Monday, April 30, 2012

Can I see your ID?

Let me start this post by saying that I am by no means a prude.  Do I sometimes err on the side of caution?  Yes!  But in my opinion, that's the best side to be on.  Regardless, I am curious to know what other chick lit fans think about how old you should be before you start reading contemporary women's fiction.
It's not as if there isn't a huge market of teen chick lit out there to satisfy the squishy-butterfly-in-your-tummy feeling that you get from a great male lead.  But at what point should a girl step into the shoes of an older woman's romance.  Whoa!  Hold on there!  Don't get ahead of me!  I'm not talking about bare chest book cover books.  Smut is not the topic here.  I'm talking about romance stories that involve characters in their 20's and beyond.  Let's face it, a young girl already has enough confusing information about men, love, and relationships.  Do we really want them to get lost in the dreamy existence of a book character? 
Many of us got into this romance game early on.  For me it was the Sweet Valley series, though I never really realized it was "romance".  The first real romance book I read was Pride and Prejudice by the Godmother herself, Jane Austen.  How was I supposed to not fall in love with Mr. Darcy?  How many others had fallen before, and after, me?  In fact, go to right now and type "Darcy" into the search tab and look at all the books women have written about that man.  Talk about a dreamboat!
My worry is that if young girls start reading romance books written about women in their 20's, 30's, and 40's experiencing love, what is going to happen to their relationships?  I am not naive enough to believe that all teenage girls are chaste and angelic.  However, I wonder if reading books about women who fight, and lose, the battle between what they know they should do and what they actually end up doing is what is best for them?  Are we letting them mature too fast in their reading?  It seems silly to question it, after all it's just fiction, but I wonder about these things a lot.  Kids are growing up too fast.  They're taking on responsibilities at an earlier age than they should.  I teach ten year olds who know things that I didn't know when I was eighteen!  Is it better for them to learn about these things in a book or in real life?
I bring this up because several reviewers have mentioned that 'A Week at the Beach' would be appropriate for a teenage girl to read.  I disagree.  I'm the author and I disagree.  I don't want teenage girls reading the book and making the same choice that Cami makes.  Is that wrong of me to not want a group of readers to read my book?  I certainly don't think my writing is so amazing that it's going to inspire girls everywhere to go out and hook up.  (Oops, should I have said *Spoiler Alert*?)  I write stories to entertain women.  I like to escape into the fantasy of a cheesy romance because I am aware that real life, and real men, are not like what I read in a book.  If the world was littered with Nicks, or any other chick lit male character, then we wouldn't need silly romance books to escape into. 
Should teenage girls be escaping into that world?  Have they lived, loved, and lost enough to earn that escape?  Look what happened when Stephenie Meyer gave them a mash up of several great male characters.  The teenage girls came out in droves to chase Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner down the street.  Of course, their moms weren't far behind, but frankly being the mom to a teenager automatically gives you the credit you need to escape from reality for a few hours! 
So, to those of you who read this blog regularly and to those of you who have just stopped by, what do you think?  Should there be an age restriction on chick lit?  Let me know what you think!

Oh...wait!  I just realized that if they put an age restriction on chick lit what is to stop them from putting an age limit on children's books and YA books?!?!  No more Harry Potter?  No Hunger Games?  No...I can't live in that world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I've learned in the past two weeks

A lot has happened over the last two weeks, and I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the lessons that I've learned.

1.  People can be mean- I've spent several hours over the past two weeks reading the 1-Star reviews of some of the most popular pieces of fiction.  Wow! People can be very mean. I suppose it is possible that I am just too nice, but I've never disliked a book so much that I felt the need to write a mean review.  In my opinion, if a book is horrible then I really don't want to spend my time writing about how bad it is.  Despite that,, and I suspect all the other online bookstores as well, are littered with the contemptuous ramblings of dissatisfied readers. 

2.  People can be funny- As much as I hate to admit it, some of the reviews that I read were quite humorous.  I can even be gracious enough to say that a few of the comments made about my books were a little witty.  Not everyone who dislikes a book chose to completely trash it.  Some people were able to find the humor in bad writing, lackluster plots, and unlikeable characters. 

3.  Character quirks don't always translate to the page-  If you are a fan of Grey's Anatomy then you will probably recall how the word "seriously" was pretty much a member of the cast the first two seasons.  Watching 'Ocean's Eleven', you can't help but be amused by the fact that Brad Pitt's character is eating in every scene.  Both of those quirky things came across well on the screen.  Cami's frequent eye rolling from 'A Week at the Beach' didn't quite translate well onto the page. Several people commented on the overuse of the eye rolling.  I don't know about you, but when I was in my twenties, I rolled my eyes at everything!  I work with girls in their twenties and an eye roll is a genuine response to every statement.  Often times, an eye roll is the punctuation that ends their own statements.  Quirks like these tend to be contagious, so the people around start to pick up on it and unwittingly add it to their own repertoire.  Unfortunately, that didn't come across on the page in 'A Week at the Beach'.  Don't worry, I don't blame anyone but myself.  Obviously my writing did not make this clear to the reader and therefore started to become an annoying habit of bad writing.  Sorry!

4.  Nothing makes people happier than cake pops.  I know that this has nothing to do with writing, but I did learn this over the past two weeks.  I'd also like to point out how sitting around eating cake pops with a bunch of women quickly turns into a giggle session about balls!  ;-)

5.  Lastly...It feels weird and almost uncomfortable to use this word, but I can't think of any other way to say this and I feel it is important to make this known. 
I have the best fans in the world!
Whether it is people leaving comments on,, following me on Twitter, friending me on Facebook, or even those of you who have stopped by this blog to read my ramblings and leave a comment, my "fans" are amazing!  When I read the wonderful things that you have said about my books, I can't help but be humbled and pleased that I have made you smile, laugh, and even cry.  Thank you!  You make me believe in this crazy idea of publishing my little books. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Riding the review roller coaster

I hate roller coasters. I can't even stand near one without feeling anxious and frightened. The whole concept of a roller coaster confounds me. Why would I want to strap myself into a seat and then be propelled at high speeds as I loop, drop, and soar through the sky? I'm getting a nervous chill just writing about it!

Reading reviews of your own work is a lot like strapping yourself into one of those giant projectiles. The excitement builds as you see the number of reviews climb. The joy and adrenaline rush through you as you read the positive reviews. A smile spreads across your face when you see all the stars lighting up. Screams of pure elation escape! Giggles erupt! Your heart pounds!

After that exciting climb, you reach the peak and the ride pauses. As you sit on the top of that peak all you can think about is the plummet. You know that the floor is about to drop out from beneath you and the ground is soon going to be rushing towards you. It’s inevitable, you have to go. You can’t stay on the top of that mountain forever. So, you take a deep breath and start to fall. The air gushes out of you and the elation you felt earlier has transformed into fear. The stars aren’t nearly as bright as you watch the ground rising up to meet you. Screams escape, only this time it’s not elation but danger that’s behind them. Giggles are gone, but your heart still pounds.

I hate roller coasters.

That’s what I was thinking as I sat back and watched my reviews roll in this week. Giving away ‘A Week at the Beach’ has certainly felt like a roller coaster. I’m completely blown away by how quickly the book jumped to the Top 100 Free list and I’m even more astonished by exactly how many books have been downloaded. Obviously gaining more readers is the goal of a free promo and gaining more reviews is an expected by-product of that. I definitely got both.

I've made no secret of the fact that I take things personal. Even slightly negative statements set my mind reeling. So, despite the fact that I received many positive reviews, all I can think about are the stinkers.

That is until I did a little research.

I spent an hour or so reading the "stinker" reviews for some of the most popular books on right now. I even stopped by to check out the stinkers for some of my personal favorite books. Wow. I don't feel quite so bad about my own stinkers any more. Reading other people's stinkers helps me to enjoy the view a little as I race towards the ground. Instead of focusing on the sight of the floor rising up to meet me, I'm going to turn my attention to the inevitable turn that will come when I hit the bottom.

I am truly humbled by all the positive reviews that people have left for my books. It makes me unbelievably happy to know that others found them enjoyable. I have never asked someone to write a review for me. I have not created false identities and written positive reviews for my books, and I do not know any of the people who have left reviews for 'A Week at the Beach'. I'd also like to point out that the only comments that I have ever made on reviews, I did so in my name. (There is a particular review that has a very small comment discussion happening. I am not a part of this discussion and only just found out about it. While I do not enjoy reading an unflattering review, I do respect a reader's opinion and support the right to express that opinion!)

I have read discussion in some forums where the idea that many self-published authors create fake accounts and write positive reviews for their own work is debated. They also claim that some self-published authors ask their friends to submit reviews to help boost their ratings. I have not done that. I don't even review my own books on my goodreads account. If a review is not a genuine reflection of how a reader reacted to a book then its value is deflated.

To wrap it all up, I hate roller coasters but I'm determined to just shut up and enjoy the ride!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Punch in the Gut--Revisited

So, remember this...'A Punch in the Gut' ?  If you don't, or you don't have the time or inclination to follow the link, I'll recap it for you.  Someone in the UK gave my book 'A Week at the Beach' a very scathing 1 star review.  It was after a free book giveaway and in the middle of a great month of sales.  I took it personal.  How could I not?  But eventually I got over it and have just learned to accept that not everyone is going to love everything that I do or write.  After that initial blog post about it, I received many notes of encouragement on here and on, all of which truly helped me to feel better about the situation.  Like I said before, I got over it.
Or did I?
See, that feeling of dread, that awkward feeling of knowing that someone doesn't like you, and the weird butterflies in your stomach when you think about the mean and nasty things someone said about you, all that has been replaced with something new. 
I'm quite pissed, actually.  I can accept that everyone is entitled to their own opinion about my books.  I'm okay with that.  I'm even okay with the idea of someone disliking my book so much that they feel compelled to leave a bad review.  What is really pissing me off about the whole situation is the way it's destroying my book sales in the UK.  You see, here in the US, 'A Week at the Beach' is by far my most popular book.  It has 13 reviews, only 2 of which are not 5 stars and both of those reviews give it 4 stars.  When that book pops up on someone's screen, it's likely that the reader will give it a chance, right?  Well, not on the other side of the Atlantic!  When 'A Week at the Beach' pops up on the site, they see 2 reviews.  That's it, just two reviews!  Of those two reviews, you have a 1 star and a 5 star.  Who would take a chance on that novel?  No one, as evidenced by the complete lack of sales on that title in the UK.  Seriously, none!  All the other books have sales.  Not a single one for 'A Week at the Beach' so far this month and single digit sales for last month!  The killer is the fact that if they would just scroll down to the reviews they would see that all 13 of the reviews are there for them to read!  Those reviews are not taken into account on first glance.
So, yes, I've gotten over the humiliation of a particularly nasty 1 star review.  I can honestly say that it has forced me to be a stronger person when it comes to reviews and criticism.  However, I am not quite ready to let go of the anger and bitterness I feel over the loss of sales.  I'm also angry about all the people who are going to miss out on a great story because one person didn't like it!  It's not about the money, it really isn't.  It's more about the loss of opportunities.  People who have read all of my books have said that 'A Week at the Beach' is the best.  Unfortunately, there's a whole country of people out there who are missing out on the chance to read me at my best.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To free or not to free, that is the question...

Much to the delight of my bank, anyone I owe money to, and of course me, I got my biggest royalty check recently.  January was a very good month for me!  I've heard talk of that time of year being a big one for book sales, mostly because of all the new Kindle owners just itching to fill their devices with books.  I choose to believe that it was a good month for me because word had spread about how wonderful my books are.  (Please note that I am being silly! No way am I that conceited or deluded about my writing abilities!)  Honestly, I believe that one of the reasons I did well during that month is because I had several free giveaways going on during that time.  Also, I had a huge free promotion in December and it sparked some return free downloads the following month.  February wasn't quite as successful as January.  March was a little better but still nowhere close January. 
Now it's a new month, my favorite month by the way, and I'm trying to decide if I should do another free promotion or just take a month off.  It's only the 5th of the month and sales are moving, but I'd like to see more happening.  'A Week at the Beach' is by far my most popular book in the US (not so much in the UK...probably because of that awful 1 star review even though one of my friends graciously wrote a lovely 5 star review to balance it out)!  Plus, it's starting to get warmer and plenty of people are busy dreaming of summer and a visit to the beach, so it seems to make sense to offer that one up for free.  I can do a two-day free promo for this weekend, or I can wait until next week (when I automatically enroll in KDP Select again) and do an even longer duration. 
Of course, I could be super generous and do both...what do you think?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hard lesson to learn

Last year, I was unfortunate enough to get the "blue screen of death" on my trust laptop.  It was a very difficult time for me.  I was petrified that I'd lost everything!  Thankfully, I rushed my laptop to a local repair shop where my data was easily retrieved and loaded onto a brand new laptop.  So, with the exception of the few hundred dollars I had to drop to get a new computer, all ended well.  For a few months after that, I was very careful with my books.  I would save them to the computer and then to a flash drive, just in case.  Well, as you can guess, I got a little too comfortable with my new laptop.  A false sense of security and a "surely that can't happen to me again" attitude convinced me to relax with the data backup.
A week or so ago, I got hit with a virus or some other awful thing.  Unlike the last time, I wasn't worried because I figured my trusty computer repair shop could pull me out of the continuous windows startup repair loop that I was stuck in.  More than a week later, I finally got my computer back and guess what...
It's not that huge of a deal.  I have most of the files for the books that I've already published.  Of course, I lost two books that I'd started and not finished (including the one that I had abandoned a few months ago).  Surprisingly, that doesn't upset me as much as you'd think.  What really upsets me is the fact that I can't seem to open the file for one of my published books.  I don't know what it bothers me, because that book is already published to KDP and is selling quite well.  I suppose it bothers me because I somehow feel like I can't prove it's mine because I don't have the original document.  That's ridiculous, right?  No one will doubt my intellectual property rights based on the fact that I have a scrambled document, right?  It just leaves me uncomfortable, I guess. 
One thing I have learned from this is that I need to invest in some sort of file backup system that doesn't rely on me to remember to do it.
I hope that something like this never happens to anyone reading this.  I also hope that this inspires you to do a quick backup of everything that is important to you on your computer!