Me or Thee – For Whom Do I Write?

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Do I write for myself or my readers? There’s only one answer – both, yet it’s a balancing act affected by a number of ever-changing variables. If I only write what my readers want, I run the risk of stifled creativity, boredom, and resentment. Eventually, the personal sacrifices necessary to write in the first place would no longer seem worth it. If I write only what interests me, readers may move on to someone else, and without an audience for my work, what’s the point?

Series are popular, yet I’ve found them both a blessing and a curse. Once the foundation is laid in the first book, I have a clear road ahead for more stories. Readers fall in love with the world and characters I’ve created and they naturally want more. Great! Who doesn’t want happy fans and increased sales? Strangely enough, it may be the author!

I’ve always resisted being trapped into long-term commitments with no exit strategy. I want options, and with a series there don’t seem to be any! Spending years writing about the same world and characters feels like prison, and I have to get away for a while and do something else. There are other ideas to pursue and genre’s to explore. Give me variety or give me death! OK, that’s over the top, but you get my meaning. When I explained this situation to one of my beta readers, this is what she said:

“Most of us hate it when we find a book we love and can’t read a second book for many months or years. If something is popular now, you should keep writing it or they will lose interest and you will never get them back because they won’t remember how much they liked it.

“I understand that when you have more stories you want to write, you would rather go on to something new that has been waiting. But, I think that authors have to write what will sell to some degree, or they won’t make enough to do it for a living. Tough decisions!”

I think she’s right, but even if I did as she suggested, it takes me around nine months to complete and publish a full length novel. So, I’ll still end up disappointing some current readers who don’t want to wait, but satisfying future readers who have the benefit of my backlist! There’s really no way to “fix” this, given my personal limitations and time constraints, but I’m going to see if I can do better.

At the moment, I’m working on a shorter in-between story for my Gladstone Shifters series. Fans have been waiting for over a year since book two came out, but I set the series aside to do something different (insert Rise of the Draman here). At the time, book two wasn’t doing all that well, and along with craving something new, I hated the thought of wasting time on a series no one was buying.

Due to an influx of new readers, and insistent pleas from established fans, I’m back on track with Gladstone Shifters. The plan is to finish book 2.5 and then move directly to book three, which is a concession on my part. After that, who knows? A second volume of dragon stories is possible (creating yet another series!) or I may move on to one of several other ideas bubbling away on the back burner. Tough decisions indeed!

As a writer, do you have a similar struggle trying to balance your needs with those of your readers? As a reader, do you lose interest in an author if the series you like is still in process? Let me know your thoughts!

Go ahead – brighten my day!

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I ran across an older post by Susan M. Toy entitled “How YOU can invest in authors and books… without spending any money!” In it, she lists ten ways to help, including borrow and read their books, tell your friends, talk about them in your own blog, and my favorite – contact them personally.

“Contact the Author privately (usually their websites will offer a way of connecting) and tell them how much you enjoyed their writing and books. It’s one thing to receive a positive public comment from a reader, but if you make the effort to tell that author, one-on-one, what you really think about their writing and their books… it is so, so much better than in a public review. Because again – it’s honest and heartfelt!”

I couldn’t agree more! In a more recent post, Susan shares a quote from Graeme McGaw’s newsletter which sums up the idea nicely:

“Take a minute to write to your favorite authors and thank them. Thank them for the books they have written, the adventures they have taken you on, and the worlds they have allowed you to escape into… thank them for pouring months and months of their life into their stories. Authors have it rough. Not only is it a lot of work, but they’re also putting themselves out there. Think of all those negative reviews an author receives on a book. That sort of thing can be crushing… So yeah, take the time to write to your authors. It will make their day.” 

I’ve received several personal contacts from readers lately, and each one put a long-lasting smile on my face, chased away the doubts, made me feel good, and strengthened my determination to keep going. It only cost a few moments of their time, but meant so much.  

“First of all please allow me to congratulate you for your writing. You just acquired another fan!!! I have immensely enjoyed the first two books Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon and I loved the way you made me feel reading them. I started the first two days ago and I just finished the second and I was so sad that the third is not out yet. In these difficult times, reading about Ben and Evan and their friends and family is giving me a glimpse of hope, and I thank you for that. I hope you will get the necessary inspiration to allow me to dream a little longer.” John from Belgium

“I loved Rise of the Draman. Clean language, wonderful nonstop adventure. Interesting take on dragons and their bonded. It was nice to read about good dragons and kindness throughout. It’s how we should be with each other. I really hated for it to come to an end. Thank you for sharing.” Romae

“I thoroughly enjoyed the book (Rise of the Draman). You are a talented writer and hope I get to read many more of your works.” John

 Aren’t these great? Interaction with my readers is one the big perks of being a writer. When I get notes like this, I doubt the people sending them realize the positive and powerful impact they have. The cool thing is – YOU can be part of it! 

Authors – make sure to provide an email or snail mail address where readers can reach you. When they do, be sure to respond and thank them.

Readers – never underestimate the power of a personal contact! Even if you can’t leave an official review (also really great), make a habit of letting your favorite authors know how much you appreciate their work.

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Author Update

The last few weeks have been brutal! Pre-move, move, post-move. It’s all been very moving, but at last I’m settled in my new place and can stop for a breath. Obviously, my writing has taken a back seat and I’m eager to get caught up.

Story five of Rise of the Draman is almost complete. The last of the story threads are being carefully tied, and then it’s off to my beta readers. When that’s done, it will appear on my blog in serialized format, and your anxious wait will be over! Leaving readers dangling from a cliff this long was never my intention, though be prepared for a much longer installment this time.

I received a wonderful note from a reader recently regarding my Gladstone Shifters books. The poor soul is hooked (yeah for me!) and wants to get her hands on the next in series – only it hasn’t been written yet and I have no idea when it will be. I have three new series begging to be written, and am still deciding what to do. Given my crazy work schedule and limited writing time, any novel-length project I choose to tackle means at least a nine month commitment. My tendency is to get bored and antsy to move on to something else long before I’m done!

Winter made a rude and unwelcome early start here and I’m faced with unfamiliar routes for shopping and work. I don’t mind the change of seasons, but driving on snowy/icy roads makes me tense. In 2014, I hit some black ice and found myself upside down in a snow-filled ditch. The car was totaled, and neither my back nor my nerves have fully recovered. Maybe I’ll work that into a book someday…

 

Weekly Roundup 9-5-18 Name That Character!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Don’t be fooled – naming characters is more difficult than it would seem. Well, I think it should be if you’re doing it right.

Some authors insist on choosing unfortunate, distracting, or uncomplimentary names for their characters, making the story difficult to read or enjoy. You know the ones I mean:

  • a modern-day protagonist with a nineteenth century moniker such as Gladys or Herbert.
  • a sci-fi hero in the far future with a three-part name only a linguist can figure out.
  • a fantasy epic requiring a pronunciation guide for the MC’s (which, I am sorry to say, seldom helps).

I have my own set of “rules” for creating character names which takes additional time, but I believe it’s worth it. The main idea is to make them easy to pronounce, fit the time and place of the story, and match the character’s personality. The last thing I want to do is cause a reader to take a pass on the book because they can’t get past my attempt to be “creative”, cute, or mysterious.

If you think I’m simply being lazy, you may be right! For me, reading serves as entertainment, so I tend to reject books which force me to work hard to understand them – and that includes character names. I suppose I’m missing out on some great literature by being so picky, but life is short and my brain cells deserve a rest when I’m reading.

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This week has been strange as I began saying goodbye to co-workers and cut ties in preparation for my move. I will miss some people of course, but not the job, company, state, or city! I’ve been here almost four years but knew all along it would be temporary. I’m more than ready to get out of Dodge and start fresh in a new place. Moving is a pain, but being closer to my kids makes it worth the trouble.

I finished a crucial chapter of Traitor’s Moon and will spend today editing. It turned out differently than I planned, but I’m very pleased with it. The next chapter features a shifter memorial service, requiring a careful blend of human and paranormal elements to make it convincing. I look forward to the challenge! Word count is now 64,000.

My third grandchild was due on September first, and we are still waiting. The Doctor says everything is fine and my daughter-in-law is feeling good, but tired. Sadly for me, they live 1300 miles away (though the move will bring me 800 miles closer), so I have no idea when I will see the little one. Perhaps next week I’ll have good news to share!

 

Weekly Roundup 7-25-18 The power of reader feedback.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I received a delightful email from a reader this week! You may wonder why this is such a big deal, and to someone else it probably wouldn’t be. In almost a year’s time I have only received a handful of emails, despite encouraging my readers at every turn to contact me, and it makes my day every time.

I cannot speak for all Indy authors, but this one needs affirmation, encouragement, praise or plain old contact with another person. I want to know what they liked about one of my books or how it met a need or spoke to them personally. It boosts my spirits and motivates me to keep going amid the discouragements of life. It validates my efforts in the same way a stage performer feeds off audience applause.

Hearing directly from a reader is not the same as a review, which is usually addressed to fellow readers (unless the reviewer is particularly unhappy with the book!). When a stranger writes to me saying they enjoyed my work, it is humbling to know I made a positive difference in their life or at least provided some transitory enjoyment. Such powerful connections are a wondrous thing and should be celebrated!

Here’s the message I received from an 88-year-old gentleman from NY who appreciated my book Green’s Thumb.

“Hi! Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this particular book. Since my partner of 26 years died in 2009, I have become an avid reader of m/m romances. I did not meet the love of my life until I was 52, and just five years out of the closet, so am most appreciative of a novel that has more mature MCs. Most are in their 20s and 30s; okay, but not something with which I can easily identify any longer. So the story of Karl and Mitch was a great surprise and more to my taste. Even though I was never married, I identified with Mitch who was more my age when entering the relationship and suffered from the same inexperience. Thanks for this heartwarming story. I shall read it again.”

Wonderful! In my response, I shared that parts of the story were taken directly from my own life. It was great to see how the book meant something to him and met a need. I also told him I plan to include more silver characters in future stories, since older gay men are mostly ignored. The author of this email had no idea how much his simple communication would mean to me, probably assuming it was nothing special. Well, it was, and I am deeply appreciative.

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Update on current manuscript: Traitor’s Moon is gaining momentum! I’m part way through chapter five, having reached over 35,000 words. I’m having fun revealing more of Jack’s history, introducing new characters, and describing the drama surrounding Nolan and his mate. There’s so much more ahead for Gladstone, and I can’t wait to get it all written and to my readers. The feedback from early beta reading is very positive!

Age-Revealing Words!

I ran across an article the other day which reminded me once again of my age – not a pleasant topic of conversation considering my birthday is this week. Here’s a few words and phrases which will reveal your age:

Fuddy Duddy  – Just say “old fart” and you’ll be understood.

Dear John Letter – if you have to explain what a “letter” is, you can forget the “John” part.

Davenport – stick with sofa or couch to be safe.

Long-distance call – Ha! even the word “telephone” is fading, along with “operator” and “collect calls”.

VCR and Videotape – now inhabiting every antique store in the nation.

Little Black Book – hmmm….perhaps check your contacts list.

Wet blanket – I prefer party-pooper myself!

Making Whoopee – “hooking up” or the old standby “having sex” will get the idea across.

See the full article HERE if you need more!

Anyway, the issue, as it relates to my writing, is the challenge of creating believable dialog for characters who come from outside my own age group. Fortunately, I don’t write for children or young adults so most of my word/phrase choices are at least minimally understandable to my readers!

What can I say? I’m a product of my generation, which includes the way I speak and the words I use to communicate. Now don’t repeat this, but I enjoy utilizing uncommon words or phrases when possible to make the text more interesting. If my readers don’t know what something means, it’s easy to look it up and learn something in the process.

It is thought there are at least 250,000 distinct words in the English language, with 171,000 in current use and 47,000 on the obsolete list. What richness to draw from when writing! So, go head, choose a few antiques for your next book, story, or blog entry which no one uses any more. You can educate your readers AND rescue some perfectly good words from the “obsolete” list at the same time! You don’t want to be a party-pooper do you?

 

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 6-6-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have an ongoing list of quotes I like, mostly so I don’t forget them but also to use in my writing. Some are funny, other serious, but all worth keeping. Today I want to share some of the humorous ones with you. Most of the citations are missing because I neglected to write down the source!

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it left.  (Yep, that’s me!)

I’m as happy as a tornado in a trailer park.  (Been there – almost did that.)

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.  (A good description of social media today.)

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.  (Gotta keep my reputation intact.)

“Excuse me, excuse me for being so rude. It was not me, it was my food. Instead of staying way down below – it just popped up to say hello.”  (This little gem came from a co-worker years ago after I accidentally let one rip.)

I don’t mind coming to work…but this eight hour wait to go home is just bullshit! (I  don’t really think this way, but too many of my co-workers do!)

Perfect health: the slowest possible rate at which one can die.   John L. Hart  (Not exactly a great motivator for healthy living!)

Handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and walk away!  (This would be great if I could do it without getting arrested.)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   Albert Einstein  (He must have been referring to my job…)

Now it’s your turn. Send me your gems and I’ll see how many I can use in future books!

Questions/comments? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

 

Reader Roundup 5-16-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Here are some of the books I’ve read or re-read recently:

The Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia E. Butler. The trilogy is made up of Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. If you enjoy Post-Apocalyptic stories or Science Fiction (with aliens) you MUST read this trilogy! I’ve read these wonderful books so many times I’ve lost count, and I still enjoy coming back to them again and again. The author’s fertile imagination and storytelling ability are superb, and you will not be able to put them down!  Get it HERE.


The House by the River by Lena Manta. This Greek author weaves a tale of five sisters who feel stifled by their childhood home and succeed in making their way in the world. It isn’t all roses and happiness, and there are enough twists in the story to keep it interesting. The beginning of the book seems rushed to me, but the author has a lot of story to cram in, so it’s easy to overlook. Get it HERE.

 

Off the Old Head of Kinsale by Mike Enfield. Don’t allow the odd title of this gay romance put you off! It’s 1915, and Edmund finds himself on the RMS Lusitania, on his way to join the army as a Chaplain. David, the Steward assigned to his cabin, takes a fancy to the charming man under his care. When they give in to their mutual interest, the two seem destined for each other – but the war gets in the way. A very different read with an HEA I highly recommend! Get it HERE.

Reading brings so much pleasure, and I can’t imagine a world with nothing to read! Hmmm…maybe that’s a story idea I should look into.

 

Reader Roundup 5-9-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have learned much since launching my first books last August. Many revisions have already taken place as I update/correct/improve the manuscripts, but there is always more to be done. Time is, as always, in short supply, so do I spend it writing new material or improving existing books? Some authors advise focusing only on new material, rather than wasting time on older work. I want to do both and hate having to make a choice!

This week, I put off starting on the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series to do some work on Green’s Thumb, which has already received significant revision. You see, a recent review caught my eye, and I took the reviewers words to heart (yes, I pay attention!). Later today I should have the manuscript in better shape and it will replace the version currently for sale. Now I have another problem – I want to expand the book!

A number of earlier reviews for Green’s Thumb made note of its brevity and “hurried” whirlwind romance, reducing its real-world credibility. I may or may not agree with that assessment, but I acknowledge the story could be improved by fleshing it out with more back story and additional interaction between the characters. Now that I recognize it needs to be done, where will I ever find the time to actually write it?

I already have readers demanding the next Gladstone Shifters book, so how can I justify delaying new material by going back and improving an older book? Not an easy decision, but I think I need to file my notes for Green’s Thumb for sometime in the future. The old adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies in this case, and I don’t want to lose the feel of the series or characters by allowing too much time to pass between books.

The quality of my writing increases with each book I write, so at some point I will be able to bring my earlier works up to speed while producing new novels which won’t need major post-published corrections. Until then, I have to figure out how to balance it all and keep everybody, including me, happy.