Writer Craziness

When I decided to start writing fiction with an erotic bent, I didn’t tell anyone initially, not even my SO. I was out of town taking care of some business at the time, and after Skype-ing with him in the evening I sat down and wrote (in about two weeks), “An Accidental Affair”. When I returned home I told ‘Mr. Man’ – as I refer to him, he’s a shy guy – and he was enthusiastic and supportive.

To this day a lot of people don’t know that I have this side; I’m friendly with some of my mom’s friends and I know many of them wouldn’t approve, but also a lot of people look askance at erotic fiction and I have nothing to prove to anyone, so I just write when I can, which unfortunately isn’t as often as I would like.

Because of this and other factors, I’m not totally ‘in the game’. My website isn’t splashy (although I am hoping to make it nicer – I just don’t really have the time to learn HTML and customize it as I would like), I don’t belong to a reading circle or buddy groups, I don’t have friends who are authors, I don’t run a newsletter (yet… I feel bad that people already get so much email and don’t want them to feel spammed by me, to be honest), I don’t have a dedicated fan group who rush to put up good reviews when I release a book, or any of the things I’ve learned other writers do to try to inflate the presence of books. When I signed with Vasko, at their suggestion I used a promotional service and I have done some marketing with Books Go Social and a few other sites. Four years ago, during Emerald City Comic Con, Mr. Man kindly delivered some promo fliers for me to them, to be stuffed into swag bags, as I was driving back from Texas with my mom’s stuff and wouldn’t make it in time to deliver them. Unfortunately they stuffed the fliers – full colour, I’d spent several hundred dollars on having them printed – in the bag folded in half, printed side in, despite the bags being full sized. Such are the woes of an Indie author trying to do creative self-promo.

But on the whole I’ve been fortunate – VERY fortunate. Every month I have over a hundred free downloads and sales each – which I have read is terrific for an Indie author – and I am grateful for the patience and support of the readers who have found me and those who have reached out. But I don’t know how to go about pushing things to the next level, if you catch my meaning. I’ve actually had some great months a few times, where I think things are on the cusp of breaking well for me but inevitably it recedes to the status quo, which is still great compared to a lot of other Indie authors but prevents me from making this my primary occupation.

I don’t want a Street Team so that when I publish I have a bunch of five-star reviews that aren’t genuine. I don’t want to game the system, as some people do in order to try to get top billing, movie deals, or a bunch of people downloading books based on hype that isn’t real. This writing thing has been a learning process, and I know I have only scratched the surface of what goes on. I would love some steady success so I don’t have to worry about other types of work, but I think integrity is important; that was drilled into me at a young age and hasn’t left me.

But crazy things happen, and sometimes I am late to learn about them (see the aforementioned ‘not totally in the game’ comment). Last year there was controversy about “Handbook for Mortals“, and more recently, the craziness just a month ago over Faleena Hopkins trying to extend her word-mark to cover the word ‘cocky’ in the entire erotica/romance verse, and force other authors to change works.

Mr. Man has some patents for software development, some of which he shares with other developers; I understand that when you are developing something that is ground breaking or unique and clever, you (or in his case the company he worked for), wants to ensure they benefit from the effort and time spent to bring the idea to fruition. I certainly don’t want anyone building on the worlds I’ve created, unless they have my express permission (and as of now, no one does). I have spent hundreds of hours building the mythology and world in The Void Chronicles series and have a huge emotional investment in it, besides the obvious time one. I GET protecting your intellectual property (IP).

But a word? If it’s a logo like Coca-Cola (used as an example in the linked article above), which is a word-mark (like a trademark but has a unique style and font), okay. It’s associated with a product, you don’t want people piggybacking on that. But what Hopkins has done goes beyond the pale, and I think the Trademark Office erred gravely in granting that to her; due diligence should be performed to ensure there isn’t something that invalidates that trademark and apparently it is a font she PURCHASED that was widely available, other books were published before hers with the word cocky. If that’s not crazy and shocking, I don’t know what is!  When I read about it, I thought: Is this what romance/erotica has become? That we are cordoning off territory, pissing on a fire hydrant as it were? Jostling other writers out of the way in our blood-lust to get to the top?

Books are consumables! Sure there are a finite number of books that a person is going to read in their life and in that sense yes, there is some competition, but romance readers are voracious! They don’t just read one book, they read HUNDREDS. There is no need for this dirty mud-flinging, vagina blocking bullshit that Hopkins has indulged in. It makes me shake my head and wonder about the rabbit hole, and how much deeper I might want to dive in. It simply beggars belief that we’re seeing this kind of stuff.

What did Hopkins think was going to happen here? That since she would have ‘the force of the law’ with her, she could flip the bird to everyone else, do whatever she wanted and know that since she has success (which means resources), people couldn’t/wouldn’t challenge her and her readers would remain loyal to her, even if they were also fans of an author who Hopkins had targeted? This kind of naked arrogance galls me, and the desire to use some perceived power as a cudgel to swing about and lord over people is just repulsive, especially people who have personally done her no wrong except have the temerity to use a word she has in the title of her books.

Additional Links:

Courtney Milan Twitter summary on #cockygate

Legal Inspiration has more info. (Apparently Hopkins filed multiple Trademark requests)

Jamila Jasper an author affected by this nonsense

Regrets

It’s probably easy for some writers to separate what is going on in their personal life from what they write, but I’m not one of them; I don’t find it easy at all, and even when I try to set them in separate spheres, there is often bleed over. (May contain some spoilers.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about The Liliana Batchelor Series and some of my regrets with it. I definitely meant to have Stuart turn a tad dark, weighed down by all that was happening, but when I was writing books four and five, my mother was battling cancer and then succumbed to it and the loss and pain I was feeling was pushed into the books. I delayed book five, wanting some time to try and get over things, but both books – which I meant to be a little heavy – became darker than I intended, in retrospect.

When I compiled the five books into an anthology, their length really hit me and I worry to this day that, taken together, they make the series too long. I really wanted to show Lily’s journey, give a background of what she fought against, show how she developed and then finally how Stuart’s love really helped her to completely believe in herself and be free from her past, but that meant the story ended up quite long. Some readers have written to me and clamoured for more Lily content, which I am still mulling over, but I worry others were overwhelmed by the length.

Last year I had a bit of a health scare (it turned out fine), at the same time someone I almost completely trusted betrayed me by lying and rewriting history. Both of those things at the same time were quite a blow, and I found it difficult to write a bit because I was worried that they would unduly influence my writing in some way. Then I started to get back to it and read my already published books and really thought about some of the things I am including in book four of “The Void Chronicles” and work out the minutiae. Writing is therapeutic for me, and thankfully I have found it easier this time to channel what is going on productively.

I feel including a bit of who you are in what you write is important; it makes the story more relate-able and have a more authentic atmosphere. The difficulty lies in not allowing too much to creep into what you create; it is a story, it is a separate world, and even though I mentioned there is a therapeutic element, readers don’t purchase a book for you to be able to have a protracted therapy session on the pages. Everyone has something they are dealing with at any given time, and you want to present them with a world that is interesting and exciting; this is even more true in erotica, fantasy, and a few other genres. People go there to escape, to experience someplace new and different, not to be confronted with an author’s daily toils.

I am excited about, “The Void Wept”; there is a lot in it. Julianna really blossoms, and you learn a lot about her history, how she got to Galea and how it is interleaved with what has already happened; it definitely puts things into perspective, and gives readers some clarity whilst fleshing out the world. I hope you’ll pick up book one if you haven’t already; I think once you settle in, you’ll get swept away.

Warm regards,

Holly

August Miscellany

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for that I apologise! I’d hoped to make better progress on Julianna’s story and be close to announcing a release date, but regrettably I’m not. The summer has just been too busy!

Part of that has been the garden. =) This is both a good and bad thing. I’m really looking forward to harvesting more, (already have some zucchini and peas), and weeding is a battle that is never won, just regularly fought. It’s been quite hot here off and on and I lack air conditioning, so I sometimes am writing in my skivvies. 😉 I’m excited about the eclipse coming up and finishing some obligations, and expect to be able to devote a lot more time to writing at the beginning of September. The Sisters are about to make another appearance, and what they divulge will put things in a whole new light. I hope you’ll stick around for that!

Warm regards,

Holly

Julianna!

I’ve been getting a fair amount of email about The Void Chronicles. To be honest, I don’t want to end the series but am excited for the last book; you get to find out how Julianna got to Galea and learn a bit more about the lore.

Well, I am bowing to pressure – my own, (I am REALLY excited about the story!), and my readers, and am working on “The Void Wept”, which is book four.

Let me know in the comments what you enjoyed about the series so far, or what you would like to know more about! =)

Holly

 

Writing Dialogue

I  met someone new at a friend’s house and when she found out I was an author, we chatted a great deal about writing.

It seems a lot of people have a book in them or something they need to get out and onto paper and I want to encourage that. We all have a unique experience to share and if nothing else, I think a lot of our loved ones would like to know more about us, how we see things.

I’m digressing a bit; she made the comment that although she has most of a story draft, she finds dialogue difficult to write. I thought that was funny, because I think it’s some of the easiest bits to get down. 😉

I think one of the first things to remember is that people seldom speak off the cuff in grammatically perfect sentences. I do my best to keep non-dialogue as grammatically correct as a non-English professor can, but think more ‘authentic’ sounding dialogue shouldn’t have that precision. People use ‘um’ or ‘you know’ or any number of imperfect things in their speech and depending on whether they are rushed, thoughtful, surprised or whatever, the cadence and construction of their sentences will be different.

So think of an imaginary scene where your heroine is surprised. “Oh! Well, I mean…” sounds like the beginning of a sentence that shows that emotion.

What if she was annoyed? “Hmm. I’m not sure…” implies thoughtfulness, frustration.

So if you’re writing a particularly difficult scene, try to think of what the first thing out of your mouth would be, and then tailor it the character.

People speaking extemporaneously about a subject they are passionate about will have emotional and cohesive thoughts because they’ve mulled over the subject a bit, so I tend to notice their speeches are less fragmented. Someone lying or caught out and trying to conjure up a story might be evasive or try to deflect attention, so how can you express that in words and a few short descriptive clauses? After a while it becomes fun, especially if you know there is a meta there – that not only is the character surprised but she’s trying to not show it, or perhaps she is charmed by the gesture that surprised her.

Another key thing is developing an idea of how your main characters speak. Everyone – even people in the same family – have speech patterns, preferred words and unique ways they express themselves. If you have any Brit friends you might have heard colourful phrases like “Bob’s your uncle” or “Taking the piss”, so do your characters have a background you can draw from? I don’t mean just a bunch of apostrophes and butchered words that are supposed to pass for some sort of accent and end up being a distraction if there’s a wall of dialogue; based on their background, hobbies, profession and where they grew up, can you pull in little words or turns of phrase that make that character feel a bit different? Pick a few  that you think fit your H/h and sprinkle them in. You can even do this with an ordinary word, like ‘Terrific!’ or ‘Right!’; it doesn’t need to be much deeper than that, although it is nice.

Also, think about the way men and women use words, how their speech is tailored. Women often intersperse supportive or emotion-laden words and phrases, whereas men tend in similar circumstances to see something as a problem solving opportunity, or feel the desire to express strength and confidence. I’ve listened to many girlfriends moan that their boyfriends aren’t great listeners and offer advice to solve problems, when sometimes they just want support or understanding. I think that sums up the differences simply. =)

Probably the last thing I would suggest is to write the dialogue and go back and reread it, but only after you’ve moved well past that scene. See how the lead up, exchange, and subsequent story feel with the dialogue you’ve written. Sometimes in context of the larger scene or narrative it feels appropriate, other times you realise that it’s not as emphatic, (or it’s too strong!), for what you had in mind.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment. =) I’m not always quick in responding, but I do reply eventually. Happy writing! =)

All the best,

Holly

 

 

Yoga and Habits

So I started up with yoga again. I wish it wasn’t quite so expensive, especially since I found a studio I really like with an amazing instructor on Wednesdays, but they are a little pricier than other places. =(

Exercise is difficult for me for a number of reasons. My parents really encouraged academic excellence, so aside from riding a bike with my brother and throwing a baseball around with him too, I didn’t develop any athletic-inclined habits.

I also have several injuries, including being born with flat feet. I have arches but they’re not that great, so running or long walks aren’t very comfortable and can hurt. Add on a broken leg and shoulder and some neck sprains, and it seems I get sore really easily. I am intrigued by weightlifting, but worry about doing it wrong and triggering an old injury.

I also get bored; I need something to engage my mind too, so when I do exercise I try to read, if possible. Luckily yoga engages me on that level, so I am really grateful for that.

But probably the biggest impediment I struggle with is myself. I was brought up with a mentality of ‘number one is expected’, and I am very critical if I don’t do well. So I can’t run very well because of the aforementioned issues? Let the self-recrimination and lectures begin! Other people have it worse, after all! Can’t do an arm bind because bad shoulder doesn’t really work that well? I should be able to loosen it up and at least do better than where I am at! I’m so weak!

I know I shouldn’t think this way about exercise – because part of it is actually NOT doing well, because you need to challenge your body – but it is a difficult adjustment for me. I’m the type of person who can have a perfectly lovely conversation with someone, but ten minutes later I am second-guessing a phrase I used, or whether I lingered too long. I always want to improve, and think everything about me CAN be improved, that I am a very fallible person.

So when I go into yoga classes, see twenty-somethings, (unfortunately no longer me), with great bodies who move more easily then me, I think ‘I will never get there’ and therefore I have failed before beginning, why bother? Luckily in yoga most teachers are very supportive and remind you that every day with your body is different, and it’s important to be there and do something for yourself. This helps me break through my personality flaw of analyzing to a fault and sabotaging something that is potentially good for me.

If I can get to class, it is definitely a reset. I focus on slowing down, watching my breath, and the time goes by pretty quickly. I also end up feeling a little sore but also more flexible and I move more easily and feel a little confident. So why is it still so difficult to break through those bad habits? It’s something I continue to struggle with.

 

 

Exciting News

I was recently contacted by a small Australian publisher, and I have just entered into an agreement with them!

They will have the right to publish Lily and Stuart’s story on iBookstore, in every country that iBookstore has a presence.

This is great for me, because I always had mixed feelings about what I would do if I was contacted by a publisher. The fact that this publisher focuses on iBookstore and I retain all other rights makes me feel a lot more comfortable than I would otherwise. I was also put at ease by the answers to my (rather numerous) questions.

It’s not a vanity imprint (where the author pays a fee), and the publisher has set a tentative date of the end of March to have the books re-released with a new cover.

I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to release. I hope this will be a good experience for my readers (and also for me!).

Warm regards,

Holly

 

Website

So I really dislike my website design.

Although WordPress has a lot of ‘free’ templates, it’s tedious to troll through them. Many don’t offer a lot of customisation unless you purchase them, and I would really like to know that I can customise it the way I want to before I needlessly spend money on a theme only to have to switch to another.

I’ve been trying to find a web designers, with little luck. I don’t know HTML; when I I had a Moveable Type site ages ago I was able to figure out how to change things after a spell, but then they had several updates I didn’t like and I moved to WordPress after having it recommended by other people and seeing it used by blogs I like.

I don’t really want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out pretty web design; I’d prefer to write. So if you come around and see a bunch of change on the site it’s probably me just dinking around trying to make it prettier. =)

Sine Qua Non Cycle

Right now I am writing book two of the Sine Qua Non Cycle and doing a little revision of book one, “And Laugh at Digital Butterflies”. (Taking out the archaic to-day, fixing some formatting).

I really enjoy the sexual awakening aspects of this tale and others – the excitement of trying something new with an adventurous partner, the anticipation, the curiosity, even the apprehension. I really enjoy the powerful CEO (Stuart and Dyson), or warrior, (Tristan), as the hero, I love that archetype of the powerful man.

It’s also fun building new worlds; as much as I love the Pacific Northwest and enjoyed writing Lily and Stuart’s story in my contemporary setting, moving forward, creating a futuristic world where virtual reality and space stations exist was amazing. Trying to make a ‘history’ when there’s no history there, (like the crash of the Splendor, the Indentured Servitude Act, etc), is a challenge. Thirty years ago, who could have imagined cell phones and the net as they are today? Trying to come up with something that is futuristic but not too off the hook lends the story a more authentic feel I believe, and I’ve tried to do that with this series.

If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Warm wishes,

Holly