling out one anothers' benefits, simply because I'm a big baby when I'm sick. Still, with the worst of the plague behind me, I am, like the rest of the world, turning my attention to 2012.

As with any milestone, the changing of the calendars can be bittersweet. We look to those goals we might have fallen short of accomplishing, yes, but the chance to start fresh is not one to be taken lightly. If you met your goal, fantastic! If you weren't able to reach that goal, take a deep breath, forgive yourself. Tomorrow's another day, today's the start of another year, and it's time to look at our new goals.

Happy new year to all. Hope you're rested. The break is officialy over.