Why are women supposed to be “good girls”?

woman-695454It seems like every book I read has a girl in it that is kind, sweet, and relatively innocent about the world.  The women who aren’t always come across as broken, being snarky to protect themselves, or such.  It’s social conditioning that we’re not even aware that we’re doing to ourselves.  Considering that most writers AND readers are women, this might be a problem.

I write books that I want to read.  I try my hardest to write the kind of books I never found, but went looking for.  My goal is to create stories about people that I believe are possible.  To clarify – the people are possible, not the stories.  I don’t really think that aliens are going to crash in North Carolina.  I do believe that not every girl in the world would see that and panic.  Some of us might be scared at first, but more curious than interested in running around screaming.

I also think that women’s sexuality is a problem.  Just think about it for a moment, there’s no female equivalent to “stud” in our language.  A “playboy” or “player” is a term for a man.  What are the feminine counterparts?  Slut?  Whore?

And why is it always the man’s job to do the picking up.  Where are the stories about the women who say “he’s hot, I want him”?  What about the rich ladies who are looked at fondly from a distance by their male admirer?  I get that we want our men to be strong, to protect us, and to help fix  all the problems.  It’s kinda coded in our DNA, and imprinted by our society.  We can’t help it.  This is what women find sexy.

But doesn’t that typically result in the woman being weak?  In some manner, she’s relegated to a position of subordination by the very stories we’re writing.  Why not equality?  It’s not really that hard to do.  It DOES mean that we need to think about relationships a bit differently.

Rochelle’s Reviews often comments on my “men”.  They aren’t alpha males.  They aren’t cruel, living on a power trip, or whatever.  They are strong, yet kind; powerful, but never better than their love interest; protective without being a caveman.  What I want people to see are my women.

I want to write women who remind my readers that it’s ok to like sex.  That there’s nothing wrong in putting a career over a man.  That sometimes she might have more sexual experience than her potential lover – and that it’s OK.  There are a zillion confused virgins out there in literary land.  What I want to write are all the other shades of female sexuality and dominance.  I want to let women like myself know that they aren’t alone, that it’s ok to be however they are.  That some girls want to grow up and be a mommy, but others want to find the perfect stay at home dad.  I want to write books for the readers who think outside the box.

I’m pretty sure that’s going to upset a few people.  Know what?  I don’t really care.  Growing up, I always wanted to read stories about women like me, but the only ones I found were always written as something to be ashamed of.  Well, let me assure you, I’m not ashamed of being different.

I’m damned proud of it, and we all deserve to feel that way.

Without writing, I die a little inside

Pink AventadorI have oodles of books to finish up and publish.  About 28 more to go.  The problem is that there’s a very big difference between creating a new story and polishing one that’s finished.  Maybe not for everyone, but it is for me.

When creating, it feels like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and found myself in a wonderland.  I get to learn the nuances of this universe, to meet new characters, and to delve into their complicated situations.  I have the power of a god – to alter the fate of humanity, fix up a relationship, or whatever else the plot needs.  It’s thrilling, addictive, and immersive.

Editing does not give me that high.  Editing is the logic and rationalization behind the art.  It’s all about judging whether or not that compound sentence needs a comma, or if I can string those words together in a better way.  The goal of editing is to be sure that each and ever sentence makes the reader FEEL something.  The goal of writing is the experience the journey.

And so, I get very sick of editing.  I can think like that.  I am smart enough, dedicated enough, and proud enough to want my work to be published in the best state possible.  But my passion lies with creating.  I am an artist.  Maybe I use words to paint the scene instead of acrylics or clay, but it’s still the creativity that my mind demands.  Throwing myself into endless hours of watching for commas, periods, straight quotes, and word repetition is like data entry.  It’s dull.  It’s boring.  It makes me die a little inside.

My solution is to balance this with a new book.  Eight hours of editing gets me a day of writing.  Sadly, it’s easier to WRITE a book than it is to polish it.  For every novel I edit, I could probably write two.  That is if I didn’t have the dreaded day job.  Now that thing steals away the hours.  So, for now, I’m trying to balance the creativity with the productivity.  I’m hoping that I can keep making the books my readers are asking for while finishing the ones I already have out.

Steampunk Workshop.pngYet I still feel guilty for writing something new.  I keep thinking that my readers are waiting.  People are asking for When We Were Crowned, Two of a Kind, the third book in the iliri series, the prequel to the Eternal Combat series.  They don’t even know about my elementals, the monochromatic world, the hacktivist romances, or the second chance stories.  I do, and I love them.  I want to lose myself in those worlds, to finish the last few words before that book is added to the long line of works waiting to see the light of day.  I want so bad to write…

But I should be editing.  I should be finishing the series that are out instead of starting another.  I should be editing not creating.  This is what the responsible half of my brain says, and it’s smothering the other side that is dying to keep going, to keep this crazy pace of pumping out books.  If I could just learn how to tell my mind that it’s all ok, that I’m releasing books faster than most people, and that I deserve the time to do what I love….

Well, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

So, I’m going to write.  I’m not going to edit another word today.  I’m just going to let my imagination run wild for a bit and enjoy the way it feels.  Tomorrow I can worry about being responsible and editing again.

Let’s talk about making cheap covers!

1 One More DayMost indie authors are working on a budget.  Usually a very tight one.  We still want a cover that’s good enough to make sales.  I’m going to show you how to do it on the VERY cheap.

My first book, One More Day, was an experiment.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to this whole indie author thing.  I certainly didn’t want to spend a few thousand on an attempt that might go bad.  I also happen to have a whole lot of experience in marketing and advertising design.  In other words, I was pretty sure I could make a cover that would do the job.  The final version is doing well on Amazon, and One More Day is currently my best selling book.

In other words, the cover is working.

But let me tell you how it started.  THAT was not my first cover.  With a love story that is about a girl with cancer, I didn’t want a cover that would come across as sensual.  I felt that would give the reader the wrong impression.  It’s a story about hope and friendship, not jumping in the sack with a hot guy.  Hell, the main character has CERVICAL cancer.  (To quote a character in the story, “I know where the cervix is, man”) So sex was off the table from the start of the book.  Instead, I needed to push the emotions.

I started with something easy.  My first cover was decent but not great.  It had the right idea, but did little to make potential readers feel a connection.

One More DayI took a lovely stock image of a hand-drawn heart and some art supplies.  In the story, the main characters are a tattoo artist and a girl who went to college to paint, but had to drop out due to real life.  Her drawings are what brought them together, and art has a major place in this book.

Sadly, that’s not what the potential reader will KNOW when shopping.  They aren’t looking for someone drawing hearts with oil pastels.  They are looking for a story about people.  This is a romance novel afterall.

But I still had a cover that sold a few copies.  The font was free from 1001 Free Fonts.  The effects are little more than a couple of button clicks in Paint Shop Pro (like Photoshop but a lot cheaper and with less toys).  Total cost of this cover?  $80 bucks for the software – which I can use over and over to make many more covers, teasers, and such.

But, I realized that it’s not about crayons.  This story is about a girl struggling to make it one more day, then one more after that.  In other words, I needed a better cover.  So I found myself a half decent free stock image:

ASJL0UIGOR.jpg

Ha!  This one had the cup of coffee that keeps cropping up in the story.  The look on her face is perfect!  Like she’s lost in her own thoughts and nothing else matters.  The lighting draws the eye to her face, but it’s too dark.

So, let’s crop this up a bit.ASJL0UIGOR

Then color the whole thing in cervical cancer purple.

ASJL0UIGOR

Make it a bit bright and adjust the contrast around.

ASJL0UIGOR

And now we’re looking at her face.  Increase the vibrancy of the color, add in the title, layer on the author’s name (ahem, mine) and…….

1 One More Day

Eventually, I got something that made the reader want to know more.  It’s not the best cover in the world.  It’s probably going to be replaced one day, when I can figure out how to do it better, but it is a massive improvement on the stock image that I started with, and took a few hours.  It was within my budget.

I’m not trying to say that I’m the best cover designer out there, but after seeing so many crappy books being hawked on Twitter the other day, I think that showing how “easy” it can be might help.  I’m hoping that some author out there is willing to put in a little more effort, and see that it does have a huge impact.

This book, with this cover, is my best seller.  It’s in the top 1% of all books on kindle, and even seven months after release, it’s selling very nicely.  Total investment: $80 bucks for the software.  I made that, and more, in the first month.  Plus, that investment allowed me to create:

Now I have some options when talking about my book on social media.

As a Reader…

surreal_fantasy_art_boats_maps_digital_art_photo_manipulation_Wallpaper HD_2560x1440_www.paperhi.comI love books.  I always have.  Even now that I’m writing them, I still love to read books by others.  Like, a lot!  This means that most Saturday mornings I shop my Twitter feed to see what other indie authors are offering.

Today, I wanted to bang my head against a wall.  This is HORRIBLE people.

Grabbing the first free stock photo you see that’s close enough, cropping it to the right shape, and slapping some Arial 48pt font across it with standard leading is NOT how to make a good cover.  If it takes you less time to design the cover than write the blurb, you’re either a professional designer – or doing it wrong.  Probably the later.

Typography is the art of choosing the right font, setting it together in such a way as to appeal to the eye, and adding those pretty little flares.  Knowing your font families, how many of them you can use at a time (and I mean ALL text on a cover) and how to draw the eye to the important and appealing events on your cover?  Yeah, that’s what will sell your book.

Covers demand more than a basic stock image.  Try some filters.  A little photoshop maybe? Enhance the saturation, contrast, and maybe soften something up.  Take that stock image and make it YOURS.

But I swear, most authors forget what it’s like to shop for a book as a reader.  They spend all their time writing, and none of it making their art into something appealing to the masses.  They want to do it cheap (because that’s the path to riches?  I dunno.) and think that spending money on something like a cover or a PR company is just “too expensive”.  THEN they wonder why no one buys their most brilliantly written masterpiece.  Well, I’ll make this easy:

If you don’t believe in your book enough to spend money on it, then why should I?

That’s really all there is to it.  When I look at the cover and blurb for your book, if I get the feeling that you rushed through it, then I’m going to assume that you put as little effort into your manuscript.  You probably didn’t spend money on an editor.  You very likely didn’t listen to any advice you were given (because this stuff is everywhere on the internet) and you are lazy/cheap.  Probably both.

And no matter how many times you spam your Twitter feed, throw it up on facebook, pin it on Pinterest, or whatever else you do, that won’t make me suddenly have a desire to actually SPEND MONEY on something you’re too cheap to pay for.  You, the person who created it.  You should be its biggest fan.

Instead, it’s likely to convince me that you’re a hack who sucks at this – and that’s before I ever read a word.

Having a bad cover that tried is different.  Putting effort into something is usually obvious.  Now, maybe your cover sucks, but I can see you tried.  Well, I might make it all the way to the blurb – where your WRITING has a chance to impress me.  I might not.  I also won’t think less of you for changing your cover because it sucks.  Rather the opposite, in fact.

We all know this independent author thing takes a little learning to get right.  There will be trial and error.  What we as readers unconsciously avoid like the plague are the authors who come across like they are out to scam us.  Writing is not a get rich quick scheme.  It never will be.  It’s art, and you should treat your ENTIRE book like a masterpiece so that I’ll think it’s worth as much as a cup of coffee.

Because I promise you, dear author, that you do not deserve my money.  You have to earn it.

A secret about being an author

PV07C4Z2D7

I write books.  I have these ideas in my head and the roll around until they spill out my fingers and onto the page.  The craziest thing is that some people actually like them.  Because the stories I write are all made up, that makes me an author.

But, no matter how many times I do this, no matter how many people love or hate my books, I always get nervous about it.  Releasing a book into the wide blue yonder of the world is one of the most terrifying experiences ever.  I can never tell if the public (i.e. readers) will love or hate the strange, twisted little thoughts inside my head.  I can’t guess if they will approve of my vision of strong women or hate them.  I have no idea of what I find “sexy” in a man will sway them or revolt them.  I can’t even fathom if a plot twist is truly engaging or yet another tired trope.

Until I read the reviews.

So, here I am, a few tequilas in, and hoping that somewhere out there are people who enjoy my book.  I see the sales.  I read the people who love and hate the book (because the extremes are typically most likely to review it) but I rarely know what people wish to see in their next book.  I can’t guess what it is that they like in a novel.

All I know is what I like.  I’m so tired of books that spill everything out in a few chapters.  I’m sick and tired of stories that are only a single layer deep.  I can’t take anymore books that are little more than an author’s self aggrandizing wish fulfillment put to paper (or whatever).  I think that stories are a journey that is meant to be enjoyed.

All too often I read people saying they want more world building.  Usually followed by someone claiming that the story is too slow and focused on the details rather than the plot.  No one can decide, it seems.  So, I have come to a decision.

Keep in mind, I’m celebrating yet another wonderful release with my amazing fans and a new potential career built on imagination and hard work.  I’m thrilled with my books.  I’m stunned with the potential for success as an indie author.  I’ve also had just enough drinks and hours chatting with the people who make me feel confident about myself to have made a decision.

I write books for me.  I am an author.  I can never guess what others will like.  I only know the kind of stories that move ME, and make me want to spend months dwelling inside those worlds.  I am the one that has to put my name to the cover.  I am the one that will read them over and over and over and over again until I am so sick of the characters that I’m ready to move on.  I am the person who holds this whole thing up, and so I must write books that **I** like.  I can’t guess what will make others happy, and I shouldn’t try.

And still….

I can’t stop checking the reviews of my books.  I can’t stop hoping that the readers like what I have spent so many hours making.  I can’t stop wishing that I’m a good enough author to make them happy, or that I can learn the magic to become one.

And this, my friends, is the secret.  All of us, regardless of what type of art we make, secretly hope that somewhere out there is another person who kinda likes it.  I’m not any different.portrait-1097920.jpg

The mindset to write (and when not to)

young-791849_1920

There are times that an author shouldn’t write.  Well, not on their story, at any rate.  Today is one of those days for me.  You see, I have a cold.  I took something to make it all better.  My head is swimming, my reason has flown the coop and I’m basically stupid.

Anything I put down today would be a waste of time.  It would likely pull my plot(s) off track, alter character perceptions, and just derail everything.  Being sick kinda sucks, but it made me realize something.

I didn’t get where I am by putting off writing.  I made it a priority in my life, pushing other things out of the way to make room.  I can’t remember the last time I watched TV.  I’m certainly not current on the news.  I have a brain filled with strange trivia information – like the average bleed-out times for most major arteries, or what colors birds can see in – because I had to research that for a book.

Everything I do revolves around my writing.  My husband knows this.  Thankfully, he encourages me.  He’ll lock himself away playing video games, make dinner and bring it to my desk, or any number of things to keep me “in the zone” and pumping out the next book.  My day job has hours that are convenient to write around.  My hobbies are planned around my next release.  My world revolves around my books because I am an author.

That means, for me, it’s easier to find the right mindset to write.  I don’t get interrupted anymore.  I don’t have people think that I can answer a million questions while planning a complex plot.  I no longer need to explain that distracting me from the words on the screen means that I have to backtrack and start all over.  (A few brilliant tantrums fixed that very nicely, thank you very much.)

And now, this.  Stupid medication making me silly.  I have time to write.  I have the urge to write.  I’m not gonna do it because………Oh, isn’t that shiny?  I’m sorry, was I saying something?

You get the idea: me dumb on drugs.

So, hopefully, someone is out there writing the next masterpiece.  I’m gonna go crawl back into bed and pretend to be a slug.

My thoughts on Piracy

skull-34133_1280Authors are always terrified of their work being “stolen”.  They think that somehow they are losing a sale because someone may have read their work without paying the paltry few dollars for the privilege.  I happen to disagree.

I see piracy as the best free marketing plan EVER!  I’m not some big shot who can command millions of people to line up in wait for the release of my next book.  I’m just an author – a rather average one – like so many other authors out in this new age of digital books.  I write stories that grab people and shake them, refusing to let go until they have read the entire series.  I pride myself on books that almost force the reader to get the next and spend nights laying in bed wondering what is happening to the characters.  This is my forte.  Marketing?  Not so much.

So when someone wants to recommend my book to a friend?  That’s golden.  It’s the best way to spread my “brand”.  It’s also how I found every author I love.  I can honestly say that I didn’t buy my first Harry Potter book.  Nope, I was loaned it by a friend.  I didn’t buy my first Anne McCaffrey book, I was allowed to read my mother’s copy.  I didn’t buy my first Lewis Carrol book.  I picked it up at the library.

deaths-head-487276_1280And then I became addicted.

I found authors to love based on a single “free” copy of a book.  I’ve found others through less “acceptable” means.  One of my current favorites, Anne Bishop, is such an example.  I was researching something for one of my books and stumbled upon one of those links.  Being Captain Oblivious, I clicked it, and began reading this story on the web.  It was an amazing tale of our world – but in an alternate timeline where things were much more magical.  The characters, the setting, and everything sucked me in!  So, I bought the first three books and began waiting for the rest of the series to be finished.

Yes, I found my most recent preferred author from a pirated book.  The horrors!  Now, keep in mind that I had no idea she existed otherwise, and hence wouldn’t have bought any of her books.  That “free to read online” copy of her book sold me on four novels, and I plan to read her other series as well.

So now, every time I have to decide whether to click the DRM box or not, I don’t.  If someone is too poor to afford my book, then let them read it however they can.  If they love it, maybe they will tell a friend.  If enough people do that, maybe more people will read.  The libraries are closing.  The ability for people to read for free is vanishing.  I want to make sure it never truly disappears.  To me, that means more than a couple of dollars from people who wouldn’t have bought my book anyway.

And maybe, now that they know I exist, they’ll buy the next one.