Dear Internet: I Want My Life Back

cell-phone-2-1525544-1280x960Periodically, I decide I need to break up with the Internet.

It usually comes after a week fraught with huge blowups among my circle: meltdowns and high drama, like the exposure of a catfisher or outrage over someone/something that is Absolutely Wrong.

More and more these days, it comes as a result of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future of my country and the planet as a whole, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell us to be afraid, be very afraid.

As Internet Addictions go, I don’t think my case is too bad (though isn’t that what all addicts say?). Sure, my boyfriend jokes about how I reach for my cell phone first thing in the morning, but that’s about a morning ritual of checking messages and my Twitter feed that allows me to spend another ten minutes or so in bed before I have to get up. No, really.

I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I don’t have a tablet. With the exception of Twitter, I don’t check any of my social media platforms on my phone–that waits until I’m seated at the computer.

But I do spend hours every day at the computer, circling social media sites looking for something interesting to read or start a conversation. I get online to ‘catch up’ and ‘unwind’ and the next thing I know, I’ve wasted most of the evening. Would I have been more productive if I’d stayed offline? Hard to say. Probably. But most days I’m so fried when I get home that faffling around on the internet is about all I’m good for.

Earlier in the week, I read this post by social media guru, Kristen Lamb. She talks about the fine balance between maintaining a social media presence online and losing five hours of your life to LOL cat videos. She has some good things to say about the way mindless tech use can kill your muse (not to mention your life in general). I read the post, nodding along, knowing I needed to institute some of the same measures mentioned. My friend Shira Anthony calls her tactics “Ninja Facebooking”, which is to log in, share some information, comment on a few posts, and get out again before the time sink effect kicks in. It’s a smart way of handling things, I think. By the way, she’s got a great new release upcoming up that’s available for pre-order now–Take Two from Dreamspinner Press. You should check it out.

Pokemon HoundsYesterday, while I was out with the dogs for a short run, I almost walked into a couple coming from the opposite direction. I looked up just in time before my muddy dogs and I plowed into them and I was horribly embarrassed that I hadn’t been paying attention. Why had I been so oblivious? Because I’d opened a game on my phone (ostensibly with the purpose of deleting it, only I started playing it instead) and I wasn’t even aware of their approach until it had almost become a social disaster.

Lately, I’ve been noticing just how much time I spend answering emails, sharing posts and tweets, and participating in online conversations… and I seriously believe that I do this far less than the average person. I’ve been noticing how much of the evening is devoted to sitting on the couch beside the boyfriend while we both tickety-tap away on our devices–me on Facebook or Live Journal, and him on Reddit or playing games. Just the other day, I met a man with a toddler who had very little verbal skills, but he was a demon on the smartphone. His little fingers flew over the screen, scrolling through images until he found the video he wanted to watch. The kid probably knew how to work his father’s smartphone better than I know how to use mine. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know. Perhaps it is a matter of trading one skill set for another, exchanging one form of learning for a new one. However, I can’t help but wonder about the scores of young adults I know with crippling social anxiety, and whether the willingness of the younger generation to put every aspect of their lives online for public scrutiny has anything to do with that.

I met with my critique group this morning, and toward the end of our conversation we began discussing how much online presence writers need today. Where the boundaries are. How much should we share. How much time to spend doing it. That sort of thing. To my surprise, my group members seem to think I’m some social media whiz-bang. We were discussing the success of my latest story, and my friends gave much of the credit to my marketing skills. I had to make the squinty–face at them because I’ve been doing about the same thing as always on the media front–the surprising success of Fool’s Gold was probably due to several factors but I don’t think my ability to ‘work it’ on social media had as much impact on sales as decisions I made on pricing and which platform to offer it in.

Yes, I post to Facebook and Twitter regularly, and I share other people’s posts, too. Yes, I post to the blog semi-regularly, but then I *like* writing blog posts. Nothing has changed in that regard since my previous book was released.

But I agreed with much of what they had to say. It resonated with many of the things I’d been thinking lately.

computer-keyboard-1188763So I sat down here with the firm resolution to write the Internet a Dear John Letter. I wasn’t going to ‘take a break’ because I found being online overwhelming. I wasn’t shutting off my browser so I could finish a WIP. I was going to make a full-fledged declaration that the Internet was bad for me and I needed to be strong and walk away. To take that time and spend it more wisely. To reconnect with the living things in my life on a daily basis. To live my life before I woke up one day and discovered it was over.

And then I read this post by The Bloggess, who put things a little in perspective for me. And I remembered that my online life has allowed me to stay in touch with people I’d never see otherwise. I’ve made friends all over the world. I’ve traveled to meet up with my online friends, too. Hell, I met my boyfriend online, and next month will mark eight years of our being together. We had a blast playing Pokemon Go together at a local street festival a few weeks ago (just wait until he finds out I caught a Pikachu!), too.

Even my critique group, with its bicoastal and international membership, originated out of online communities and we ‘meet’ via Skype. Last weekend, I attended Writer’s Police Academy–an organization I learned about from friends met online–and I met up with fellow authors there. I’ll be posting about my experiences at WPA in the future, but the point is I’m not going to be breaking up with the Internet at all. The Internet and social media aren’t inherently good or bad. They are tools, that’s all. And like any tool, we need to learn how to use them appropriately and with common sense.

I wouldn’t carry a hammer to a wedding (it’s not Game of Thrones, peeps!), nor out horseback riding or to the grocery store. But if I need to fix a fence or replace a board, I’m going to use one. Be smart. Turn off the device from time to time and check out the world around you. Don’t walk into hikers or off cliffs or into bears because you weren’t paying attention. Pay attention. Life is worth it.

Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…

Sardinia--freeimage.com

Sardinia–freeimage.com

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to what my favorite authors do on social media.

Some aren’t very good at it, in the sense that you never see them at all. Some aren’t very good at it because they manage to enrage a good portion of their fanbase without meaning to do so.

But others bear watching. I’ve been impressed at how J.K. Rowling has dealt with everything from international crises, to Brexit, to people commenting on decisions she made regarding her characters. She’s a class act, let me tell you.

I’ve been a published author for about six years now, and there are things I wish I had done differently from the beginning if I was allowed that famous ‘do-over.’ I’d be less forthcoming with stuff about my personal life, I’d pay less attention to reviews, and I’d have planned my releases better. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have let real-life get in the way of my production to the degree that it did.

There are lots of reasons for that. An unforgiving day job, a health crisis,  and so on. These are things most people have to deal with, and yet others still manage to be productive in the face of tougher challenges than mine. So why did I go from producing the equivalent of a novella a month to barely managing a novel a year?

One of the big reasons was a shift from Live Journal as the place I hung out and chatted with friends to Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit, I miss LJ. I still go to my journal, but the community is gone. People have moved on to other, more active platforms. One of the things I see that bothers me is that many of these platforms seem to need you to be there all the time in order to be a part of the community.

How does anyone get anything done?

I’ve posted before on what I see as the problems with Facebook; especially the way it causes you to compare your life with others (and come up short). But there’s another problem with Facebook and Tumblr and their ilk that I think is an even bigger issue: they are addictive time sinks.

When I am stressed and tired, I tell myself I need to unwind a little before attempting to to write. What happens is I spend some of my best writing time wandering in circles from one social media platform to another. Sometimes I start conversations, only to have to go back and respond to the comments I generated with my post. Sometimes,  I just scroll along, liking or RTing posts as I come to them, drugging my brain with a constant barrage of images.

Over the last five years, I would say there has been a big increase in my base level of anxiety. The sidebar on Facebook is typically filled with horrible news or events that are trending at the time. Friends will post heartbreaking images I’d rather not see, or post support of political and social ideologies I find unbearable. Lately, with all the heartache in the world, I find myself needing to take more and more breaks from social media. As we come into the Presidential elections here in the U.S., I can’t imagine I will be able to bear the fever pitch of hostility and polarization that the political rhetoric has created.

And yet I worry: surely if I abandon my social media platforms, I run the risk of dropping the ball on my marketing, right? After all, I’ve worked so hard to make sure my voice is heard among the sea of many who are out there plugging their craft, same as me.

Well, I’m beginning to think that’s not the case. Last month, I wrote a post on this website about my frustrations with readers who justify pirating and illegally uploading books to torrents. It automatically crossposted to Facebook and Twitter, and I went on with my day. To my utter surprise, it went viral. I had over 60 K hits on the website in a 24 hour window, and at last count, the post has been shared over 10K times.

And I did nothing to ‘promote’ it. I wrote it in a fit of frustration and clicked ‘publish’. Apparently some of the things I said struck a chord with a LOT of people, and it was shared accordingly. I strongly suspect nothing I ever write again will trigger that kind of reaction. I can’t say as I saw a big bump in sales, either. But my point is this: I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that self-promotion is a big waste of time. And while I think it’s perfectly fine to hang out with your BFFs on your favorite social media platform, keep in mind it is taking time from your best promotion effort ever: your next story.

So this is what I see successful authors do with social media:

  1. They do what my friend Shira Anthony refers to as ‘ninja posting’. They pop in, make a quick post, and close the browser before they’ve lost the best hours of the day to endless scrolling.
  2. They avoid the controversial and the political–something I have a tough time doing. Sometimes things are so egregious, something must be said. But shouting to the choir on your side probably isn’t the best way to go about changing minds.
  3. They post upbeat or interesting things–such as photos of their latest trips, or their reaction to the wildly popular television show everyone is watching right now.
  4. They are themselves–but with makeup on. You know what I mean. It’s the person you are when you go out on that first date, as opposed to the one who’s been in a relationship for 20 years. Yes, it’s you, but the best you. The polished you.
  5. They spend more time writing than promoting or socializing.

So perhaps now is as good a time as any to spend less time on social media for a while. Not just because I need a break from all the bad news in the world (seriously 2016, go home–you’re a mean drunk!), but because I’ve got things to do. Places to go. Stories to write. Life to live.

Things I wish someone had told me as a newbie author and other musings…

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone—no wait. Not exactly. 🙂

It’s been a bit crazy, to be honest. I wrote a blog post on piracy and file-sharing that struck a chord with a lot of people. I’ve been attempting to respond to the sudden influx of emails, Facebook notifications, Tweets, and comments on the post itself. That’s derailed my week a bit, though in a good way.

Today is the first day of my monthly guest spots on Lou Sylvre‘s Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate blog. I’ll be posting on at Authors Speak on the 12th lof each month for now. For my debut, I decided to dig out and revise an older post, but one I felt was still relevant: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me as a Newbie Author. My thanks to Lou for inviting me to be a regular part of the blog! I only hope I won’t disappoint–I’m not always eloquent and coherent, you know!

In the meantime, I have one revision on a deadline, another book in final edits, an injured cat, and a disrupted week because of needing minor surgery myself. Which means I’m probably going to be slow to answer comments and emails–I apologize in advance.

And though I’m told it’s dumb to release a cover without a buy link/pre-order link available with it, I don’t care. This cover by Reese Dante for my upcoming story is so lovely, I can’t wait to share it with you! Fool’s Gold is looking at a mid-July release date at the moment–I’ll tell you more when I get closer to the date.

Blurb: Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

Fool'sGold-400x600

The Cult of Anger: Which Wolf will You Feed?

snarling-dog-e1360684279321There’s another bruhaha brewing in the M/M romance genre right now, one that seems to have escalated in a little mushroom cloud on Twitter in the last 24 hours.

I don’t know how it started. I know that I’ve seen statements that both anger and insult me. It feels in part like another attempt to tell women we can’t write in certain genres, but it’s more than just that, I believe. The statements and counter-challenges have been flying with the force and unpleasantness of monkeys throwing their own dung. I’ve read comments that the only ‘authentic’ story is written from the perspective of a gay man by a man, and that anything not written by a man is not only crap, but fetishistic crap as well. I’ve seen an unexpected backlash against trans characters being included in certain stories, and strident statements that the M/M genre was created by cis-women for cis-women readers, so there–along with an unhealthy bashing of the female gender by these same women authors. Which is simply mind-boggling to me.

I can tell you I don’t write M/M romance because I wish I was male. I like being a woman, thank you very much. I do write in this genre because I find it more interesting and challenging to me as a writer, and because I can identify more with feeling like an outcast and having to hide who I really am than I do with the heroine of the average traditional romance novel.

I’ve seen a lot of people trying to define M/M romance to include what they want it to include and nothing else. I wonder sometimes if these people aren’t expecting fiction to be something like what is posted on a fanfic archive, where tastes and kinks can be so tailor-made to a person’s likes or dislikes that you can follow tags to get a story created just to your individual specifications.

Personally, I think it would be incredibly boring to choose to read only stories that matched all my personal preferences. Sure, it would make it easy for me to go shopping, and I’d be reasonably sure of liking the product purchased, but I’d never be challenged in any way. I’d never have my eyes opened to things outside my realm of experience, and I would very likely miss out on some amazing works because they didn’t meet my narrow criteria for stories I wanted to read. Frankly, there’s something out there for almost everyone. The spectrum is long and there are many shades of color along the way. I love Jane Austen. You don’t. We both love historical romances. Does that mean every historical romance must be a Regency–and that it must be written by someone who actually lived in the Regency time period? I think most of us would say not.

The kerfuffle has been like opening a can of vegetables your granny put up two summers ago, and discovering it’s gone putrid inside when you weren’t looking.

I don’t know why this same argument keeps coming up, nor why it seems to get uglier each time it does. I don’t dispute that gay literature, gay romance and M/M romance are different things to different people. What I don’t get is why we seem to have to keep drawing lines in the sand and daring people to cross them. Why we have to keep building clubhouses so we can post “Boys Only” on the door, or create our mud pies and then stand snarling over them like angry dogs.

Maybe it’s because so many of us are angry. So many of us are starving. We’ve been deprived and denied of our rights at work, and among our families. We’ve had to fight for equal pay and respect from our peers. We’re stressed. We’re exhausted. We’re bombarded daily with hostile, negative messages. And we’re looking for someone to blame when we fail to achieve the American Dream we were promised as long as we worked our asses off, played by the rules, and did everything right.

I certainly believe that is the appeal of certain right-wing candidates. They are tapping into this well of hostility that boils so very close to the surface these days. I believe it is the driving force behind GamerGate, and men bashing women online, and people behaving like trolls on websites, and people leaving harsh reviews because it gives them some sort of mean satisfaction.

It’s why I come home at the end of a long day, and instead of making smart choices about dinner, I say, “The hell with it!” and order pizza. We got reamed, damn it. We’re owed. We deserve it, we tell ourselves, even though we are only hurting ourselves in the end.

I don’t know when we got so mean and angry. All I know is that I’ve seen interactions change over the last decade of being online, and I have to tell you, I don’t like what we’re becoming. I refuse to play. I refuse to feed that wolf.

Two wloves proverb

Ten Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me As a Newbie Author

dangerThe other day I stumbled across a great Facebook thread in which a new author asked for advice: she wanted to know what kinds of newbie mistakes to avoid as a first-time author.

True to form, the writing community, including myself, chimed in with a number of excellent points. Afterward, it dawned on me this would make an awesome blog post, and here we are.

I’m going to give you my bits of ‘I wish someone had told me’ advice, mixed in with some of the best snippets I gleaned from my Facebook friends when asked the same.

In no particular order:

1. Google your pen name before you start using it. Yeah, I wish I’d done this. Because there’s Sarah Madison the actress, and Sarah Madison the cardiovascular surgeon, and Sarah Madison the published historian, and if you are looking for any of them and you get me instead, yikes! On the other hand, I like to think of someone enjoying one of my stories while recovering from cardiovascular surgery… Seriously, though. Google your pen name. You really don’t want the same pen name as a serial killer. Also, be careful of having a ‘unique’ spelling. If people can’t remember how to spell your name, they aren’t likely to find you on a web search. It’s easy. It takes less than thirty seconds, for Pete’s sake. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

Whether or not you need a pen name is another discussion altogether. I personally think if you write in wildly divergent genres, such as ‘sweet’ Christian romances and dinosaur porn, you’d better have two pen names. But that’s just me.

2. Platform and promotion. Yes, you have to have it. No, no one likes promoting themselves, but it is a necessary evil. As author K-lee Klein points out, “Writing is the good part, but be prepared to WORK for the book when it’s done.”

In order for promotion to work, however, you already have to have a platform and internet presence in place. A website (more on that later), Facebook page, and Twitter account are probably considered the bare minimums, but most writers have pages on Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, G+… well, you name it. Many writers have pages on sites geared toward their genre, too. It’s a lot to keep up with. My rules for platform and social media: pick the two or three sites where you are the most comfortable and spend time there. If a site makes you unhappy, you won’t be your best there. Learn how to cross post from your main sites to other sites. I rarely spend time on Goodreads or Tumblr–they just aren’t my kind of places, but other people hang out there, so when I post a blog entry like this, I make sure it automatically cross posts to those other media platforms.

Worry less about your ‘brand’  when starting out. Be friendly. Share other people’s announcements. Interact with people in a manner that does not always center around your books or writing. For heaven’s sake DO NOT auto-post tweets or private message people with BUY MY BOOK spiels within seconds of them friending or following you.

glasses-booksThere are some great books on social media out there. I happen to like Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone:The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I might not agree with everything Ms. Lamb says (she is very much against pen names, for example) but she has some good points to make. One of which is that your name should be easy to find–it should be part of your website, your Twitter name, etc. Having a cute Twitter handle might be fun, but what if no one remembers that @AwesomeWombat is really Sarah Madison? Don’t make it hard for your readers to find you.

3. Websites: Your website is your home base. It is going to be the main way readers find you. Make it easy for them! You have roughly two seconds to make a good first impression when people land on your page. If your site is too hard to navigate, too difficult to read, has too many moving gifs or images that roll by too rapidly to read, you’ve lost a perspective reader right there. They will move on to the next site, to look for some other author whose home page doesn’t make their eyes bleed. Whether you have a static home page or not is up to you. But the most important thing is that your site is crisp, clear, and easy to navigate. Your social media links should all be in one place. Your backlist and buy links should be easy to find. You should update your blog on a regular basis. If you have a newsletter or a way for readers to follow your blog, it should be easy to find and sign up. Two seconds. Otherwise, your viewer will click away.

4. Reviews: if I had put these in any kind of order, reviews probably should have gone at the top. EVERYONE had a lot to say about reviews. For the most part, I tend not to read my reviews unless I’ve been sent the link from a trusted review site or a friend has discovered a glowing review and they want to share it with me. Everyone gets bad reviews. Don’t believe me? Look up your all-time favorite book. I guarantee that you will find someone who utterly loathed it and flamed it royally in their review. Any time I stumble upon a review I wish I hadn’t seen, I perform this very task and it is amazing how therapeutic it is. Because if someone can hate the book you adore, then it puts things in perspective for you. Over and over again, people gave DON’T ENGAGE A NEGATIVE REVIEW as their number one advice. Just.  Don’t. The author *always* comes out looking like the bad guy here, and nothing will alienate fans faster. Jay Northcote puts it this way, “Never respond to bad reviews. EVER. And don’t bitch about them in a public forum or it’s likely to bite you on the arse. If you need to vent (and if you look at your negative reviews, you will), do it in a safe/private place to someone you trust.Sue Holston says don’t even read your reviews, and I can understand that viewpoint as well.

There are some people who’d suggest not responding to any review on Goodreads, as it is a site primarily for readers, not authors. I know many authors who interact with their fans quite happily on Goodreads, but I confess, it feels like an abandoned mine field to me. One false step and BOOM. But that’s just me.

The point is, don’t let one bad review negate the twenty good ones you’ve received. Don’t let a ‘meh’ review derail you from your planned story arc, or shut down your writing mojo. Cooper West quotes Churchill, saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going”, which is a pretty good life lesson in general. Margarita Gakis advises the same, but urges even more to simply write. She says, “My advice is keep writing. Keep writing when it sucks and when you get a bad review and when you’re not sure if this is for you. Because as long as you’re writing you’re getting better. It’s like learning any skill and the more you do it the better you’ll be.”

And then there is the classic post regarding reviews from the imitable Amy Lane: The Five Stages of a Bad Review. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

5. Beta readers versus Editors (and what they bring to the table): first of all, these people are invaluable to you as a writer. As Kaje Harper said, “Beta readers and editors are in partnership with you to make the story the best it can be. Every error they catch, every change they suggest, is not an insult to your talents or story, or a sign of failure, but one more thing that will be better when actual readers buy your book. Welcome the red ink, don’t fear it or be insulted by it. At the same time, remember it is YOUR story. You can tell an editor they are wrong, if you truly believe that. They are human and fallible and sometimes your vision has to be the one that carries the day.

I think this is very important on many levels. As authors, particularly new authors, we have to be willing to accept the input of others, especially if we keep getting similar feedback from multiple sources: that’s your biggest indication something is wrong with your story or your writing style and it needs fixing. At the same time, it can be difficult not to let a strong-minded person take on more credit for the shaping of your story than they really deserve–or should have. Beta readers are not editors, either. Yes, they will catch typos, but their primary function is to tell you if the story is working or not. Different people catch different things, so I think it is very important to have more than one beta reader. But my main reason for having multiple readers is two-fold: not only do you not want to overwhelm a single person if you are a prolific writer, but it is much harder for someone to claim a larger share of the credit when there is more than one person involved. A beta reader who claims to ‘make or break’ you is like someone who helped you set the table expecting credit for cooking the banquet as well. A good beta reader is worth their weight in gold. They will help you produce the cleanest copy possible for submission to a publisher. They are cheerleaders and problem-spotters. But once the story moves on to editing, their role is usually done. Beta-readers are often friends, which can make it very painful to sever the relationship if it is no longer working for you. But if your beta-reader is acting like a gatekeeper between you and publishing, it is definitely time to end the relationship.

pen and paperEditors will clean up and tighten your prose, point out that you have used the same phrase thirty-seven times, correct your somewhat loose interpretation of the Chicago Manual of Style, and identify where things need to be explained in greater detail or a weak plot point that needs fixing. But they should not be altering your style to match their own. It is your story. They are polishing the finish on the sports car, not re-building the engine.

Kaje Harper and Becky Black also wanted me to point out the difference between rejection and ‘revise and re-submit’. Getting a revise and re-submit request is a good thing. It means the publisher sees promise in your story, but that it is still a bit rough around the edges. Don’t let an R&R crush you! It’s actually quite hopeful. 🙂

6. Don’t game the system: I mean, seriously. There’s a big difference between recognizing and taking advantage of market trends (something I’m not very good at, but I know people who are) and writing simply to make a buck. Face it, if you want to make money, there are  far easier ways of doing so. By gaming the system, I mean deciding you’re going to write serials, or short cliffhangers, or dinosaur porn, filling Kindle Unlimited with them because hey, you can churn those babies out to match the current best deal Amazon offers, and the instant the algorithm changes, so does your storytelling. Look, I have nothing against dino porn, but if you want to write it, do so because you enjoy it, okay? And no sockpuppets singing your praises or slinging mud at the competition. No buying reviews. I really shouldn’t have to say this, right? Pricing your story so that it sells well, or making the first book in a series free? That’s not gaming the system. Buying your way onto the bestseller lists is.

The best way to make writing pay for you? Write. Write a lot. Be working on your next story while you are launching your previous one and be thinking about the next one, too. Readers are like stray cats. If you feed them, they will come.

Most of us go through a post-story blues, where it is hard to move on to the next project. Get over yourself. I once sat down and figured out that it took me nearly a year from the time I conceived of a story idea, to writing it, to submitting it, to having it published before I saw royalties trickle in. Which means that for writing to pay the bills, I have to have a new story coming out at minimum every quarter. Which brings me to the next point…

7. Don’t quit your day job. Seriously. Writing a runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey is like winning the lottery. It rarely happens, and certainly not to you and me. The rest of us have to slog out a minimum of something on the order of 60-80K words every 2-3 months in order to even hope of quitting the day job. I don’t know about you, but putting that kind of pressure on myself really puts a damper on my writing mojo. Writing is something I do that makes me happy in order to make other people happy.  But I don’t ever want to look back on my life twenty years from now and wish I’d spent more time walking the dog or hanging out with my boyfriend. And I don’t want to take something I love and turn it into something I hate because I can’t turn out a completed product I can take pride in.

But hey, maybe you can be incredibly prolific while still working a full-time job. Or maybe you’re currently jobless, and now is the sink or swim moment. It is possible to make a living as a writer. Just expect to work hard, write a lot, make a lot of personal sacrifices regarding how you spend your time, and don’t expect Hollywood to come knocking at your door with a movie deal in hand. It means writing when you don’t feel like it. It means there is no such thing as ‘your muse’, only the need to put words to paper because that’s your job.

Though this doesn’t quite fit in here, Felice Stevens had a nice bit to share about the “Rules” of writing: Don’t listen when someone tells you the “Rules” on how to write. Don’t listen when people tell you if you write fast, it’s junk, if you write slow you’ll lose your base. Find your voice and don’t try to be some one else.”

Which is just plain, good common sense. You’re going to hear a lot about how to be successful as an author. But by trying to please everyone, you’ll wind up pleasing no one. You don’t really need a ton of fans, anyway. You need a thousand die-hard fans that will buy everything you write and tell all their friends about you too.

pirate8. Piracy: it happens. There is no use giving yourself ulcers about it. Don’t try counting up the money in lost revenue it represents, either. It will only make you cry. Some people don’t fight it. Personally, I do. Piracy means the difference between my paying the mortgage some months, or whether I have to wait another year to replace the glasses with the $400 lenses. Piracy is the difference between having to choose between dental work or going to a writer’s convention. Don’t just bitch about it, though. Every couple of weeks, do a search of your name and book titles (I find that Google Alerts tends not to pick up many illegal downloads–it’s better for notifying you of reviews). If you have a publisher, report it to them–they are losing money as well. Draft DMCA and takedown notices to send to pirate sites. Make sure that people know that many of these sites are just phishing to steal credit card information. In my case, my stories frequently show up on torrents (someone seems to keep uploading a bundle of four of my stories–it’s infuriating to see the same bundle appear again and again…). Appealing to the torrent is usually futile, but you can report the link to Google, which will block it in a title search on their browser. Given that almost everyone uses Google, having them block the illegal site in a search is a good thing. Searching the internet and preparing takedown notices is time-consuming and frustrating, but I do it. Sure, I realize that the vast majority of people downloading illegal copies would never buy from me in the first place. That doesn’t mean I have to make it easy for them to pick my pocket.

NotMyMonkeys-FB9. Don’t ever diss another author. That’s just plain stupid. Unless you are among unimpeachable friends that you trust with your whole heart, giving a frank opinion of someone’s work or personality is fraught with the potential to have your words come back and bite you in the ass. Keep it to yourself, even if you feel completely justified, or if someone approaches you, encouraging you to vent. Be a professional and keep your mouth shut and your fingers off the keyboard. That applies in general to most internet kerfuffles and dramas. Remember the great proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys. This is a corollary to not responding to negative reviews. People talk. And if you malign someone’s writing or themselves as a person, the chances are it will get back to them.

On the other hand, sometimes it is impossible not to have someone get angry with you through no fault of your own. Apologize for inadvertently upsetting them, try to correct or prevent the circumstances that led to the misunderstanding, but if they won’t grow up and get over it, let it go. Don’t talk about it, however. Be the bigger person here. Apologize, move on, and never refer to it again. If they keep bringing it up in the face of your silence, they wind up looking petty and small for holding grudges.

10. And last but not least: write what makes you happy. Don’t write to market pressures. If you have no interest in the latest fad, your lack of enthusiasm will show. If you want to write about chefs, or the horse-racing industry, or US Marines, or WW2 flying aces, or dragons, you can. Just make sure you’ve done your homework, or in the case of fantasy, you’ve created a world with believable rules that make sense. Don’t worry about finding an audience. Chances are if you love what you’re writing, others will too. And they are the readers that count the most.

As for me, right now, I’m deep in the throes of edits for Truth and Consequences, book 3 in the award-winning Sixth Sense series from Dreamspinner Press, hopefully to be released this fall! If you’ve been waiting to find out what happens to Flynn and Jerry next, you’re in for some major surprises! Next month, I’ll be attending Rainbow Con in Tampa, FL–do look me up if you’re attending the convention. 🙂 More on that as we get closer to the date.

 

 

 

 

Sex Positivity Blog Hop: Why Sex Shouldn’t be a Dirty Word

spbhbadge (2)Hello and welcome to the Sex Positively Blog Hop, the brainchild of fellow author, Grace Duncan. For the next two weeks, you’ll be hearing from some of your favorite romance authors sharing their positive views on sexuality, as opposed to the negative spin we get from most lawmakers, the media, and ‘concerned citizens.’ For the entire list of participants in the hop according to dates posting, check out this link here. There is a link at the bottom of the post for the websites themselves.

I think this is a terrific idea! I believe that what two consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their own home should be just that: private. And I believe we have the right to read and watch and enjoy what we like, as long as all parties involved are consenting adults as well. You like to read Dinosaur Erotic Fiction? Okay, not my thing, but I can respect that it might be yours. It’s not my place to judge you on it. It is certainly not my place to try and have it removed from Amazon. You think 50 Shades of Grey is the best book ever? Well, I disagree, but I’m not going to try and get it banned from the local library or condemn your morality because you enjoyed it. Likewise, I would not expect you to get your knickers in a twist because I write male on male romance, or because one of my friends loves what she calls ‘tentacle porn.’

Why do so many people put their noses in your private life? There’s a small business near my house that sums it up pretty well, I think. Painted on the side of their building is a picture of a large, ugly city, a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. The painting quotes a Bible verse about how we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God: and then goes on to state that unless we put to death the sinners, our nation will fall. Um, remind me not to take my business there, okay? But it illustrates a real problem with the viewpoints of some religions: it’s not enough to say, “My religion forbids me to eat doughnuts, therefore I won’t.” It’s the religions that state, “Doughnuts are the gateway to hell and everyone who eats doughnuts are sinners and we must BAN all doughnuts or else our mortal souls are in jeopardy, so prevent access to doughnuts NOW” that are the problem.

Daisy DukeSex is a weird beast when it comes down to it. We revere it in advertising, as long as it follows certain rules. Daisy Duke had to wear panty hose in order to get her miniscule shorts past the censors on the Dukes of Hazzard, and yet Catherine Bach’s poster of the Daisy Duke character sold over five million copies. There’s no doubt, sex sells. When it comes to products, to television series or movies, or novels, sex is often a big part of the marketing campaign, even if there is little sex in the actual item being promoted.

And yet sex is strangely taboo, as well. I’m sorry, but I think it is a bit strange that we here in the US have a high tolerance for blood and gore in action films, but showing a little bit of flesh can move a film into a restricted viewing category. It’s the push-me pull-you reaction on the part of the public to sex that is so puzzling and frustrating to me. Especially when it comes to how women are portrayed.

Redhead bondageA few months ago, I got into a discussion about tropes in traditional romantic fiction with a friend of mine, Pir8fancier, on Live Journal. I’d read a scene from a best-selling novel from a famous author, and due to an unfortunate choice of words, I’d mistakenly assumed that the new lover had handcuffed the woman to the bed when she showed signs of leaving. My misinterpretation of the scene threw me right out of the story. I was already having issues with the scene as it was: the heroine had a history of sexual abuse, and there were elements in the scene that made me very uncomfortable, as the hero refused to back off, but persisted in his pursuit of the woman. One of the things I’d been enjoying up until this point was the fact that the heroine was only interested in the man for sex. She only wanted to scratch an itch. I had found it to be a refreshing take in a story from the woman’s POV, and was pleased to see it. But then, out of nowhere, came what I perceived to be dubious consent.

Pir8’s take on this was interesting. The heroine, who’d previously shown herself to be tough and uncompromising, was having her role flipped on her. She said, “It sounds as if the author is actually punishing the heroine for wanting to be sexual and not be the submissive little sex slave that she should be. That her role is to be the woman who is enthralled with the man, NOT with his sexual organ. That sex for sex’s sake is bad and she has to be put in her place. PHYSICALLY. All of her sexual agency in this scene is taken away from her. He physically overpowers her. She cannot direct the sex. She is there for his pleasure. And naturally because this is fiction, his pleasure becomes her pleasure. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? We can’t have our own pleasure, we can’t please ourselves. We have to be passive and let the man please us.

I know that this type of scenario plays into a lot of our shame about sex, which society promotes big time, and it is no surprise that this would appeal to many women because it absolves us of the burden of enjoying sex. We are helpless! It just happened! I had nothing to do with it!

I cannot accept this sort of passivity any longer. I want my heroines to embrace their sexual selves.

THIS. I want to draw hearts and flowers around this statement and decorate it with glitter because YES.

GOP PLan for WomenThe discussion turned to the conflict between the sexualization of pre-teens, while constantly sending out messages that women need to be passive sexual partners. It was Pir8’s opinion that this conflict was possibly behind many of the self-destructive behaviors such as cutting and anorexia. And it is not just limited to women any longer, though the stigma of being a ‘slut’ is still actively being championed by the Far Right. For the heterosexual male, being sexually active is more likely to be viewed with pride than with shame or name-calling, and yet more and more we’re seeing legislation being passed to limit access to birth control measures, or as some people on the Right refer to them, “Whore Pills.” When the Hobby Lobby debacle came down, I had people on Twitter telling me they didn’t want their tax dollars going to pay for some slut’s whoring around. Funny, we don’t see any bans on insurance companies selling Viagra or performing vasectomies, now do we?

But I digress.

I agree with Pir8fancier. We have a heavy media presence pushing sexuality on one hand, and a social presence condemning it on the other. Yes, the message is definitely be sexual and get punished for it–or don’t be sexual and be ostracized and turned into a pariah. I can remember driving up to pick up my younger sister from her high school and being treated to a gauntlet of stares, nasty comments, and laughter as I waited for her. When I mentioned the reactions I’d received while simply waiting to pick her up, she looked me up and down and said, “Well, if you’d bothered to do your hair and wear nice clothes, they’d be the ones jealous of you.”

I stared at my then 15-year-old sister and asked, “Why would I give a rat’s ass about what some teenagers think of me?”

She didn’t get it. That was the message she’d gotten from her peers and from society around her was, “Look the part but don’t act the part.”

Which is sad. It’s sadder, too, that online misogyny and slut-shaming seems to be growing in strength rather than diminishing.

What can we do about it? Well, for one, we can stop buying into society’s playbook. We need to teach our kids not to be ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. We need to do away with the ineffective (and largely American religious-based groups) abstinence only programs and teach proper sex education in schools again. We need to talk to our teenagers about consent (an excellent open letter written here–but be prepared, the comments are just as ugly and inflammatory as you could expect). We need to talk to our kids about protecting themselves from inappropriate sexual contact without making them fear and revile ALL sexual contact. We need to stop making sex a selling point in advertising.

ink pen_wikipedia_orgI think the biggest task, however, lies in the hands of the writers. Yes, we writers. The pen is mightier than the sword, after all. 🙂 The writers are always on the forefront of changing society’s perception of accepted mores. It’s writers telling stories about same-sex couples finding their happily-ever-after or introducing GLBTQ characters into television shows that has been instrumental in increasing both the visibility and acceptance of this community, as well as championing their rights. Star Trek put a black woman in an officer’s position on the bridge of a spaceship, taking her out of the traditional role of a maid for the first time ever. Star Trek also gave us the first interracial kiss (even if it was The Aliens Made Them Do It) and then decades later on Deep Space Nine, the franchise gave us this scene, in which Jadzia Dax is faced with the woman she was once married to–but as a man.

 

 

One of the things I love about this scene is that the love is between two characters–not their external bodies. Not who they are on the outside, but who they are on the inside. The taboo in the relationship is not that they are both women now, but that Trill society forbids romantic relationships between former hosts from past lives.

We need to keep breaking the ground on what is ‘acceptable’ in terms of romantic fiction and refuse to play into the old tropes where a woman had to be forcibly overcome during sex so that she wouldn’t come across as a slut, or that a man had to come over all alpha and dominate his partner in order to be seen as a ‘proper’ romantic lead.

It’s up to you readers as well. In many cases, you hold the most power. Vote with your purchases and your reviews. Don’t accept the tired old tropes (unless of course, you like them). Tell authors what you love about their stories. Tell your friends about the books they must read. Leave reviews on the stories that touched your heart and why. Share. Promote. Talk about it. It’s time to embrace your own sexuality as well. Yesterday I tried on a pair of ridiculously inappropriate shoes. Inappropriate because my life is filled with mud and animal hair, with horses, dogs, and cats. Inappropriate because I nearly killed myself trying to walk down a short flight of stairs in them.

My Frozen ShoesBut damn, they looked good. And that’s reason enough to have them. I feel like a princess when I put them on, and I’m learning to embrace my Inner Princess. She’s the one who dresses up simply because it pleases her, and she’s not afraid to ask for what she wants–and take it when it is offered.

Like Pir8 said, I cannot accept this sort of passivity any longer. I want my heroines and heroes to embrace their sexual selves. And that means starting with myself.

Here’s the link to the rest of the blog hop! Do join in the fun!

My latest release is Walk a Mile, the second installment in the bestselling Sixth Sense series from Dreamspinner Press. FBI agents John Flynn and Jerry Parker are struggling to keep their evolving relationship together while on hunt for a murderer. Do check it out!

UnspeakableWordscoverWalkAMile

New releases, Cover Art Wars, Interviews and more for Sarah Madison…

Not Quite Shakespeare PaperbacksYou know how it is when you want to share a bunch of information but you have to keep tracking down links and C&P them where you need them? It’s not worth making a whole file for them because many have a short shelf-life and you don’t need to keep them *forever*, but still, it would be nice to have them all in one place.

Yeah, that’s what this post is about. 🙂

First, look at my lovely books! I came home last night to discover that Dreamspinner Press had sent me complimentary copies of the Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology! Yesterday was the release day, and the timing of the books couldn’t have been better! I had a typical Monday at work, which means my guts were churning with stomach acid by the time I got home–this was the perfect antidote! Available as both an e-book and a paperback, Not Quite Shakespeare contains 15 stories of love and adventure set in the UK by some of your favorite M/M authors–including me! 😉 You really need to check this one out! I’ve been looking forward to it for what seems like forever! Now on Amazon, too!

Atop Chanctonbury RingIn honor of the release of Not Quite Shakespeare, I was interviewed yesterday by the incomparable Sarah Granger, author of the smokin’ hot Regency M/M romance A Minor Inconvenience. I shared my inspiration for my contribution to the anthology, Chanctonbury Ring, as well as some photos and my love for all things UK.

 

And if you missed it, I was over at Raine O’Tierney’s Hat Party, talking about Chanctonbury Ring and my fear of zombies! (No, the two are not related!) I’m also holding a giveaway there, but time is running out soon on that!

 

The Boys of Summer400x600Also, the cover for The Boys of Summer, designed by the amazing Reese Dante, is currently participating in Cover Wars over on the Masquerade Crew! This is a month-long battle to see which cover will come out as the victor, and truly, the cover for The Boys of Summer deserves to be one of the top contenders, yes? Yes! So save this link! Drop by daily and select your ten favorite covers that will move onto the next round.  Be sure to share this link on your various social media sites–the more the merrier! I’ll be posting little snippets about how I came to write this story, and why it means so much to me.

Speaking of covers, I just sent in my spec requests for the cover for Walk a Mile, the sequel to Unspeakable Words, due out this fall. I’m like a child two weeks before Christmas, imagining the various prezzies I might get and knowing that what I get in the end will exceed all my expectations!

Sizzling Summer Reads 2014Last, but not least, I’m one of the participating authors in the Summer Sizzling Reads Party over at The Romance Reviews for the entire month of June! You can click on the banner on the right of my webpage to go to the party, or follow the link here. The Boys of Summer will be featured on June 14th with a Q&A. The answer to the question is hidden somewhere on this site–so if you want to get in the running for a free e-copy of one of my stories, you’ve got a couple of weeks to poke around this site looking for the answer!

Be sure to come back this weekend, when I’ll be hosting author Tempe O’Riley as part of her book tour for the next in her Desires series. Lots of fun things going on this summer!

Susan Mac Nicol wows with a dose of Double Alchemy: Climax!

Large-Banner-Ad_DA_ClimaxHello, and welcome here today author Susan Mac Nicol as part of her Double Alchemy: Climax book tour! As most of you know, Susan is the author of such bestselling M/M romances as Stripped Bare, and Saving Alexander. She recently released Double Alchemy, the first of a two-part series dealing with warlocks and magic! In Double Alchemy, Susan created a unique world where warlocks are paired at an early age with a ‘Withinner’, an ancient sorcerer from a different time period. The two can feel and communicate with each other–but not exist in the same place at the same time. They can, however, trade places–and times–when the need presents. In the first book, someone is killing the warlocks, hunting them down one by one. In the midst of this turmoil, one of the most powerful warlocks, Quinn, falls hard for Cade, who is not quite what he seems. The attraction between the two men is instantaneous and powerful–and not without its bumps in the road. There are unanswered questions at the end of Double Alchemy, thus paving the way for Double Alchemy: Climax! Readers are saying that Climax is the perfect sequel to the first book, and though Susan states this is the last in the series, the readers are clamoring for more from Cade and Quinn!

Official Tour Page
Facebook Event Page

Be sure to read the entire post to find out how you can enter Sue’s Rafflecopter!

About Double Alchemy: Climax (Double Alchemy Book #2)
Double_Alchemy_Climax_3d_Book
• Title: Double Alchemy: Climax (Double Alchemy Book #2)
• Author: Susan Mac Nicol
• Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
• Release Date: 22nd May, 2014
• Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Powerful modern warlock Quinn Fairmont found ecstasy with the silver-eyed and not-quite-human Cade Mairston, but to know true happiness the pair must best both the shadow of a long-ago lover and an ancient enemy who seeks to destroy love, light and all they hold dear.

A BLINDING LIGHT
It begins with a Book of Shadows discovered by a London coven. The grimoire is as dangerous as it is rare, which is why it evokes modern-day warlock Quinn Fairmont’s desire. He collects objects of great power and beauty—like his lover, Cade Mairston.

Against all odds he and Cade found each other, but their perils have just begun. First is the ex-lover who once held Quinn in thrall. And, someone has been killing warlocks. Could it be one of his own kind? There are those too who would challenge Quinn’s power in their quest to overthrow him as Grand Master. Or is the danger something darker, something invoked inadvertently, rising from the shadows, building from the very inside of a man until it brings an end with a quick flash of light? Of the truth, the surface has only been scratched. Now Quinn and Cade must go deeper and find both answers and an end. They must learn what lurks in the hearts of men…and whether it seeks to love or destroy.

Praise for Double Alchemy (Book #1)
“I love Paranormal stories & I’m a huge fan of Susan Mac Nicol’s M/M books. In this book, she brings both genres together & gives us this amazing story. With her master storytelling, she takes us into the mystical & magical world of Witches, Warlocks, Withinners & Feys. A world where danger lurks in the shadows.” – Maria Recchia
“I stayed up all night reading this story. Susan has a way of writing that is different than anyone else. She’s uniquely brilliant at weaving a tale that brings out my emotions. I have laughed in every one of her stories. That’s incredible for me. Not just a smile, but a laugh. I love that. This book needs to be read. You won’t be disappointed.” – Author Kindle Alexander

“Susan Mac Nicol has created a complex and fully realized fantasy world…. Quinn is the star of this novel, taking out the bad guy and learning how to trust in Cade’s love enough to share his unsavory past.” Library Journal

“I completely loved this beautifully and highly detailed written Paranormal story! This wasn’t a predictable story by any means. How Susan Mac Nicol takes us on a ride through this very creative and engrossing world that you will not forget, anytime soon and will be wanting more and more of it. I am a huge fan of this author and Double Alchemy, doesn’t disappoint by any means at all. I highly recommend this hot, steamy, love, paranormal and so beautifully written story!” Paul Berry

“Susan Mac Nicol brings us another sexilicious m/m romance but also takes us into a magyckal world of Warlocks, Withinners, Fae, Witchfinders and Witches… I loved the combination of the magyck and the m/m romance storyline. I am so glad Ms Mac Nicol is not keeping us waiting as the second book in the series will be released 22nd May 2014. I highly recommended this book to read and is an absolute five star rating from me.” Foxylutely Book Reviews

Praise for Susan Mac Nicol
“We have to re-iterate that this Author will always be an automatic one-click for us. Her writing is flawless and her flawed characters are completely lovable. There’s always something quirky and fun in her stories as well as drama, angst and heaps of passion! We can highly recommend!!” – Gitte & Jenny – Totally Booked Blog

“Susan has been hailed as a genius writer of male/male literature. Her Saving Alexander has been nominated for several awards and has been reviewed widely. Congrats on all your success, Susan. You have earned it.” – Gay Lit Authors

Purchase links for DOUBLE ALCHEMY (Book #1)
Boroughs Publishing Group | Amazon: US, UK, CA, AU
Purchase links for DOUBLE ALCHEMY: CLIMAX (Book #2)
Boroughs Publishing Group

Double Alchemy: Climax Excerpt

Quinn’s eyes flashed violently at his uncle. “I am not fucking losing him to the depths of a bloody Hampstead Heath pond.”

He knelt down beside Cade again, closing his eyes as he tried once more to heal, but the wound just kept seeping blood, now at a much slower rate than before. Cade’s face was ash white, his dark hair standing out starkly against the deathly pallor of his face.

Quinn. Your Cade is nearly gone. You have to put him in the water now before it is too late. There is no time for your modern medicine. He will not survive unless you do it now. The Water Sprites will take him and heal him as long as there is still a spark of life left in him.

“I can’t. Don’t ask me to do that. I can’t.” Quinn’s voice was strangled as he struggled to compose himself. His body was cold, his mind sluggish and he had never felt so desperate.

Daniel strode forward and despite his small and wiry frame, he picked Cade up in his arms. He looked at Quinn, his voice resolute. “He’s dying. This may be the only way to save him.”

Quinn growled and reached out with a hand to hold him back. Daniel sidestepped him and looked at him with a resolute expression. “You can hurt me if you want but it won’t help Cade. This is all we have left to try before he dies.”

Quinn’s hand still gripped him tightly and the older man winced.

“If anyone is going to do this, it’s going to be me.” Quinn’s voice cracked and he held out his arms. Wordlessly, Daniel placed Cade in Quinn’s outstretched arms and Quinn pulled his lover closer to his body. He walked down to the water’s edge and waded in as Daniel watched helplessly from the bank, his face stark. Quinn gently laid Cade down in the water. He seemed to float for a while, hair spreading about in the water like black smoke. His face was still, eyes closed as Quinn held tightly onto his cold hand, rubbing his thumb over the engagement ring. Quinn’s vision blurred as tears filled his eyes.

You need to let Cade go. Let him join his kind below the water. Trust me.

Taliesin’s voice was soft, compassionate. Quinn heaved a shuddering sigh as Daniel joined him in the water, laying a comforting arm on his.

“I can’t—” Quinn shook his head in grief, his heart breaking.

His uncle took hold of his shoulders, firmly holding him back. “There’s no other way, son. Let him go.”

Quinn relinquished his grip on Cade’s hand, standing there as he heard a soft splash and saw the water rippling around them. As they watched, two sets of pale hands emerged out of the water, and slowly, lovingly, Cade was dragged gently beneath the dark waters of the pond. Quinn saw the hand with his ring on it slowly disappear under the water. It was the last glimpse he had of the man he loved.

Now let’s hear from Susan on stepping out of your comfort zone, making the most of social media, and going for it when it comes to going for the job you want!

As I was out of work for so long, I decided to change my focus a little and apply for jobs outside of my comfort zone. One of this jobs was a ‘Social Media Manager’ for an ad agency in London. They asked me to write a short intro as to why I thought I might be suitable for the job. This is what I sent them, and I thought you might find it interesting.

Why YOU and US was the question…

The best way to start this is to tell you a bit about me because only then can you understand why I think ‘you and us’ might work. I started writing a book in Feb 2012, managed to find a publisher and now have nine novels to my name and plenty more in the works. I was one of those people who pooh-poohed social media, thinking it was for angst driven teenagers and people who had nothing better to do with their time. Then I became a published author of digital books and found out the hard way that I meant nothing out in the world without it. I went on a crash course, learning all I could how about to promote myself. I drove myself hard to become good at it as to me, not being the best isn’t good enough. I worked damn hard, developed my ‘author platform’, my ‘reader base’, my street teams, my networks, aligned myself with people who could help and mentor me, all the time developing my skills and trying to understand how social media and the internet worked to get me the results I needed.

To some extent it worked. I now have 5 best- selling books, have a reputation for being among some of the big names in the genre in which I write, which is gay male romance. I’m told I’m a damn good writer. I think I have a long way to go still but the reviews I get for my writing prowess I guess are somewhat proof that perhaps I do have a talent somewhere 🙂 I even have my own company www.theravencrestagency.com which helps other authors promote themselves. I also edit other writer’s books, using what I’ve learned. It’s a fledgling business and I haven’t done much with it yet but it’s a start. I give talks at local writing circles to other budding writers on the power of social networking and how it can pay dividends if you work hard at it. I even managed to convert one retired curmudgeon to try it against a lot of resistance and now he hates me because I was right:-) It works. (He doesn’t really hate me, we’re very good friends)

And in the race against the extremely tough competition out there one of the things you need to develop and grow your business and make people notice you is the content you put out on social media and in any promotions that you do.

I see your website, see what you have achieved, see the passion and humour behind the company and admire you for how far you have come. I love the fact that you are ‘ fascinated by the fluid frameworks that define human relationships, and the role that innovation and technology can play in shaping them.’ As a writer trying to grow my business, I can appreciate that and it’s only by developing these frameworks of human relationships, that I can develop my reach.

So many people do not get the aim of social media. It’s not to tweet out a thousand times a day ‘buy my book’ or keep putting Amazon links to your book on your Facebook page. It’s not about sending out copious emails to your subscribers telling them about your next release. It’s about engaging with people on a human level, appealing to their baser instincts, letting them know you find them as interesting as hopefully they find you. It’s about giving them what they want, not what you need.

It’s why when I wrote a book with a male pole dancer as one of the main characters, I started a Facebook group called Male Pole Dancers and Groupies, because readers became so enamoured with the concept, it made sense to draw them in on another level. I now have over 90 world class pole professionals as members who regularly stop by, encourage the novices and tell us all about their latest competition or routine. Some of them are reading my book and promote it.

That’s how you get to people. By being good at what you do, being a social animal and being their friend, their provider of entertainment and in between, letting them know what you are doing with your books and letting them find their own way there. It’s a slow, sly creep into their lives, keeping them interested and feeling you are a human being. Enough said. Thanks for listening no matter what the outcome is.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Susan Mac Nicol
SueSusan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Double Alchemy: Climax is her sixth m/m romance.

Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself becoming a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.

Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.

Susan Mac Nicol is also author of The Magick of Christmas, Confounding Cupid, Cassandra by Starlight, Together in Starlight, Stripped Bare, Saving Alexander, Worth Keeping, Waiting for Rain and Double Alchemy.

Social Links: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

Faberge Shampoo, or what are you working on now, Sarah Madison?

red_flickrRemember that old Faberge shampoo commercial? You know, the one where the woman with the luxurious hair says, “And I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.”

That’s a bit how social media works, isn’t it? 🙂 I got tagged for a ‘and so on’ type of blog post by my friend and fellow author Margarita Gakis. The idea is that I answer a few questions about my writing and tag three more fellow authors, who will, well, you know. And so on. Margarita is the author of Trial by Fire (Book One in the Covencraft series) and one of those brilliant, amazing authors who creates splendid characters with depth and dimension–and is also darned funny. You should check out Trial by Fire–book two (Counter Hex) is in the editing process and book three is underway!

MargaritaTrial By Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the questions I received:

1. What am I working on?

Hah, this might as well read ‘what should you be working on?’ I’ve just finished the sequel to my FBI/paranormal story Unspeakable Words. Walk a Mile will be coming out with Dreamspinner Press sometime this fall. I’ve started the sequel to that story because I left things on a bit of a cliff-hanger and I didn’t want my audience to suffer too long. 🙂 However, I’ve put that on hold a bit as I work on some other, smaller projects. I have a short story coming out sometime in June in the Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology from Dreamspinner. I’m working on a piece of fanfiction right now, and yes, I still write fanfic. I write it because it’s fun, and because I can let my imagination rip and stretch my writing muscles without worrying about whether or not it will pay the bills. I am writing less of it than I used to, though, primarily because of lack of time. I liken it to a palette cleanser between courses, however. Fanfic brought me back to writing after a 20 year drought. There will always be a special place in my heart for it.

Peggy's ShoesHowever, part of my temporary detour from the latest WIP, tentatively titled Truth and Consequences, is that I am seriously considering stepping a toe in to the traditional romance market. I came across a submission call for a M/F anthology with a tight deadline. I’m doing a little research to see if I can create something this particular press would be interested in. If so, I might be launching the Madison Dean line of stories sooner than I thought!  I’m also making plans for a new series of stories set in the 1950s, in which my main characters are undercover agents investigating paranormal events in a small Southern town. Think of it as Ward and June Cleaver meets Area 51. 🙂 This is a big departure for me, as Sarah Madison writes almost exclusively in the M/M romance genre. The Madison Dean persona and website still needs a bit of work, but we’re getting there.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The Boys of Summer400x600Hmmm. I frequently describe my stories as being ‘romances with a twist’. I find odd things interesting. I spend most of my time running around thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ What that means is that you’ll seldom find a straightforward romance among my stories. As you can see from above, I describe Unspeakable Words as a ‘FBI/paranormal story’. The Boys of Summer is a contemporary story, but it has a long historical sequence within it. Crying for the Moon is about a vampire who wants to live a ‘normal’ life. The fun of writing for me is to create a set of characters and put them in a crucible of sorts–to put them in hot water and see how strong they are.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Whew-boy. That’s a tough one. I wish I knew. I write stories that appeal to me. I’m aware they don’t work for everyone. Sometimes I wish my own thought processes were a little more mainstream.  🙂 I’m aware that I’m your basic mid-list author and that I will never rise to NYT bestseller status. I’ve been toying with writing outside the M/M genre. In part because I want to try my hand at something new. In part because I am tired of justifying myself within a genre where some people repeatedly question the presence of any women authors at all. You know, that’s an inherent misogyny that is incredibly frustrating to face time and time again. The implication is that we as women are incapable of accurately portraying a gay man. That we wouldn’t do the same kind of research necessary before we’d write a story about someone with a spinal cord injury, or a historical novel, or a police procedural, or any other topic with which we don’t have personal experience. Sexism is just as ugly as racism or homophobia, and sadly, women authors (and by association female readers as well) are often accorded by some the intellectual respect that someone would give a semi-literate chimpanzee.
But also because I *adore* strong female characters and would give my eyeteeth to be able to create one that doesn’t make me want to bitch-slap her 20 pages into the book. You know what I mean. The kind of woman who can eat whatever she wants and never gain an ounce. The kind who is completely unaware of her beauty (show me a beautiful woman in ignorance of her attractiveness and I’ll call her a liar) and has improbably colored eyes–how many women do you know with lavender-colored irises?? No, my heroines are more like Zoe from Firefly, or Peggy Carter from Captain America, or Kate Beckett on Castle (before she started looking so much like a fashion model–seriously, I preferred her sharp-edged classy look from the beginning of the series) or Amelia Peabody from the Elizabeth Peters novels. So yeah. There are days when I dream of writing a ridiculously runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Gray. Sadly, that kind of story doesn’t interest me as a reader or a writer. I’d die happy if I created a series heroine I adored.
And I love shoes. 😉Black shoes_resized
4. How does my writing process work?
Well, it usually starts with a ‘what if’ idea. What if rooftop gargoyles came to life every night? What if they were fascinated by humans, read their books, observed their activities? Or what if a vampire decided to shun his old existence and attempt to live life as a moral? What if a hard-ass FBI agent accidentally touched an artifact and developed paranormal powers? I LOVE what if questions. They take my mind on a wild journey where improbable dangers and cheesily romantic things happen. I play around with these ideas for a while, daydreaming over chores or before I drift off to sleep at night.  Eventually the characters take form and I tone down the more ludicrous aspects of my fantasy. And lo, a story is born. 🙂
So there you have it! Now I’m going to tag three authors to answer the same questions next week on their own blogs and tag three more authors themselves. And so on, and so on.
My three fellow authors:
Anna Butler is the author of several short stories in Dreamspinner anthologies, as well as her sci-fi short story Flashwired. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be part of the beta process for her epic five book sci-fi Taking Shield series that is currently submitted to a publisher, as well as her delightful M/M romance Gilded Scarab. She is an incredibly gifted author–her world-building is stellar!
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My next victim tag-ee is Sarah Granger. I’ve only recently discovered this author! I fell in love with her M/M historical romance A Minor Inconvenience–I can’t say enough good things about it! You can check out my review here. I was absolutely entranced by this story and count it among one of the best M/M romances I’ve read this year. She also *nails* the Regency genre down cold. If you love historicals, this is Jane Austen meets Horatio Hornblower in a story Jane would blush to tell.
MinorInconvenience-A72lgUnforgivingMinute[The]
Last but not least is Hb Pattskyn! I was fortunate enough to have Hb on the website talking about her book, Hanging by the Moment, and I’ve been following with interest her decision to take charge of her health and remake her body. I’m looking forward to hearing what she’s up to now–all three of these tagged authors will have their posts up May 6th so be on the look out for them!
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The Boys of Summer is one of Jessewave’s Best of 2013!

Pop A CorkI was just cruising around Twitter when I discovered that The Boys of Summer made Jessewave’s list of Best M/M Romances of 2013 by guest reviewer Orion! Wow! You could knock me over with a feather–I never expected that! What a nice thing to stumble across! 🙂

I’m gobsmacked, I am. I mean, when you think about all the books that reviewers read in the course of a year, it’s amazing that anyone would like one of your stories enough to put it on their “Best of” list. 🙂

In more grumbly news, apparently when I got the latest WP upgrade, it disabled comments on my posts (unless I manually enable them, how stupid is that? Comments enabled should be the DEFAULT option). Some people missed out on commenting-to-enter-contests here, and I apologize for that. Now I am discovering that the last 10 or so posts from my website never made it to some of my cross-posting sites–but did make it to some, so I didn’t realize until just now.

ARGH.

Sometimes I really hate technology. Now I’m trying to sort through and make sure all my links are active…

The winner of Kate Sherwood’s giveway is Margec01–Kate will be contacting you shortly, Marge! Meanwhile, back to trying to solve the cross-linking problem….