Bread and Butter Books

Some of you may not know, but I tried to be a potter. I was decent at it, too. I loved the tactile sensation of the soft yet rough clay. The instant gratification of it yet knowing it wasn’t done yet. That I could take that wet, smooth, delicate thing and turn it into a hard, functional, object of beauty. And sell it! There’s money in pottery, especially in this area. It’s expensive as heckaroni to start up. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation. To make good stuff to sell, you need good equipment. From the wheel to the kiln to tools to clay to materials for glazes. You get the idea.

One thing about pottery is most of us had our pots we loved to make but for various reasons, they didn’t sell that well. Often the reason was because we had to sell them at a higher price. Pottery ain’t cheap! And then there were pots we hated to make yet they sold faster than we could produce them. We called those pots “bread and butter pots”. We made what we didn’t like in order to afford to make what we loved the craft for.

Now that I am a writer, I really really want to write science fiction and fantasy. Yet they don’t sell that well. Not in the lesfic niche market. What does sell is romance. Holy cow! Lesbians love their romance! And for good reasons! But dangit, I don’t like writing romance. It’s tough for me to write. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was a fluke I think. And after eight (yes, eight) years, it is still selling like mad.

Since it first came out in early 2007, it has sold 3226 copies. That number may not mean much, I know. Heck, I don’t know much about it either since I have nothing to really compare it to. Except since Regal Crest started doing ebooks, sales took off. Of that number above, 2007 of those are ebooks. Amazing, isn’t it? No, print books aren’t dead, far from it. But ebooks aren’t going away.

I often wonder if BGCFA sells so well as an ebook because of the title. I mean, do you want to sit on the bus and read the paper version of a book with that name? Or would you rather hold you tablet or reader so the title is hidden? Same with a lot of lesfic titles, I suppose. And no, I’m not removing “Butch Girls” from the title of the other books.

Meanwhile, To Sleep has only sold 132 total copies in its first year (compared to BGCFA’s 605). I love that series and those that have read it, and have told me they did, have liked it too. I’ve read a few Amazon reviews that were negative and I appreciate them. I’d like to hear from more folks who read it and didn’t like it. There’s THREE more in The Soliloquy series and I can’t fix what I don’t know is broke. Ya know?

With these sales numbers, it means 2015 will be the Year of Romance for me. I am going to put out at least one of these, more if I can, but I don’t want to set goals (again) and set myself up to fail (again). I am not a hobby writer. Let me repeat that. I am not a hobby writer. I am in this for the long haul. This is my job, as much of a job as I can do. Writing takes up several spoons and I need the right ones in place. I am lucky to have a partner who has a stable job that allows us to be comfortable but we could use my additional income from book sales to take care of extras and to put into this thing we keep hearing about called “savings”.

So, those of you who like SF and F? BUY THEM! Tell everyone else to buy them, too. Don’t buy used. Don’t borrow or share. Buy them new. It tells the publisher that they are worth offering contracts to writers. It tells writers they are worth writing. It gets them out of our heads and desktop folders and into your hands. I am lucky that my publisher (who I heart muchly) takes risks on that genre. To Sleep has not yet earned back its investment. Our hope is the release of To Dream will increase sales.

Two At Once

I typically work on two, sometimes three, projects at once. This gives me a chance to walk away from a project and sink into another one for a while. Then when that one needs a break, I can go back to the first one. Yes, one of them usually suffers from it and that’s okay. One is always designated the “major” project and the other then “minor” one although twice now that designation has switched.

Sometimes my brain gets so excited about different ideas, that if I do not write them down, or at least get them started, I lose the momentum altogether. And that’s just sad for everyone. It may not go very far, that idea and the momentum, but it is there for me to pick up later.

Like right now, the two I am working on, one is Butch Girls 2 (I just cannot decide on a real title) has been written about half way in two different plot lines. I finally forced myself to pick one and I am writing it from the beginning to get another BG book out there for my screaming (and stalking) fans. Meanwhile, I dug through my massive archives (I am such a data hoarder) and have started to pump life into a massive manuscript I love but just can’t seem to let go of. I flip between the two projects–which are so very, very different–and soon one of them will win and I’ll feverishly get it finished. The BG book will be the winner because it has to be done first. It just has to be. Stalkers are demanding.

And, to prove to you I really am working, here’s a bit from BG2:

The next one rudely explained how she was looking for someone who had a “firmer grasp on the English language since they were in America, after all, and the short, simple reply clearly demonstrated” that Ellen was “most likely Phillipino or, on second thought, Puerto Rican”. Ellen stopped reading the very long diatribe at that point. She pulled back up the reply she had sent to her and read it aloud, in a Hispanic accent like her friend Toni.

“Nope, doesn’t sound like something she would say at all.”

The third was from the southern lady: “You bring the coffee, I’ll bring the brownies. The dating site has a built-in chat room we can use. How about Wednesday afternoon, 7pm Eastern? Whoever gets there first opens a private chat room with their username with only the other one able to join? I think that’s how it works.”

Ellen glanced at the corner of her monitor. “Dammit, it’s only Monday.” She sent off a quick reply, agreeing to Wednesday. She resisted the urge to complain that Wednesday seemed so far away. She then set several reminders for herself so she wouldn’t forget. “Am I that desperate?”

“I am that desperate.” Nikki set the alarm on her phone and put a big note on her fridge to match the one on her monitor. She and Spam, who was following her everywhere, returned to her office. She went to the dating site to test out how to open a chat room. It wasn’t as difficult as she thought. But staring at the blank chat window was depressing. Then text appeared.

“I see you got it to work.”

Announcement

To Dream, Book Two of the Soliloquy, will not be released until October 2015. Yes, this is nearly a year after its original release date, but it is for a good reason.

Regal Crest and I want to put out the best book we can. And while To Dream is a damn good book as it is, there’s a few things in it that need some more rewriting and editing. No, I am not cat licking the novel and not letting go of it, honest. To Dream is like The Two Towers, an in-between book with lots of growth, lots of directions, but not much actually happening except growing tension. It sets up the next two books, mostly. And that is hard to do and make it worth the reader’s time. It is VERY character driven, one character with the others in very strong, supportive roles.

For me, it was a hard decision to make. But then we missed an important deadline (you would not believe the angst Real Life has thrown Heather and me!). The decision had to be made and we made it and it is done.

Fast Forward to Chapter Six!

Usually, the beginnings just explode out, all messy and nasty, like a can of Coke from my nephew. Then it settles down and I go with the rhythms of the characters and the story, sometimes the setting, too. That rhythm may usually will include some plot holes and some kicking and screaming but, gah, that screamin’ don’t usually happen so dang early!

Butch Girls 2 (aka BG2, aka Butch Girls and U-Hauls, aka Butch Girls: Intentional, aka What the Hell Am I Going to Call It?) is about Nikki Rogers and Ellen Hess. I actually started it before BGCFA but I didn’t like it and set it aside. Then I wrote BGCFA in NaNoWriMo ’04 and the rest is herstory. For one, I could never agree with myself on how the two of them were supposed to meet. And I guess I still can’t.

Option 1 was to have Ellen and her friend Samantha move down and be on Nikki’s mail route.
Option 2 was to have Nikki and Ellen meet online somehow.

I’ve written both ways several times and both has potential but I like Option 2 the best because it can be more, plot wise. Anyway, maybe because I went back and forth so many times, mostly on the dang beginning, that here I am doing it AGAIN, that my brain just says “WHY ARE YOU TORTURING ME!?!?!?!”.

Anyway, I need to get to writing it and stop whining it. Right? Write? Wright?

In the Beginning…

The beginning of a book has so much riding on it, depending on it. The “beginning” is usually considered the first 25% of the book. I can’t find my copy of Kress’ Beginnings, Middles, and Ends to see what she considers the beginning to be.

One: the reader has to like it enough to keep reading. There has to be enough there worth their time. Someone once said the average space a reader glances at before deciding to buy the book is the first 7 lines. Not sentences, lines.

Two: questions are asked that carry the rest of the book and must be answered by the end. Like, will Timmy ever get out of the well? Why does he keep falling in? And will Lassie ever get tired of it and just not tell anyone? And at least one of those questions has to happen within those first 7 lines. The reader has to be intrigued enough to want to know the answer.

Three: stuff happens in the beginning that sets up the rest of the book and propels the characters toward the ending. Be that a murder, an event, a meeting, whatever. It’s not just the question itself, but who or what asks it. Timmy fell in the dang well, yes, but why? What makes him keep falling into old wells? Sometimes the reason is subtle. Timmy is an inquisitive/foolhardy brat who needs to stay closer to home. Sometimes it is huge. Timmy is suicidal or aliens keep pushing him in.

It is #3 right now that has me banging my head on the keyboard. In To Dream, there’s just a lot happening in the beginning. Nothing major like car crashes or alien invasion, just stuff that is the foundation for the rest of the book. The vast majority of it is character introduction. Those characters have important roles (else they wouldn’t be introduced). One of the characters is Love Interest. To Dream, like To Sleep, is a science fiction novel, not a romance. In TS, there’s actually no sex whatsoever. In To Dream, however, there’s sex. But it’s not gratuitous, but serves a purpose. But it’s still not a romance nor is it erotica. I don’t introduce Love Interest until fairly far into the book. I’ve been told it needs to happen sooner and I kinda agree. But Karen (the main character) needs to do some stuff first and it is this stuff I am arguing with myself over. There’s an event that happens (a big meeting) and Karen attends it. Her attendance sets up some conflict (how dare she betray humanity!?) and provides validity to her statements later (“what I say is true and you believe me because I was there”). But except for providing that validity, it never comes up again. If a character has angst over where to go to eat, something better happen at that restaurant and that angst better happen again. But it never really comes up. And the conflict it creates is not something I am interested in handling. I’d rather hint at it than detail it.

I guess I just answered the question. Take that scene out. I will have to find some other way for her to prove “which side of the table she sits”. And good golly the book has a big enough word count that it will survive the cut.

Writing Is Much More Funner

I currently have one book in Official Edit (To Sleep). One book in rewrite/edit (To Dream). Four books in rewrite/JGTDTF (BG and Stereotypes, BG and U-Hauls, Simple Sara, Long Lea). Three Four books in the writing stage (BG4, BG5, Butterfly Effect, Centric). One in planning stage (To Die). And several others that have been written (mostly) but are in limbo (’cause they stink).

Yet I have this urge to just start another from absolute scratch. Not linked to any of the others. Not a sequel or prequel or series or nothing. Just brand new.

I love writing. I love watching the screen to see what happens next. When it is done, it is a raw, organic, fresh from the fingers and brain novel. Then I have to edit. I hate editing. I probably wouldn’t hate it so much if I could do it faster. Get the pain over and done with.

But I must stick to the schedule I have in my head.

To Dream MUST be done and submitted by Mid-August. (it was supposed to be submitted by yesterday)
BGaS MUST be done and submitted by the end of October. (sooner would be better)
BGaU SHOULD be written and edit started by the end of the year.
To Die MUST be written, edited, and submitted by May (June at the latest) of 2014.

In between all that, I’d really really love to get Simple Sarah done and submitted. Bless her heart. I started that back in ’02 or ’03. I’ve cat licked it to death several times. Poor Centric will never be finished. I’ve accepted that. Don’t make me any happier, though.

AHA Moments

…are so cool.

I’ve got one novel finished and sold (To Sleep) and then I did the huge sequel, The Awakening. By the time I got that one done, I was very frustrated. It was huge and I didn’t want it to be. So I set it aside for a while and tried to write another Butch Girl book (Stereotype This or maybe BG and Stereotypes).

Then today, I get an AHA moment. You know, when suddenly the clouds part and angels sing out a single note (maybe two) and suddenly you Get It.

The first book is called “To Sleep” because I had the phrase, “To sleep, perchance to dream” as the phrase to start with. I looked it up in Wikipedia to see if anything popped out.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Duh. It did. The second book is now called “To Dream”.

Like TS, this book was to have two halves. One was the dream, the second was the waking up. I never found a true dividing line so it doesn’t really have one. But what if I just did the dreaming part? What if…

And there I went.

PS For those of you who now have that soliloquy in your head, go to No Sweat Shakespeare to read it in full.