Indie Gems

This past week was a great one to be an Indie author. It started with me participating in a birthday bash on the Pretty Little Pages blog. The creator, Kristen, was celebrating her own birthday by celebrating her favorite Indie authors. I was lucky enough to be one of them.(There is still a fantastic giveaway going on over there until September 2nd!)

Kristen is one of the somewhat rare group of reviewers who not only will accept and review self-published work, but she is actively promoting good Indie authors. She really is at the front of the pack doing work that takes more time and effort, but I believe, gives bigger rewards. Of the hundreds of review requests a blogger receives each week, many will be poorly edited books with weak story lines from self-published authors. There are a ton of them out there because it’s amazingly easy to put a book on Amazon. But hidden in this huge pile are a few real gems, books with strong stories, great characters, solid editing and a unique perspective. Kristen has taken the time and (huge) effort to find these. When you are looking for your next book, check out her blog for suggestions.

But being part of this esteemed group also made me remember one of the best reasons you should give Indie authors a try – we take risks, we present new and refreshing perspectives and unique stories. Publishing houses are not taking risks right now. Their hundreds-of-years-old business model is crumbling quickly in the electronic age and they are not about to invest time and money in anything unique, risky or different. They want tried, true, established, (cliche, formulaic). 

I started writing because I wanted to read something new. I love romance books, but I just couldn’t take one more syrupy-sweet heroine and her bad-boy (more like asshole) hero who try and sell me that they are in love when I’m getting chapter after chapter of nothing but descriptions about how hot they both are. I wrote the book I wanted to read. And so did a lot of other writers. And they are good. 

This week inspired me to keep writing, to get more connected to other Indie authors and keep building our community and to support the Indie authors that I love. From working with review blogs I’ve discovered a few gems myself. If you are looking for a Labor Day weekend read why not give one of these a try. And if you are as impressed as I was, please leave them a review and help spread the word.

Knockout by Tracey Ward.  I am only 40% into this book and it is my first by this author, but I am already impressed. I had to force myself to stop reading in order to write this post. It will be a struggle all day to keep myself from getting lost in this story. Fantastic drama, great characters, so far a good story line.

 

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan. This is a truly sweet love story that will not make you nauseous. The author manages to create a heart-warming, unique story that never crosses the line into sappy. Completely unique characters in a story that had me yelling at my kindle, hoping for a happy ending. 

Tangled by Emma Chase. This romance is completely written from the male perspective and its a good thing because if you didn’t know what was going on in this guy’s head you would hate him. As it is, you get a truly funny perspective on love and lust. The heroine is also one of my favorites. She is witty, smart, strong, real. 

 

Frenched by Melanie Harlow. I not only fell in love with these characters, I fell in love (again) with Paris. 

Happy Reading!


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Dare to Dream

In a review of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story the reviewer noted that she didn’t like the fact that the burnouts didn’t seem to have much ambition. It’s true, they don’t. But ambition comes from dreams, specifically dreams that you believe have a chance of coming true. It’s dreams that the burnouts lack and that lack is the theme of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. (note the new addition to the title!)

One of my favorite scenes in the first book was Ben and the burnouts having breakfast together when he was kidnapped. It’s career day at school and the burnouts don’t feel the need to be there. It’s a traditional skip day for them and that alone speaks volumes about the prospects these kids see for their futures. When they question Ben about his plans the differences become clear. He has a dream, and a clear plan to reach it, and a family that supports him in his dream. 

I Wanna Be a Rock Star …

In contrast Casey hopes to get a job at a local factory and MG has unrealistic dreams of herself and Carrie moving to New York and walking right in to glamorous jobs. Carrie, Gina and Steve have no specific dreams for the future because no one ever told them they could. Dreaming starts at home, in families that tell their kids that they are not only allowed to have a dream, but the family will put time and money and love into helping make that dream come true. I agree that their lack of aspirations is frustrating, but I wrote it that way because it establishes one of the results of their home lives and also opens the door for so much to happen in book two.

Once out of the cocoon of high school outside forces start to define their lives. If you don’t have a specific plan and people to help you keep on track, you tend to drift with the flow and hope for the best. Even Ben finds his dreams changing as life happens to him in book one. 

I’m spending most of the day on most days writing Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale (again, cool new addition to the title) and I love the complexity of this theme. Popular culture tends to show dreams as a one size fits all kind of thing. We are told we should dream and dream big; then we should relentlessly go in the direction of our dreams and never, never give up. Until you have a movie star’s body, face, spouse, house and paycheck you have not made it. 

I can’t wait to dispel that myth. Through MG and Steve and a bunch of new characters I’m turning that cliche, Disneyesque idea on its head. Because its only when we grow up and figure out what we truly want from life that daring to dream becomes powerful. Book two is all about those dreams, the ones that when they do come true bring peace-of-mind, contentment and love (cause it’s a love story – after all). 

Mommy Porn

When the 50 Shades of Grey trailer was released last week the controversy started again. Is it porn? Is it porn specifically for women? Is it (lets go for the worst thing possible here) mommy porn? (cue the doomsday, horror movie sound track)

50 Shades 50 years ago

Personally, I would say it is not porn. I would call it a romance novel with an erotic element, and compared to other erotic romance novels, its kind of tame. If you took out all the sex scenes you would still have a story, specifically a romance about a girl and a guy who change in order to become a couple. (Pretty standard romance stuff).

So why the mommy porn moniker? Media hype. The phrase manages to combine two elements that our society believes should be diametrically opposed. Based in the antiquated madonna/whore idea is the belief that any woman who has given birth simultaneously erased all hints of her sexuality. Unfortunately women have believed this myth, bought into it, then shut down the sexual part of themselves. (Which was equally unfortunate for the men they were married to.) Fear of bucking the social norm still keeps so many women from admitting that they have any interest in anything sexual.

Would it really be such a bad thing if a married woman with a few kids managed to turn off the incessant stream of grocery lists and school agendas running through her head and instead remembered that sex can be exciting and fun? I argue that sexy novels do more good for marriage than harm. 

I saw an old man attempting to thumb through a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at Costco once. He was so nervous and immediately stopped and walked away when he saw his wife approaching. I wanted to tell him to buy the book plus a nice bottle of wine and something that didn’t need to be cooked for dinner. Then go home climb into bed and read it to his wife. Something tells me that, love the story or hate it, they would have had some fun, exciting and interesting conversations (and probably much more) that night. Opportunity missed. 

One of the arguments against erotic romance books (especially this one) is that it has women fantasizing about someone either than their husband. I can see where that could be a problem … if Christian Grey was real and living in your neighborhood. But he’s not. He is pure make-believe and guaranteed to never show up and lead someone astray. Even the real-life movie version, Irish actor and underwear model Jamie Dornan, is highly unlikely to be out trolling your neck of the woods looking for a middle-age woman driving a minivan full of kids.

Actually, romance novels can bring discord to a marriage. Women who read about men who work at staying in shape, know how to dress and have a working knowledge of female sexual anatomy and desires, often do start wanting some of that in their own lives. But being the eternal optimists we are (and really loving souls) we more often than not

try to get more of what we want from within our marriages. 

I’m not sure how many couples will go see the movie on Valentines day (the release date). Through the books and movie and others like it, women are just starting to acknowledge that they are still whole people, still sexual beings and we quite often like to take those baby steps in the safety of a group of our peers. Like the man at Costco, there is a risk (oddly enough) in admitting our desires to our spouse. But the benefits … 

I’m not specifically recommending these books, but I am recommending more romance reading (which works out well since I am a romance writer.) There are so many sub-genres within romance: historical, western, vampire, etc. I guarantee there will be one that will curl your toes and make you go “squeee”; that will wake up (or possibly start) all those wonderful dirty thoughts that will have you packing the kids off to bond with grandma so you can “review the finer plot points” with your spouse.  




Torrenting is Stealing

I dread the day my teens move out. I might run out of topics for my blog. I started this morning with a lively discussion on torrenting (pirating) music and movies with my teen. As an author of an e-book I take pirating personally. I’m amazed at the cavalier attitude of teens in general toward this practice.

The most popular argument, and my personal favorite, is that since teens don’t have enough money to purchase all the music and movies and e-books they would like to own, that justifies taking free copies from sites that haven stolen them. I love this idea and I kind of hope it holds up in court because I can’t afford any of the Christian Louboutin shoes I want. How awesome would it be to just saunter in to one of their stores and take a few pairs since I’m too poor to buy them. I’ll post a pic of my new shoes when this idea becomes a legal precedent.


Which leads to the argument that shoes are a physical item where there is cost involved in producing each item. Teens say it’s different if it is something that you can make infinite copies of. “But, doesn’t your favorite band have a right to make money from their work?” I contend. “Yes, but they make tons of money so they can afford to have some not paid for (notice an avoidance of the word ‘stolen’). These teens have no problem playing judge and jury with the unseen finances of musicians and authors they claim to love. It left me wondering exactly how much the band, actor, author is allowed to make before their fans decide that they have enough and the rest should be free. I guess they reference the communist manifesto for a precise number.

I’ve also been told that those who are stealing wouldn’t pay for the stuff anyway, so they should just be ignored. This problem is huge and growing worldwide but that isn’t a reason to ignore it. I’m not sure how this will play out as these teens enter the work force and send their lovingly-crafted work into the internet ether. My guess would be that those who work in creative industries will see the value of their work has diminished and along with it their ability to earn a decent living. Having helped themselves to free music, movies, books, photographs, etc. since childhood pirating could become the standard rather than the exception. 

The other thing I can’t see is the new business model that will probably spring up to replace the current one. I’m not one to subscribe to gloom and doom predictions. I do believe that an enterprising musician or marketer or some kid who knows how to make a buck will find a way to both pay the piper and allow the listeners to feel like they are accessing it all for free.The never-ending evolution of making the almighty buck has never let me down.

Until then I will continue my campaign. It will take frustration and anger on the part of all who produce electronic intellectual property to bring about change. It will take drawing attention to the problem and not allowing the value of our work to be diminished to nothing. I might not still be writing when a new business model evolves, so until then, I need to make money from my work. I’ve got a more shoes to buy.