Fifty Shades of Bewilderment

They’re locked away in their bedrooms. They have tucked it inside a decorative book cover. It’s hidden from prying eyes on a Kindle and Nook. Everyone is reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Everyone except me, perhaps.

Lately, the first question I get, (from those who know I’m a writer or someone who just found out) is, am I reading, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Nope. Sorry. But more power to you. Read on.

There are so many pros and cons about this book (which is great for the author) and the attempt to analyze its success and influence would be mind-boggling on so many levels. So I’m not going to try.

I won’t even comment on the article that spoke to calm the publishing industry’s uncertain future. I’ll let you read it. (That’s another topic entirely.)

Don’t get me wrong. The author found a niche, and she’s working it. Wouldn’t you? I have no problem with that. Not at all.

What I want to know is where the heck have the women who are latching onto the “Fifty Shades” like a life raft on the sinking Titanic, been? Women are going nuts over bondage and S&M. You’d think that “mommy porn” “women’s porn” or Erotica for that matter, was just invented.

Really.

At one point I thought it might be a generational thing. My coworker pointed out that there were young women satisfying their curiosities about S&M and bondage, or those wanting more experience so that they can spice up their sex lives. Point taken. But then I see older women gravitating toward it like a youth serum, and I start to wonder all over again.

Where have these women been? Or am I so unfazed or used to erotic books that “Fifty Shades” is like a preschooler’s first Dr. Seuss book? Perhaps. 🙂

There have been authors, good authors, who have been producing erotica, S&M, and bondage for years. Lora Leigh, who I consider one of the best erotic romance writers, can make whips and chains downright sexy.

Erotica and Erotic romance publishers (e-publishers at that), Allora’s Cave, Samhain and Loose Id have been producing these types of books for quite some time, with the help of some very talented authors. Maya Banks, (she can write about a threesome that will knock your socks off), Delilah Devlin, and Silvia Day aren’t just writing erotic romance—their books have a plot, which makes the sensuality climb the charts. Even the author Zane, who is known for her highly erotic tales, has been around long enough to give folks a refresher course in everything!

So what’s with all the hoopla? I don’t know. I haven’t voiced my opinion about “Fifty Shades …” before this. But walking into Target, yesterday, and seeing the books lined up on the shelf with the sign “New” flashed across the rack, did something to me.

So, I bought Nicholas Sparks’, “The Best of Me.” When I want well-written “mommy porn” (I hate that tag, by the way), I’ll seek my usual sources.

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When in doubt …consult your crystal ball or (critiquing partner!)

As you may recall from a previous post, there are a few ways that I try to get over “writer’s block.”

Another way to get over the “non-writing hurdle” is to talk to your critiquing partner. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend getting one. My critiquing partner suggested going back to a story that I wrote a few years ago, and see if it will work as a novella or short story.

Brilliant idea!

Sometimes, when we’re writing a full-length novel, and particularly the sequel of another book, it’s hard to get the thoughts to flow properly. It probably doesn’t help if you’re still trying to publish the first one. (I know it is with me as of late.)

We’re usually so close to our projects, we tend to miss what someone from the outside, looking in, might see. Your critiquing partner is the best person to offer advice, because they may be going through the exact same problem.

However, working on an unrelated project, can get your creative juices flowing and you may actually be able to finish with a minimal amount of angst.

I will go back to my second book, a sequel. But for now, my novella, which takes place in Puerto Rico …yum!) will keep me moving forward and keep writing top of mind.

Today is August 17 and the premiere of “The Expendables 2.” I’m psyched because I as mentioned, I will be taking mental notes of all the bad ass characters. Hey, you never know what might work in a WIP!

Have a good weekend. See you Monday.

Self-publishing and e-books: The new sheriff (and deputy) in town

For decades, self-publishing has been the dirty word that’s been swept under the tumbleweeds and kept locked in the back room of the saloon. And e-what?

But times …they are a changin’ and people—particularly progressive publishers—are taking notice. It’s good for some, not so good for others.

Between self-published authors and e-books, one can’t possibly look at the publishing industry the way it once was. From book covers to trailers to print-on-demand (POD), things on changing, and everyone wants in. Even traditional authors who are established are having their back titles published in e-book format. They see the potential.

One company enticing authors into seeing an even greater potential is PurpleBrainBanana, an online marketing company that develops high-end story graphics, to die-for- book trailers and marketing tactics worth remembering. The article touts, “how self publishers and authors notice a huge increase in online sales.”

With all the publicity, the battle lines for or against self-publishing and all facets of e-books are being drawn.

And while it’s dying down (somewhat), the recent shut down of LendInk, left a lot to ponder about the e-books, authors’ copyrights and contracts.

From the incident, it’s clear that traditionally published authors are trying to hold on to their royalties, and fight any form of–what they deemed to be–piracy, while those who believe in e-books and all it entails, are fighting for the right to read (and lend).

While the authors who shut it down disagree, supporters of LendInk, say the site has the capability to increase reader base and royalties, (particularly among Indie authors) and provides a way for the avid reader to continue reading. There was even rationalization about someone being allergic to the paperback books and e-books gave them the opportunity to read to their heart’s content.

Frankly, my head is bursting from the ever evolving self-publishing and e-book brouhaha. I’m a progressive traditionalist. I’d like to have my books published by a reputable publisher, earn royalties, distribute in mass market and dabble in e-book. (The techy in me, totally loves e-book!) I want it all and in this current climate, there’s too much from which to choose.

One thing is for certain, e-books and self-publishing are coming on strong, both barrels blazing and with reinforcements such as PurpleBrainBanana.com. I don’t think they’re leaving town any time soon.

I’m in a quandary, though. Perhaps, I need to visit the saloon, and finish reading my Google alerts—at least 100+ articles, so that I can make heads or tails of this growing debate.

What’s your take?

Getting the most out of your Author blog

For authors, whether you’re aspiring or established, social media has become the way to attract potential readers and yes, agents and publishers who may be interested in representing you. Although there is no agent or publisher involved, social media is also an Indie author’s best friend. It puts you where you need to be–connected to your readers.

At a past New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference, a group author friends and I were discussing our social media avenues. We all discovered that we were either blogging, active on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin or in the process of getting started.

This was great to see that many of us were doing what industry professionals suggest: Getting your name and brand out to the universe. You might ask, “How do I do that?”

One book, I found to be very helpful in answering that question is Christina Katz’s, “Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.”

IMHO, it’s a must have for any author writing or planning to write in the age of social media. Ms. Katz offers sound advice on growing your brand and building a platform, especially if you’re not published yet. And one way to grow your brand and build a platform is through blogging.

Let me sidestep and explain the brand and build a platform concept. If you think of Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or John Grisman, 9 times out of 10, you already know what kind of book you’re about to read, along with the theme and even some of their character types. It’s what they’re known for writing, it’s their “brand.” As authors, they have a strong, identifiable platform.

Now back to blogging. Nowadays, almost everyone has a blog. However, as an aspiring author or even an established one, are you getting the most from your blog?

A Writer’s Digest article, “16 Blogging Tips For Writing Fresh Content & Attracting Readers,” gives advice specific to authors who want to build a brand and their readership. As an author, there are a few things we should do, not only to separate ourselves from the pack of blogs, but to create a professional platform that will entice readers, agents and publishers.

Television commercials and the abnormal dependency on their power

It’s Friday. It’s been a long week and I need to ramble a bit. So, here it goes.

Last night, I’m clicking through the channels and spot Old Navy’s back-to-school commercial featuring Jennie Garth, Jason Priestly and Luke Perry from the ‘90s show Beverly Hills 90210.

Whoa. Just bring in Shannen Doherty and it’s a homecoming. (By the way, Gabrielle Carteris, who played Brandon’s (Jason) stalker/admirer, Andrea Zuckerman is in another Old Navy commercial, still stalking I might add.)

In addition, Old Navy’s campaign reunites Mayim Bialik and Joey Lawrence, former siblings in the show, “Blossom.” Another ’90s show.

Are these actors planning comebacks? Are there any fall shows on tap featuring them? On the other hand, the snarky me thinks, they need money. (But who doesn’t?)

Okay, now the old brain really starts to rattle.

We all know that hundreds, maybe thousands of actors and actors have graced (should I use that term, loosely?) the small screen doing commercials before making it big.

I wanted to recall some of the famous faces who did commercials prior to their big break. So, I did what I love doing almost as much as writing: I Googled.

I ran across an article from Woman’s Day magazine, which featured 12 Old Commercials Featuring Now-Famous Stars. Very cool article with video clips.

Most of the commercials listed were a surprise, and quite cool to watch. However, I do vaguely recall Bruce Willis in a Seagram’s commercial.

Okay, so I refer back to the Old Navy commercial with the Beverly Hills 90210 gang, and start to realize (for the hundredth time) how embedded this medium is in our society. So much so, that even actors can’t get away from them.

For actors, commercials are a paying gig, something to add to a resume, and a means for celebrities to get one’s feet wet or come in from grazing in greener pastures.

Television commercials may promote a wide variety of goods, services and ideas, and influence what we consume, and how we behave. But they clearly possess an abnormal power to satisfy the need for celebrity types and athletes (can’t forget them) to stay in our lives for years, decades, centuries. Hmm …but then again, there are reruns.

Enough rambling. I’m going to Old Navy. Enjoy your weekend.

Whining doesn’t drive success; it steers you right off the cliff

Too often I’ve seen people, in particular we creative types, complain that things aren’t going their way. (they can’t get an agent, they received their 1000th rejection, their painting didn’t sell for the price they wanted, etc.)

Sometimes, the energy expended complaining, could be used more positively by trying to figure out why things aren’t panning out. If whining were so effective, we’d all be successful. You think?

Whether we’re writing, acting, singing, playing golf or doing our day-to-day activities, we should give it our all, and expect that the fruits of our labor will grow.

There is no magical wand or free ride. And it may sound cliché, but the truth is, there’s only guts, sweat and tears. And at the end, success.

I look at it this way, if everything came easily to me, I’d be bored stiff.

Thank you, Maya Angelou for the constant reminder, to steer clear of the cliff.

Why Olympian medalists and writers could be BFFs …

While enjoying the 2012 Olympic games, and all the wonderful achievements, I became a little nostalgic and in serious need of inspiration.

So, I decided to do some digging to find out what type of history was made on August 8.  Immediately, I was reminded of two events: the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles, which I watched with intensity, and the achievements of one Olympian in particular, Carl Lewis.

On August 8, 1984, Lewis won his 3rd (200m) of 4 gold medals in the Summer Olympics.  I remember being glued to my television, watching history unfold as my two daughters (then, ages 4 and 2) sat nearby, playing. 

I didn’t answer the phone or the door because at that moment, nothing was more spectacular than watching Carl cross that finish line. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I wanted to celebrate his victory because I know what it’s like to want something so bad, you can see it in front of you.

Some of his other achievements during that Olympic year include:

  • August 11, 1984 – Carl Lewis duplicates Jesse Owens’ 1936 feat, wins 4 Olympic track gold metals
  • August 6, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins 2nd (long jump) of 4 gold medals in Summer Olympics
  • August 4, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins gold medal in 100-meter dash at LA Summer Olympics

Wow.  He was fierce. Dedicated.  And probably, at times felt very much alone.  Sound familiar?

Every four years, I look forward to watching the Olympics.  It’s a sort of “kindred spirit” period for me. Through the games I learn about people who know firsthand, what it means to sacrifice a life considered “normal” to pursue their destiny and their dreams. Many of these fantastic athletes negate friends, family, relationships, movies, books and yes, dessert, to stay the course that may lead them to Olympic gold, silver or bronze.

If not for the Olympics, we may have never heard of the obstacles and challenges experienced by Olga Korbut, Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, (also a 1984 winner), Katarina Witt, Shaun White, Usain Bolt,  Michael Phelps,  Rafael Nadal, Gabby Douglas, Sally Pearson and Florence Griffith Joyner (affectionately remembered as Flo Jo).

While the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was filled with controversy and boycotts, it was still an inspiring and memorable event. And the issues surrounding the games, didn’t take away from the achievements of those who competed. In the end, it was still a testament to those athletes who—day in, and day out—pour their souls into their craft—their calling.

Just like writers.

To Carl Lewis and Olympians past and present, I salute you. Maybe one day we can shoot the breeze, talk shop.

To writers enduring rejection letters, submitting your work, revising your manuscripts, and waiting to review your first or fiftieth galley, I applaud you. We’ll get there.