I don’t know about you, but if I read one more story about a sexy but aloof vampire/werewolf/merman/garden gnome I might drive the stake straight into my own heart. To say that paranormal romance has been done is like saying that Lady Gaga’s outfits are different: the understatement of the century. As a reviewer for the indie book review site, Underground Book Reviews, I get inundated with requests to review paranormal books. The tropes have been beaten to death with sexy, yet tortured super beings and the innocent damsels who love them. Readers are fed up with it. I’ll wage a coffin full of money that if you pitched a vampire paranormal romance to an agent right now, they’d laugh you out the door.
And yet, there’s some reason why Stephenie Meyer can now buy an African country from writing four books.
I’ll be the first to go on record to say that I LOVED the Twilight books when they first came out. I read the first book before anyone was talking about it (I think that puts me in some elite nerd group where the perks are atomic wedgies, but I digress). That book rocked my world. There was something so…addicting about being loved by a creature strong enough to crush you. To be special enough to attract the attention of a super human, now that was sexy. No amount of sour grapes on the part of reviewers can take away what those books did for fantasy writers and reader everywhere.
So, where does that leave us? With stories that are derivative, characters that are more cardboard than a cereal box and plots completely overdone. Do we kill this genre and bury it with a sparkling tomb stone? “Here Lies Vampire Love Stories. RIP.” Like its undead characters, would it rise, moaning, clawing for scraps of life?
Science fiction and romance are my two favorite genres, so I refuse to believe their pairing has been killed. No matter how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches people eat, they still come back for more because the pairing is just so good. So it should be with paranormal romance. The genre doesn’t have to die, but it must be refashioned, reborn. And, that is exactly what I attempted to do with Eyes Ever to the Sky
, my new YA sci fi romance. Did I go far enough from the derivative? Did I hug close enough to the tropes that matter? Only my readers may judge. I will tell you that not a single scene is set inside a high school and not a single character sparkles. That has to count for something.
My conclusion. Paranormal romance is not dead. Derivative stories and fan fic may be on its last straggling breath, but like any genre, authors can remake, reshape and reform. That’s the beauty of story–it can always be made new.
What about you? Do you think Paranormal Romance is dead?
A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Witchblood
by Emma Mills. Since that time I've gotten to know Emma and learned what a hard-working, talented indie author she is. She's released a new Witchblood
short story that I'm pretty excited about. Take a look. Paris, France 1793
Growing up in the court of King Louis XVI, Genevieve enjoys a sheltered privileged life with the gardens of Versailles as her playground, until on the eve of her nineteenth birthday, the king is executed and all hell breaks loose.
As family members and close friends fall prey to the Revolution, Genevieve turns to the one man who promises to help her; the shadowy figure in court, and friend to the elder brother that betrayed them all, but is Sebastian worthy of her trust or will he too betray her?
Genevieve has a choice to make, one that will change her life forever. Go it alone and try to escape the murderous streets of Paris, or join Sebastian, forget her nightmares and start a new life… an immortal life?Where to buy it:AmazonSmashwordsFind Emma Mills:TwitterGoodreadshttps://www.facebook.com/Witchbloodthenovel?ref=hlhttp://witchbloodthenovel.com
It's here, my second novel! I'm so relieved/thrilled/scared/peein-in-my-pants. This book has been a long time coming and I can't wait to hear what you think about it. To celebrate, I'm giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter below. Buy the ebook on Amazon Buy the paperback on CreateSpace l
This past week I was invited to attend a Marine Educator's Experience in Parris Island, SC. As a high school counselor, I talk to students about their plans for the future and sometimes those plans include military. I thought this trip would be a good way to receive first-hand experience about the armed services. What I didn't know was how amazing the trip would be and how it would change my views about Marines, and all armed services, forever.
My four day journey took me straight to Boot Camp where we had our own drill instructor. Even though he gave us about 50% of the yelling and screaming and running around that they give normal recruits, it was enough to help me understand the process. Standing in line, waiting to urinate and hearing "Move! Hurry up! No one waits on you!" was enough to make me nearly pee my pants. We were marched around, told we weren't doing anything right and made to "Step it up" over and over. Nothing we did was good enough. No amount of shouting was ever loud enough. And I could tell our drill instructor wanted to put us in "the pit" (a pit of sand where you do push-up, mountain-climbers and more while being mercilessly yelled at). Luckily, as educators, we were spared that part of the experience.
But then they switched us back into educator mode and gave us demonstrations on water safety instruction, rifles, rappelling, pugil sticks and more. It was amazing to participate in the actual training that make America's Marines. Granted, the real Marines were 100 times better at each event than we were, but it was nice to be right there with them, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear. I am truly amazed and awed by our young men and women who make the commitment to serve our country. It is a sacrifice, one not taken lightly and for that I am very grateful.
My blog is usually geared toward writing, and I was reflecting today on how this experience might enhance my writing career as well as my counseling career. Obviously, I can now describe what it feels like to fire and M-16, or what a mess hall smells like. I can better imagine what a recruit on day 14 thinks about while lying in her bunk at night. All those things and more will make me a better writer. But, more importantly, this experience taught me to be open to new adventures. I am an introvert by nature and a home-body by trade. New experiences scare me and I tend to shy away from them. I think many writers are like me, content to sit in on a Saturday night with a computer on her lap instead of hitting the town. However, I think much is lost if that is all we ever do. To be writers, we need to be able to glean much from the world. The best writers can transport you, body and soul, to wonderful places. Do we need to go to every spot on the world to talk about it in a book? No. Do the best writers seem to know minute details that Google cannot provide? Yes. Though I tend to shy away from new and exciting experiences, I need to push myself. After all, life isn't about what's on the page. It's the memories we make along the way.
A few weeks ago I discussed book marketing strategies I’ve tried in a few posts linked here (part 1
, part 2
and part 3
). Since that time I’ve had the pleasure of trying out a paid blog tour and I wanted to take a minute to blog about my experiences for anyone who’s interested in trying it.
I used Kismet tours
, recommended to me by the fabulous A.G. Henley, but there are many book tour sites to choose from. A few things to note with Kismet. You need to schedule the tour two months in advance. This is difficult for many indie writers because once a book is ready, they want to release it, not wait two months for a special release. I ended up doing the tour long after my book had released, so that aspect didn’t matter much to me. Also, the price is not cheap. I paid $320 for a review tour, but prices go up from there into $530 for the full package. For my review tour I was told I would get up to 30 reviews. It ended up being about 20. I was a little let down. 30 reviews was what I was hoping for, but I understand they cannot guarantee a certain number of reviewers will sign on. As the tour commenced, two of the reviewers pulled out, which dropped my number to about 18. I guess the cut off for the price you pay for is 15, so in the end, I still paid the full amount with the promise that those missing reviewers would try to post their reviews as soon as possible. I have not yet heard if they have done so.
The reviews went on without a hitch though and I got some great feedback and a lot to tweet about and post on Facebook. However, I was disappointed to learn that most reviewers did not post their reviews to Amazon. 15 to 20 more reviews on my Amazon numbers would really be helpful, but even when I contacted the reviewers directly they did not respond, nor did they post to Amazon. Since posting to Amazon takes about ten seconds I was really disappointed in this aspect of the tour.
On to social media. The site also hosts a giveaway and I donated 10 free e-copies that readers could win. To enter they needed to follow me on Facebook or Twitter or tweet about the giveaway. This garnered me a huge following on both sites. Here are the numbers Kismet supplied to me.
The Breeders Goodreads Community Reviews
Start of blog tour (3/24/13) - 391 Reviews/To-Reads
End of blog tour (4/16/13) - 476 Reviews/To-Reads
Percentage change - 22%
Start of blog tour (3/24/13) - 479 followers
End of blog tour (4/16/13) - 1,013 followers
Percentage change - 111%
Facebook Author page:
Start of blog tour (3/24/13) - 902 Likes
End of blog tour (4/16/13) - 1,533 Likes
Percentage change - 70%The bottom line was how did this translate to sales? Well, I check my numbers pretty regularly and I have to say I did not see a change in sales. In fact, sales actually dropped a little during the tour. This is all just anecdotal evidence, but when you do a tour, you are hoping for a sales boost to offset your cost. I did not see that happen.
Overall, the people at Kismet were very nice, very easy to reach and helpful. The reviewers for the most part posted their reviews, but most did not contact me and there was no relationship built, which is a detriment, especially if you want that reviewer to read your later works. The social media piece was good, but where it really counted -- sales -- I did not see the bump I was hoping for.
My conclusion: Next time, I’ll save the money and contact reviewers and bloggers myself. It may be a lot more work, but the price is too steep for the pay out.
So, what about you? What are your experiences with Blog Tours?
To put it mildly, rejection sucks worse than a vampire w/ emphysema. If you are like me, you hate the sting of someone putting you down, of knowing you didn’t meet expectations. I think writers in general are sensitive souls, the kind who can read eighty glowing reviews with a shrug, but if one bad one comes rolling in, they fold like card tables after Bingo night. The bad review has to be the only honest review, right? The rest of those reviewers were being nice or smoking the happy crack when they wrote them. Cue the soul-crushing, chocolate-bingeing depression.
I am a special kind of sensitive. I am what you might call a people pleaser. When I was a child if I did something bad, I often put myself in my bedroom before my parents could. All my caring father had to do was raise his voice in anger and I would burst into uncontrollable sobbing. And I never once received a detention or suspension. I cannot stand if I displease someone or they are unhappy with me. It makes my stomach churn, my pits sweat (thank you extra-strength deodorant) and my mind lock up. I’ll do anything I can to make it right.
So, when I read bad reviews, a kind of self-loathing blackness descends. Let’s look at a few, just for self-torture’s sake. These are for The Breeders
and Nessa: A Breeders Story
. (Not that you’ll likely want to buy them after reading these.)
“I wish I could give this zero stars. I just could not get into this book. I wanted to, but it was just not well written.”
“...as I get about 40% in I see some almost racist typecasting and it makes me disgusted that the author felt the need to do such a thing. It almost appears as though mexicans, native americans or even arabic muslims* are being depicted as barbaric and evil people. The use of language that the author uses for the Riders is blatant and I am almost regretting that I paid her money for this.”
“What a worthless story. Usually I find these stories add or clarify something from the main book. This did not. I'm not sure what the point of it was. And it was RIFE with errors. It's only 39 pages! Give me a break.”
Yeah. Bring on the chocolate and sweatpants. I’m going to bed.
In all seriousness, we all need to learn to adapt to rejection. Writing, like other creative pursuits, invites critics. We ASK people to review and openly critique our work on view for the world. So, what do we do to handle it? Here are some of my unproductive rejection-fighting techniques.
1) Curl up into a ball, curse my life and decide I’m a brainless dolt who’d do better writing copy for laundry detergent bottles.
2) Imagine slow, painful torture to those who oppose me. Search through their reviews for spelling errors and laugh heartily when I find them.
3) Watch a lot of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Drink.
Then, when I want to come out of my funk, I try these.
1) Hit the gym. Pump some butt-kicking music (i.e. Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and the like). Run until I feel like a person again. Punch something, hopefully a bag.
2) Reread the good reviews. Force myself to believe that all these people were not all drinking the same hallucinatorily upbeat Kool-aid.
3) Watch more It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Drink.
Either way, my motto is never give up. Write until those critics have nothing to say. Write until they have to admit that your next book wasn’t so “eh” after all. Just write. In the end, it’s all about how fulfilled I, not my critics, feel at the end of the day.
So, what about you? What do you do to kick rejection in the hiney?
I first met Kimberly Shursen on Review Fuse, a review site were I began my fledgling writing career, posting chapters. This spunky lady gave me what-for and I knew then I needed her straight-forward, tell-it-like-it-is critiquing if I was ever going to be a serious writer. Now, three years later, she is one of my most trusted go-to writing partners. She has just released her stunning debut, Itsty Bitsy Spider. Please welcome Kimberly.
Katie: Tell us about your debut novel.
Kimberly: Itsy Bitsy Spider is the story of Claire McCallin, step-daughter of a powerful Boston mayor, who, with the help of Boston Globe reporter, takes her three-year-old daughter out of the mayor’s Belmont mansion and begins the dangerous journey of taking back her power. It is a political thriller I hope will keep the reader on edge. We hear the many stories of child abuse (like Oprah) who were poor and helpless, but rarely hear stories of the wealthy and powerful with mental illnesses. I thought about this for a long time before I started Itsy Bitsy Spider and knew there had to be many adult children out there who suffered abuse, but were too afraid of the person in power to come forward. Some secrets go to the grave. Mental illness is a family disease. Even if a secret is never divulged or, a family member suspects, everyone is affected. The book will be available in e-format very soon.
Katie: What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Kimberly: Both. The initial plot is in my head, but takes wings of its own after the main characters and plot are developed. I add characters and situations when they pop up into my mind and have a solid reason for adding to and moving the plot forward.
Katie: What about editing? I know you went several rounds on your edits. How do you tackle tough edits and how do you know when a book is truly ready?
Kimberly: For me, editing is as, or even more important, than developing the novel. To really narrow down and take a look at each sentence, each word, each passage and say “Is this what I want to say?” or “Are there words that could describe this better?” You, Katie French, are my writing partner and, when you make a comment like “Get to the point” on the review bar, it pulls me back into writing zone and keeps me focused. Especially on a first book, where you’re presenting yourself for the first time to readers, it is important to have a writing partner I trust and, after Katie’s input, I go back and ask myself before I start editing each chapter, “What is it I want the reader to remember in this chapter and, how can I build into the next chapter so readers don’t want to put my book down?” After these edits are complete, the novel goes to a professional editor which involves more re-writes.
Katie: What's on the docket next for you? What other writing projects do you have planned?
Kimberly: Hush, the present day courtroom drama that revisits the infamous Roe vs. Wade case that legalized abortion, is in the making. Hush is a courtroom drama, but has a sub-plot that offers a thriller edge. I’ve done a lot of research and also have a lawyer friend that I bounce the legal portion of the book off of. Abortion is a subject that has divided our nation. However, since l973, the law has not changed. There is also fact-based information many aren’t aware of on what happens to a fetus after it is aborted. The book is not a no-brainer – no matter if you’re an avid pro-lifer or pro-choicer. Hush is not predictable and I hope the reader will be as torn in their decision as the jury is. The book after this will revolve around a couple and elective euthanasia. All of my books will have a purpose; one I hope will not just entertain, but offer something to think about.
Katie: What made you decide to take the plunge and self-publish?
Kimberly: Oh, I went the journey of writing agents. I either received a form letter or nothing back. I think I did this for a couple of months and then watched author friends take the plunge which gave me the courage to just stop! Stop writing agents who seem to have no time to read or invest in the first book of a new author. I stopped putting hope and trust in others, took a breath and told myself it didn’t matter who published it.
Katie: You have a background in marketing. What are some of your best kept marketing secrets?
Kimberly: Everything under the sun has already been done. There is a fine line in over-marketing and marketing to get readers interested. I don’t know whether I have the key, but I started a gorilla marketing group and gathered thirty authors together. I interview one at a time and the other 29 authors market them. The author’s commitment is to post the interview twice a week for two weeks on all their social sites. Some of the authors have over 3,000 friends on Facebook or linked-in and also have their own blogs. I see posts of authors telling everyone to read their books over and over again as it’s the best book they’ll ever read. Readers tell us if we have a good book and there is no amount of paid reviews or marketing to get our book out there if it’s not well-written. I also invested in a press release using Piece of Cake PR. They have sent out over 2500 dynamite press releases they wrote at an affordable price.
Katie: When you aren't writing what will we find you doing?
Since I left my corporate marketing position to pursue writing full-time, I keep a very strict schedule. I treat writing like a business. I write from six a.m. until two p.m. every day except Sundays. There are some days I work longer, but try to balance my life. I was widowed at a young age and family time with my sons and mother are a priority. I used to golf five times a week but, when I lost my husband who was not only my golf partner, but an avid golfer, I don’t play as much. I work out four times a week, read a lot, interview authors for my blog and soon, when the weather is cordial, you’ll find me outside.
You can find Kimberly on her website
and Itsy Bitsy Spider on Amazon
Have you ever stood naked in front of a group of strangers? Unless you work for the pornography industry or have a propensity for streaking, I'd guess no. I haven't either (thank God), but I have had an experience which I liken to a frolic in your birthday suit. I'm pretty sure hitting the publish button on my debut novel last August felt similar: the toe curling anxiety, the sweating palms, the bashful backing away, covering your genitals. Yet, I digress. I had to face the fact that pretty much everyone I know would read the deepest, strangest parts of my psyche. I had to blush and nod as they discussed particularly embarrassing parts of The Breeders
. My boss brought up the scene where Riley passes a brothel and sees a naked sixty-year-old woman with her saggy breasts in a man's palm. Talk about toe curling. And yet, I survived. I learned to roll with the punches. The problem is I'm about to do it again.
Today I sent the final draft to my lovely editor for a final copy edit. When it comes back, it'll be pretty and pristine and I will have to fight all urges to touch it, lest I mess it up. This is the suck-it-up time. The punch-fear-in-the-face time. Publishing a book puts your feet right to the fire and invites any number of injustices in the form of Amazon reviews that will strip you bare and have you covering your genitals for sure.
So, hopefully by the beginning of May I will be able to unveil my new shiny work-in-progress to you all. In the meantime, here's the teaser in case you missed it last time. When Hugh wakes up in a smoldering crater–no memory, no clothes–a single thought echoes in his head…trust no one. Frightened and alone, with no memory of who he is, he stumbles upon a grisly murder scene and is fatally shot. He wakes, only to find he can heal himself. He has superpowers, and he’s going to need them.
Desperate and bleeding, Hugh stumbles upon fifteen-year-old Cece, who’s got enough troubles of her own. Between caring for her bipolar mother and trying not to get evicted from her run-down trailer, Cece may be the only person struggling as much as Hugh. Drawn to Hugh, Cece finds a love she’s never known. But when the real killer–a man-hunting beast– chooses another victim, Hugh and Cece realize they must unlock the clues to their past if they have any chance at a future.Eyes Ever to the Sky is a Young Adult paranormal romance/hero's origin story with a dash of horror. Audiences who liked I am Number 4 will enjoy this action-packed romance.
A few days ago, as I was watching the critically acclaimed show, The Walking Dead
, I had a thought. Just as Andrea was about to stab a screwdriver into a zombie's eye socket, I wondered what exactly was wrong with me. Just an hour before I was listening to Justin Cronin's The Twelve
, an equally brutal look at possible human annihilation by vampires. Prior to that I was on the treadmill reading Fuse
, Julianna Baggot's masterpiece about survivors of an atomic blast that left them fused to the objects, animals or people they were touching when it detonated. Looking back on my day, I realized there might be something really psychologically wrong with me. Why would I spend copious amounts of time amerced in human destruction? Why would I be draw to stories that start with the basis that everything we love and value has been destroyed? Conclusion: I need a good therapist.
Yet, I am not alone. I know that if you have picked up The Breeders
and liked it, you might be a little sick in the head like me. The third season finale of The Walking Dead pulled in a whopping 12.8 million viewers. Hunger Games
books were on the New York Times Best Seller list for over 100 consecutive weeks. That's a lot of us crazies walking around out there. So, humanity is fascinated with its own demise. But why? Folks, I have a theory.
In general many of us read for entertainment and escape, but those of us who read dystopian also read for a third purpose, to prepare. Do we all think we'll die soon by a North Korean missile and build bomb shelters in our basements? No. But, many of us might wonder, late at night, how we would act if society suddenly came to a halt. Would we be those that took up arms, marched to the aid of others and rallied those left to a new America? Or would we be zombie food? We read to ponder the multitude of ways it could go down. We read to quantify those qualities it takes to overcome. And when and if that bomb drops, we'll be the first to roll out our super secret Zombie survival plan. (Mine includes a visit to my local Outdoor World.)
There's one more reason I believe people read dystopian. There's something so magical about basic human survival. When all this commercial garbage is stripped bare, the human soul and its capacity to overcome is astounding. We know that about our race, that we never go down without a fight. There's a scene in episode two of season two of The Walking Dead where Hershel, the veterinarian turned surgeon, is speaking to Rick. Rick is destraught, wondering what's the point? Why go on in such a broken world? Hershel turns to him and says (I'm paraphrasing here, so don't get mad at me Walking Dead fans). "This is just a bump in the road. It's just nature's way of resetting itself. That's the beauty of humanity, we always overcome." Well said Hershel.
So, my lovely dystopian readers, if you need some recommendations here are some of my recent favorites. Happy reading. Fuse and Pure by Julianna BaggotWool by Hugh HoweyA Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Scourge by A.G. HenleyOpen Minds by Susan Kaye QuinnThe Dog Stars by Peter HellerThe World of Shell and Bone by Adriana Ryan
I first met Adriana Ryan when her title, The World of Shell and Bone
popped up under The Breeders
on Amazon. Once I read her book, I knew we were kindred souls. She will have a new release out soon that I am very excited about. The premise is one that makes you think, "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that." Today she is revealing the cover of her much anticipated book, Secret for a Song
. Check it out. Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.
She ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.
Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives
For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?
Can't wait? Me neither. The book is due out in June and in the meantime check out The World of Shell and Bone.