When the Algorithm Works

Sometimes I buy my own books on Amazon. There are a few reasons for this, the primary one being that some publishers, like Kensington, never give me finished digital versions of my books. That means that the last version I’ll have of any of my Kensington books is the Word document where I reviewed copy edits. Yeah, I can accept all changes and make a reading version to send to my Kindle – and sometimes I do that – but the formatting is funky and there can be distracting errors. So, if I want to revisit one of my books and read it on my Kindle (like if I’m not at home to grab the paper copy, or if I want to search for something and not read on my laptop) then it sometimes makes sense just to buy the ebook.

Yes, it IS kind of weird to buy my own ebook.

But, I figured I get some of that money back in royalties, and it gives the book a bump in the Amazon algorithm, which never hurts.

So, I did this last week with THE TALON OF THE HAWK. I’d just finished reading Kennedy Ryan’s LONG SHOT, which deals with an abusive marriage (and is *excellent*), and it got me thinking about how I dealt with recovery and healing from sexual assault. This isn’t something I mentioned about THE TALON OF THE HAWK for a long time, because it felt spoilery, but the book has been out for enough time now that I think I can. The heroine, Ursula, suffered sexual abuse in her youth and wrestles with the scars it left behind. I wanted to reread what I did as a foil to what Kennedy Ryan did in her book.

It was an interesting exercise, and I learned quite a few things about my own writing.

Anyway, today, I got this email from Amazon with “Since you read THE TALON OF THE HAWK.” I get these all the time, as we all do, and I never open them because Amazon is always wrong. This time, though, I thought I should look, just to *see* what their AI thinks is like my book. Thus the screen shot above.

The Tessa Dare historical romance is a bit of an outlier – though I don’t care since Tessa is wonderful – but otherwise it’s pretty damn close! Go figure. And I’m pretty chuffed to be listed with Anne Bishop and Seanan McGuire! And Jessie Mihalik is my agent-sister and an awesome writer of SFR.

I’m over at The Romance of Reading Facebook page today, talking about The Magic of Books. I’m also doing some book giveaways, so come on by and chat!

Writing Kickass Disabled Heroines (and Heroes)

Disabled Protagonist PanelThis is a great pic of our panel, at RT Convention, on writing disabled characters. From left to right, that’s Sassy Outwater, me, Megan Hart, Damon Suede, Tessa Dare and Linnea Sinclair.

Sassy, who is a passionate activist for accessibility for the disabled put together this panel, inviting authors with books she’d read that she felt portrayed disabled characters in strong, positive ways – sexy ones, even. I tweeted about the panel (NATURALLY) and Carla Richards (@carlarichards) asked me to relay some of our high points.

Of course, this was over a month ago and it *feels* like years ago, but…

We started with introductions and each author discussed the books and characters Sassy had selected. We talked about why we “chose” those characters – sometimes they choose us – and what their various disabilities had to do with the stories themselves.

┬áThe thing about a really good panel is I learn so much from my fellow panelists. I loved hearing about other people’s stories. I’d read – and loved, loved, loved – Megan Hart’s BROKEN, about a woman whose husband suffers an accident and becomes quadriplegic. Damon Suede talked about his characters with PTSD and another with severe injuries. Tessa Dare writes of the impact of chronic diseases in her historical romances, such as the complications of negative rH factor on pregnancies in that era. Linnea has a deaf hero and another with cybernetic prosthetic limbs, following an accident.

I always feel like the non-dramatic one in this context. In fact, I wouldn’t call my heroine in PLATINUM disabled at all, but Sassy insists that’s why she’s a great example. My heroine Althea is albino. This was my follow-up to SAPPHIRE and I was playing with the impact of color in stories. I knew I wanted the book to be about a metal sculptor and the images of white-platinum. I wanted a heroine with that coloring – and for him to be attracted to her for that reason.

As I read up on what it’s like to be albino – and this was one of the questions for the panel, how we did our research. I did mine by reading an albino girl’s blog where she journaled very frankly about her condition – and discovered many things I hadn’t known. The tremendously increased incidence of skin cancers and, very interestingly, poor eyesight. This dovetailed perfectly with my heroine because I wanted her to be a failed artist. I tied in her difficulty with fine vision to her inability to paint the delicate watercolors she felt compelled by her culture to create. In the end, through her love affair with the sculptor, she finds other ways to express herself.

So, there’s a couple of key factors here, that arose over and over in the panel. I’ll try to encapsulate them.

  1. The disability was always a key part of who the person is. It shapes their lives, their outlook, what they can and cannot do, how other people treat them. We all agreed that the syndrome of having a character with a disability that doesn’t actually give them problems is weak writing.
  2. None of us had “magic fixes” for our disabled characters. They all had the same (or worsening) disability at the end of the story as at the beginning. The stories were never about curing the person, but about how they lived with it and achieved their goals.
  3. For most of us, the person was loved in part because of who they became as a result of the disability. Their loves appreciated their inner strength, their struggles, their joy in what they were able to do, and took part in that journey. In several cases – like mine – the disability contributed to their particular attractiveness.
  4. Sometimes the plot, the internal and external conflicts, hinged around dealing with the disability. Sometimes it was a subplot. Sometimes it didn’t matter to the conflict much at all. This is key because for all of us the STORY mattered, not expounding on the disability.
  5. Everyone agreed that doing research is key. Sassy, in particular, emphasized that most people dealing with disabilities are delighted to answer honest, heartfelt questions about what their lives are like. They’d much rather give good information than see nonsense perpetuated in fiction.

For those who were there, anything I forgot to mention? Or do you all have other additions or questions?

All in all, it was a terrific panel that I’d love to see again. Big-brimmed hat’s off to Sassy for organizing. Speaking of which, she’s in the hospital right now recuperating from brain surgery to remove tumors. (Yes, related to the blindness.) She can use all the positive thoughts she can get, so send them her way!

 

 

Almost New Year PARTAY

The Talon of the HawkAs the year draws to a close, we’re in the final round of The Hottest Heroine Cover contest. We all know Ursula is the hottest – and not because she has a big-ass sword. And she’s running second to a drowning girl. We can’t have that! You can vote and enter the giveaway or not, as you please.

Tonight – December 30 – from 7-9 pm Eastern Time (6-8 CT/5-7 MT/4-6 PT, for those of you who hate math), I’ll be hanging with some of my favorite naughty authors on Facebook for a Not Quite New Year’s Eve/Saved The Best For Last Facebook Party. The party crew includes Anne Calhoun, Tessa Dare, Megan Mulry, Miranda Neville and Maisey Yates. Expect lots of wordswag, great giveaways and plenty of saucy conversation. Stop on by and have some pre-New Year’s Eve fun!

 

RT 2011 – the recap


In no particular order, because it’s all a blur at this point. I really thought I’d keep up, but no. I blame Twitter this time. So easy to tweet pics in real time.

At any rate, this is me (duh) at the eBook eXpo signing. (No, that’s not their capitalization, it’s mine – but wouldn’t that be cool?) I went with roses, for the Petals & Thorns theme. One guy stopped and told me I’d done a great job and that he does product placement for movies, so he knows of what he speaks. This is what you get when you have a gig in Los Angeles.

Still I was pleased and it went great.

I love this pic of Tessa Dare, Victoria Dahl and Courtney Milan, who kept cracking up while posing.

I put in a little pool time and, sweet serendipity, there just happened to be a shirtless photo shoot for Mr. Romance.
My toes, for verisimilitude.
Marcella received her trophy for Best Futuristic Romance. The trophy is super-sexy.
And here she is, chatting it up with readers and booksellers at Club RT.
Allison, doing likewise.
Marcella in Faerie mode, offering advice.
Here’s Danielle Poiesz, formerly of Pocket Books, now with the Sekrit Projekt at Penguin, which she revealed at the conference to be xxxx. Oops, I can’t say online yet. If you’d been at RT, you’d know. Just saying…
Here she is giving a demo to a bunch of potential beta testers.
She arrived at the Vampire Ball as Buffy.
And demonstrated her mad staking skills.
Danielle met up with agent Suzie Townsend for dinner. They both had to finish urgent tweeting before they could be fully social.