The Words: another lesson (and reminder) about integrity

Over the weekend, I saw the motion picture, “The Words,” starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.

When I first saw the coming attractions at, “The Expendables 2” showing, I knew I had to see it. The movie tells the tale about a writer who, at the peak of his literary success, discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.

I’ve heard the lukewarm reviews from the critics. However, I rarely listen. I tend to lean on the side of what I want to see, as opposed to what’s being touted as the next best thing. After all, the opinions are largely subjective—as are literary reviews.

Personally, I loved the movie. Anything that features a typewriter, computer, library, books, ink, pens and thoughts, hooks me. It’s the kind of movie with which all artists, particularly writers, can relate.

I wouldn’t dare spoil the opportunity for you to see this movie for yourself. But I will tell you a line in the film that really had me thinking. One of the characters (the soon-to-be disgraced publisher) told the soon-to-be disgraced writer, “You’re not the only author who has done this kind of thing [plagiarized].”

I thought about that comment and wondered how many amongst the greatest writers of our times have put their names on someone else’s works? For starters, I know that William Shakespeare’s, work had been questioned.

Now here’s a little more food for thought:

As a struggling, unpublished writer, would you take a potential literary masterpiece that fell into your hands without anyone knowing, and put your name on it? If so, would you be able to live with the consequences?

In a nutshell, “The Words,” is a thought-provoking journey that will make you ponder your life as a writer and the possible “what if.” I certainly did. Go see the movie and then tell me what you thought.

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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.

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.

Perils of a Romance Writer (Okay, a writer. Period)

One of the downsides of writing is the evitable “writer’s block.” Some don’t believe in it. Others will swear it’s a common malady among people with a creative pen. (Or computer)

I tend to sway on the side that it exists and is generally connected to that other known malady-lack of motivation.

For the past few days, I haven’t been motivated to write anything, but my blog. And I guess that’s okay because I’m STILL writing. Lately, this blog has been my saving grace.

Experts say when you can’t get a scene, or a word, or a chapter to flow, (which has been my problem) you should do something else. Take a walk, clean the house. I have a friend (she’s a best-selling author) who makes spaghetti when she gets stuck. (Maybe I should start cooking. On second thought …)

One article in Writer’s Digest, (I love this site) said at the first sign of trouble, retreat. So, I did.

Because of my lack of motivation to write, I’ve started doing other things. And instead of going for a walk, or cleaning the house, I made another video. (Oh, yes I did!)

In one of my post last week, I shared a video that I’d done on my book, “The Heat between Us.” It’s an animated view of a scene made possible by Xtranormal.

Again, I can’t stop singing their praises.

This video is an introduction of the characters in “The Heat Between Us.” Besides reading about their trials and tribulations, I thought it would be a nice idea to hear from them, personally. I hope you like it.

I find that this form of creativity has, in fact, helped me with my writing. I’m back at work on the second book, which is the second of a three-book series. And I’m already thinking about a video or two or three. 🙂

An epitaph and iambic pentameter: the start of my career

I mentioned previously that my earliest recollection of wanting to be a writer was in high school. My aspirations, which started with poetry, were nurtured by my eleventh grade English teacher and an assignment that would forever change my life.

My English teacher had us analyze 10 poems using iambic pentameter, where we’d recognize the rhythms, as well as stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. In addition, we had to write 10 poems, and also analyze them using iambic pentameter. I absolutely loved that assignment!

While most of my 17-year old classmates groaned and complained that they couldn’t write poetry, I happily took on the challenge. In addition, one of our poems had to be an epitaph that we would like to have carved on our grave.

A morbid ask? No way! (Hey, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare were my favorite writers even at that age.)

So, I wrote my epitaph:

“Remember me always,
How I tried and didn’t try
Remember me always
How I loved life and loved you
Remember me always”

Simplistic and to the point.

From a 17-year, I’d say rather thoughtful and honest. I remember writing that with all the people I loved in mind: my family, and friends. Even back then, I knew there were days when I didn’t do my best, and I acknowledged that. I was taught to be honest, (One of the many things I love about my parents, imparting this wisdom) and if I couldn’t be honest with myself, I was in trouble.

Anyway, my English teacher loved my poetry, particularly my epitaph. I received an “A” for the complete assignment. But most of all, I received the biggest boost in my confidence to pursue a career in writing. After majoring in English in college, I went on to write speeches, newspaper articles and now, novels. I still dabble from time to time in poetry.

Midway through my junior year in high school, shortly after my momentous poetry assignment, they fired my English teacher. My classmates and I were stunned.

I was crushed. My cheerleader was gone.

We never really knew what happened. However, we speculated that she was let go after her sexual preference was discovered. (We were 17, not stupid) After all, it was the 1970’s and people were fighting, as they are now, for their right to exist.

As for my epitaph, it hasn’t changed much. I will probably use it when the time comes. After so many decades, I’m amazed at how introspective I was as a junior in high school.

I owe that to my parents, and to Ms. Craig, my English teacher, for encouraging me to set my thoughts free.