Friday, May 30, 2014
I've been thinking about this a lot lately: industry-driven and reader-driven publications vs. author-driven work.
Here's how I see the break-down...
This is NOT the "book of your heart."
This is the book--you/your editor, publisher, agent--anticipate will SELL.
Many professional authors write this way, trying to anticipate/predict what will sell, what is hot, what is the latest trend.
This is why so many authors "jump on the bandwagon" (writing billionaires, NA, BDSM, serials, a few years ago it was vampires, etc).
Example #1: I know an author who was given a list of "hot topics" by her publisher. She had to choose one to write about. She chose "motorcycle clubs."
When an author does not have the creative freedom to even choose her own book topic, this is an example of industry-driven writing.
Example #2: I know an author who wrote a lovely historical romance. Her agent told her it was not sexy enough to sell in the market, and made her "up" the heat level. This level of sexiness was not appropriate for the story. Nevertheless, the author complied. She had no choice.
When the market dictates sensuality level in a book, instead of the author/story itself, this is an example of industry-driven writing.
When jumping on the bandwagon of hot trends trumps good writing, good storytelling, unique story ideas, this is another example of industry-driven writing.
What do readers want?
There are plenty of non-discriminating readers who are cheap and like porn.
Exhibit A...Monster Erotica.
These books are poor quality and priced accordingly. They also sell like hotcakes.
Books of questionable quality are popping up on the NYT Bestseller list. What does this mean?
A) The NYT Bestseller list is no longer a badge of honor.
B) People are cheap.
Is there a disconnect between what industry predicts and what readers really want?
I see readers complaining bitterly on the message boards about serials and feeling manipulated by authors/publishers with cliffhanger books and over-priced serials. It is one of the most passionate topics. Nevertheless, the publishers keep cranking out over-priced serials with cliffhanger endings. I'm not sure what this means. Are they really selling well? Are there plenty of readers who love them, buy them, and are just not represented on the message boards? Or is there a huge disconnect between what publishers are peddling and what readers really want?
This is a good question, and I don't have the answer.
I'm not sure if "reader desires" and "publisher desires" are actually the same thing. There is over-lap, but I get the distinct feeling that the pubs are flailing in a lot of ways.
You write your own story.
You come up with the idea on your own, don't copy it from someone else.
You have no idea how long it will be.
You focus on good-quality writing, good storytelling.
You are not anticipating trends, how to market it, etc. You just write it, tell the story.
IT IS WHAT IT IS.
You let it develop organically, naturally. It could be short, or long, or plot-driven, character-driven.
And then, AFTER you write it, you can figure out the proper way to publish and market.
There are pros and cons with all three of these.
What if you write the "story of your heart" and no one wants to buy it?
What if you write a monster erotica and become a millionaire (laugh your way to the bank)?
What if you follow all the rules your publisher dictates, and book doesn't sell well because it doesn't "sing"--sometimes writing is stale if you try to write to market.
I don't think any of these are right or wrong necessarily.
You have to decide what your goal is when you write.
To make money?
To become a bestseller?
To satisfy your readers? yourself? your agent?
To satisfy a creative need?
To establish a professional career?
Can you write the story of your heart, and satisfy the readers and industry at the same time?
One can only hope.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Let me just get this right out there from the get-go.
This is without a doubt the coolest debut novel I've ever read.
Heather Rigney, who the hell are you? And where did you come from?
WAKING THE MERROW is a cross-genre, horrifying twist on the mermaid legend. Rigney has seamlessly woven a story that combines horror, comedy, colonial history, fantasy world-building, flawless writing, and the most unappealing yet strangely mesmerizing "heroine" I've ever read. Evie is a short, fat, self-loathing alcoholic who manages to get the reader, against her will, rooting for her in this fascinating tale.
This story jumps back in forth from current times to colonial times in Rhode Island, and mixes intriguing bits of maritime history with the familial history of the Irish Cantillon family. Not only is Rigney a fine writer, but she is also an excellent storyteller. The pacing and time-jumping are perfectly executed, and I raced along with the story to find out what would happen to Evie and her family.
Warning: This is not your mother's cutesy mermaid with the sparkling tiara and clam-shell bra.
Not even close.
I love a good horror tale, and this certainly delivers. Rigney calls this novel "dark fantasy" and I agree. It's fantasy. And it's dark. And the juxtaposition of mundane real-life details with horrifying merrow behavior works spectacularly well.
There was a wee lull in the story during the tribunal near the end, but other than that, it was close to perfect. And the ending promises more in this series.
Forgive the pun: this baby blew me right out of the freezing cold Rhode Island waters, and I can't freakin' wait to dive back in with the next book.
If you are looking for something unique, creative, well-written and satisfying, I highly recommend WAKING THE MERROW. In a sea of cookie cutter releases, this book stands out as one-of-a-kind, which is quite a feat for a debut author.
Highly recommend! Grade: A
Check out Heather's cool website!
WAKING THE MERROW is a horrifying, addictive, and intriguing twist on the mermaid legend, and takes the reader on a bone-chilling ride through colonial and current times in Rhode Island. This is a fabulous debut novel by Heather Rigney.
Read it if you dare.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
1. Shopping for plants.
2. Shopping for seeds.
3. Planting stuff.
4. Sowing seeds in veggie garden.
(Hubby put up fence to keep out bunnies!)
5. Hubby went fishing in New Brunswick.
6. Reading some books.
WINNERLAND--intense story of survival, just started...LOVE it!
A CONVENIENT ARRANGEMENT--Loved The Italian Wife, The Spanish Groom was not my fav.
BUSHWHACKED--cute novella set in Alaska with beardy hermit hero!
7. Listening to some music. From Pitch Perfect.
Friday, May 9, 2014
How Romance Is Like Lacrosse
Bear with me. I know these two things seem totally unrelated, but based on my personal history, they're actually quite similar.
I coached girl's lacrosse for fifteen years. It was my favorite sport in high school, I started the club team in college, and then after I graduated I coached. When I started playing we had wooden sticks, no headgear, no sidelines, and set offense and defense. It was an elegant, skilled, exciting game.
I coached "old-school." I taught the girls that "cradling" (a motion where you cradle the stick back and forth to keep the ball secure) was the most important skill.
And then something happened. The sport started to change. The wooden sticks were replaced with plastic. Then, they instituted sidelines, and offsides on the field, the positions disappeared as the game turned into a fast-break for the whole team and zone defense replaced man-to-man. It got more physical, like the boy's game, and the girls were required to wear headgear. Cradling sort of disappeared, as it turned, more or less, into the boy's sport.
Fast, physical, structured.
So, what happened? I stopped coaching. This was NOT my lacrosse anymore. It was new, it was like men's lacrosse, and it wasn't fun for me anymore. I was sad, but I figured it was time to move on.
About fifteen years ago I started reading romance. My son was one, we had just adopted him from the Philippines, and I was an exhausted new mom. I needed some light-hearted entertainment that would make me feel good. I discovered romance novels! Happy endings! Real heroes! Lusty sex! Romance!
I devoured Julie Garwood historicals, Amanda Quick, vintage Julia Quinn. I fell in love with the Carpathian world of Christine Feehan with the super romantic notion of one mate for eternity. The stories were fresh and new, the writing was excellent. I didn't love contemporary romance--too much like real life. I stuck with mostly historical and paranormal, which had that added element of creativity or historical detail which transported me to another world.
I loved it.
And then something happened.
It started to change.
Contemporary romance and erotica began to take over the market. Real heroes--men who had integrity, loyalty, protective qualities--were replaced with abusive motorcycle guys who passed their girlfriends around to their buds.
The old-fashioned romance was replaced with BDSM, orgies, and cheating.
As paranormals/historicals fell from popularity, books catering to a younger crowd--YA and NA--surged. And books with violent behavior toward women became commonplace.
The excellent writing became something special, not the norm, as typos/grammatical errors, and generally piss poor writing started to crop up frequently.
Instead of fresh, new, creative ideas, copycat books sprouted up like weeds. 50 Shades is popular? Great, let's crank out 100 books with the same cover and concept.
Here I am, 15 years later, wondering what the hell happened to my romance novels.
I'm sad. But the truth is the best books I've read recently are mysteries, horror, humor, literary fiction.
I spend a lot of time doing re-reads. My Julie Garwood books are falling apart.
If this is the "new" world of romance: copycat books, degrading behavior, sloppy writing, and a distinct lack of romance, then maybe it's time to cut my losses. Just like I did with lacrosse.
The game has changed, and I'm not sure I want to hang out here anymore.
There are still some wonderful authors and books coming out, but they are lost in a sea of mediocrity and flat-out porn.
And I wonder if the whole concept of "romance" the way I see it is so hopelessly old-fashioned that it no longer exists.
That sort of breaks my heart.
I hope the romance genre circles back and a renaissance occurs. I'm not sure if that's going to happen or not.
In the meantime, I have my old copies of Julie Garwood and Amanda Quick, and I'll keep taping the pages back in.
Old-school and proud,