Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Short Story Published

I have a new short story published! It's a scary story in an anthology ready just in time for Halloween. It's called "Horrors: Real, Imagined, And Deadly."

I know several of the authors that contributed and have read their work. They are all excellent.

Thanks to Matt Sinclair for putting it together.

So far, it's only up on Amazon and Smashwords, but I believe it will be up on Itunes, Kobo, and other outlets really soon.

It's also the first time anything I wrote will ever be available more than just electronically.

Here's the cover.

And the blurb.

What are you afraid of? What causes the hair on your neck to stand up? Do you worry about what your fears mean? What horrifies you might be nothing to someone else. But there’s something for just about everyone in this collection of personal tales. Whether your fears remain secret or you laugh while you watch monsters devour your neighbors, you'll find a reason to keep your lights on tonight. The first collection from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press focused purely on horror stories, "Horrors: Real, Imagined, and Deadly" includes tales from E.B. Black, Kay Elam, Kim Graff, Justin Holley, Precy Larkins, Sarah Glenn Marsh, Mindy McGinnis, R.S. Mellette, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Matt Sinclair, A.M. Supinger, and Charlee Vale.

Here's where to buy it.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fast Food Book Burgers

They say not to quit your day job when you become an author. My day job before becoming an author was working in fast food, so it was not a big loss to me.

Lately, I've felt like writing and working in fast food have something in common. In both industries, to make money, you have to be quick. Fast food is just "food" without the word "fast."

I am not a person who likes to be rushed. I like to take my time to do things and do them right. Sometimes I can do things quickly, but overall, I like to take my time.

When I worked at Subway, there was this machine for cutting the tomatoes quickly by hand. You'd stick the tomato in, push the handle down and the tomato would be sliced through instantly. My co-workers would have something like ten tomatoes done in thirty seconds, while I would take a couple of minutes to do the same thing.

The reason for this was because on the tomato machine it had a warning that if any parts of this machine were broken, it was dangerous to use and could slice off your hand. The machine was very broken from the moment I started working there. The blades would swing wildly outside of the machine if you didn't aim it perfectly at the tomato. I took my time slicing tomatoes because I was afraid I would chop my hand off.

My co-workers never chopped their hands off. I am clumsy, so perhaps I am more at risk of this than they were, but the fact is, they took a risk, did things quicker, and accomplished more in the time it took me to accomplish one thing. They had no reservations about calling me slow or mocking me for it, but I refused to risk my fingers for tomatoes.

I viewed them as dangerous and foolish. They viewed me as lazy.

I did this because I wanted to take my time and make sure I did things correctly. Yes, it would probably be fine if I worked fast like they did, but I wanted to feel one hundred percent certain of myself every time I chopped the tomatoes.

They were more business minded. They had checklists that they needed to get through quickly.

We both worked hard at our jobs, we just approached it differently.

There is so much arguing in the writing community about whether it's superior to write fast or slow. People who write quickly believe their books are perfect. They are business minded and know that they need to get things out there as fast as possible to make money. They usually do make more money than the people who write slowly.

But people who write slowly and take their time, don't like to take short cuts. They want to make sure everything is written perfectly. They don't like mistakes being made. They take their time to write things better and let the business aspect take second place.

It's about your personality. It has nothing to do with talent. It has nothing to do with how hard you work.

It's not a jab at anyone if I say that I am writing slowly to make sure I write this story better, to focus on quality instead of quantity. But it is actually a jab when writers insist that their quick work is as good as anything someone wrote slowly created because that's the reason we take our time.

People who eat double cheeseburgers don't worry about whether or not the cheese is all aligned perfectly. They're not thinking about whether there is too much ketchup or not enough. They're not concerned if the bun is toasted slightly more than normal. What they care about is the taste. They want to eat a double cheeseburger and they want to eat it quickly.

So if a fast food worker takes the time to make sure all those details line up perfectly every time, they are going to make less burgers than the person who just slaps it all together. Their burgers will be superior, but the customer isn't going to notice the difference.

The critics might. They might analyze the burgers and notice all the little details, but the average consumer will not. To them, it will all be the same double cheeseburger because it all tastes the same.

I feel like this is true with books as well. No customer is ever going to notice how quickly or slowly it took us to write any book. A critic might, but that doesn't mean you are going to get more sales. Getting books out faster gets you more sales. Just like with fast food and getting double cheeseburgers out to the customers more quickly.

When you write slower, you do write better (not compared to other people, but compared to yourself), but it's not often necessary. Little details matter less than the big picture.

Still, big mistakes happen less often when you write slow.

When I worked in Subway, I was working with a guy one night who was the fastest worker in the place. Everyone always told me to be just like him. He was helping me learn how to cook the tiny kids sandwich buns they used to have.

They came in this giant box where they were all frozen together. We needed to break them apart to be able to defrost and cook them. In the process of breaking them apart, he dropped several on the ground. He picked them up and put them with the rest.

I objected, but he argued with me that we had just mopped and there was no way that these buns that dropped on the ground would hurt anyone. I was wasting time.

None of the customers ever noticed that he dropped them on the ground. None of them got sick. It was indeed faster what he did rather than starting over and making sure we didn't drop any buns on the ground next time. But it didn't feel right to me to give customers food that fell on the ground.

People who write slow do things slowly because the shortcuts don't feel right to them. Whether the shortcuts are okay or not doesn't matter. They won't feel good or proud of a product unless they take their time.

In my marriage, my husband likes to do things quickly. He likes to check things off his list. I like to do things "right" or how I view them as right. I am slower than him at doing things often, I take time to plan them perfectly, but I can sometimes do them better than him because of it.

We've learned from each other. Sometimes I should do things quickly and stop worrying about the tiny water blotch on a dish that went through the dishwasher. Sometimes he should do things slowly, like when it comes to my dogs. Patience with them, doing things slowly and correctly, always gets them to behave more.

If both people who write fast and people who write slow realize that they can learn things from each other and stop defending the way they write constantly, I think we can all improve. There are times when you really need to write something slowly, when that's the only way to get something done correctly. And there are times when writing needs to be sped up. You're taking too much time on the little details and it's cutting into your paycheck.

I don't believe people who write fast make a million mistakes. I don't believe their books are bad, but I do believe if you write slower, you catch more mistakes and make a better quality of book. It's not a jab because thinking this way means I am bad at business. Good marketing is the most important thing when it comes to selling books and making a living. We just have different strengths and weaknesses. Marketing is often a struggle for me, while it might come naturally to someone who writes fast.

I just don't want to hear again that books that are written quickly are just as good as any book written slowly AND they sell more AND the people who write fast are superior in every way. And I don't want to hear again that anyone who writes quickly has no idea what they are doing AND their books are automatically worse than people who write slowly. Try to find ways to appreciate each other instead. Try to find ways to appreciate each other's strength. Stop competing with each other and start learning.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Romance Formula

There's a reason I've been struggling to write blog posts lately. Some of it is time and some of it is because I'm having trouble articulating what's on my mind.

I don't want to offend anybody and it's hard to say what I want to say without possibly upsetting certain people, especially romance authors. They are my peers and I do not want to upset them. I admire a lot of them.

I am frustrated though.

I'm getting really close to finishing two of my novels. It's taken me forever because I wanted to work on my writing techniques.

I read my bad reviews. I've thought about some things I've heard people say. I've been working on improving things.

I want to sell well someday. I want to make people happy.

Maybe part of my problem is that I've always struggled with being a people pleaser. I shouldn't care what people think or say, I should just do.

But that's not really me. I'm always trying to improve myself. I'm also sensitive, so when people speak, I tend to listen. This doesn't mean I cry when they say something negative, it just means that I'm not so good at ignoring people.

Anyway, what I really wanted to work on this time around was writing actual romance novels. I learned after I self-published that even if you write a novel and the entire thing is about a relationship, it's not a romance novel unless it has a happily ever after. Sorry, Nicholas Spark fans, but The Notebook isn't a real romance novel according to most romance novelists.

Because Romance novels need to follow a very specific formula or people aren't happy.

The biggest thing is the happily ever after, but there's also subtler things that you don't realize are there until you try to write something different.

You must write a main female lead who is either "average" looking or attractive. She must have a great personality or she isn't deserving of the male lead. The man must be very attractive. This is a fantasy after all and we can't have any "ugly" people. So while I think it would be interesting to write a romance novel about a character with dwarfism (I'm always coming up with random things like that), in reality, it's not okay according to romance writers.

I am ruining the fantasy. The best I could get writing about a person like that would be writing some kind of fetish erotica novel.

I'm not allowed to write about people that are "different", that I find interesting.

The men must be rich. They must be alpha. They must be handsome.

But in real life, I married a poor, nice guy. He is indeed very handsome, but I love him the way he is. What if I don't want to write about rich people? What if I don't want to write about men who are borderline aggressive assholes?

I'm destroying the fantasy! What kind of romance writer am I if I destroy the fantasy?!

It doesn't matter that it's not my fantasy. I must not destroy the fantasy.

The characters must both have strong personalities. They must fight with each other through the entire novel. This can be fun at times, but I also romanticize the idea of people falling in love who have outside circumstances keeping them apart, rather than internal ones.

There is some leeway in this area, but it seems like there's a strong preference. People prefer two characters who are fighting with each other, not two characters who are fighting for their love against the world.

And if I need to spend some time developing characters and personalities in the beginning? You can't do that. The two main love interests must meet in the very beginning, preferably the first chapter. Definitely within the first five though. If they meet in Chapter five, then I'm pushing it.

In my most recent novels, I did this with the first book. I forced it because I wanted to fit in to the romance genre. And all my critique partners agreed in unison that I started too late in the story and I needed to actually develop the characters first because they were all one dimensional.

And once I did that, the romance started halfway through my book now.

Guess what? It's not a romance novel anymore.

In no other genre can character development possibly kick you out of the genre. My book still fits into fantasy now that I developed my characters. It did before I developed them and it does now afterwards.

But romance...romance...romance...

You must write for the formula or it's not a romance novel anymore.

Also, the characters can't fall in love too fast or have sex too quickly. Forget that relationships in real life progress in all kinds of different ways. It must go like this...

First they see each other and hate each other. Then they are fighting and there's sexual tension. Then they are fighting and they shockingly kiss in the middle of fighting. Then this leads to fighting and them fooling around. Then this leads to fighting and having sex. THEN, they resolve everything and live happily ever after. They're in love now!

My husband and I in real life, we moved in together after a week of knowing each other and had already said we loved each other. Some people might think that's crazy, but here we are five years later happier than we could otherwise be. It allowed me to get close to his mother for the little time she had left of her life and it allowed me to be there for him when he lost her.

But romance novels aren't about real life. They are about the fantasy. 

If two people meet in a book and have sex right away, then it's not a romance novel anymore. Maybe an erotica, but in romance, people aren't allowed to do that stuff until they are in love, late in the book. Some of my reviews for Medusa's Desire complained about this. Even though they don't say they love each other until later, because they had sex write away, I was accused of making it an "insta-love" book. Because in romance novels, sex equals love.

I've been trying not to do things like these.

And it has made me stop enjoying reading romance novels because I learned the formula too well and now they all seem like this:

"Brock is a Dragon King. He kidnaps Stacey. They fight because they both have strong personalities, but they slowly fall in love and have sex. Then they live happily ever after."

"Damien is a billionaire bachelor. He's content being a playboy, but then he meets Susie. They fight because they both have strong personalities, but they slowly fall in love and have sex. They live happily ever after."

"Big Feather is a Native American Chief. He kidnaps Stephanie. They fight because they both have strong personalities, but they slowly fall in love and have sex. They live happily ever after."

"Josh is a cowboy. He's teaching model Tiffany how to work on a ranch. They fight because they both have strong personalities, but they slowly fall in love and have sex. They live happily ever after."

And then there's one of my books...

"Medusa is a monster reviled by humans. Perseus is a hero sent to kill her. Instead, he sleeps with her and she travels with him. They fall in love, but he's sleeping with another woman to cover up their relationship. She realizes he'll be happier without her, even though he loves her. She makes the ultimate sacrifice by ripping out her eyes and erasing his memory."

It's all out of order and the ending is wrong. The whole novel is still about Medusa and Perseus' relationship, but they sleep together when they first meet and their ending isn't happy.

If you want to write a novel that hits all these areas that I labeled as formulaic, that's fine. There's a place for EVERY type of novel out there.

That's not what's bothering me. I'm not trying to get rid of anything.

I'm just asking that you please stop trying to get rid of me. Stop telling me over and over again that it doesn't matter how much of my books has a couple falling in love, it just matters whether I meet the formula or not.

If there is room for your books, why isn't there room for other books?

If fantasy worked like this, if it was this strict and this specific, then everyone would have to write about dragon novels. Somewhere in the novel, one of the dragons would have to lay an egg. In the end, the baby and the dragon mother have to live happily ever after and you must introduce a dragon within the first 20 pages.

There would be this author who liked to write about elves. She'd try to make it about dragons, but as she is writing, the dragons would start growing pointy ears and walking on two legs. So she'd change it and make it about elves, trying to add a dragon somewhere in there to make up for what she had done. But people would go,"What is a dragon doing in a book about elves?" So she'd cut out some of the scenes with the dragon in it, start swearing because she forgot to put a scene where the dragon laid an egg, and worry that it's no longer a fantasy novel because the dragon didn't appear until the tenth chapter.

Then she'd throw her manuscript out the window and scream and cry and wonder...



I read romance novels all my life. I only started reading fantasy as an adult. It wasn't really allowed in my house when I was younger. I love it now.

But even though I'm less familiar with it, even though I didn't grow-up with it like I grew-up with romance, I've been welcomed with open arms. I can write about orcs. I can write about mermaids. I can write about magic. I can write about no magic. There's barely any rules.

So I don't get this romance thing, where we throw out stories like Romeo and Juliet and The Notebook because they don't fit the formula well enough.

Is it because of Jane Austen? Is it because all romance novels need to be related to Pride and Prejudice in some way? Rich man falls in love with feminist. They fight a lot because they have such strong personalities, but slowly they fall in love anyway and live happily ever after.

But I am a Bronte girl. A Jane Eyre lover. I want a story about a girl who was abused growing up. We don't meet her true love in the first chapter, we meet HER instead-strong, interesting Jane Eyre. I want a stocky, ugly man to fall in love with the pale looking Jane. She's too skinny. I want a deranged wife to come in on their wedding day and ruin their chance at happiness. I want her to be homeless and hang out with church people for awhile even though it has nothing to do with the romance. And then when she finally does get her happily ever after, it's only after the main male character is disfigured and hideous and blind because his ex-wife tried to kill him. It's PERFECT!

That's my kind of romance story. That's what I want to write and what I want to read. And there has to be a place for me, too, somewhere in there.

It's not that I hate the formula. I just don't want to have to meet every point, every single time.

I don't want people to stop writing what they are writing. I don't want to get rid of alpha males, billionaires, and firemen.

I just want there to be some variety. Is variety really so horrible?