Monday, December 26, 2011

The devil you know or the devil you don't?!


I’m one who ‘pokes the bear’ so much that when he sees me he just hands me the stick and waits patiently for me to finish.

Amazon’s actions of late seem predatory to me. They are going for the jugular with the brick and mortar stores and now the Kindle Lending Program where the author gives exclusive publishing rights to Amazon, that means no Smashwords, no Barnes and Nobel. This reeks of monopoly to me and there is nothing I hate more than having no choice in my life. Let alone, alienating readers who don't own Kindles! I will admit to my control freakishness.

There is much BIG 6 bashing going on by the likes of JA Konrath and Barry Eisler. There is talk of gate keepers and favoritism. What is the difference with Amazon’s new attitude and new label? What is going to happen to the author when there is no BIG 6, there is only the BIG 1, Amazon. I think we all have to admit this is the long term goal of the company. I’m a big picture person, not a short term gratification junkie. Is this Amazon move for the greater good of all writers? When there is only one choice then we have no choice! We get lured in with large payouts and great splits others can’t offer, but what happens to the writer when there is no more real competition and Amazon has all the control? Again the control we have struggled for is lost.

I already see favoritism heaped on certain authors at Amazon, i.e. The Thomas & Mercer stamp of approval. I drool at the wonders that no doubt await the hacks like me behind that new gate…just when I thought we were smashing down the gates and sending gatekeepers to the unemployment line we have a new one! Those singing the loudest praises for the company have Amazon branded on their arse and they have joined the stable of the BIG 1. To me it’s starting to look like an ‘old boys club’. I believe I saw only one filly in that stable. Are they truly self-published or Indie, I would have to say, NO! I know I’m being picky here but this is not what I consider being backed by a small press. Sometimes it's the little things in life that annoy the heck out of me. To many, writing is a job as much as it is a passion, so why not make the most out of it? Again, what is it going to cost us in the end.

I see creative control mentioned a lot, but mostly mind boggling figures that make me either giddy with anticipation or sad that it is all about the numbers…numbers I will never see. In my heart of hearts it is not about the numbers or the money, it’s about the story, and perhaps that is why I will never get to peer behind that special gate.

As I mentioned my control freakiness, what happens when there is only one…I’m having Highlander flashbacks here. LOL

Will all be accepted in the new Amazon world of self-publishing or will we see the resurrection of the BIG 6 restrictions and its formidable gate? Will they need the true Indie author when they have lured the big guns from the Big 6?

I was born in the 60's, so I am one who will always go down fighting, raging against the machine.  

The more I think of dollars signs and use the ‘job’ word, the less passion I have for this whole process. Instead of being bludgeoned by Patterson (endless commercials or pimping) and Grisham's successes, I am made to feel inferior by a whole new group, asking me why aren’t I selling 500,000 books a month. It beats the heck out of me. I suck? I don’t market? I haven’t made the right friends? I haven’t written enough books?

This is a post to open dialogue and to think about more than the short turn money orgasm some are getting from this deal...with the new devil. I think we all need to take a long hard look at Amazon’s rise to gatekeeper. It may not concern the likes of Barry, JA, or some of the other big guns, but it’s the little guy who always gets trampled underfoot. Someday I feel this Amazon power grab could concern every writer.

I am by no means singling out Barry or JA, they just have been the most vocal on the subject in my little world. Few if any, have done more for the Indie author than JA Konrath, and I thank him for that.

Thanks to Barry’s rants on the subject, I picked up his John Rain book and found a new character to love. No, I'm not writing you any reviews. lol

I have dyslexia so you can always count on two things. 
1. Improper punctuation before my work goes to the editor…like now.
2. You will never have to worry about me throwing numbers at you, except to say I made enough money to buy a McDonald’s Value Meal this month. ;-)
Love to ALL!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How does writing for a living impact the writer?


I don't think we can generalize but for me I’d have to say it’s been a negative impact. Too many distractions on the internet and too much or too little time spent self-promoting. Either we don’t sell books or we make those around us crazy with spam. Balance can be difficult to achieve. Setting aside time for writing, time for promotion, and time for self and family seems impossible. Often times when we feel we are pulled in too many directions, we simply shut down, that’s what I seem to do.

I recently blocked an author on Facebook because day in and day out my wall was filled with her novels; I counted 8 in a row. She is very successful and prolific, but enough is enough.

I’ve always been self-employed and learned the balance between work and marketing, but the book world is a whole other story. In a new way we post virtual ads in the paper and hang up signs in our grocery stores and then we wait! It reminds me of fishing, we pour or heart and soul into our work, then throw it out there to see what bites and sometimes the reader bites back…ouch.

I think for me I’ve always written because it’s what I love to do, but over the last year I lost that love when it became a job, a goal and an ambition to achieve success.  I have always had a pencil in my hand, writing is something that I do for myself, but my world changed the day I went indie and decided to make it a career. I haven’t decided if I have lost more than I gained. Instead of being about words and emotions, it becomes about number and rankings and dollar signs. The publishing world is something like Nascar for writers. We spend our time jockeying for position and the power it brings us. I see people proudly boast their current Amazon rankings. Hey, I hit #13 for a while last year, too. No, I don’t know what is with the sports analogies today.lol

My 2012 resolution will be less time on the net and more time writing, no one will notice because I have achieved the long sought after invisibility, growing up in my house that was a good thing.
 I struggle with my health, so the added stress isn’t what I need. Being unable to work in the ‘real’ world anymore this seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m considering turning my work over to a small press so I can have some peace of mind, but will I miss the complete control? I’m not sure a small press can make enough of a difference, so I keep putting off my decision. Book trailers and blog tours and endless self-promotion will never go away, so…

I’ve seen the Eisler vs Hocking debate and I see the validity in both sides. If I had the fan base of either one, I wouldn’t be sitting here, I’d be writing in FIJI!! The money is great in self-publishing but at what cost to the writer? For many, there will little impact, but others will drown in the chaos.

2012 will be about balance and letting go to some degree. I hope to see a 2013 so I can be #1. ;-)
Take care
Jodi

Friday, November 18, 2011

WHEN GOOD CHARACTERS GO BAD

Can the good guy be bad?
I saw a post from a very talented thriller writer, Jason McIntyre, author of Thalo Blue, on twitter asking if his character could commit cold blooded murder. I had to put in my 2 cents and say, yes.

I'm struggling with a similar circumstance with my hero, Nick Dempsey, from my mystery/thriller Nature of the Beast. I think some of the reason I'm putting off finishing my sequel, Ties that Bind, is because I have taken him down a darker path than most characters/heroes venture down. Okay, at least darker than the human heroes! I, for one, am enjoying the trip. Nick, maybe not so much.lol 

It won't be a permanent personality change or maybe it will be, but people change and are changed by their circumstances. We read about it and see it all the time. It leaves me wondering how fans will react to Nick's transgressions and rightfully so. No one wants to create an unlikeable hero or ruin a favorite. I've been feeding bits and pieces to selected readers to see what kind of reaction I get.

I think I have and always will create "real" characters who are flawed and human because that is what I want to read myself, and, after all, I'm flawed and human, too.

The definition of antihero,
A protagonist of a drama or narrative who is notably lacking in heroic qualities. This type of character has appeared in literature since the time of the Greek dramatists and can be found in the literary works of all nations. Examples include the title characters of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote(1605 and 1615) and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749).

We see they have been around for centuries, so we should have no fear to give it a try!? Maybe we won't create a true antihero but we'll let them wander down that path for a ways. I think the key is to give an underlying quality or circumstance that the readers can relate to. My character's meltdown is inspired by an attack on his wife and few other things I won't divulge at the moment.

Creating a great hero will let the character do just about anything and still retain the fans' loyalty. Our readers are investing their time and money. Is there a "You had me at hello" type of deep connection or maybe he or she is just a hottie...you decide.
How far is too far?
Rape, murder, incest, animal abuse, adultery, lie, cheat, steal, do drugs? These are all things we expect to see from our villains, but what about our good guys, the heroes? How evil can we make them and still call them a hero? Are readers even looking for heroes today or just the thrill of a good, exciting story?

My favorite character is Joe Pike, written by Robert Crais. When Joe's friend Elvis Cole is wondering what to do with some bad guys Joe can be often heard saying "shoot them." Shooting them would not be out of character for Joe but harming an innocent woman or child would be. Now that I think about it, the bad guys these two face never seem to make it to prison. That's what I have come to expect from these two characters.

My Nick's, transgressions are small in the grand scheme of things but they could still alienate some readers. A revenge killing and adultery are not the worst things I could have him do, but they were integral to moving the plot forward and shaping the future psyche of the character.

The thing I love about self-publishing is that it lets me think and act outside the box of traditional publishing. It gives me the opportunity to write my real character without a 'no, no' slap on the hand.
I was watching parts of Grand Torino with Clint Eastwood, he was not a likeable character but we got a glimpse into the past that created him and into the pain he endured and I think into the promise of a different future. I think we see more of the flawed hero on the big screen and I'm okay with that type of character. It makes the character more interesting and there is usually some redeeming quality we can cling to.
When all is said and done, as writers we need to write our characters, the good, the bad and the ugly and let the chips fall where they may.

Next time you see a bad, good guy, realize that we put a lot of thought into what you are reading and that are we trying to give the most enjoyable and realistic reading experience possible.

HAPPY READING!

3 comments:

Jason McIntyre said...
Another great anti-hero doing questionable things in modern pop culture is Walter White from AMC's Breaking Bad. He is definitely doing some nasty things in the name of his family...And, heck, some of it might not be for his family any more. Great post, Jodi! Glad we connected over this very interesting topic of debate. For the record, I've accepted the challenge of taking a good guy down a dark path -- in a MASSIVE way. :) j. //
Jodi Langston said...
It's something I've been worrying about, too. I need to just charge ahead and get it done. Best of luck. I can't wait to read it!
Sheilagh Lee said...
Excellent post Jodi I think as long as we can see the character as still human we can accept them flaws and all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

EVOLUTION

    I write this as both a reader and a writer. We adapt, we evolve, we change. That is the nature of the beast.
   Why is it that the reader has such a hard time accepting the change, the evolution of a character when it is the inevitable fact of life that everything changes? Our moods, the weather, and for me a good character changes, too. I guess we don’t like be out of our comfort zone. We want the familiar character we have grown to love.
   I was scanning some reviews at Amazon for some authors I like to read and it made me wonder. I saw many one-star reviews simply because the character was evolving, changing or doing something that was unexpected. Should an author be penalized for doing that? I don’t think so, in the end as a writer we have to go where that story takes us. We have to listen to what the character is telling us.
   There is nothing more boring to me than a character that never changes. Book after book I’m read the same thing, but at some point I have to stop reading. As a reader I want to be shocked, I want to sit there and wonder why the character did that. As a writer I aspire to rock your world with a deep and somewhat unpredictable character.
   As much as I love Stephanie Plum I haven’t read a book all the way through since Ranger was shot. I think Evanovich is giving the majority of the readers what they want. The few readers like me who drop out won’t be missed. I love Steph, Morelli and Ranger, but until something life shattering happens, I won’t be reading. I have seen no forward movement in the characters and I lost interest, to me they have become predictable.
   I recently started reading the John Rain character by Barry Eisler. I started in the middle of the series with Requiem for an Assassin. Rain is a quintessential anti-hero, assassin for hire. I’d like to say Rain is an anti-hero with a heart but I’m not sure if that is an accurate statement. From what I’ve read, Rain is evolving, longing for, or at least, wondering what a ‘normal’ life would be like. That sounds good to me because it leaves the door wide open for so many plots and I expect a character to grow. Some of the readers didn’t like this step in his evolution, and I guess that is to be expected. Rain is now a father and that changes a person whether we can admit it or not. If you think you can find 'the love' for an assassin give a John Rain novel, a try.
   Last but not least, my favorite character Joe Pike, written by Robert Crais. Pike has ventured off from Elvis Cole into his own series of books. Elvis is always there to lend Pike a hand when needed. Elvis and Joe are a good pairing, like John Rain and Dox.
   Pike is changing and ‘thinking’ about evolving.  In The Sentry, he actually lets his guard down and lets a woman in, it just turned out to be the wrong woman. I was so proud! Okay, I’m a huge Pike fan! I see growth and change and an inner dialogue that says can I be normal? I can see him as a husband and father. That I think, will be too much for most of his readers to handle. That’s okay because I write fan fiction stories, so I’m good. Pike will always be the hero who hides his pain behind dark glasses and the man of action who is willing to die for a cause. He is a killer with a conscience, John Rain, not so much. Pike will never show up to a party and talk your arm off. I like the fact he keeps me guessing, wondering what is going on behind those dark glasses.
   Crais books have crisp, clean writing with just enough amazingly poetic descriptions to keep me interested. His writing is Spartan, you won’t be inundated with too much of a good thing and I love that.
   
   My character Nick Dempsey, seems be to simultaneously evolving and devolving if that’s possible. I'm going where he is leading me, good or bad. He has made great strides to live a normal life but one horrific event will lead back down the dark path in the sequel to Nature of the Beast. You either face your demons or you spend a lifetime running from them.
   I think our characters change over the years as we do. We become more cynical or less cynical. Our characters age as we do and they feel the grip of mortality, they think ‘what if.’
   I can see why there is trepidation by some authors to evolve their characters…you will alienate some fans in the process, but in the end your character knows best.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writer's life

   My best advice to new authors would be to believe in yourself and follow your dream to the end. I went self-published because I didn’t want to spend my last day on earth wondering if I could have achieved my goals but I didn't because I let someone hold me down. A published romance novelist I worked with once told me that it isn’t the fear of failure that holds us back, sometimes it’s the fear of success. If we succeed people will have expectations, want more from us. Do bigger and better things and that can be a lot of pressure for anyone to bear.
    Writing is hard work that takes passion, drive, determination and skill. I think many people can write, but not everyone can elicit emotions from their readers. That is my primary goal as a writer. I want my reader to feel the pain and the joy of my characters as if it were their own. I want to take them on an emotional journey they wont forget.
    I started writing when I was old enough to hold a pencil. I illustrated and wrote stories(westerns) and I forced my poor mother to read them. So, I've consider myself a writer for the last 40 years. I think I found my genre and my voice when I gave up poetry for prose…I still dabble at poetry. I think there will always be some degree of romance in what I write because love makes the world go round and it makes for some interesting plots. I spend my time reading and working on the craft, revision after revision. Sometimes, I don’t want to touch a thing because I try not to force myself to write. I wait for my characters to speak to me and sometimes like an angry friend, they don't.

   It’s hard to send your work off. Much like a child, our writing contains our blood, our sweat and our tears.  Like a child it will be judged by others, but that is the way of the world. We cant hold our work back any more than we can hold back our children. There comes a point where we have to let it out into the world. All we can so is hope all the hard work and love we have put into it will be obvious for the world to see. We can only hope, someone will get it and be touched.
   If you keep on writing and trying you will succeed. Today with the ebook revolution we have more options than ever. We no longer have to wait for validation from a publisher we can take our work directly to audience, but hang on it can be a bumpy ride!