Hard to believe that my third Falling Under book, UNDER CONTRACT, comes out in less than a month! Let me know if you’d like a review copy or want to be part of the blog tour.
A few months ago I made a deliberate effort to switch up my filter bubble. If you don’t know what that is, Eli Pariser gave a great TED Talk about it, which really opened my eyes to the problem. Essentially, social media is both deliberately and accidentally pruning the information we see. Facebook promotes both the people it thinks we interact with most and what stories they want us to see. When we search on Google, the results are tailored to where we are, what we usually look at and, again, what they want us to see. On Twitter, I use lists to do my own pruning, so I can manage the flow of information. I have the people I follow sorted into groups like Friends, Writing Friends, Writing Community, Readers, Agents/Editors, and so forth. I have the columns for each list set up in the order I most want to see them – Direct messages is on the farthest left, then Notifications, Mentions, Friends, etc.
I sometimes switch people in and out of lists, but I’d kept the same order for a long time. Until last February when I went to the Coastal Magic Convention. (Speaking of which – I’m going again next year and it’s one of the most fun, relaxed and reader/author friendly conventions ever. Registration opens June 30. You can like the Facebook page to keep abreast of updates.)
At that time, the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey was about to come out. Predictably, my timelines were full of criticism for the books, the author, the social/political implications and, in anticipation, the movie. A lot of authors and publishing industry folks have mad hate for all of these things, for myriad reasons. They cite bad writing a lot. Many people want to upvote “good” romance, erotica and BDSM in its place. If you looked at my typical feed alone, you’d be mystified that this franchise is at all successful. Pretty much everyone in that particular bubble hates on it.
So, imagine my surprise at going to this reader convention where pretty much everyone THERE was excitedly talking up the movie. They could not wait. No one said anything about bad writing or social/political implications. They loved the books, the author and, in anticipation, the movie. One gal mentioned to me that 25 book bloggers had been selected to attend the premier, she referenced it offhand, by way of telling me a story about the contest to select them. I said I’d had no idea about that. (And how smart of the movie studio, huh?) She gave me a funny look and said, “What rock have you been under?”
My filter bubble one.
It was such a relief to hear from the readers, to hear their pure love for the books instead of the relentless criticism. And isn’t that what I need to hear about, as an author? I want to know what the READERS want, not what other authors think.
So, I deliberately switched things up. I moved my Twitter columns around, varying which columns sit in my most-looked-at positions. On Facebook, I made a point of looking up people I don’t see in my feed much and interacting with them – particularly readers and book bloggers – so they’d get promoted in my feed.
And it worked!
Yesterday, one of my author friends – who is a bestie, so she’s always high in my feed – commented that she was bummed about all the hate in *her* timeline for the new Fifty Shades book, Grey. It’s essentially the same story as the first book, but told from Grey’s point of view. I had not seen much of the hate! I’d been seeing excitement from readers as they snapped up the book on release day, devoured it, and happily discussed.
Total win – because what the readers love is what I want to know about.
Happy weekend everyone!
Many things going on today. Why today, I don’t know. Beware the Ides of October?
Finally, the BDSM Goodreads group is featuring Ruby on the group homepage. You can listen to a clip of it, which is really quite fun, I think. There’s also an interview with me, in case you don’t know everything already. :-p
That’s stuff for Covenant of Thorns, Twelve Kingdoms and Facets of Passion, all on one day. What I get for simultaneously writing erotic romance, fantasy romance and fantasy.
It’s funny because I was at a conference this last weekend sponsored by a non-RWA writers’ organization. So the attendees wrote in a wide mix of genres. I gave a workshop called “More than Wham, Bam, Thank-you Ma’am: Wooing the Female Reader.” I wanted to make the case for adding love and sex to a story in ways that appeal to women. A number of the writers present came from a more hard-core epic fantasy lens. In fact, one guy handed me his book to peruse and, though the jacket copy mentioned probably five or six characters, not one was female. I nearly said I’d never read a book that doesn’t even mention a female character in the jacket copy, but I figured he wouldn’t care. I wasn’t his reader.
But I think I did take people aback a bit – even though I dedicated a slide at the start to a Fair Warning! that I write erotic romance and talk frankly about sex. A few people did leave, but more stayed. We had a great discussion. One question that comes up over and over is if I admit publicly to being a writer of erotic romance.
I find it funny that people ask that question. As if it’s something to hide, possibly to be ashamed of.
The gal who gave the opening luncheon address tossed off a remark that she wouldn’t want E.L. James’ paycheck (the writer of Fifty Shades of Grey) because she wouldn’t be able to face her grandchildren.
It struck me as a very odd thing to say.
After all, I have grandchildren. They’re obviously too young to understand now, but when they grow up, I’d be honest about what I write. I’d hope that they’d be proud to have me for a grandmother.
At a neighborhood party recently, the mother of three kids down the road said something interesting to me. She told me that she grew up in a farming community, filled with corn and conservative people. I wasn’t sure why she was telling me about it, but she finally said, “I am just so happy that my kids are growing up in a neighborhood where an erotic romance writer lives up the street. Even if they can’t read your books, it’s so good for them to know amazing people like you.”
It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.
Last week, there was quite a bit of discussion regarding a blog post from a librarian. It was kind of an odd post, with a number of internal conflicts. Basically she said people should stop criticizing readers of Fifty Shades of Grey, because people should be able to read what they want to read. Then, in the next breath, she declared that serious readers never read Harlequin romances. Other librarians, bloggers and reviewers passed the link around, straining their brains to understand how she could believe both things. And, of course, it all prompted declarations that they were not serious readers. (It was generally agreed that serious readers frown a lot.) I believe there may be a t-shirt in the works.
The thing is, I don’t think her opinions can be parsed, because she’s really just declaring her own preferences. She liked Fifty Shades. She doesn’t like Harlequins. Okay. What’s salient is that preferences aren’t really arguable. In fact, they’re mainly affectations.
When we’re young, we establish likes and dislikes as a way of defining ourselves. You know – “I like purple. Unicorns are my favorite animal. I hate broccoli.” In fact, if you ask an adult what their favorite color is, I bet most will reflexively tell you the color they picked as a child. If you press them, most will say that they like lots of colors now. It’s no longer so important to have One Favorite Color because, as a mature adult, you’re more complex than that. You’re about far more than a favorite animal and most hated vegetable.
I think this is why it gets so much more difficult later in life to reel off the favorite author, book, song, movie, etc. If you’ve led a full life, you have long lists of these things. The book I loved when I was 16 is not the book I loved when I was 21 and is not the book I love today. For a long time, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was my favorite song. I still like it, but it doesn’t hold the resonance it once did, back when I was in my early 20s. Things change. I’ve changed.
To me, this is where stuff like “serious readers don’t…” comes from. The person saying it wants to define herself in a particular way, so she makes a list of what she does and doesn’t like. But, really, reading should be about what she gets out of it – not what other people think about her. It’s like the people who make a big point about declaring that they hate something very popular. I saw a writer the other day declare that she would never lower herself to read Harry Potter. Now, I read the first couple books and I freely admit that I didn’t love them. Certainly not the way so many others did. They just didn’t sing to me. But this gal wanted us to know that she is a free-thinking individual, evidenced by her refusal to read something popular. She also seemed to think Harry Potter started the fantasy genre, which was mind-boggling to me, but that’s neither here nor there.
What I’m saying is, the fact that I never really got into Harry Potter doesn’t say anything interesting about who I am. I enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey, I still think Ann Patchett is an amazing writer, though I didn’t love her last book. None of this makes me more or less serious about reading than anyone else.
I just love to read. Period. And that, I think, says something about who I am.
But, if there is a t-shirt? I totally want one.
I dipped into Goodreads yesterday and looked at some of the reviews and ratings for Rogue’s Pawn. I don’t do this all that often. Mostly I try not to read all my reviews and ratings. I look at the ones people tag me with, especially when a reviewer went to a lot of effort to write a long and thoughtful review. But, for the most part, I think the Goodreads ratings are for other readers and aren’t really my business to helicopter over.
Besides – that kind of thing can make you crazy.
But, on impulse yesterday, I took a quick gander (I think this link will work, even if you’re not a member) and I’m so delighted that readers seems to be loving it for all the reasons I hoped they would. Near the top I saw a two-star rating – alas – and saw that she started off saying she wanted to like it and the writing is “clean and direct and intelligent” (thank you!), but that she was going to say what no one else would: that she didn’t like it being so “Fifty Shades of Fae.”
I just busted out laughing.
I mean – how clever is that?
She is, of course, referring to the erotic phenomFifty Shades of Grey and sinceRogue’s Pawn is absolutely about Faerie and the fae, the play on the title is apt. I also see why she got that vibe, though the book is not a BDSM story like Fifty Shades. But, thereare elements of power, control and submission. Because that’s just what seems to come out in my writing. My hero and heroine, Rogue and Gwynn, struggle with each other for mastery. It’s not a kinky game, though. It’s about life and death, magic and freedom.
Still – I confess I just love the tagline “Fifty Shades of Fae.”
I find it clever, funny, oddly apt and flattering in a way she might not have intended. After all, being connected to something everyone recognizes is a wonderful gift.
So is the laugh.
We got snow. A lovely, soaking snow that started in the afternoon and continued through the night. The ground is busily sucking up the much-needed moisture. Don’t worry – the spring flowers are fine. I only wish you could hear the birdsong soundtrack that goes with this photo.
Also, big shout out to Marcella Burnard, friend and critique partner, whose sexy novella Enemy Mine releases today! She’ll be visiting the blog tomorrow, when she plans to blame it all on me, as I understand. Despite that threat, I plan to give away a copy to a carefully chosen commenter.
But that’s not why you’re here, is it? You want to know how to become a phenomenon.
Don’t we all.
I’m hearing this discussion a lot lately, especially with the sudden frenzy over 50 Shades of Grey. My mom sent me this link the other day, to the Fifty Shades Frenzy video. It’s not that long and kind of fun to watch, if only for the sheer enthusiasm of these women, lighting up over the book. My mom then commented, “she stole your idea!”
This is why we love our mothers.
Indeed, author after author on Twitter has been reporting various family members contacting them, asking if they’ve hear of this book. Suddenly what a lot of us have been writing for some time has been catapulted into the public eye – and approval, even. Suddenly people have heard of what we write.
And people are working the angles.
Some writers are tearing out their hair that this particular book is the one to hit, analyzing its many flaws. Others are talking about how their genre is HOT now and how to capitalize on that. Mostly what everyone wants to do is figure out is the magic formula. Why THIS book??
Mostly, we are jealous.
I mean, I am jealous.
I know it’s low of me, an unflattering insight into my less than sterling character. But there it is. I want for my books what this book is getting. The love, the notice. Chocolate-covered heroin, doncha know. The money would be nice, too.
The thing is, though, I think this is an impossible question. A while back I posted about the interview between JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey, where they discussed what it’s like to become a phenomenon and why it happened to them. They don’t know either. They were right there, creating the thing and they have no idea. If you watch the Fifty Shades Frenzy video to the end, you’ll see an interview with EL James. SHE has no idea either. You’ll see – this is not a woman who’s a sharp marketer or calculated her way to the hearts of the ladies in the video. She simply started writing her spin-off fantasy of Twilight and BOOM!
(It should be pointed out that, despite its apparent sudden advent into public awareness, this is not an overnight boom. I read the book over a year ago.)
So, even as I rummage in my desk drawer for chocolate, because there is no chocolate-covered heroin available, stewing because other people have what I want, I know it’s all the merry-go-round. It’s all lights, tinkling music and fake horses. Up and down, round and round. Until you’re vaguely queasy and wondering why the ride sounded so appealing in the first place.
Figuring out how to be a phenomenon is like figuring out how to win the lottery.
My friend from college who has a masters in statistics was posting some numbers the other day. She said that the odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery were 1:175,711,536. This compared to the odds of dying in a plane crash (1:29,400,000) or being hit by lightning (1:10,000). Looking only at the number of books published in the US in 2009 (the easiest number I could find), the odds of having the stand-0ut book of that year would be 1:288,355. I’m betting that number doesn’t include self-published books either, which is how Fifty Shades started out.
How we’d define phenomena like Fifty Shades, or empires from the Twilight or the Harry Potter books, I have no idea. This is why *I* don’t have a masters in statistics.
Suffice to say, stay inside during thunderstorms and don’t worry so much about flying.
We can write good books while doing both of these things.
A flock of evening grosbeaks came through and hit our feeder hard for a couple of hours at the beginning of March. (Sorry – it’s been a busy month.) They descended like a brilliant yellow cloud, here and gone again, the proverbial ray of sunshine.
I grew up in a suburban housing development where most of the summer activities revolved around the pool. Many of my childhood memories involve long hot days – or chilly days, seeing as how it was Denver – swimming and splashing around. We created tricks to learn, like holding breath and doing handstands or consecutive summersaults with inflatable balls as the pivot.
For holidays and special events, the adults organized competitions. One year, for 4th of July, they lined up all the kids on the edges of the pool. Glittering on the bottom, were coins, all denominations, some real money, some tokens for prizes. When the whistle blew, we were to dive in and grab what we could.
You can imagine the chaos.
The water was icy cold and, though, I could dive down, it was difficult to resurface with so many kids in the pool. Flailing limbs hit me in the face. Water went up my nose. Scrambling hands seized the coins before I could reach them. I felt like I was drowning.
When I think about competition, this is the kind of visceral response I get. My heart strains, my chest clutches. I’m drowning again. Just to grab some quarters.
Today they’re announcing the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards. The phone calls are going out this morning, rolling out to the east coast folks first and following the sun across the country. And yes, Sapphire could maybe be a finalist.
There are good reasons why it likely won’t be. Strongly erotic novels usually don’t final. I’m not sure one ever has. And the finalists already listed are BIG NAME authors. Nora Roberts is up there for one of her J.D. Robb novellas – a series that continues to be my favorite – so for Sapphire to final would be like a newbie actress being nominated for an Oscar along with Meryl Streep.
Or like me trying to grab that dollar coin from the bigger boys.
So, I really try not to dive in. I try to save my swimming for another day, when it’s all about the fun and not about striving for prizes. I realize this makes me the too-skinny girl sitting on the side of the pool. There are other ways to get shiny dollar coins.
For example, last week this gal tagged me on Twitter about a blog post she’d written. She discussed the phenomenon of the self published, formerly Twilight fan-fic BDSM book Fifty Shades of Grey. She also recommended two of my books – Petals and Thorns and Sapphire – instead.
Better than a shiny coin any day.
And I didn’t even have to half-drown for it.
Good luck, everyone!