What makes a story great?

take-532097.jpg

Of all the movies we’ve watched, of all the books we’ve read, why do some stand out and others are forgotten as quickly as they were picked up?  What is that thing that makes us live in the story, long for it, and embellish on the world created by another?  For centuries, people have been trying to put their finger on that spark of amazement so that others can finally understand, but so far, no one has managed.

And if you think I have the answer, you’re wrong.

I wonder about this every single time I write a book.  As I edit it, I fret that I’ve missed it, or that my best attempts will never ensnare my readers.  I honestly don’t know what makes that kind of greatness, but I try, and I’m going to keep trying until I’ve found it.  (Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to blog about it when I do!)

Now, all of this came up because I was talking about Star Wars the other night with my husband.  I don’t believe it’s the “magic” (force) in the story that has turned so many children into lifelong fans.  I don’t think that part of the fantasy is what makes that series into something so life changing.  I mean, dozens of books have better, more fleshed out, and much more interesting magic styles.  So, if not magic, then what?

Is it the blending of genres?  Star Wars is a beautiful mix of science and fantasy.  What with the overarching evil power (the dark side) and the sadly outclassed heroes, we’re walking straight down the typical fantasy genre tropes.  Add in some space ships, a few ray guns, and a lot of planet hopping, and well… it’s good.  But no, I don’t think that’s the secret, either.  I mean, why did Star Wars excel at the theater, but Jupiter Ascending pretty much flopped?  Granted, I kinda liked Jupiter Ascending, too, but I’ve never been known for my good taste.

But anyways, back to the point.  My husband, being the ever pragmatic man that he is, had a theory, and I think it’s a damned good one.  Keep in mind, this is coming from a man who is married to an author but has always hated reading.  He tells me that he’ll wait for the movies to come out so he can see how good my books are.  Ugh!  It’s a good thing he’s perfect, otherwise I might strangle him!

As for his theory?  He says Star Wars stuck with him for so long because of the characters and the universe.  The world was diverse, with its own rules – and ones that didn’t always play FOR the good guys.  In fact, all too often, the world just kept on doing its thing, and the people in it didn’t really change much at that moment.  Huh, kinda like in reality.

And the people?  You have a displaced princess with a superiority complex, an annoying farm boy, a criminal and his scary, hairy pal, and some expensive technical toys – er, droids.  But they’re all so much more than that.  Leia was strong and weak in her own way, but she wouldn’t back down.  Luke was determined and proud, but ignorant of so much.  Han Solo had the charm, the jokes, and all the makings for the leading man, but he wasn’t the hero of this story.  He was the sidekick.  Never mind the actual sidekicks!  A Wookiee who never had his language translated at the bottom of the screen?  Talk about getting sucked right into the story, lost in the fantasy of it, and feeling like you’re standing right there beside them!  Oh, and of course that annoying micromanager and his buddy who talks behind his back.  Yeah, we’ve all known people like those droids, but these were programmed to be like that… which makes you wonder why someone would have wanted them to be that way.

See?  The characters brought up questions, and each one sucked the viewer a little deeper into the abyss of imagination.  All the mismatched elements added up to something so much larger than an orphan “chosen one” with magical powers meant to save the universe.  This wasn’t a story about that.  It was a story about the people carried along in all of that and how that affected them.  This was a story about characters, from the bounty hunter who had screen time measured in seconds but is still a fan favorite to the mentor who really wasn’t that popular until much later.  Star Wars made people think about the act of being PEOPLE.

I don’t know if that’s really why some stories matter more than others, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s true.  I’m an eternal optimist, and I always want to write the happy things.  I really want to pamper my invented creatures and leave them better off than I found them, but it doesn’t work like that.  Every trial my characters face is a chance for them to grow.  It’s not torture, it’s opportunity, all wrapped up in the agony of living a real life.  The more real my characters feel, regardless of how impossible their world is, the more the reader slides deeper in the story.  The longer they face problems, the more the book pulls at me (or movie) and makes me want to keep turning the page.

And when I look at my other beloved stories, I see the same thing over and over.  Watership Down, Alice in Wonderland, The Dragon Riders of Pern, The Last Unicorn, or even Harry Potter.  They aren’t stories about fantasy.  They’re stories about the human condition, set in a way that makes it easier to isolate the specific trial that most people never realize they’re facing in their daily life.  They’re stories we can all understand because we’ve been that person.

Now, the big question is, do I understand humanity well enough to convey that in my wildest imagination?  I honestly don’t know, but I’m going to try.  You’ll have to tell me if I ever succeed.

I had to give up on a book

brakage_wip__by_remton-d5374x5.jpg

Every so often, a writer has a brilliant idea that gets spoiled by current events.  This is mine.  It’s only the first few paragraphs of a novel that I’d put on the back burner due to time constraints, but even those touch on some subjects that are a little too sensitive now.

And I don’t think politics makes for very good writing – at least not the kind that gets an audience before the author dies!  What I tried to do was take both liberal and conservative ideas and show just how easy it is to give away our freedoms with good intentions.  Even worse, the leader of this great nation, Usonia?  Yeah, I had a charismatic blonde guy.  Oops!

And while I had so much anticipation for this book with the active camo, futuristic weapons, awesome helicopters, and rebellion theme stolen from all great dystopian novels, I’m putting this one in the “let it rest for a decade” folder.  I just can’t figure out how to rework the plot without falling into another political quagmire, so I just won’t bother.

 

Begun November 2014 – A Dystopian novel by Auryn Hadley, title to be determined.

It didn’t happen over night. It didn’t even happen over a decade. It took well over a century for people to vote away their freedoms, and it started small, like these things always do. Someone hijacked a plane, so we restricted who could travel by air. Someone used a gun in a school, so we restricted who could own them. Someone organized all of it through email, so our digital privacy was removed. The arguments always made sense, and they were always in response to fear.

It was so easy to claim we were protecting ourselves. We built fences around the country so that foreigners couldn’t sneak in. Next, we added military to secure it. Soon the states made their own fences, isolating themselves even further. When morality was blamed, religion was mandated. Then parenting became the scapegoat and reproduction was controlled – every woman would have exactly one child. A national language was chosen and specific topics were prohibited from open discussion. No longer could we rant about race or religion, and politics was only discussed in agreeable tones.

It didn’t take long before the government was making all of our choices. In 2154, the citizens of the Republic of Usonia voted to let aptitude testing determine our future profession. We were assigned to jobs so that we no longer had to worry about unemployment. Our wages were automatically deposited in our government issued and protected bank accounts, our taxes automatically taken out. There was nothing left to worry about. Our lives were made simple and predictable. We didn’t have to bother thinking or planning, we just had to follow the steps.

My name is Sloane Maddox, and I’m a journalist for National News. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway. I hung on every printed word in a Dr. Seuss book, and devoured anything by C. S. Lewis that I could find. Douglas Adams and George R. R. Martin shaped my most formative years. I wanted to delve into the fantastical and make it come alive for others. Instead, I write just the truth – but only in the way management wants me to interpret it. You see, in the twentieth century, they called it “propaganda”. In the twenty-first, it was “spin”. Now, in the twenty-second century, they just call it “truth”.

It’s bullshit, and I want my freedom back.

 

Tonight, while looking for something else, I once again stumbled upon this file and thought I would share.  Maybe I’m mourning it a bit.  Maybe I’m just trying to procrastinate.  I honestly don’t know.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to get it back on track.  A new villain is just the first step.

Why I love giving my books away.

iliri-banner

I’m sure anyone who follows an author on social media has seen one of these.  You know, those nearly ranting posts about how hard we as authors work to make the stories for you to love?  Typically, they’re followed with a rational and almost sensible sounding argument about how it, therefore, doesn’t make sense to give our books away?

Yeah, I disagree.

You see, I work hard on my books.  I put everything into them, often disappearing from the world for weeks on end, only resurfacing when my friends and family try to stage something like an intervention (which usually is met with, “Go away, I’m on a deadline.”)  I invest in covers, editing, and all the other bookish things that we authors do that readers don’t really care about because it’s not their problem.  Yeah, I also get that last part.

wolf-of-oberhameSee, it’s not my readers’ problem that making a living in a luxury market isn’t just a piece of cake.  Nor is it their “problem” that there’s a jillion and one brilliant authors out there that I’m kinda competing with.  (I say “kinda” because let’s be honest, no author will ever write fast enough to truly compete with others.  It’s more of a finding a fan base and networking thing for us.)  For my readers, all they care about is that they FOUND a good book (thanks to me slaving over marketing avenues) and they can afford to try it (thanks to Kindle Unlimited or competitive pricing) and when they read it the whole way through, they’re happy with the story and the quality of the book they spent their hard earned money on (thanks to MY hard work because I only turn out the best product I can).

And when all those things come together, I just got me a new fan for life – or until I screw them over by cheating on my current standards.  One of the easiest ways to do this (find the readers) is with a free book.  That takes out one of the pieces of the equation because, let’s face it, free is affordable for everyone.

Seriously, how many of you found your favorite author with a free or loaned book?  How many of you got sucked into a series because a friend said, “Oh, I just finished this.  You should read it!” and then you have to buy the next twenty books in the series because your OCD set in and you can’t live without knowing what happened in the end?  How many of you clicked on that free ebook link and then bought not just the rest of the series, but every single book that author ever wrote, and signed up for their mailing list, followed them on Amazon, and stalk their social media regularly.  (Yeah, I know who you are… and I love you people!)

OMD paperback frontAhem.  But anyways…  My point is that I love the days I give away my books.  I love the chances to hand out some free paperbacks.  Recently, when I was in the hospital, I had my husband bring up the extra copies of One More Day I’d ordered.  I figured that a book about cancer had a pretty good chance of being interesting to my nurses, phlebotomists, lab techs, and most of the medical staff who put up with all my piss (kinda literally, since it was a kidney stone that did me in).  It’s a way to say thank you, and the look on their faces?

That’s worth every single second I put into typing out the book that I really enjoyed creating anyway.

Which brings me to another point.  For my gamer friends out there, I know you’ve seen this – especially in MMOs.  “I worked hard for that.”  The whine is prevalent in just about every aspect of our lives, but working is NOT what you do in a game.  By its very definition, it is anything BUT work.  And when you love your job?  The complaint about the hours you slave over something is kinda the same.

Now, I’m NOT saying that authors don’t deserve to get paid for what they do.  Just like any other artist, we are the creators.  We bring ideas to tangibility that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  We’re the ones who give our readers a few hours of escape from the doldrum of reality.  And that’s not just a job, but one that deserves to be compensated.  It’s work, and if we’re doing it right, it’s HARD work.

gamer-girlsBut it’s still ok to be generous.  I still write letters for my mother.  I help my father with his facebook.  I read manuscripts for my writing partner.  I do all of this for free, and it’s no different than the things I do for my “real job” as an author.  I do them as a favor for the people who matter to me, just like a sale or a few days of offering my book for free, or handing out those paperbacks isn’t the norm.  I balance my goal (helping my friends and family, finding new fans, making someone’s day a little better) against what I’m giving up (time spent writing some more!  Whee!).

To me, that little speck of joy I get back is payment.  I may not be able to put it in the bank, but when the situation is right, the budget can afford it, and my fans have once again proven just how great they are?  Yeah, I’m gonna pay them back because I seem to understand one VERY important thing that a lot of authors just can’t wrap their minds around.

We, the authors, can never get ahead without the support of our readers, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with bribing y’all to make sure it happens.

auryn-banner

 

 

The Confusing Life of a Woman

pexels-photo-12344As an author, gender roles are something I need to think about.  I have to be wary of the easy traps that are cliche, and the sexist roles that can harm my characters.  The society driven desires that are mandated don’t necessarily ring true to the readers, and this means my story will be the one to suffer.

Luckily, I’ve lead a life that defies most of those, while making me a little bit “girly”.  My husband loves that part the most.  He adores my addiction to fingernail polish and my love affair with lipstick.  That my favorite “comfy clothes” is a loose and sexy dress makes him smile every time I pull it on.  And then I wear it to mow the lawn.

I’ve owned three businesses.  One I sold, one I turned into a hobby because it was still fun but no longer profitable, and the last is how I hope to retire – as an author.  I’ve managed crews, hired, fired, and resigned for ethical reasons.  I’ve carried a gun as part of my job and written about problems with current gun laws for another.  I know the difference between AMD and INTEL, why CUDA cores are important, and how to overclock my own computer.  I also know how to read lab results for my own bloodwork, can streak an agar plate without thinking about it, and have not only seen a man’s chest cracked open, but also had the chance to revive a little of puppies after being born by cesarian section.  And yeah, I started out taking orders in a drive through window and ringing up customers at a retail store for Christmas.

In other words, I’ve lived.  Kinda hard.

sunset-hairI pierced my belly button, my nose, and my tongue.  I took them out when I got bored of that look.  When I turned 40, I got a tattoo – and then a second.  I’ve been fat and I’ve been thin.  I can’t remember my natural hair color, but I know I always called it “mouse blonde”, and I hated it.  Right now, it’s sunset.  I really like it like this, so it’ll probably stay some version of sunset for the next few years because I’m loyal to things that work for me.

But through all of that, I always remember the things I was told I shouldn’t do.  I shouldn’t wear black, because it made me look too old.  I shouldn’t dye my hair that color because I’d never get a job (and yet it never stopped me, huh).  I shouldn’t wear those heels because they looked trashy, or that sweater looked frumpy.  I was too old to get a tattoo, and the one I wanted was too big.  My hair was too short, or too long.  I dated too many men, or not enough.  I needed to think about marriage, or I married the wrong man.  (Then again, I did, but moms have a way of knowing those things.  I got it right the second time, though.)

And now, as an author, I see even more societal declarations that are heaped on women.  Heroines in stories live like I did – but when I was doing it?  Oh no!  Those impulsive relationships that were so intense were abhorrent.  Little fact here, my amazing husband of 12 years moved in after 11 days because we had a case of insta-love.  My failed first husband?  A year wasn’t enough time to realize that he had a problem with being a decent human being.

sky-woman-clouds-sun.jpgMy point is that no matter how successful I’ve been, someone else always judged me as a failure because I defied whatever it was they assumed made success.  Now, I’m at that age where I can look back and laugh.  I am happy with the person I’ve become.  I may not be like most people, but none of us are.  I’m bold and brazen, but I still know that tiny voice that screams in everyone’s head, reminding us of what we couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

And all of this goes into my writing.  These life experiences shape the characters I make, and I like to think that it gives them a touch of reality.

But stop for a second, and think about the difference between what we expect from a good heroine and from a good young lady in real life.  We root for the woman who takes risks, fails, and picks herself back up in a book.  In our real life, we laugh at that same person behind her back, relishing that we told her so, and think we’re so much better because we took the safe and boring path.  We devour stories about young love and hot romance, while calling the real women willing to risk their heart sluts and scoffing at how easy she is.  Over and over, we women are raised with this conflicting set of expectations.  It isn’t until we’re too old to enjoy our youth that we finally realize that no matter what, we’re going to let everyone down – while being raised in a world that teaches us that’s the worst thing that could ever happen.

couple-814825.jpgAnd so, to every person out there, struggling against the stereotypes of life – man, woman, or anything in between – I just want you to know that it doesn’t matter.  Blaze your own path.  Live your OWN life.  If people don’t like it, just know that they won’t like anything you do – and that’s ok.  The only person we need to make happy is ourselves.  We need to stop thinking about what everyone else is convinced we must do, and figure out what it is that WE, the people living these lives, really want for ourselves.

And then we need to stop telling others that it’s the path for them.

 

 

 

Female Villains and Heroes

tumblr_n0sm19nh6w1s0pjc6o1_500Today, I was inspired by comments to a somewhat innocuous quote.  Someone mentioned that they wanted female villains who were not inspired by a heartbreak or jealousy.  To me, that’s a good thing to want.  But the comments!

While many people were agreeing – or mentioning great literary examples that would qualify for this – a large group was complaining that there’s plenty of lady villains out there.  Here’s my question.  So?

I’m pretty sure that in our entertainment, there are not 50-51% of the arch nemesis or antagonists who would qualify as a self-motivated female villain.  Just like I have a pretty good feeling that in most genres of literature, the heroes are still not quite up to half the population.  Young adult books aside, because the ladies do have a very strong voice there.

And such a large percentage of the people complaining were men!  Well, guys, how would you feel if giving you a quarter to a third of the representation in the world was considered “good enough”?  Honestly, even in movie extra casting, 33% of a crowd being female is what we come to think of as “proportionately female” because we’re so used to seeing more guys than girls!  In this “enlightened” time, where women are supposedly equal to men, why would the initial statement even raise an eyebrow about gender rather than motivation?

a_fairy_tale_by_flex_flexBecause benign sexism still exists.

Now, before you start freaking out, calling me some conspiracist, or anything else… let me explain.  Societies, over time, change in small increments.  I’m not saying that most men hate women.  Rather the opposite, in fact.  I just think that we’ve been trained to see things so much worse than what we have now that we think we’re doing pretty good – when we still have a little ways left to go.  It’s no different than getting that wild hair to start a project, working on it nonstop until you’re almost finished, and then growing bored of it.  This discussion, about equality in representation, grew stale about 30 years ago.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have it.  It certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about it when writing.  Granted, an author can tell any story they want, and there’s a good chance it’s going to sell.  Hell, there’s a real good chance it will appeal to someone’s inner desires.  Look at Twilight!  So much sexism going on there, and yet so many women fawned over the idea of a man who’d take care of them.  The trick is to walk that fine line between the two.  In my opinion, the solution comes down to character depth.

24647974_22608161_rrrghhtrfdsGive me a female villain who is killing her friends because they’re prettier, and yeah, I’m gonna call that sexist.  Give me a female villain who has been threatened that if she doesn’t win the beauty pageant her entire family will be deported to a third world nation where the government is going to execute them all, and it’s a little more interesting.  The “pretty” part of that no longer is her motivation, but merely one of many steps in her psychotic reasoning for killing the women around her.  Family first, right?

The same is ALREADY true for men.  When was the last time you remember a story about a guy doing something nefarious because he needs to show he’s “tough” enough?  In the few cases it’s happened, there’s so much more to the story, like abuse as a child, gambling stakes, or other influences that make his choices just a little deeper than judging him on his masculinity.  How about a man who goes bonkers because he got dumped?  And I’m not talking about an all-night binge and a string of one-night stands.

So, while I agree that we’ve come a very long way in gender portrayal in literature, I’m just saying that we aren’t at the finish line, yet.  We, as authors, can do better.  We, as readers, should expect more from our writers.  We may not always see the benign sexism ourselves – that’s why it’s called BENIGN! – but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it when it’s pointed out.  Trying to say it doesn’t happen won’t help progress.  In fact, it does the exact opposite.  It pushes all of us – and yes, the guys too – back to the 1950s.  Benign sexism is what makes people still think it’s strange for a man to take his wife’s name, for stay at home dads to be looked at sideways on the playground, or for so many men to be afraid to show emotions like fear and sadness.

I, for one, am up to the challenge.

21684

My Version of Politics (Iliri style)

378190_404741319574399_1880521433_nWhen writing a series of books that includes dealing with rules and laws, an author has to figure out the politics.  Throughout the Rise of the Iliri books, rules and governing have been a key point of contention – mainly about the fairness of the laws for the iliri.  Well, in book #6, things get even more convoluted.

The Parliament of the Conglomerate of Free Citizens is at the center of this story.  As fans of the series will know, the Representatives of that country are a diverse group.  Some think equality of the species is a good thing while others are staunchly against it, and most fall in between.  Now, with Sal trying to form an alliance with the CFC, she’s right in the middle of it all.  So, that means that I, as the god author of this world, had better understand it!

And so, I started digging through all the books, checking for districts, names of politicians, and their ideology.  On a day when the rest of my country is bickering about liberals and conservatives, I’m creating new liberal minds and conservative ones – and giving them interesting things to discuss.  It’s a lot more fun than I expected.

fantasy-landscape-scenery-4I have to think about the voter base and geography.  In the middle of a war, people near the front line would tend to be more conservative.  That means certain districts have to be Represented by certain people.  Those closer to another country would have been influenced by their neighbors, so might be more liberal (on the issue of iliri).  Based on where I’d put the cities, what kind of cities they are, and how the battle had been moving around them, I figured out the majority view of the entire country.

Kinda made me feel all smart’n’stuff.  Mostly, this background work makes sure that the debates I show in the book feel true and accurate.  When dealing with a group of people that aren’t bad, but simply disagree, that’s kinda important.  None of the “enemies” in this story are simply evil for the sake of some bad mojo floating in the air.  They all have their reasons for what they are doing.

But I’m not going to give you too much here.  For those who still haven’t read the series, I don’t want to give away the AHH moments.  For those who have, you know Sal’s back in Prin, and she’s not in a good mood.  Inspired by the angst of American politics, I’ve tried to carry that feeling into Resilience.  Things are changing, and no one is sure they really like it.  Not Sal, not her friends and family, and not the people of the CFC – but they don’t have time to wait it out.  Terric is bearing down on them, and thousands of Conglomerate iliri crossbreds are going to be the ones to suffer.  Both sides are invested in fixing this, but how is the real question.  And can Sal find a way to do this without help?  Can a slave turned military leader deal with the politics of it all without making things worse?

fantasy-snow-scene-wallpaperI honestly think this book expands the world of Ogun a little more.  Without the battles constantly pulling at the little beasties, other things are coming to the forefront.  We’ll get time in Guttertown, seeing how the iliri act when no one else is looking, but Sal’ll also have a whole new perspective of the wealthy district.  Other characters, like Rayna, will experience things in a new light.  So many Anglians, like Ilija, have never seen the modern ways of the CFC.  Questions of power are at the forefront.  From mental skills to political sway and wealth, it’s all coming to a head.  Old faces will come back and new ones will appear, and just like in Tenacity, some of the other Black Blades will get a voice.

For those who don’t know, fans on my facebook page recently convinced me to split the sixth book into two (6 and 7).  Yes, this will make the series longer, but Resilience was getting to be a monster.  I had to decide if I should flesh out the side stories or cut and hack it down to the main plot.  My most ardent fans seemed to want more about the world, so I’m giving it to you.  It means a little more work to make sure that I don’t leave with a cliffhanger (because I HATE that!) but I think it’s making a better book.

Warrior Woman SilhouetteWith that said, I’d initially intended for Rise of the Iliri to be a six book series.  Well, Inseparable didn’t get as far as I wanted.  Tenacity got cut into three.  Now, Resilience has been split again.  Currently, my outline shows ten books, but I promise that’s only because no one wants to read a 400,000-word tome – and some of the planned books were trying to become that.  The series arc hasn’t changed, I’ve just given you a few more insights into things like the iliri outcasts and whatever happened to that little Ilirian bookstore Zep likes so much.

When I started writing, I’d plotted the books by geography.  As an epic Science Fantasy story, I thought that each book should be written from point A to point B.  As an example, Bloodlust started in Ft. Landing and made it to Prin.  Instinctual covered the story as it happened in the capital of the Conglomerate until Sal left for her mission in Anglia.  I even made a (very ugly and crude) map to keep myself on the path.  Now, in the second half of the series, the novels seem to be following Sal’s growth as a character more.

I think all I need now, is to figure out how to make this a little prettier and put it in the books so people can follow along.  Maybe it will make the politics a little easier to understand.  At least I can always hope.

Map of Anu.jpg

 

 

Publishing Contests confuse me

books-447466.jpgOk, recently on facebook, I’ve been seeing a slew of “Enter this contest, and the winner will get their book published!” type posts.  Previously, I’ve seen this sort of thing on Twitter, as well.  It’s everywhere, and I’m afraid I just don’t get it.

First off, why would you want to fight to win the right to be published by some small press?  What can they offer you?  How will your royalties look compared to your other options?  How much are they going to invest in promoting YOUR book?  These are all questions a writer needs to ask before dumping their hard work out there.

Now, I know that most people still think that there’s “real” publishing and “self” publishing – and that’s it.  Well, let me assure you, they’re wrong.  If your book is made available for others to read, it’s “real” publishing.  Your book is published, your debut rights are gone.  No matter how you choose to do it, putting your book out there is the real deal, and if the authenticity of it is what has you hung up, then you’re going about this author thing ALL WRONG!

See, I’m independently published.  It’s kinda like being self-published, but with a lot more people, and a complicated plan in place.  Notice I didn’t say “good” plan.  I said “complicated.”  Working with SHP Publishing, we have a hierarchy of order.  Books in a series get pushed ahead of books starting a series (or stand alone).  Members put their best efforts into their part of the production.  From cover designs to editing, I know my team is going to fight for making every book the best it can be.  Sometimes that means disagreements happen.  Others, it ends up in wild parties as we celebrate a new release.  The best part, though, is that we’re a small group.

Currently, we have 3 authors involved.  I’m kinda the most prolific, but it’s nice to have other writers to bounce ideas off of when I get stuck.  I have an editor that I know, and can contact when I don’t understand her notes.  I have a cover artist who knows where I’m going with my books, only cusses at me a little when I demand changes to the art, and produces great marketing images while he’s at it.  Then there’s the formatter.  Her job is JUST to make the words all pretty on the page.  Me?  I write.

So yeah, having a publishing team is great.  It makes it easier to hire out help, but anyone can do this on their own as a self-published author.  There are plenty of contractors who do the exact same things.  Its’ work, but so is entering contest after contest, and trying to keep them all straight.

This BIG difference between the “dream” book deal and what most of us get is the advertising.  Now, here’s where reality starts to suck.  See, publishing houses don’t spend big bucks on all their authors.  Usually, there’s one or two books that they bet on, and dump a lot of money into.  The rest?  Yeah, doesn’t matter if it’s Harper Collins, Random House, or SHP Publishing, we mid-listers get to pay our own way.  If you want people to find your book, then you figure out how to market it yourself.

So, remind me again what we get from the “real” publishing deals?  10% royalties instead of 70%?  Loss of rights and the inability to make changes later on?  Contractual obligations that take us away from writing the next book?  All too often, a publishing schedule that is MUCH slower than what a smaller publication can handle (because of the other books in line)?  And then, if they’re running a contest for all this?

I’m just thinking, how good would your book have to be in order to win a contest to get published, and then end up being the 1 book that company wants to put money into?  Isn’t it more likely that your hard work will be treated like it’s still in the slush pile, and you should be happy that it even got a deal?  Could it be possible that the literary landscape is changing so fast that not even the publishing houses can keep up with what’s going on?

In my opinion, my art means enough to me that I’m not going to just throw it away.  I work hard to make my books into something I can be proud of.  That means they’ll do just fine on their own, and I’m serious enough about my craft to do whatever it takes to make the best book I can.  Those contests?  I think they’re a scam, and I sure hope that no newbie authors end up regretting their decision to enter one.