July 22, 2012

Recently, I’ve heard quite a bit about authors behaving badly, both online and at a recent literary event I attended.  Those who have witnessed this find it distressing, a black mark on the literary community.

There’s no such thing as an Author Code of Conduct, but if there were, these would be my suggestions:
In general:
1) Be dignified.  Sure, we all want to sell books, but there’s a way to do it without looking desperate.  If you’re traditionally published, consider following the example of many traditionally published authors as they inform readers that first-week book sales, just like opening weekend receipts for a movie, are crucial, and that they hope readers who are planning to read the book anyway will either place a preorder or get it within a week after publication.  Doesn’t that sound gracious?  On the other hand, saying something like, “Please buy my book, or my publisher is going to kick me to the curb,” or even (for indie authors who don’t have that first-week pressure to contend with but want sales nevertheless) “Please buy my book,” sounds too much like…begging.
2) I have not witnessed this behavior myself, but I’ve heard it said that authors have been known to publicly accuse other authors of getting all their friends to write favorable reviews of their books.  Well, so what if they do?  Is that really any of our business?  Does this affect us directly?  So why bother with it?  The best thing a writer can do is concentrate on their own career, not somebody else’s.  Positive reviews are definitely a good thing, but the number that counts more than anything else is the number of net units sold, not the number of "likes," not the number of reviews, or any other number. 

3) If you have encounters with other authors who act like they don’t want to be bothered or are otherwise less than pleasant, just get away from them pronto.  I remember my own encounters with a writing colleague, who never failed to make a catty remark within 30 seconds of “hello” to remind me that they were miles ahead of me…with all the subtlety of the lights of the Las Vegas Strip.  It happened with never-failing predictability, and I found it quite amusing, because I never considered myself to be in competition with that writer or any other.  But their behavior gave me an idea for a book about people who felt they had to own bigger, better, and more expensive belongings than anyone else and who really had to scramble when wealthy people moved into the neighborhood.  That result, my first novel of women’s fiction called The People Next Door (and its sequel, Trouble Down The Road), made me a nice amount of change and attracted attention from film producers (even if it went nowhere, as these things often do), and many readers wrote to comment on it, saying they had neighbors just like that.  Too bad I can’t thank the source for the part they played in that success.  Just remember, you’re a writer.  Everyone is material for a book…the good, the bad, and especially the unpleasant and the tripsters like my colleague…who often make the best characters.
On social networking sites:

1) Promoting your books is fine, but constant (as in daily or even several times a day) tweets about your book will likely be considered nuisances by those following you.
2) If you befriend someone and they accept you, don’t go to their wall and post promo about your book.  That’s just rude.  It’s much better to send them a private message.  If you feel you absolutely have to post on people’s walls, ask for permission first, but don’t be surprised (and don’t get into a snit and shoot off a nasty message) if you’re turned down.

3) Likewise, don’t start sending chat messages to your friends about your book. Annoying with a capital A. Let them do their networking in peace.
4) If you join a group, be sure to see what type of group it is.  Some groups are nothing more than a place to post book promo.  Others have stringent rules about times to when this can be done to keep from becoming little more than places to post book promo.  If the group is active, plan to participate at least minimally.  Simply popping in to advertise your book, even on days when it is allowed, and never joining in conversations is like saying, “I could care less about this group; I just want all of you to buy my book.”  Sometimes members ask questions specifically targeted at authors.  As for posting about your book on a daily or several-times-a-week basis, this is definitely on the wrong side of the “pest” line, and that is why some groups have instituted strict guidelines about which days people can post promo in the first place.  Make sure you look at them before you start posting.

5) If a group contains both authors and readers and books are openly discussed, don’t go off the deep end if someone says they weren’t crazy about your book. (This is presuming the statement is made diplomatically, i.e., “It wasn’t my cup of tea,” vs. something insulting like, “That book was a piece of crap.”)  I personally believe that most readers will take the high road and be honest without being offensive.  If you want to respond, it’s best to limit your remarks to acknowledging their feelings and perhaps your own disappointment that they didn’t like it.  No need to be apologetic about your work (remember your dignity!); the simple truth is that every book is not for every reader.  And please refrain from defending or trying to explain your work; that isn’t going to make them change their mind and doesn’t reflect particularly well on you.  Most groups enjoy having authors participate, but bad behavior will get us banned.
For book retail sites:

1) If you’re reissuing a backlist title, be sure to disclose this to readers.  Avid readers who devour several books a week won’t always recognize a book with a new cover as one they’ve read before.  Others will recognize it and will want to put the electronic version on their eReader, but if they don’t, why risk antagonizing them?  Be upfront with readers and let them decide whether they want to order the electronic version or not.  These days angry readers will slam you with 1-star reviews for what they perceive as your trying to pull a fast one…and there’s nothing you can do to justify it.

2) Learn this mantra:  “Everyone is not going to like my book…Everyone is not going to like my book…”  Repeat ten times.  In that vein, let me say this:  All reviews you receive will not be glowing.  Refrain from responding to negative reviews; if you absolutely must, limit your remarks to acknowledgments and expressions of disappointment only, as stated above in the social media section.  It’s never a bad thing for readers to think of you as a gracious, even if they didn’t care for your book.

3) Sometimes reviews simply aren’t fair.  It burns me when I see an author slammed unfairly, i.e., they clearly state in the product description that it is a short story or a novelette/novella and readers give them low ratings “because it was short,” or when they make it clear this is a backlist title being re-published and readers slam them because they’ve already read the book (but we’re talking about authors behaving badly today, not readers, so let’s move along).  This hasn’t happened to me as of this date, but I would strongly advise to simply take the high road, at least in public.  In private, by all means let loose with a string of expletives, but please hold back on issuing a public response.  Consider contacting the retailer to consider removing the review, pointing out that the review is invalid because the information they claim was missing was there but somehow not seen.  Don’t get a friend to respond to the reviewer on your behalf.  And do I even have to say that asking your readers to attack the reviewer is the behavior of a third-grader, not of a responsible adult?

In conclusion, always remember that writing is supposed to be a professional occupation.  Please give it (and yourself) the respect it deserves. 
July 18, 2012

Fun with Deatri King-Bey

I’m sure all of you have heard of Deatri King-Bey, and if you don’t know who she is, you should. Deatri is the hardest-working woman in the literary world. In addition to writing a steady stream of novels of romance and women’s fiction in variety of sub-genres (her title Whisper Something Sweet won the Emma Award for Best Steamy Romance of the Year in 2008), Deatri has also dabbled in suspense under the pseudonym L.L. Reaper. Deatri, who has a background in editing, writes nonfiction as well, having penned Be A Successful Author, and she operates the website of the same name, both of which are must-reads for any aspiring writer. If that isn’t enough, Deatri has chaired the Romance Slam Jam for the last four years (and that ain’t no small job, folks). This civic-minded writer organized Authors for Trayvon earlier in 2012 and helped raise over $2000 to assist the family of murdered Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Deatri also runs the Black Romance & Women’s Fiction Book Club group on Facebook and coordinates monthly book club discussions.
I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that Deatri’s next nonfiction title should be a guide to organizing one’s time to the fullest…because she certainly does just that!
Having embraced indie publishing, Deatri’s latest novel, Tease, concludes her popular Write Brothers series. This book debuted on the Amazon Top 100 bestselling lists in the categories of both multicultural romance and African-American fiction. In addition, Deatri also issued a multi-eBook bundle of the entire Write Brothers series to allow new readers to get the entire set for one low price! 
That said, heeeeeere’s Deatri!
When Bettye said she’d like to interview a character or two from the Write Brothers Series, I thought what a great idea and how much fun this would be. Then I took my puppy for a walk and something happened. People think I’m joking when I say I write to release the voices in my head so they don’t drive me crazy, but I’m not completely joking.  
You see, when characters are created from my imagination, they take on a life of their own, and I let them. So there I was, walking Scooby-Doo when Gloria and Uncle Joe, the two characters from the series who were to be interviewed, popped into my mind to tell me what they wanted to talk about. Okay, I’m not crazy—not completely crazy. Trust me when I say it’s a good thing when the characters an author creates seem real. If they don’t seem real to the author, they won’t seem real to the reader. Anywhoooo, for those of you who have read any titles from the series, you know these two are loveable, but a hot mess. There is literally no telling what they will say. So instead of the traditional interview of Q&A, I thought I’d tell you the gist of what the series is about, then allow Gloria and Uncle Joe to describe the Write Brothers.  
Before we get started, the final book of the series, Tease, was just released. Also released was the eBox set of the entire Write Brothers Series called Sons 4 Sale. After the first title (Tell Her How You Feel) was released, I allowed the readers to decide whose story would come next. I did this for each book, and we had a ball debating and deciding who to fix up next.  
So what’s Sons 4 Sale about? Gloria has four sons who are great men and deserve a happily ever after, but her sons have issues they needs to work through before they can accept love. Gloria sets out to ensure each son finds his soul mate, but at times she needs to call in the troops for assistance, the troops being her granddaughter (Marybeth) and Uncle Joe. These three are a hoot! 
Enough from me for now. I’m about to step back and allow Gloria (the Write brothers’ mother) and Uncle Joe (the Write brothers’ Great Uncle) to tell you a little about each brother.
We were all in my living room. Uncle Joe said he was too old to be sittin’ on them low couches, so I got him a ladder-back chair from the kitchen. Gloria, just as beautiful as ever, was across from me on the sofa… 
“I’m Uncle Joe, the patriarch of the Write family. To make a long story short, Gloria married a knucklehead and had four boys by him.”  
“Tex isn’t a knucklehead,” Gloria defended.  
“He abandoned you and them boys. I could have called him a lot worse.” 
“We’re not here to discuss Tex.”  
“Well, he’s the cause of their problems. He done made them boys emotional cripples is what he done.”  
Gloria sighed. “Why are you always so melodramatic?”   
Arms folded over his chest, Uncle Joe said, “You refused to give your sons their father’s name because you were mad at him, but I’m melodramatic.” 
“The boys have grown up to be fine men. Houston is the youngest District Attorney on record, Dallas is a master chef, Austin is CEO of a billion-dollar corporation and Tyler…well, he’s a fine young man.” 
“I aint heard nothin’ ‘bout no women in there. Unless the laws have changed in the great state of Texas, there needs to be some women in the mix for them to get married.”
Eyes narrowed on her uncle, Gloria said, “Don’t listen to Uncle Joe. Austin’s marriage ended when his wife cheated on him. We all feared the baby she carried was this other man’s child. That type of betrayal is hard to overcome. Houston’s wife died, and he’s grieving. I know both are hurting, but it’s time for them to continue with their lives. Dallas has been married twice and engaged numerous times—” 
“What’s that boy’s problem?” Uncle Joe cut in. “Come to think of it, that boy is the perfect candidate for an arranged marriage, and I know to who.” 
“Uncle Joe.”
“Don’t 'Uncle Joe' me. Then there’s Tyler. That boy loves the ladies but won’t allow anyone close to his heart.” He pointed at Gloria. “I’m telling you. This is all Tex’s fault.” 
“I’ll admit, Tex leaving us has had a tremendous impact on us, but we survived. My boys have grown into fine young men but need their happily ever after.” 
“Now, that’s somethin’ we can agree on. It’s time for them boys to get married.”
Dee here:  I’m back, more terrifying than before. I hope you enjoyed the little cameo from Uncle Joe and Gloria. Below is the title information about Tease, the final book of the Write Brothers series. Tyler, the ultimate ladies’ man, has finally met his match. I’ve also released the eBox set, which includes the entire series.
Tease:  After Eva caught her fiancĂ© in bed with her cousin, she swore she'd never be played for the fool again. Now the ultimate bed-hopper—Tyler Write, has set his sights on her and she’s having difficulty resisting him. 
Tyler can have any woman except the one he truly wants—Eva Simpson. Smooth lines and sweet talk won't work with her. To have a chance at Eva’s heart, he’ll have to show her who he really is. 
Purchase this eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The print version will be released in a few weeks. 
Sons 4 Sale (Write Brothers Series eBox Set): If Gloria Write hears “There are no good Black men…” one more time, she’ll scream. She has four sons who fit the bill and not one is married.  Desperate times call for desperate action. During the course of four novels, Gloria sets out to ensure her sons marry. The eBox set includes all four Write Brother novels.
Purchase the eBox set for $7.99 or each novel for $2.99 from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
To learn more about my titles, visit me online at http://DeatriKingBey.com
Bettye, thank you for allowing me, Uncle Joe and Gloria to tell everyone about the Write brothers. This was fun!
That it was, Deatri!  Thanks for stopping by, and for all you do.  I wish you continued success...and be sure to get plenty of rest!
July 15, 2012

I remember reading somewhere once that twins are more prone to be born in black families, and from the time I was a kid I always thought it remarkable that the wife of one of my cousins gave birth to two sets of fraternal twin girls.  But then there were no twins for something like 50 years.

That all changed last year, when my nephew's wife gave birth to boy-and-girl twins, who recently celebrated their first birthday.  I spent a lot of time with them when I was in Florida last February (and was automatically given a senior discount while shopping with one of them in my cart...I suppose the cashier reasoned that I couldn't possibly be the mom, so I must be the grandmother!)  This was taken around the time they turned 1:

We were all delighted when my niece announced that she and her husband were expecting identical twin girls in July.  I hoped they would make their debut in time for my birthday, but they did even better--they were born on the 101st anniversary of the birth of their great-grandfather (my dad), which pleased all of us, especially my mom.  I hope to see them this fall, and I can't wait! 

So, after no twins in the Griffin family for half a century, we have had two sets within 14 months, and our first identicals.  We're already wondering who will be next, and if it will be yet another multiple birth...
July 9, 2012

Anatomy of an eBook:  Something Real

As I wind down the principal writing on Something Real, I've turned a very critical eye on what I've written to see if it passes the so-called "smell test."  It does, but that's not to say it's perfect.  As you may or may not know, this story covers two relationships, one of which is brought to fruition by the book's end, the other of which will be resolved at a later date in either a novella or novelette.  The problem was with the completed romance.  In its present state there isn't enough development in the two principals' relationship.  Writers can't simply throw characters together and have them decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together just like that (snaps fingers).  The readers want to (and need to) see them falling in love.  Without it, a romance doesn't pass the "smell test."  A romance without this factor feels incomplete and will leave readers asking, "Why?"  They'll wonder what is pulling these two people together?  Also--and this is the worst thing that can happen for an author--without being able to feel that special connection between the characters, they likely won't care how they end up.  That means they might decide they don't want to keep reading.

Of course, every scene is supposed to contribute to the development of the story, even walking hand-in-hand along a river path (I know that movies frequently have "bridge scenes," a compilation of scenes, usually set to music, that show the hero and heroine having fun, playing, and loving each other, but in books the rule is show, don't tell). So if the hero and heroine are strolling along without a care in the world and conscious only of each other, something has to happen other than the isn't-it-wonderful-to-be-in-love vibe. Something in their conversation has to hint at future tension...or maybe their pleasant afternoon will be interrupted by an urgent phone call. 

So I'm inserting scenes that permit the reader to see the growing attachment to the hero and heroine.  Not filler, but lean meat.  The result:  A richer and fuller story.

How about you?  Do you want to be able to witness the blossoming feelings the lead characters have for each other?  How do you feel when you don't see this and the leads walk off into the sunset together toward their happily ever after?  Have you ever put a book down because it didn't ring true?  
July 1, 2012

The Halfway Mark

Three years of out every four, the middle of the year is on July 2nd (my birthday), the 183rd day of the year, with 182 days before and 182 days after.  This year, being a Leap Year (and a Presidential election and an Olympics year as well), there is an even number of days in the year, 366.  That would put the middle of the year in the closing hours of July 1st and the opening hours of July 2nd (or if you're looking for a 24-hour period, from noon on the 1st to 11:59AM on the 2nd). 

I always used my birthday as a time of reflection to think about what I'd hoped to accomplish at the start of the year; a sort of cue to get on the ball if I'm behind...which I usually am.

This year I've done better than most.  I'm writing more, eating better, and am better organized.  The only thing I've run a little short on is my weight loss goals.  I'm paying close attention to portion control and late-night snacking, but I haven't been exercising like I should.  The result is that my weight is down, but my midsection doesn't indent (in other words, I don't have a waistline). I'm turning up the heat, since we'll be vacationing in a beach setting the end of this month.

What about you?  If you were to revisit your goals for the year, how are you doing?