Monday, January 30, 2012

Men Writing Lesfic (Updated at the End After the ****)

A hot topic in some of my lesfic Yahoo groups lately has been men writing lesfic. For example, should they, how good could they possibly be without going through the lesbian experience, and should lesbians buy their works?

Here's where I stand:

One of the great pleasures of being an author is meeting all kinds of people. And I have to say that some of my kindest new fans and friends are men. I've grown close to one on Facebook. He also writes lesbian fan fic. Guess what? He's good. He writes like a woman. He even talks like  some women (for example, he says "sorry" a lot).

I have another fan, an older man. He lives in another country. He's married to a lesbian who is his best friend. He discovered me when my "Old Woman" collection was free and bought all my other books.

I love these guys. I'm certainly not going to turn right around and tell them they can't write good lesbian fiction if they so desired to write it. Some men have unique life experiences and insights. A boy raised by two lesbians might have good insight, perhaps more insight, than some of us lesbians do. Who knows.

If people buy a lesfic book written by a man and enjoy it (or don't enjoy it), and later find out he is a guy and feel cheated... well, that's understandable to some extent. But I would hope the buyers would get over it eventually.  Life is risky. Life is also short. Let people do what they want to, and if you make a mistake, move on. Don't buy that author's books again if you feel betrayed.

Focus on yourself. Focus on being happy. That's what I try to follow. I am not always successful (people get to me more than I'd like to admit), but I try. ;-)

For me, it is all about a good book.

People should write what they want to. People are diverse, with diverse interests. If this bothers some people, just don't buy these people's books. I'm sure some straight people were unhappy when Patricia Cornwell came out, but it just goes to show you never know who might be gay or straight. (I can understand why some lesbians buy only lesbian. That's all cool, and I respect that. Many of them have been through a lot others haven't, all sorts of discrimination, etc. They're entirely within their rights to buy only lesfic by lesbians.)

I've written a few short stories about straight couples. In one, a man grieved his wife. Should I not have written that because (1) I'm gay and (2) I'm a woman? Bollocks.

Bottom line: buyers usually take a risk every time they buy a book, product or watch a movie. A risk that maybe later the author, director, company, whatever, will be outed as anti-gay, or pro-gay, as a man, as a woman, whatever.

Life's risky. And short.

**** I am deaf. What bothers me more than men (or straight women) writing lesfic is people who aren't deaf writing books from a deaf character's POV. Even then, some get it right. I stand by what I said above; people should write what they want to. Nondeaf writing deaf just bothers me more on a gut level.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Third" Blurb Change (Again) -- Anne Is Revealed

I blogged here about adjusting the blurb for "Third."

Well, guess what? The blurb, it be a' changin' again. People kept telling me to keep it mysterious, mysterious was better, that they liked figuring out in the first few chapters of the book who Anne was. That was all well and good, but I always had niggling thoughts in the back of my mind if I oughtn't be more specific.

"Third" has been on sale about a week. It's sold decently, about forty-five copies, but still behind what I'm expected to seeing for my new releases. Who knows what the reason is. Could be "Q. Kelly" fatigue because "All in the Family" was released a few weeks earlier (selling pretty well), could be that I had "Third" priced at $7.99 (I've since dropped it to $6.99 to match my other novels), could be the polyamory thing, could be the time travel thing, could be the blurb just was not enticing, or not enticing enough.

OK! New blurb, no-holds-barred reveal of who Anne is. Blurb's been swapped out at all purchasing sites. And I've already had a few people say the newer blurb makes them take more notice.


NEW BLURB:
Tudor historian Helen Franklin is horrified when her dying scientist father leaves her a most unusual inheritance: Anne Boleyn. Yep, Anne Boleyn as in Henry VIII's beheaded queen. She is a time traveler and is having trouble adjusting to the modern world. Helen tells herself she does not have time for Anne. Yalia, Helen's wife, has been distancing herself from Helen for three years, and Helen needs to decide if she wants to save their marriage.

Then the unexpected happens. A romantic relationship develops among Yalia, Anne and Helen. Can the three of them figure out their lives together, especially when time might be running out for Anne?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Readers Like Free. So Should Authors.

Free definitely works, in my experience. Indie authors have much freedom and flexibility and should take advantage of that. Experiment with pricing. Experiment with freebies.

If nothing else, I recommend y'all write a short story with the sole purpose of making it free. Get it a nice cover and everything. Use the back matter to list all your other works. AND MAKE THE WORK FREE! :-)

For example, I had a short-story collection ("Miss Lucy Parker and Other Short Stories"). It is my only gen fic work, btw. I made it free on Smashwords and BN, and in a few weeks, Amazon followed suit. "MLP" just missed being in the top 100 in the free Kindle store. Yep, the top 100 Kindle. That still blows my mind. It had barely sold anything before becoming free, so I knew I had little, if anything, to lose by making it free. It isn't free anymore (it's 99 cents now), but this collection that barely sold anything before sells at least five to ten copies a day now. PLUS making it free got "MLP" a lot of nice reviews on Amazon and most likely more visibility and awareness of my other books.

I also made "The Old Woman and Other Lesbian Stories" free. It didn't do as well as "MLP" on Amazon, but it did much better than "MLP" on BN and Smashwords. (Go figure.) Similar pattern to "MLP" -- more reviews, more visibility. "Old Woman" barely sold before it became free. Now it's back to its $2.99 list price and sells at least five to ten copies every day, too. I got a few emails from people who got "Old Woman" for free and bought my other books as a result. These few emails probably equate to more people who bought my other books but didn't email me.

It is important to keep in mind that freebies often work long term. Many people snatch up the free stuff and may never get around to them, or take their sweet old time getting around to them.

With my two free-short story collections having about 10,000-15,000 free downloads each, that's probably 20,000 to 30,000 readers who would not have heard of me otherwise.

Same for some of the people who downloaded "The Odd Couple" during its two-day free period on KDP Select. (KDP Select is a whole other issue. I have one book in it ("The Odd Couple"). The exclusivity clause has always bothered me, and I'm probably not renewing "The Odd Couple" when its 90-day period expires. I doubt I'll enroll another book, but I might. I'll have to see how sales of all my titles are doing at other channels first.)
Anyway!

Free is worthwhile JUST for the visibility and exposure. Really.

Gonna repeat what I said earlier: If nothing else, I recommend y'all write a short story with the sole purpose of making it free. Get it a nice cover and everything. Use the back matter to list all your other works. AND MAKE THE WORK FREE! :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gorgeous!

The print proof for "Third" arrived today. It is gorgeous. Along these lines, "Third" is for sale in print now!

https://www.createspace.com/3775921

It will take five to seven days to wend its way into the Amazon system, but you can buy it now from CreateSpace.
And here's another review of "Third" from Amazon:

Ann,Helen,Yalia.
Each is beautiful in her own way.
Each has some serious regrets.
You would never guess what brings these 3 women to know each other.
It's fascinating and scintillating and makes me wonder what I would change in my own history if I could.
Q.Kelly has the ability to write about situations that are just a little "twisted" or maybe that's the wrong word.
Her stories have an edge to them that might be off putting at first but then you find yourself totally intrigued, not sleeping so good because you keep turning on the light and reading some more.
I was only curious about this story until I read "maf6355"s review here on Amazon.
Hope my 5 stars helps you decide to read this book.

Unveiling the "Switch" cover -- and LIAC

I'm gonna kill two birds with one stone in this blog post. But not live birds! Stuffed birds. No animals will ever be harmed in the making of any of my blog posts. I can pledge you that.

First up, let's unveil the "Switch" cover! It is possible minor tweaks will be made later, but this is the cover.

Here's the (very rough draft) blurb:
Ellora Elaine Landry and June Clementine Blue Sky are forty years old and have led very different lives. June, raised by hippie parents, is an out lesbian who has protected her heart since her wife deserted her five years before. Ellora, from a conservative family, is leaving her controlling, manipulative husband.

June and Ellora come together after they find out a disturbed nurse switched them when they were newborns (along with four other pairs of babies over fifteen years). Ellora finds herself falling in love in June and grappling with what her feelings mean about her sexual identity. June, meanwhile, is reluctant to risk her heart again. Will they realize that perhaps they were fated to be together since their births?

**********************************

Time for the second stuffed bird. I am a moderator for a Yahoo group nicknamed LIAC. That's short for Lesfic Independent Authors Consortium. Wow! A mouthful, right? I took over the reins recently, and it's a small group. It's made of lesfic authors who are indie or thinking about going indie. We basically support one another, share tips and relevant links, and so on. Here's the description on the front page:

Lesfic Independent Authors Consortium is a group of lesbian fiction authors who have chosen to self-publish their work (or as one of our owners puts it, be "fiercely independently published"). LIAC is set up so independent authors have a place to network with like-minded souls, share marketing tips and contacts for editors, cover designers, etc. We are colleagues, peers, and most importantly, friends. Welcome!

The link to join is here. You can participate as much or as little as you want. You can be traditionally published and still join. That's cool. Some of our members have an indie-publisher mix, and some are merely curious about going indie.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Different Perspectives of Anne

*** This blog post is going to have spoilers about "Third." Be warned! :-) Don't read on if you do not want spoilers.
*** This blog post is going to have spoilers about "Third." Be warned! :-) Don't read on if you do not want spoilers.
*** This blog post is going to have spoilers about "Third." Be warned! :-) Don't read on if you do not want spoilers.

One thing I love about my books is the wonderful conversation they inspire. This has never been more true than with "Third." My other books, particularly "Strange Bedfellows" (which has the most reviews of my books by far), have led to some interesting discussions. "Third" definitely is taking the cake in depth of discussion so far, though. A few days ago, I posted a convo with Linda North.

I had another conversation earlier today with a friend of mine who has not read "Third" but is going to (once she gets her library books due soon read! ;-) ). Given her comments, I thought having a before/after conversation would be interesting. I'm not promising an "after" conversation, but I hope one will happen.

Anyway, my friend knows about this post and she is, shall we say, anti-Anne. Quite anti-Anne.

If you're new to "Third" and have no idea who this Anne is, let me slip the blurb in here for you:

Helen Franklin is horrified when her dying father leaves her a most unusual inheritance: a woman. Furthermore, the woman, Anne, is anything but ordinary. She is a time traveler with a tragic past. Helen tells herself she does not have time for Anne. Yalia, Helen's wife, has been distancing herself from Helen for three years, and Helen needs to decide if she wants to save their marriage.

Then the unexpected happens. A romantic relationship develops among Yalia, Anne and Helen. Can the three of them figure out their lives together, especially when time might be running out for Anne?


And here's the review that prompted my friend to say the things she did.

FINAL WARNING: *** This blog post is going to have spoilers about "Third." Be warned! :-)


OK, so you probably know that Benjamin Franklin is an important supporting character in "Third," but I haven't said publicly yet who Anne is. It is not a huge secret. Her identity is fairly easy to suss out in the first two chapters for people who know history well. And for people who don't, her identity is revealed in Chapter Three.

Anyway, Anne is Anne Boleyn (see portrait at right). Annnd here's the convo between my friend and me. Her part is in bold.

My biggest problem with the idea of this book is actually not the three-way relationship or even the time travel part, but the woman you chose to be your 'Anne'. I think I have a pretty good idea who she is, and while she was very smart and was able to have an entire system in the society of her time changed just for her, she was also a [bleep] and was not a friend of women. She looked for validation from men. Other women were there only to be the backs she climbed on on her way to the top. She was cruel to her husband's ex-wife and daughter. I will grant that her husband was the bigger [bleep], but she helped encourage him because it improved her standing in his eyes. Her fall was spectacular, and she pretty much reaped what she sowed. Her end was sad, and I did feel sorry for her then. Maybe you did address all of that in your book? I don't know.

It also got me thinking about the other women this Anne had a connection to in her time and was thinking that if the last three women in that group hadn't been obviously attracted to men, they would have been interesting contenders. All three had their lives ended prematurely in different ways. One of them lived a nice long time, but she was never allowed to have an romantic relationship or have children. One was young and silly but would have been traumatized enough to avoid men, and the other I think would have been the most interesting. She was smart, capable, yet had to submit all the time to what men wanted. Her one true love betrayed her with her stepdaughter. Then she died. Definitely an unfinished life!

I'll have to read your book though, I want to see how you pulled it off!


Yep, I grant Anne was cruel to Catherine of Aragon and Mary. That's addressed explicitly in the book. As for the other stuff, it's a matter of perspective and which historian you ask, although it's true Anne likely had no women friends except Lady Lee. That's in the book too. Anne didn't bother with society women's idle chatter.

Also, it's unclear if Catherine Parr's husband ever did anything with Elizabeth. May have, maybe not. That's why there's historical fic. One more thing about Anne, she was pretty much forced into doing what she did by her father. I maybe shouldn't say this (it's spoilerish) -- but after reading Tudor books, Anne realizes just how bad she was to Mary. She decides she would pick Mary over her own daughter Elizabeth to bring back to the present because she wants Mary's forgiveness so much. The ending has Anne getting Mary...kinda. You'll have to read to find out what I mean.

Well, it would be nice to have Mary I to have a redo of her life. Apparently she was a lot like Elizabeth when she was young: smart, sweet, nice. She was always nice to her younger sister until politics interfered. Emperor Shaddam IV said it best: blood is thicker than water, but politics is thickest of all! I may have not quoted exactly but you get the gist. If Mary lets go of her crystallized perspective on life, then she could grow into a new person.

As for Anne, her dad may have encouraged her to do it, but she threw herself into it. If she didn't want the prize so much, she could have had sex with Henry and told dear old dad, he made me get into bed with him, I didn't have a choice, and she would have been right. Henry would not have seen himself as an rapist; he believed enough in his charms to do that, but one doesn't refuse the king after the dance of courtship without a good reason! (I wonder if this would work, "Your Majesty, I have the clap," heh.) Men were real [bleep] back then, which brings me to Catherine P.'s husband. He may or may not have done something with Elizabeth, but his intent was clear, and once Catherine P. saw it for what it was, it had to hurt a lot.


Yeah, I have people wanting a sequel! Mary has always fascinated me. I would love to do something on her too, but I don't get the same "vibe" I do with Anne that Mary could be a lesbian. But, who knows. If I write a sequel to "Third," I imagine Mary would be in it. Probably as straight. Anyway, that's true Anne could've done all that. I can't imagine what it would've been like to be in her shoes, though. Hindsight is 20/20. And if she was a lesbian, I could see how it would be extremely easy for her to think all she had to do was not have sex for seven years and have a nice life. We have a young woman whose sister is sleeping with the king at the behest of their father, and then the sister is discarded. The father pins all his hopes on his second daughter. It must have been a confusing situation for Anne with no clear "right" path. You said men were real [bleep], and that's exactly right. We don't know what Thomas Boleyn may have threatened Anne with, or if he had more subtle ways of getting her to do his bidding. Anne was a powerless woman in a man's world, and like so many women before and after her, she lost her battle.

We don't have Anne's own words, so we'll never know why she did the things she did. "Third" is only one take (and not necessarily all what I believe, but what worked best for the story). Everyone has a different take on Anne, and that's one reason history can be frustrating and why there's that time-travel fascination to find out the truth.


Yeah it's hard to say about historical figures unless you can sit them down and interview them...and not even they know why they did some things sometimes!


Many people, historical or not, have no effing idea why they do the things they do. I don't sometimes ;-)

*** The conversation ended here, but I want to say a few more things about Anne Boleyn. She may have been a [bleep]. Or not. Or somewhere in between. From "Third," I present Tudor historian Helen Franklin's basic theory: 
 
Helen's theory, or as she called it, her wishful thought, was that Anne was a lesbian trying to make her way in a ruthless, heterosexual world. Helen had shared this theory with no one except Yalia, long ago. She had no shred of proof to back up her theory. But one question Helen would never need to ask: Was Anne guilty of the charges the king brought against her?

Also, from Helen's book, here is the small biographical summary of Anne:

Anne Boleyn (?- executed 1536): Anne spent much of her adolescence at the court of the French king Francis I. She returned to the British court full of wit, grace and charm. She caught the eye of Henry Percy, and they secretly were engaged. Anne also became a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey found out about the secret engagement and forbade a marriage. Percy was exiled from court, and Anne's father, Thomas, forced her to focus on the king. Anne's sister, Mary, was the king's mistress, and Thomas Boleyn had learned a valuable lesson. Mary had given her body up too quickly. Thomas ordered Anne to flirt with the king, to toy with his emotions and nothing more. This worked like a charm for seven years, to the point where Henry VIII turned his back on the Catholic Church. Henry would never get free of Catherine if the church had a say in it, so he founded his own religion. He married Anne in the eyes of the Church of England. Anne was pregnant and gave birth to a girl, the future Elizabeth I. Henry was sorely disappointed but envisioned more pregnancies. They came, in the form of miscarriages. A frustrated Henry contrived a scheme accusing Anne of witchcraft, incest and adultery. Anne was beheaded in 1536, after a mere three years of marriage and shortly after her predecessor Catherine's death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Covers

A book is kind of like a wispy figment. It becomes real real REAL to me when a cover comes together. The "Switch" cover has been a struggle until today. Then the designer got a concept that clicked. More than clicked. This may be my most striking cover yet. I can't wait to unveil it.

When do your books become real to y'all?

(Updated):  Oh, yeah! The first review of "Third" is out. Awesome review over on Amazon. Here's the review:


When I first read the blurb for this book I had my doubts. As imaginative as the author is I wasn't sure she could bring off a story with a lead character that travels through time and becomes involved in a relationship with a married couple (lesbian) on the brink of divorce. I shouldn't have worried. Q, Kelly does a great job of making the premise plausible.

Helen Franklin and Yalia Yamato are deeply in love but their relationship is dying as a result of a trauma in Yalia's past. Helen is also experiencing a trauma with the death of her father and the discovery of what had been his life's work. It is this unwelcome discovery that brings our time traveler Anne into their lives.
Anne had been a chattel to men in her time period and with the kindness of Helen and Yalia she blossoms into her own person. She finds she has feelings for both of these women and while they recognize that she has been damaged by her past she is able to see that they too have been wounded and it is the vulnerabilities of the three women that bring them together.

The way the characters work out their feelings and handle the repercussions of travelling through time while dealing with a man who wants to control their destiny makes for a satisfying read.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Polyamory, Time Travel and Benjamin Franklin

Lesbian sci-fi author Linda North ("The Dreamer, Her Angel, and the Stars" and the upcoming "Deep Merge") and I had an impromptu talk about "Third." I asked if she would mind if I put it here. She said great! So here it is. :-) Linda read "Third" and really enjoyed it.

What got you interested in polyamory? I admit, I find the subject fascinating.
Good question. I am not sure, actually. Zillions of ideas occur to me all the time. I must have some subconscious filtering system to help me decide which ideas to write about.

I remember wondering what my next book would be after "Waiting" was published. I have always wanted to write a book in which one of the leads was a Siamese twin (Ladan and Laleh Bijani inspired me), but I wasn't "feeling" it for that time. Somehow the idea of a three-way relationship popped up in my head. It takes people of tremendous self-confidence and commitment to do a healthy poly relationship, and I think such relationships are quite cool. By the time I finished "Third," I really wanted my own third!

I know a lot of people will think your book is a "sex" book, but it's not. It is a romance about two women, Helen and Yalia, in an established relationship, who have lost that closeness and spark, falling in love with a third woman, Anne. Anne in turn falls in love with both of them. Through their love for Anne and Anne's love for them, Helen and Yalia rediscover each other.

Anne is from another time. What influenced you to go with the time travel element?
Thanks for pointing that out. "Third" definitely is not a sex book, although it has sex scenes. It's about the three women's relationships with the other two women individually as well as the way the "three" relationship works as a whole.

I had a 10k-word short story with Anne and Helen that had the whole time travel thing.

The three-way idea popped up, but I also wanted to expand the short story. I was not sure which way to go (three-way or short-story expansion?) and realized I was having trouble thinking of potential subplots for both ideas. So, light bulb moment -- combine both ideas! :-)

The family Anne is from -- I had done a lot of reading about the family and watched movies, TV shows, etc. so she was one of the first people I thought of when I did that time-travel short story. For that story, I needed to find someone from history who could potentially be a lesbian. And Anne fit quite nicely, especially since she had been involved in a tragic love triangle. "Third" gives Anne the chance at a happy ending in another love triangle.

For you curious readers, I'm gonna type who Anne is, but I'll black out the name. Highlight it if you want to find out who Anne is.
Anne is Anne Boleyn.


I'm being selfish here and encouraging you to do another romance "time travel" story. Bringing a famous woman from the past to the present and pairing her with a modern woman. It doesn't have to be polyamory. I know you would have to research the person and time period she lived in, but you did that so well with Anne and her time that I actually have been reading online history about Anne.
I love time travel stuff, so I would definitely be more than happy to revisit a time-travel storyline. Since I was a kid, I have been in love with time-travel stories, especially the ones with Neanderthals. I also really enjoyed the poly part, so I'd do that again too for sure. Anne's history certainly is fascinating, but there is no denying she died way too soon. I am glad "Third" was able to give her a second chance at life.

Another time traveler in the story is Benjamin Franklin. Why him?
I went to Philadelphia about a year and a half ago on vacation. Philly is basically another word for "Ben Franklin city." Ben is everywhere, and deservedly so. That man had so many accomplishments! He was a statesman, politician, an inventor, a scientist and much more. I did not make a conscious decision to choose him, but the Philly trip probably did it. Ben was a scientist, perfect for my story. He also had an upstanding life of public service, but he also had that slightly (or more than slightly, depending on what you believe) sleazy side. I thought presenting a less-than-ideal side to Benjamin Franklin would be interesting. He's kind of a bad guy in "Third."


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Heart Is a Wonderful Creature ("Third" Is Out!)

"Third" is on sale now on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and Nook. (Print coming soon; I will update here when that is ready).  I'm excited about this book, but then I'm excited about all my books.

Here are the first six and a half chapters in .pdf. No download necessary. "Third" is about 70,000 words. And here's the blurb:

Helen Franklin is horrified when her dying father leaves her a most unusual inheritance: a woman. The woman, Anne, is a time traveler with a tragic past. Helen tells herself she does not have time for Anne. Yalia, Helen's wife, has been distancing herself from Helen for three years, and Helen needs to decide if she wants to save their marriage.

Then the unexpected happens. A romantic relationship develops among Yalia, Anne and Helen. Can the three of them figure out their lives together, especially when time might be running out for Anne?



"Third" is a bit (perhaps a lot) different than my other books, and for me, that is saying something. Different on several fronts: the polyamory aspect, the time travel/sci-fi aspect and the historical fiction aspect. Three huge figures in history are characters in "Third," and a few scenes take place in the mists of time. One of the three time-traveling characters is a lead, and the second is an important supporting character who has a few POV chapters. The third character is not in the book much, although he's talked about a lot.

I think "Third" would do quite nobly in a competition for a pretty durn good cross-genre book. At its heart, though, it is a lesbian romance. Not a traditional romance, of course. That's where the polyamory part comes in. One thing I wanted to make sure I did with "Third" was show that three people can indeed fall in love like two people can, and that their feelings are just as valid. The heart is a wonderful creature, and love is a wonderful thing as well. I did not write "Third" for cheap thrills or titillation (nothing wrong with that, just was not my intent with "Third"). Along these lines, the emotional aspect of falling in love is important in "Third." This is especially so for Anne, who used to be involved in a tragic love triangle. She finds herself falling for a married lesbian couple, and her feelings horrify her.

I will probably do a blog post after "Third" has been out a few weeks explaining why I chose the characters I did. I am not doing it now because it may be spoiler-ish. It'll be a fun post! :-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Sentence Can Make a Difference -- Blurbs (Updated)

Writing blurbs is a tricky business, no doubt. I've discussed in other posts why I changed the "Strange Bedfellows" blurb about a month after the book was published. I also discussed why I took extreme care with the "Waiting" blurb.

Well, guess what? The blurb for "Third" is changing too, by one sentence. "Third" is a multi-genre (crossover) novel, although at its core, it is a lesbian romance. No doubting it has strong sci-fi and historical fiction aspects. The original blurb didn't mention these aspects. The opinions I got back then said not to. Now, opinion (including mine) is shifting, so I added this one sentence, this one sentence only:

She is a time traveler with a tragic past.

So, the updated blurb in its entirety reads thus:
Helen Franklin is horrified when her dying father leaves her a most unusual inheritance: a woman. Furthermore, the woman, Anne, is anything but ordinary. She is a time traveler with a tragic past. Helen tells herself she does not have time for Anne. Yalia, Helen's wife, has been distancing herself from Helen for three years, and Helen needs to decide if she wants to save their marriage.

Then the unexpected happens; a romantic relationship develops among Yalia, Anne and Helen. Can the three of them figure out their lives together, especially when time might be running out for Anne?

So, anyway, I'm going to change the blurb on a few other posts here. I hope adding this sentence was the right decision! I think it was. :-)


*** UPDATED: OK, here's my new revised blurb.

Helen Franklin is horrified when her dying father leaves her a most unusual inheritance: a woman. The woman, Anne, is a time traveler with a tragic past. Helen tells herself she does not have time for Anne. Yalia, Helen's wife, has been distancing herself from Helen for three years, and Helen needs to decide if she wants to save their marriage.

Then the unexpected happens. A romantic relationship develops among Yalia, Anne and Helen. Can the three of them figure out their lives together, especially when time might be running out for Anne?


I deleted "Furthermore, the woman, Anne, is anything but ordinary." because it was not necessary anymore to say Anne was anything but ordinary. Time travelers aren't exactly ordinary, as far as I know. :-)




Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quality vs. Quantity

Tomorrow (probably) I will put aside "Third" for a few days to a few weeks so I can do a final read-through with fresh eyes. "Third" has been otherwise edited and is ready to go. "Third" has come a long way since the first draft that I've been posting in parts. As far as first drafts go, this is a good one. However, I doubt I'll repeat this work-in-progress experiment unless "Third" meets with tremendous sales. I'm just uneasy putting out work that hasn't been publication-polished.

Anyway, a bit daunting tomorrow ;-) And exciting. Why? All the works I've put out the past few months were already done in some form or the other. Even "Third" is based in part on a 10,000-word short story from a year or so ago. (It would've found its way into "The Old Woman" collection if I wasn't working on expanding it for publication.) "Third" came together extremely quickly, probably because I had the short story and had the novel plotted out in my head. "Switch" will be entirely from scratch. It will be great fun and interesting to see how long it takes me to write a book from scratch (writing-working full time). I am hoping six months or less because I'd like to put out two books a year. I think two books is enough to keep steady income coming in. (I hope I'm right.) But, I value quality over quantity. (I actually prefer a balance ;-) )

I'm not one of these people who labors for years over a word or a paragraph (some authors really do this, yes). I'm a practical person, a "time to move on" person.

Anyway, quality vs. quantity is an important balance for indie writers who are using their books as their sole income source. If you don't write enough, you might stop making enough money to keep you afloat. But if you write crappy stories, people will stop buying your work. I can make my readers this promise: I will never put out work that is not the best it could be. At the same time, I know how to write well and economically. I also have the advantage of writing full time, and my writing experience has helped me learn how to write faster without sacrificing quality.

Thank goodness! :)

I hope to unveil the "Switch" cover in a few weeks. Should be an awesome one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Indie Update #2

I blogged here about why I decided to go indie, and I had an update here on how I was doing. Time for another update, with the New Year and all.

My indie situation is, in a word, fab. Ooh, not even a full word! ;-) Fab may be a weee optimistic, but I don't think so.

Why fab?
-- My work's begun to win awards and might win more yet in 2012 (for the 2011 publication year) or be finalists. Awards are important to me in one way because of the stigma some people attach to being indie. The awards I won show my work is just as good as the publishers' work. I hope this quiets some people who wouldn't read my stuff.

-- The tangible greens. As of this writing, I am able to support myself entirely on my indie writing income. If need be, I could support my wife as well. I took a risk last week and passed on a teaching job. The pay actually would have been lower, and I have a M.S. in deaf education. I am getting paid to write, to do what I love. Writing clicks for me on all cylinders.

-- The little perks (or not so little perks). To wit: sleeping in, taking breaks whenever, eating lunch whenever, exercising whenever, no commute. And the little surprises: One big publisher said "Waiting" was not marketable, and it's my huge seller. I love these kinds of surprises.

It amazes me every day how little I made in three years with a regular publisher and how I make enough now to write full time. I never thought it was possible, especially in the lesbian fiction niche. It IS possible. I'm not the only lesfic indie writing full time. Publishers really are taking authors for granted by offering such low royalties. You would've seen that one reason I bypassed a publishing contract was because the publisher would not go beyond 30 percent NET on ebook royalties. (Net means after everyone else has had their cut.) I wanted to go up to 50 percent net, but even at 50 percent net, I wouldn't be able to support myself like I am doing now.

Going indie is a viable, viable choice. I've had a few authors contact me, some big-name authors, and ask me for tips and advice. Authors with publishers, if you're hesitant about signing your next contract, then don't. Chances are, your contract has a provision that says you can sign elsewhere if you find a better deal. Indie automatically gives you a better deal. You can do indie and still keep your day (or night) job. It will just take longer to publish than if you did it full time, but even working part time, you'd probably get your work out months before the publisher would have. You'll start making money on it sooner. Also, the rights to your works are yours. You keep making money on them until you die. And you get much more in the way of royalties. I think established authors are the perfect candidates to do well indie because they already have the fanbase. (I'll put my usual disclaimer here and say going indie is not for everyone. I can definitely see situations where it wouldn't work. But, as I said, it's a viable choice and becoming viablerererer by the day. Doing mixed publisher/indie is another viable choice.)

Wow, I got off track.

Back on track ;-) I'm not deluded enough to think this will last forever. It might. Ideally, it would. If it doesn't, I am glad I had this window out of a "normal" work life. I wouldn't trade what I'm doing now for the world. I want to take this opportunity to thank my readers and others who have helped me along this path. Thank you for giving me a chance, and I promise to do my best to keep putting out high-quality, intricate stories.

But first, my frappy run! :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Piracy Chatter

The lesfic world has been especially abuzz lately with piracy chatter. Authors are sending takedown notices left and right and beating their chests. Here's my take on the matter.

I noticed maybe a month ago that one of my works was being pirated. Another author I am fairly close with had a work being pirated on the same site, too. I informed her, and we had an interesting chat.

Bottom line: it is doubtful that sending takedown notices does any good. All it does is sap energy you would otherwise spend writing and promoting. I am basically looking at the matter like this: as a compliment that people think my work is good enough to be pirated. Has sending takedown notices and legal threats ever cut down on piracy? Not to my knowledge but maybe I am wrong. Pirates just shift their operations and get more sneaky.

In the meantime, I will keep writing and putting out good stuff. My sales are great, and so are the majority of my readers. People who pirate and who read pirated stuff are always gonna find ways to do what they do. I am not going to waste my writing energy on them. In this day and age, piracy is a natural side effect of being an author. Just have to deal with it. I'm a practical person, and I choose to use my time to do what I want to do: write novels, not write futile takedown notices.

Maybe I'm being naive. Maybe these notices really do work.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How To Start Indie Right -- Because I'm Selfish

I am selfish. Yep. I'm selfish. There ya have it. Selllllfish. I sell fish. Trout, bass, salmon.

No. I'm selfish. I don't like fish, don't care to sell it. Not even shellfish ;-)

And I cringe when I see an indie author put out inadequate work. Oh heck, let me pull out my French translation book: I cringe when I see an indie author put out sh****tty work. My French is eloquent, eh? Anyway, how people perceive that author affects how people perceive me. For better or for worse, many people lump indies together. However, that lumping is beginning to change, thank goodness.

In any case, this blog post is for indie authors, new and established, so people perceive you better. And thus, perceive selfish ol' fish-seller me better. Win-win situation, right? :)

1. That book you wrote and you think is great? The work agents and/or publishers rejected, telling you that you need to improve your writing? Yeah, that work. Guess what? There's a reason it was rejected with such a specific explanation.

Get busting. Read at least five writing books. I could be mean and say ten, but five will do for starters. Take writing classes if you can.

But what if you never submitted to agents or publishers? How do you know your work is good? Simple. Use the checklist below.

Checklist:
- I have never read a writing book, never taken a writing class, etc.
- This is my first book.

If you meet the above two criteria, 99.999999999999 percent chances are your work is a fine, fetid foaming craptastic gooey ball of fish. If you think you're in the 0.000000000001 percent, take your work to a critique group. Or a writing professor at a nearby college. You don't need the whole thing, just the first few pages. Heck, try Evil Editor's New Beginnings here. Wait times are minimal, and you only need the first few paragraphs of your work. It astounds me that people think they can write without training. You would not want someone with no experience cutting your hair, right? Or cutting your liver out. Same concept. Believe me, I used to be like you. I decided one day to write and gave no thought to needing writing books or any of that. I sure could have used my handy ol' two-point checklist back then. Woulda saved me lots of cussin' at publishers.

Don't argue if/when that writing professor, your critique group and Evil Editor and his minions tell you that your work is awesome, as in awesomely craptastic. Push yourself to improve. Then (most likely) put that first book away. Write book #2. You'll need considerable skill to revise book #1, and that skill won't come until later, maybe not until book #5 even. Also, there is no shame in starting short by writing short stories first.

**** Now, if your work was rejected because it wasn't marketable, or some reason along these lines, your work is especially suited for the indie world. (If you haven't read five books on writing, though, get busting.)

2. Your covers. Dearie me, presentation is important. You got your work the best it could be, so why make the outside amateurish or unprofessional? You want your cover to be the best it can be, too. If paying a cover designer $100 is absolutely not doable for you, fork over $25 or $35 for a premade cover. Heck, use the Amazon Kindle black and green "stand-in" cover if you have to.  And once you have the $100, you know what to do with it. That's right, send it my way! Thank you very much :-D

**** Tip: If your book isn't selling, look at the cover. Ask for brutally honest opinions. Also look at your blurb. Is it clear? Is the grammar correct? Is the conflict there?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why I Am Not Reading Reviews Anymore

A few weeks ago, some authors on one of my lesfic Yahoo groups said they do not read reviews of their own works. I was astonished, not because they did not read the reviews (I can think of many good reasons authors don't), but that in today's age of information at your fingertips and inadvertent slippage, that they were able to avoid this.

Now I think it can be done, and I'm joining their ranks. It was not a decision I made lightly, and my thought process might be of interest to you.

It basically started with my "Miss Lucy Parker" collection. This collection elicited strong, negative feelings in a vocal minority of people. I got a couple of horrid attack emails. Then an anonymous review popped up at BN. It said: "

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Ii hate this book. Dont make another one."

Now, if people hate my work, that's fine. But good reviews explain why, all that jazz. Readers are discerning enough to know a good review from a bad one, but this so-called review really sent me into a funk. It was the only "MLP" review on BN, too. I reported the review and a few other people did, too. But it's still there. I actually considered pulling some (or all) of my works from BN because of its review policy. My BN sales are a tiny part of my overall sales, so the hit would have been minimal. Anyone anonymous can post reviews, and they don't even need to put text. Reviews can be starred and nothing else. This is an issue I've had with some other BN reviews of my works. Goodreads allows this system too, but at least a name has to be with the review. Amazon also has pennames, but the reviews are linked. BN's system leaves much to be desired. Anyway, in the end, I decided to give readers credit for their own brains and kept my works on BN.

Anyway, then there were a few other review issues with the same work and other works, other sites. I got to the point where  I decided reading my reviews was not worth it. I would get all angsty and depressed when I should be focusing on my WRITING.

So this is my plan of action. I can see sales numbers without having to look at reviews, which is cool. But not sales ranks. If I want to know a book's sales rank on Amazon or BN, I'll ask my wife to look it up for me. I'll uncheck the Smashwords notification option that lets me know my work has been reviewed. If one gets through, I just won't read the review. Now, I WILL ask my wife to make the rounds once a in a while and read reviews. If she finds a good one (including ones that have constructive feedback--I'm not fragile enough that I can't handle constructive feedback) I will ask her to send them my way. I DO want to know what readers think about my work and what might have been a weak spot(s). Along these lines, I still love getting reader emails (other than the attack emails). Some of the emails have pointed out what they thought were weaknesses, and that's fine. As long as it's constructive and justified, ya know?

Anyway, I think I can do it, even in this day and age. :-)

**** I really do appreciate readers who take the time to post thoughtful and constructive reviews. Please keep it up! Chances are I will see these reviews eventually through my wife :)



Monday, January 2, 2012

Defying Genre

Someone in one of the lesfic Yahoo groups I am in recently said that there are not enough lesfic books that address alcoholism. Bridget Bufford in her novel, Minus One: A Twelve-Step Journey, breaks from the crowd in this respect (and in lots other respects). That's Bridget in the picture below.

She is also big on writing workshops. I write solitary and don't think I'd do as well in a group. I don't feel the need for that sort of motivation, so it was interesting for me to hear about how workshops benefit her and how she runs them. One thing I really liked is that diversity in her workshops is important to her. I could not agree more!

I'm thrilled to have her here for a bit! :)


So, introduce yourself and your books.
I am Bridget Bufford, a writer and creative workshop facilitator in Columbia, Missouri . Much of my life has been spent in the Midwest , which influences my settings and characters. Both of my books to date have Missourians as protagonists.

My first book, Minus One: A Twelve-Step Journey (Haworth Press), chronicles a lesbian woman’s first year of sobriety. Terry Manescu is a self-absorbed, sometimes violent drunk who manipulates women through her charm and physicality, but once the drinking erodes her self-control, she seeks help through AA. Her journey toward recovery is sexually charged and filled with both despair and hope. Minus One was a Lambda Literary Awards finalist and will soon be released as an ebook by Untreed Reads.

Cemetery Bird (Casperian Books) alternates between Midwest and Southwest as Jay Aubuchon, a US Forest Service Hotshot, reconnects with the family she fled in her teens. Upon her return, she helps to care for her brother’s son Brandon, a minimally verbal teen with autism. Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Cemetery Bird is available through the publisher and online outlets.

I love the sound of your books! I write on gritty topics as well, and some people have given me flak for it. Do you get any criticism for the tough topics you tackle?
What some people find harsh, others find brave. For Minus One, I won a Catalyst Award from an LGBT group at the University of Missouri. The presenter's speech ran thus:

"I'm a very big fan of giving voice to the voiceless, of facing down our demons – both personal and on a larger level, of breaking silences, and this next Catalyst recipient has done just that. In her latest artistic endeavor she has fearlessly addressed lesbian drug and alcohol addiction and same-sex domestic violence, and the intimate glimpses into addiction and recovery can serve as both tools and inspirations for all of us. She says that this work was created as a love letter to 12-step programs, but I say it is more than that –  it is also a light for any who feel lost in the darkness. There are those that would say that our community silently endorses and encourages hiding our problems, out of fear that we will only be known for our pain and struggles, and not our strengths and victories. I say that we are sick to death of being silent, on all levels, including our problems, and that addressing them is both strength and victory. I feel that she would agree with me, and it is my honor and privilege to award Lambda Literary Award finalist, author of Minus One, Bridget Bufford, with a 2005 Catalyst Award."
    John Doerflinger, 2005 Catalyst Awards (used by permission)

That's great. So what kind of writer would you say you are?
 Primarily a novelist, and if I had to pick just one descriptor, I’d call my writing literary. My hope is that my books defy genre. The characters of Minus One are largely lesbian, but at heart it’s a book about addiction and recovery. The characters of Cemetery Bird are largely heterosexual, but it’s a book about finding common experience in the face of cultural difference, mental illness, disability. The protagonist of Rough Guidelines, the manuscript I’m currently pitching, is a lesbian social worker, and the story line revolves around her interaction with clients in her therapy group.

I put three to five years into writing a novel, and I can only do that when the story explores a compelling issue. My work in progress is a adaptation of Pinocchio, recasting the Blue Fairy as a drag queen and Geppetto as a gay man who can’t have kids in the conventional way, so he carves one. The central question there is “What is a real boy?”

Minus One asks: what happens when a woman becomes abusive? Do you shun her, or give her another chance? Do you stop caring about someone when they act like that? Though the book is about recovery, those are the questions that kept me invested.

With Cemetery Bird, the question became one of estrangement—once someone becomes so profoundly isolated from her own sense of family and community, what will it take for her to reconnect with her own life?

Three to five years is certainly a substantial investment. No doubt it shines through in the finished product. Do you write full time?
I hope the final quality reflects the number of drafts each piece goes through, which is at least three and more often five or six.

I work as a landscaper, and during the growing season I don’t get much writing done outside of workshops. For the past twelve years I have been leading weekly workshops in the Amherst Writers & Artist’s Method, so I do much of my first draft during our sessions. In the winter I’m laid off, so I type up those scenes, develop transitions and refine the story arc.

I really like writing in a workshop, for the same reason that I love working out in a gym. The energy in a group is higher and more sustaining than writing alone, and workshop writing tends to be more inspired than solitary writing.

So how is your ideal workshop set up? For example, are the writers all in the same room when they write?
 A good workshop can offer the best possible writing experience. Unlike an academic setting, where efforts are immediately judged, in a workshop the writings are supported and encouraged. In my workshop we do that by using the AWA Method, which creates an environment of support and safety.(http://www.amherstwriters.com/workshops/the-awa-method.html) I began leading groups in 1996 and took the AWA training in 1999.

We meet in the lower level of my home, which has a separate entrance into a small room with the coat rack and coffee/tea setup.  The next room resembles a family room, with plenty of seating plus tables and desks for those who prefer to withdraw from the group to write.

I give a prompt; we all write for twenty minutes, then reconvene to read and respond. By focusing our responses upon the strengths of the work, the group gives each participant a chance to build upon those assets and cultivate his or her unique writing voice.

Something I really prize in a group is diversity—in experience, education, age, genre, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, culture. We can all learn from each other. Diversity can be hard to achieve in this Midwestern college town, but when we do it makes a difference.

If a writer can't do a workshop, particularly an in-person workshop, for whatever reason, what are some possible alternatives?
AWA workshops have been a godsend to me in terms of my own writing process and also in acquiring a local writing community, but obviously they don't work for everyone. Other options include online critique groups and classes, or online writers’ groups like Golden Crown Literary Society and Virtual Living Room. With the advent of the internet, even the most isolated writer needn’t lack a sense of community.


My website, with links to both books:
http://www.bridgetbufford.com/index

Cemetery Bird press kit:
http://bridgetbufford.com/CBpresskit-Print.pdf