Tuesday, October 23, 2018

TRR Fall Contest Answer

     It's that time of the year for The Romance Reviews Fall Contest. I have donated an autographed copy of Goals for a Sinner, the first in my long running Sinners Sports romances (how appropriate for football season) that has now grown to nine books with a tenth, Heart of a Sinner, coming out early next year. It will be up for grabs on November 2nd by answering a multiple choice question about the book.  Drum roll: the answer is D.  The festivities continue for the entire month with lots of other prizes. Check it out at http://www.theromancereviews.com.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Deep, Deep POV

     Writing has its fads just like any other industry. For a while it was the Hero's Journey where each character had to have both an inner and outer reason for everything they did. Authors scurried to assign these motivations on charts before they wrote. For me, these things are revealed gradually and naturally as a book evolves and don't need to be spelled out. Trying too hard to do this actually damages the story.
     The latest is Deep POV (point of view). Only two characters are allowed to have any POV at all, especially in romance, only his and hers. A tree cannot fall in the woods if one of them is not present to remark upon it. A description of a smile experienced by the heroine might gush on for a full paragraph. Gone is the setting of a scene with description unless seen through his or her eyes. Otherwise, it is dubbed ambiguous. Who is seeing this? Well, my guess would be the folks in the next paragraph without having to add, she observed, said, etc.--"What a cloudy, miserable day."
     Every action must be propped up by several paragraphs of emotions. How did she feel about walking down that hall from one room to another? What did she see along the way? You know, sometimes, a walk down a hall is just a shortcut to the next scene, not a epic journey. Describing the tile underfoot, the vase of flowers, the doors passed simply slows the action to a crawl unless you are describing that passage for the first time as having some relevance.
     The reasoning behind all this is to intensify the experience for the reader and make them identify more strongly with the primary characters. If writing an intense romance, fine. If writing a story you want to be fast, light and fun, hauling along all these emotions slows it down to a crawl. Yes, your character should have feelings and motivations, just not doled out by the ton or repeated a dozen times.It has also been my personal observation that when people have sex, they surely have physical reactions, but if their minds are on their emotions, it is pretty bad sex as in "When will this be over?"
     I recently asked several people if they preferred deep POV. Heck no, they said. I skip all that stuff to get on with the story. All genres other than romance allow many characters to have a POV, the villain, the person about to get whacked on the next page of a Jeffery Deaver novel (big fan of his complex plots here). To me multiple POVs add to the story--but not all on the same page or at the same time. Give them their own chapter or scene and they work out just fine as long as there is a page break to set them apart.
      Okay, rant over. Simply tired of being told there is only one way to write and deep POV is it--for now.
     

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Physical Toll of Writing

      A somewhat jealous fellow writer constantly asked me how I "cranked" out several full-length books a year. What was my secret? First of all, I don't crank out anything. It takes me three or four months to write a book. Secondly, there is no secret.  I spend four hours each day writing-with social media turned off-and try to achieve one-thousand words at a sitting, which I usually do. I take a break halfway through, walk around, watch Jeopardy, have a snack. I don't write at night as I have a hard time sleeping if I do since the imagination is hard to turn off. Just TV and reading for me in the evening, or going out for a lecture, movie, or play.  But if I keep at it, by the end of three months, I have a 90,000 word book. Of course, I then do a rewrite and will have to do two or three edits after that. It works for me. Others will set a different schedule.
     I began this routine in 2004 at the age of 57 when I started to write in earnest after retiring from a career as a librarian. Now, fourteen years later, I have twenty-three books in print and two more in the works. I have also developed back and hip problems and have difficulty walking. On the way home from a long road trip, one of my favorite things to do, I failed to keep another rule to stop every two hours and walk around. Usually, my consumption of tea and coffee on these trips demand these stops for restroom purposes, but this time I skipped those because I had no thermos with me. I ended up with blood clots in one leg, not the serious DVT ones, but several superficial blots on my leg and some tenderness and pain. Three months on a blood thinner dissolved the clots, but the pain persisted. Why?
      My GP didn't know. My orthopedist said some arthritis of the spine that can't be helped and a hip going bad from age, but he didn't want to operate yet. Desperate for a solution, I hobbled on over to a chiropractor hoping for some help. He placed the blame squarely on the amount of time I spend on a computer writing. I admit, I'd rather be writing than do most other things, the reason why I set aside mornings for errands and chores or nothing would get done around the house. I do try to do water aerobics twice a week but will slough this off if I am deeply in my writing groove. It's not a good idea to ignore exercise no matter how much you hate it (though I do like water aerobics and swimming but not much else).
     I think writers are naturally sedentary. They exercise their imaginations rather than their legs and biceps. My best intentions to get up and stretch usually fall by the wayside, though I do find myself circling my neck when it tightens up from staring at a screen too long. End result of all this is I am being stretched and pummeled by a chiropractor--and it does hurt during and afterwards so I sit writing packed with ice bags on my back and thighs. I am not going to give up writing when my typing fingers, brain, and highly active imagination are still good. I have an excellent incentive--a long planned trip to Australia, bucket list epic, and would rather not be pushed around in a wheelchair.
     So, in addition to having shared my "secret" to "cranking" out books which is basically place butt in chair and write every day, I do caution other writers. Don't skip whatever exercise routine you have. Do get up and stretch. Don't write eight hours a day unless you are really driven (four is plenty), and try to stay healthy.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Web Site Woes

     Eight years ago when my first book was published, I was told by nearly everyone that I absolutely had to have a web site. This included my publisher who of course would not help develop or pay for it. Now, I grew up in a time when people were still making punch cards to enable a huge computers to play Bolero. I did more or less master Word because I needed it to write my novels, and I also came to enjoy e-mail and Facebook--but web sites, I had no idea how to go about them, and they were expensive to set up. At that time, I had a friend who was jumping on the band wagon to be a web site developer and web master. She offered to put together my site for $350, which, believe me, was a bargain. I told her what I wanted on the site, wrote tons of copy for it, supplied pictures, etc. In the end, I was happy with my simple site www.lynnshurr.com. She also did updates and other maintenance for the site for very little money. In January, she broke the news that she was out of the web site business that, like e-publishing, was reaping small rewards. I was on my own.
      Fortunately, my computer literate son agreed to do my updates which aren't very frequent. Easy, he said, just use html. The only part of that I understand is that the L stands for a language I do not understand. Then, a week ago came the annual demand for the renewal of my domain name and hosting from the provider. No problem, I thought, until I noted how much the fees had gone up and received notice that they'd detected malware on the site which they could fix for yet another $90 in virus protection. I had two knowledgeable people go into the site. Neither could find anything wrong.I responded saying as much, and immediately get another notice that they can prove I have malware but it is buried very deep. So, twenty minutes later, the helpful person on the other end shows me some code that he says is the malware--frankly I wouldn't know. So, how do I get it off? Pay them  the $90. I inform them that in the diminishing e-pub market, that plus the domain name and hosting comes to half of my royalties for last year and maybe is not worth it.
      Okay, they can remove it for one set fee--but my web site is old and needs to be migrated to a new and safer platform. Great. After much discussion, I ended up with a discount if I renewed for three years, and the malware would be removed, but still over $200.  And I must now navigate the migration of the web site with which they will help me.. I suffered through several migrations at my place of work. They are never easy or pleasant, but this one must be faced in the next few days. Mostly, I am fearful of losing all the work I did for the first web site--though I might update my out of date picture of me-or maybe I will choose to be that younger age forever. All in all, I know I am not cut out to deal with this and yet I must. Another learning curve, sigh. They seem to get more treacherous all the time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Covers Uncovered

     I missed doing my monthly post by one day thanks to having two contracts for new books come in  on the same week and edits for those books at two different presses arriving on the same day. It's a good problem to have, but I've done little but edits for two weeks. Lady Flora's Rescue, an 18th century romp, will be out in January or sooner.  No date set for the latest Sinners book, The Heart of a Sinner. Neither have covers as yet.Which brings me to this month's topic, Covers Uncovered.
     I have a "friend" who constantly corners me at social events and introduces me as Lynn, who writes those dirty books with naked men on the cover. Please note, she has never read even one of my books, but simply judges them by their covers--none of which have a naked man. At a library event, I marched to the stacks, pulled one of my books, the 1920's historical, Queen of the Mardi Gras  Ball, and placed it in her hands. Great story with low sexual content, I told her. The cover has a Flapper wearing a red dress. She told me she only read murder mysteries. I countered that by saying there was a murder in the book. Did she read it? Nope, took it to the desk and returned it. Tired of all this, when she started her dubious introductions again, I told her companion, "Don't listen to her. She's never read one of my books and has no idea what they are about."  Repeated several times, she finally stopped her salacious introductions.
     Currently, I have twenty-three books in print. I decided to count up what kind of covers I've been given--authors have less to say about this than you think unless they are self-published and design their own. The tally came to this: 3 shirtless men, 6 sexy guys with all their clothes on, 3 couples, clothed, 7 women, clothed, 3 with miscellaneous items (flowers, a necklace, etc.), and 1 horse. Though I hate to admit it, the sexy guys covers do sell the best except in my conservative home area where readers always go for the flapper, the necklace, or the horse. I you are writing romance, go for the sexy guy.
     When I received the cover for A Place Apart which takes place in coastal Maine and features a wounded warrior with PTSD, the cover artist presented me with a man in a red hunting cap staring into the woods. I did protest: 1. no man with PTSD is going to call attention to himself by wearing a red cap and 2. the scene is the coast of Maine, not the deep woods. She said she'd checked recent best-sellers' covers and concluded the solitary man worked best.  Yes, in the proper setting. I dove in and found a better stock photo to use which she accepted cheerfully (some don't), and she photo-shopped the wonderful Portuguese water dog who plays a major role in the story to sit by his side. Between the two of us, we got it right. A Place Apart is selling very nicely, though I think it might be because of the dog.
     Another publisher recently sent out a notice that they'd been getting criticized for "old-fashioned" covers. I'm not sure what that means, but we aren't to have as much input is my guess. Personally, I hate dark colors and always go for bright if I get a choice. On the cover of Sister of a Sinner, I did get the dress changed from black to red, much more eye-catching.I prefer to work with cover artists who give me choices and don't get snitty over a requested change. In one case, the artist did a wonderful cover first time out, but her second for me did not hit the mark, not even close. First one, the hero looked evil, second try, way too young, finally compromised on another on the third try, still not my favorite cover by far. I also got a lecture that she was paid with a small percentage of my sales and since I was a nobody that wouldn't come to much. Needless to say, we haven't worked together since.
     So, I await my two new covers. Obviously, one will be new-fashioned. No idea what the other will be like as that publisher seems to switch the cover artists fairly often.  We'll just have to wait and see. I'll post them when I get them.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Sales go Up;The Sales go Down

     Recently sitting on an Author's Row at a conference, I had some time to talk to a few fellow authors about their sales. One of them actually earns a living writing travel pieces and contracted non-fiction about local towns and attractions, but like all of us, she'd like to do well in fiction. I asked how her new mystery series was doing.  Good sales when a book first comes out, and then it flat lines. I've experienced the same thing. I think it means we have fans who wait for the new book, but we aren't attracting new readers which is very hard to do. Every once in a while, I notice someone has bought the entire run of Sinners sports romances, all nine of them. I am so grateful for those sales. It does mean someone new has discovered them, but it doesn't happen often enough.
     I've always thought certain times of the year should be great for book sales like December as I feel books make great presents and stocking stuffers, but my holiday sales don't back this up. December is always a quiet month for my books.  Sales pick up again in January, perhaps because, baby, it's cold outside, and there is nothing like a good read in front of the fireplace with a warm drink in your hand.  Then, along comes Lent.  Hard to believe my sales plummet during Lent, but they do. I think romance novels must fall into the forbidden pleasures category and are given up for a time. After Easter, sales perk up again.
     You'd think people wanting a good beach read would buy my books in the summer, but no. My sales are higher in spring, fall, and winter. I'm guessing people are too busy vacationing to read. Just because I don't travel without several books in my suitcase, doesn't mean everyone does. Of course, they can buy my books on their Kindle, Nook, and many other devices wherever they are in the world. However, it doesn't appear to work out that way. I do participate in some summer giveaways through The Romance Reviews and get a fair number of hits on the answer to my questions.  Still, I haven't notice much of a bump in actual sales.
      I do remind people of my long back list of titles on Facebook fairly often and try to add interesting facts about them to bring them up to date. To be real, I know my eyes tend to skip over any book cover promotions to get to the real news and connections with my favorite people. Others must be doing that also. As the market gets more and more crowded by indies, sales have gone way down. It's hard to attract attention among so many, and readers flee back to the New York published as a sure thing rather than spend money on the unknown author. Not an indie, I write for a small press and got into the business eight years ago, enough time to gather a modest following who stay with me. The slump in sales does make me wonder if all the time and effort is worth it for scant rewards. I know many who have given up. Right now, I am writing mostly for my own pleasure and hoping others will enjoy my work, too. Every time I notice a sale on Amazon or my publishers' site, I have to shout a triumphant yes! And be happy with that.
     

Saturday, May 26, 2018

TRR Contest Answer

Here we go again!  The Romance Reviews is having its summer contest giving away lots and lots of books and prizes. Again, I will be supplying them with a first edition, autographed paperback copy of Paradise for a Sinner as it seems to fit the theme. The story takes place in American Samoa, the answer to last year's puzzle. This year, the answer is Giant Fruit Bats.  Intrigued?
The Romance Reviews
Oh, I think mine will be up for grabs on June 13th. New titles offered every day.