31 July 2007

From whence the inspiration comes...

If you're like me, you've wondered, more than once in your life, where some elements of your writing come from. On a few rare occasions, an answer might come back to you. It might amuse you...or it might make a shiver work its way down your spine. This past weekend, I had such a revelation.

My family and I have lived in our current house for the last 6+ years. Last weekend, my husband and I decided that the old carpet in the living room HAD to go, so we bought new padding and carpet and ripped up the old.

Now, mind you that the carpeting has been on that floor since long before we moved in. I have never seen the floor beneath it. Also, keep in mind that I have written nearly everything I've published in that room, sitting in the corner of one of our couches with a lap desk on my knees. So, how could something that I've never seen but that has been beneath me all that time find its way into my work? It did. From TYGERS (re-releasing with Under The Moon this winter)...

The furniture had changed since Grandmother's death, but little else had. It was the same beige and navy blue it had always been. The wallpaper had seen better days, and the trim needed a touchup, but it was the same old familiar place. This room, of all the rooms, held the least menace for her.

Katheryn rubbed her tired eyes and glanced around again. She shot up from the couch, now a heavy rose print. The wallpaper was in done in golds and greens and looked practically new. Gold and rose cushions were settled on the couch. The trim was a 1970s color that was halfway between harvest orange and rust. The chair that matched the couch was occupied.


As an afterthought, she climbed on the couch and grabbed Carol's nail file off the top of the bookcase next to it. Katheryn scraped several layers of navy blue paint from the top of the window frame and stopped when the red-orange appeared.

Dammit! It was real. She wasn't crazy. Katheryn sank into the couch with her knees folded up to her chest and stared at the single streak of red she'd uncovered in the blue.

When we pulled up the carpet, I set about scrubbing down the painted floor beneath with bleach. The fact that the floor was painted blue didn't strike me as significant, until I realized that the places the paint had been rubbed away revealed a rust-red paint layer beneath.

In essence, I'd written what actually lay beneath the carpet, a paint scheme I'd never laid eyes on. Makes you wonder where the words come from.

18 July 2007

The changing face of the industry

From Publisher's Weekly

Okay, this isn't news, in itself...except for... "Kensington, which hopes to release the first titles next summer, will have exclusive print rights and will also handle various sub-rights sales to e-books for which Samhain has rights."

Some people are also fixating on... "Many of our readers tell us they want the option of both e-published and traditional formats, and this is the perfect way to respond to that need," Brashear said.

It does show the changing face of the industry, though readers asking for both e-book and print really isn't news to me.
Jeff Strand and I were discussing the strange irony that, when we both have more books coming out in print-only, readers are asking, "Where's the e-book?" But, in this case, I think Crissy was saying that the readers in e-book were saying, "Where's the print?" That situation is far older and more established a response.

That said, even the deal with Kensington isn't that Earth-shattering. Ellora's Cave did this with Simon and Schuster some time ago. In addition to owning their own press, EC puts out paper books with S&S. Now, I haven't heard anything about S&S having a hand in the e-book side, but seeing as how S&S doesn't even list EC on their "distributed lines" page at
this link ... Let's just say it's a little difficult to figure out PRECISELY what their deal is. What we do know is that S&S has requested more anthologies from EC...and EC has announced it's intention to place more books with S&S for distribution. I would suppose they are selling well. Strange that everyone knows there is a business deal there, but there has been little information on the precise details of the deal.

This is becoming a big thing, of late. Since the NY conglomerates have failed to purchase the indie/e publishers (as Kensington failed to purchase Ellora's Cave), they are working diligently to pick out those they consider to be "cream of the crop" and make these sort of deals for distribution with them, thereby capitalizing on the strengths of indie/e without having to purchase them outright.

You have GOT to be kidding!

The article that started it all

And, off we go. To say that I find this right wing/left wing thing entirely ridiculous goes without saying. Whoops, I said it. But, let's look further.

Of COURSE, said right wing journalist is going to state that reading is dangerous. That's been their mantra for how many years? There's always something dangerous, always something to call the enemy. It's not bad enough that they claim that most of the world are our enemies, that certain religions are our enemies (disregarding that we have people of that religion in our country and that zealots of any religion are dangerous, even their own)... No, reading is dangerous.

Yes, reading is dangerous to people who try to make us live in fear and ignorance, because reading means that people are using their minds. Yes, this does apply in the situation of reading romance novels, because...by default, when someone is reading, that person is exercising portions of her brain not being exercised while watching the media. I won't even get into my opinion of the media, the news media especially, of late. I'll get back to romance genre later, so stick with me for that.

So, let's look at the complaints...

People are not DISTORTED by romance. Let me liken this, since they liken it to addiction, to a drug. It is completely possible for 95% of the population to take a particular Rx painkiller with no serious effects and that remaining 5% to become addicted. Is it the fault of the drug? Or is it some difference in the person? Is it, rather, the fact that their system works differently?

I would claim the latter. I would claim that their brain functionality works differently than the other 95% of the population. I'm not stating right or wrong, here. I'm saying DIFFERENT.

Let me throw out some oft-used terms and discuss them...

Deviant- Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society. By that reckoning, anything that a large percentage of people in your culture would consider "normal" or "acceptable" is not deviant. Um...55% of mass market sales are romance. I'd say it's not deviant to read romance, as a general rule of thumb. One of the three hottest-selling romance types right now is erotic romance/erotica geared toward women. Again, deviant isn't happening on this issue.

Immoral- Contrary to established moral principles. This is assuming that you're using the moral standard of the culture as a whole as the line. However, though some people will CLAIM the line is X, the fact is, they may not be claiming a line that exists in reality, rather one they hope exists or wish to believe exists. I'd say that Ms. Shaunti Feldhahn is using a line that doesn't much match what others think. Applying her own moral code to others is an effort in futility. We're a diverse culture; a little respect for the sensibilities of others might be appropriate here.

Kink- A mental peculiarity; a quirk. OR An unusual or eccentric idea. This one is tricky. On one hand, it implies there's something mentally WRONG with you, if your tastes run to something that the majority of society doesn't embrace. Then again... Grinning... I don't really need to follow that one out, do I? On the other, it says it's eccentric but not immoral. This one would depend on which definition you're using and why. Personally, I think the definition itself proves that reading romance, even erotic romance, is not inherently kinky. It could be, in some cases, but I'm speaking in generalities, at the moment.

Perverse- Directed away from what is right or good; perverted. This one implies a real MORAL and LEGAL opposition to something. Not just that it doesn't match the perceptions of others but that it's WRONG to think that, it's antisocial or psychotic or otherwise a threat to society...more or less, a crime. Last time I checked, reading romance, erotica...even most types of porn wasn't illegal, and as I stated earlier, morality isn't universal. In addition, there is no indication by a reliable source that reading romance poses any threat to society. I think they've failed on this mark, as well.

Back to the subject.

The FACT is that the vast majority of women can read romance, even erotic romance, and not become addicted to it or find dissatisfaction in their marriages. The fact is that the vast majority of men can look at pornographic images and not become addicted, not resort to affairs and not become dangerous, abusive or otherwise a threat. In fact, in both cases, there are spouses that rather appreciate the fact that the SO (significant other) can become aroused and then turn to the love of his/her life, because aroused by a thought or image or not, the chosen mate is the person he/she wants to be with. The fantasy is rooted in reality. The person knows the difference.

I might also note that any woman that needs to worry about her husband "catching" her reading has more problems than any book can cure and needs serious counseling or a way out of the relationship. There are far more important things that cause problems in a relationship. IMO, this one shouldn't even rate.

Further, I find that Ms. Feldhahn resorts to nothing short of yellow journalism. Let me give an example.

She caps off her discussion of addiction with the RWA numbers of people reading romance novels (64 million in the US...at LEAST) and the fact that 55% of mass market fiction sales are romance titles. This is misleading. It implies that all of these people are "addicted" to romance novels, that they are sick individuals. Claim as she might that it was simply a bad choice of placement, a bad break from one topic to another, no one in her right mind would believe that cop-out. She's a journalist. She knows the swing she's putting on it. In fact, since she touts herself as right wing, she no doubt revels in it.

Diane Glass isn't much better. Her comment that reading romance isn't reading Maya Angelou but it's reading is dismissive, in itself. Can we say "snob" any more clearly? This is a woman that clearly thinks herself above the genre, and it shows.

While she's been busy reading whatever she deems worthy of her attention, Ms. Glass has apparently missed the boat. By that, I mean that the new breed of romance novel isn't your Mama's romance book. The industry has moved on, not just into erotic romance but also into dark romance, realistic/flawed even handicapped or villainous heroes and heroines. Romance isn't fluff writing anymore. It's allowed to take on new realms and hard issues. You'll find the aftermath of rape, insanity, corruption... Romance isn't just about entertainment anymore. And it's all happening while these two prattle on about something they clearly have little knowledge about.

I'm not saying the classic "feel good" romance doesn't exist anymore. It does, but saying all romance is that sort is uneducated in the subject and insulting to both those that are and those that aren’t.

The only kudos I can, in good conscience, give this entire debate is the fact that Diane Glass points out that it's "violent porn" that's shown to have negative societal repercussions. At least they got something right in the bargain, though not much.

To all of those who ENJOY romance... Read on, sisters and brothers! Fifty-five percent of the mass market sales, plus e-book sales... We can't be wrong. Romance genre will be around long after both of these journalists are considered old hacks.

14 July 2007

Since RWA is on the mind this week

Oh, but let's look at the current RITA debacle, since we're on the subject. You probably know that RWA has just refused to add one or more erotic categories to the RITA. They state that books with sexual content can enter anywhere, but they can't. Why not? Because National defines a romance as two people...at least a change from one man and one woman, but... Erotic romance allows for poly relationships, which National excludes from being romance. So, no... Some erotic books are cordially DISinvited from entering RITA on the basis that they are not romance by National's standards, even if their publishers are recognized and all of that.

13 July 2007

The MOST frustrating thing...

I have just learned the most frustrating and painful thing in the ENTIRE publishing industry, bar none, IMO. When you have NEWS...I mean big NEWS, and you can't tell anyone, because it's just going into negotiation, what will probably be a long, arduous negotiation, and you are forbidden to talk about it, just in case it falls through, it's positively nerve wracking.

This is so difficult. I have precisely three people I can discuss it with, and we're all chomping at the bit, because we SO want to share it with someone....anyone...EVERYONE!

I know that's a tease, but it really is no better on this side of the table. Sigh... I've never been the type to sit and stare out the window, waiting for the mailman, but this is the mental equivalent to that state.

More thoughts on RWA

Maya Reynolds, an industry regular and founder of the Passionate Ink chapter of RWA (erotic romance chapter) stood up at the Annual General meeting and suggested that RWA needed to hire new lawyers, if that was the quality of input they were getting from them. First, KUDOS to Maya! She said what many of us were thinking. Were I there to say it myself, I would have done so.

The board further stated: "
After extensive discussion, the Board decided not to add an erotic romance category to the contests due in part to the inherently indefinable nature of erotic romance. Romance entries with highly sensual and sexual content may be entered in any category. General contest instructions to judges for all categories now state that highly sensual and sexual content may be present in their judging panel."

Maya states that she believes it will take erotic authors and publishers agreeing on a single definition and presenting a united front against RWA's obstinance to effect the changes they want. I agree. I cannot agree that the definition that Passionate Ink uses is the right one to rally behind, but my usual readers know this. For more information on one I think we could ultimately agree on, check my post on sensual/erotic/erotica/porn.

Why indie/e authors do NOT need RWA SFWA MWA

So, there I was...taking a break, everything looking good, when I came across the following in e-mail...

RWA's new guidelines

To say that I was STUNNED by the wording, by the dismissive attitude toward indie/e publishers and authors, would be like calling one of my Night Warrior's sacred weapons a butter knife. Now, the uproar has been so intensive that RWA has now announced it will remove and/or rethink some of the offending sections. I may decide I don't dislike them as much as I did this morning, depending on what those changes are, in the end.

In the meantime, a large portion of this open rebuttal to the moves by RWA and MWA in the last two days remains intact. I stand by it. This is my opinion of why indie/e authors do NOT need these professional organizations.

Many of you are aware of the recent changes posted by RWA, most notably to me (even beyond the new requirement for advances for all publishers) the classification of all indie/e publishers as subsidy/vanity as per the primary mode of selling books being from a publisher site. I don't know what rock RWA is hiding its head under, but having a publisher site to sell from, even if you do (and most do) employ other distribution channels, is a laughable and lamentable way to try and define vanity/subsidy presses. Yet again, RWA proves they are completely out of touch with the changing face of publishing today.

Likewise, MWA has revamped their recognition policies to state that all recognized publishers must do a minimum print run of 500 books on all releases, banning print on demand technology completely, even if the publisher routinely sells more than that amount in trade paperback or POD hard bound editions. This has, according to my sources, knocked out a large portion of their recognized list.

For all those affected by RWA's blatant attempts, yet again, at causing a rift between NY-published authors and reputable indie/e...and for those affected by MWA's short-sighted response, may I offer the following thoughts?

"A book is a book, regardless of form." This nugget of wisdom was coined by Karen Woods of EPIC some time ago, and it's true. All the mind games and politics in the world are not going to change the fact that books are books, whether presented on paper or by using a screen, whether printed 10,000 copies at a time or a single copy at a time. Given the chance to buy a book that sounds interesting to him/her, a reader will purchase it, whether it's a POD trade paperback or one printed offset. READERS do not care what RWA does or says.

I would add to Karen's words of wisdom. "Reputable is reputable, no matter how large." There are NY-publishers that have bad reputations with authors but are recognized and indie/es that have few or no author complaints but are now branded "subsidy" by RWA, therefore unable to be recognized. The recognition list does not ensure ethical behavior on the part of a publisher.

To that end, the EPIC publisher's coalition is currently working on a code of ethics (in addition to the EPIC model contract already posted on the site) that publishers will (electively) choose to sign, agreeing to certain standards of behavior, much like agents have the AAR.

It is time to re-evaluate why we care what RWA thinks. EPIC was originally organized as a chapter of RWA but quickly decided that wasn't going to be a viable association. Even at that time, RWA was dismissive of indie/e publishers.

Striking out on their own was, in my humble opinion, the best thing that could have happened to EPIC. Over the years, the corporation has grown more inclusive, taking on every genre of fiction and non-fiction.

EPIC's commitment is focused on only two things: indie publishing and e-publishing of any type, large or small, even those that self-publish. Members are not only published authors but also editors, publishers and other industry professionals.

Unlike RWA, EPIC does not cater to unpublished authors. That doesn't mean published authors at EPIC are denied the same sort of support and information unpublished received with groups like RWA. Being published does not mean that the author ceases to need this sort of support system, one of the reasons EPIC has taken the road it has. While the EPICon is opened to everyone -- published, unpublished or just has an interest in e-publishing and/or writing -- the EPIC lists are only for industry professionals and those authors who have at least signed a contract for publication, print or e.

EPIC is committed to indie publishing and e. Remember that, because it's become increasingly clear that RWA and some of the other "professional organizations" have no wish to embrace the future. For that reason, it is high time we started asking ourselves why we care what RWA thinks? Or MWA or SFWA, for that matter?

Because they're professional organizations? They are, but they are professional organizations with a very limited scope. I don't just mean in terms of genre but also in terms of which authors and publishers they consider worthy of their attention and respect. It's time to change that mindset. Indie/e is no one's follower. We are innovation, breakout technology and breakout books, the industry leader in adopting new and profitable genres. Indie/e does not need professional organizations that are not willing to acknowledge our strengths. They are, simply put, a liability and nothing more.

Because its nice to have the respect of our peers? I don't need RWA to have that. First of all, many of my peers are in indie/e. Why would I put money in the coffers of a monolith like RWA? I don't need their approval. I certainly don't need their permission.

Neither do I find that the lion's share of NY authors I've met share RWA's bias against indie/e. Sherrilyn Kenyon, who I might note was originally e-published in indie/e and still releases her books in e-book formats, is a wonderful woman and delightfully free of such prejudice. So is Piers Anthony, who started in NY but currently writes for both NY and indie/e. Piers is a staunch supporter of indie/e and does more to protect authors from unscrupulous publishers than I've ever seen RWA do. Even those who, to my knowledge, have never been an indie/e author, like Christine Feehan and Robin D. Owens, are known to be open and friendly to everyone, regardless of their professional affiliations.

So, why do we need to worry about what RWA thinks? Because we want validation that we're really published? If you're written and contracted a book, you're published. "A book is a book, regardless of form."

Because we want to enter the RITA? Why? No, really...think about that. What is so special about RITA? It isn't inclusive of a lot of the genres authors want included. RITA is a private endeavor that doesn't allow everyone, even those with print books sold by the publisher, to enter. It is a closed-group award, because only authors of recognized publishers are allowed to play. Readers don't care... And it's expensive. So, what makes the RITA so special?

EPPIE, by comparison, has 23 categories (5 romance (plus YA, GLBT and Inspirational, where romance may be entered if of the type), 4 erotic romance, erotica and Single Title/Mainstream, where heavy crosses and dark romance may be entered). You enter your books in e-book format, so no messing with the fuss and expense of sending paper books. And, the entries do not have to be novel-length. Stories as short at 10K may enter EPPIE. You pay only $20 for members and $30 for non-members to enter. And, it's inclusive in that you're competing with everyone with e-books who wishes to enter. We have first time indie/e authors finaling and winning next to NY books and even NYT Bestselling authors.

In addition, Dream Realm runs a second professionally-judged award for e-books only, those of SF/F/H and cross-genres (YA, romance and erotica) thereof. Entry is only $15 plus an e-book copy to enter. And some of the more reasonable RWA chapter contests, like PRISM from FFP chapter, allow e-books to play alongside NY books, for a cost of $25 for members and $30 non-members...but you have to make print copies of the book to enter. Still, I personally consider PRISM one of the premiere judged awards in existence and very friendly to e-book authors.

So, why would an indie/e author care about entering the RITA? It's just another award, and readers largely dismiss awards, so it's for industry recognition and not reader appeal. The industry that prizes the RITA so highly is not indie/e; it's NY, so what is your focus? Where should it lie?

Why should we care about what RWA says? What does RWA give back to the indie/e members but continuous scorn and headaches (at the National level, not in the individual chapters)? If RWA's aim is, as it seems it is, to try and change indie/e to be what they want it to be...to make it a mini-clone of NY, they are going to fail. They may get some publishers to play that game; there are always a few that will, but they certainly aren't going to get all of us to play it.

And, we shouldn't play it, because RWA is not focused on us. We don't even blip on their radar, except as the red-headed step-child that they'd like to send off to our room. Too bad. Indie/e is here and we're strong...and we're growing every year.

Just remember that RWA needs members. We don't need RWA. We don't need SFWA. We don't need MWA. EPIC is there, with open arms and open minds. If you would like to experience a professional organization that is focused on your needs, as an indie/e author or industry professional, even if you also work in NY or aspire to NY, EPIC may be the place for you.

The door is always open.

Brenna Lyons

President of EPIC

05 July 2007

WE WON! It's happy dance time!

Spinetinglers, a UK site with 60,000+ readers, recently voted for their 2007 Book of the Year. (My understanding is that books with a 2006 copyright notice are awarded the 2007 award, much as books ending Oct 1 of one year compete in the next year's EPPIE award.) NOBODY: An Anthology of Dark Fiction took the gold! The physical awards are being crafted, as we speak, but I have the icon up.

The anthology contains 18 dark fiction stories (horror, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal dark romance...) from 9 authors. Three of those stories are mine:

Trick or Treat
Phantom Dreams (reworked to fit the PG-13 anthology level)
Anima Ex Machina

In addtion, two of the stories are from my Once Upon A Time, Yesterday co-author, Gregory L. Norris:

Gamblers, Anonymous
The Box of Love and Hatred

I'll post a picutre of the award, when I get it!

04 July 2007

Public domain or not?

I chanced upon an advertisement for a new anthology earlier today. Saying that the ad disturbed me isn't far from the truth. That might surprise some people, and rest assured, I wasn't troubled by the erotic content. Not at all. What troubled me was the fact that the author was using the Disney name, because the book (erotic, I might note) had a fairy tale base.

If you're using characters or situations not in
the public domain in your book, you have a problem. Remember that, even though Through The Looking Glass and Alice In Wonderland are public domain...that's the BOOKS. The films are not. If you're using something Disney created in the films, you are still in danger. For that reason, when Gregory MacGuire wrote Wicked, he could not use ruby slippers. The ruby slippers were a machination of the film version. The original book has SILVER slippers.

If you're using a company name, it should be an association that the COMPANY would consider a favorable association. IOW, attaching Disney to anything erotic is inviting disaster, and they have deep pockets. A writer, especially one that isn't a NYT Bestseller, probably doesn't. They would not be amused and might well consider it harmful to the Disney name. Never mind that I believe they OWN Miramax. The Disney name is not on movies made by companies they've bought, unless they fit the Disney image.

Brothers Grimm is fine (which he also used in his promo). I do that in my own advertising for Once Upon A Time, Yesterday, and since both collections in question are based on fairy tales, that makes sense. Plus, the ORIGINAL Brothers Grimm, before they were sanitized, were incredibly bloody and dark. There's little Disney about the concept of either anthology, and using it is not only putting the author/publisher at risk for a lawsuit but also
defeating the purpose of showing how dark the collection is.

A better comparison might be: The Brothers Grimm meet Hottest Blood. Look at the connotations there. Brothers Grimm...fairy tales, dark, brooding, bloody... Hottest Blood...erotic, horror, dark...

That works much better, I think.

On another note, Once Upon A Time, Yesterday is on schedule, at this time, for an October/November release.

Happy reading!