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.

My First Reading!

Paula Offutt (me) and Robin Whitley (somebody else) will be doing a presentation, discussion, and reading at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC October 10th 6:30pm.

The fun part is my book is a science fiction (To Sleep) and Robin’s book is poetry (More Than Knowing) and we are going to connect the two together through the theme of Coming Out and LGBT History. How will we do that? The audience will guide our direction but the idea is how far
LGBT books have come, in particular the characters within them.

For those who cannot make it, an auditory recording will be made and will be available later as a podcast.

O.M.G. I’ve never done this before. What have I agreed to do? I know, I know, it’s for my own good. It sells books. It promotes the next one and the others I’ve written. It promotes LGBT books as a whole. I know. But…I’ve never done this before. What if I do something stupid? It wouldn’t be the first time.

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.

BIG Announcement

I could drag it out and torture y’all. But I won’t.

(gargle) Ahem.

(shuffles papers)

(taps microphone) Is this on?

(ducks a shoe thrown from the audience)

I am not a one book wonder any more.

Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC has bought To Sleep. It has a tentative publication date of November 2013.

Go ahead. Scream. I’ll wait.
.
.
.
.

Done? Good. Now it is my turn.

CAN YOU FREAKIN’ BELIEVE IT?? I know, I know, about damn time. I hope the wait was worth it.

Writing Organically

Also known as no outline aka going with the flow aka what the heckaroni am I doing?

I am over 86K words into the sequel to To Sleep. And I have no clue where it is going. Usually I know by now. There’s this goal in the distance, I can kinda see it, so I plod along until the clouds clear and there it is. But not with this book. I like the book. I like the beginning. Then somewhere around, oh, 40K, I just start rambling with no real direction.

That means I edit drastically when done. But that’s the price one pays for organic goods. Organic vegetables and fruit are always so ugly, aren’t they? Yet they taste better and are better for you. Thusly, so are my books. (No, don’t eat it!)

Anyway, there’s a general direction the book (tentatively called The Awakening) is going but I’m not at all sure where it will take me. I realized a major plot hole tonight and am thinking my way around it. I may just leave a big {FIX THIS!!} and move on. Perhaps if I discover the end, I’ll know the rest. Right? Maybe?

I think the problem is the details of what the characters are doing. I feel the need to explain every meeting they are having but that makes yet more details I have to keep track of. Then there’s the Humans. They are following along so easily.

Meanwhile, I think I have a character who is trying to get my attention. I’ve never had that happen before. I keep seeing Harri from Butch Girls. She’s in a corner of my brain, tapping her booted foot, arms crossed, wearing a blue muscle tee, well worn blue jeans, short buzz cut hair covered by a denim baseball cap. And she’s scowling. I created this chick so why is she scowling at me? I am considering setting The Awakening aside and drift back to Harri’s book. Harri kinda scares me a little. Not sure I want her loose in my head without supervision.

Current Project

I am working on the sequel to To Sleep which is called The Awakening. The main document is almost 44K but the second document where I tried out a plot line, is 14.5K. Doing the maths means it is about 58K, more than halfway to the goal. I like the direction the plot line is going so I’m going back over the main one to fit it in at some point.

The good news is it is going well. Very well. The even gooder news is this book will have sex scenes in it. To Sleep had none because it wasn’t needed. But this book will need it because it is part of the plot line. The book starts about two years after To Sleep ends. It will still be in first person. I considered using another person for it but I kinda got attached to Karen. She has such a sarcastic mind, it was fun to write using it.

I’ll be introducing some new characters. Some are cool, like Denise and Cass who I made main characters (MCs). Others I thought would be more MCs but I didn’t like them that much.

She leaned into me and hugged my side. “You made the right decision, you know.”

“Did I? I gave her an ultimatum, one or the other I said.”

“And she chose the path she was the most comfortable with.”

“Or less frightened by.”

“Same thing. Stop worrying about it or you’ll get an ulcer.”

No, I wouldn’t. The nanites would take care of it at my yearly checkup. “You know we advanced Denise’s genetics, right?”

“Yes, and she’s still working through her new skills.”

“You can do the same thing. We’ll be offering it to all the descendants.”

“Become one of you? With telepathy and stuff?”

I almost told her she had to, else in fifty years I would lose her to old age while I never aged a bit. But that was for later, after she made her decision. “With telepathy and stuff.”

“And orgies?”

I had to laugh. “And orgies, if that’s what you want.”

(…)

After we had put them on, I hugged her close. “This is going to feel funny. It kinda tickles sometimes.” I then pictured the beach front property in New Zealand we had bought. I pictured the little cottage and the stone patio. Then we were there.

“What the hell?” She looked around in awe. It had been fall in Pennsylvania but it was spring here. The air was a little nippy but not too bad.

“You are in New Zealand.” I held her hand and we walked toward the water.

“How did we…without a teleport pad?”

“One of my skills is teleportation.”

She briefly looked like she was going to run screaming into the morning sunrise. Then she slowly smiled. “That’s a cool skill.”

“Frankie’s a little better at it.”

“You always do that. Say that someone is better. But I know, just from listening in, that you are the best in every skill you have.”

“Not electrokinesis. Julie’s by far better than me.” We sat on a bench near the water’s edge. “And certainly not empathy.”

“And I disagree. I think you purposely don’t train or exercise or whatever you do to make a skill stronger. I think you do it on purpose so that they are stronger than you are.”

“Your skill will be lie detection.”

She laughed then stopped. “Please tell me that’s not one of them.”

Hiatus Over

My family (bro, sis-in-law, their two kids and a cousin) had been here for two weeks. They went home this morning. I did a little bit of writing most nights as I tried to unwind from the day but it wasn’t much.

Today I jumped back in, hoping I would push the depression away.

I am working on The Awakening, the sequel to To Sleep. It is rather rambling at this point since I am not exactly sure where it is going. It is amazing sometimes what appears on the screen when I just write, letting it all hang out.

I am also working on Harri’s story, Butch Girls and Stereotypes, but it is sluggish. I know where it is going (where most Romance novels go) but I’m not happy with how it is getting there.

I poke around on Nikki’s story (it has no title yet) sometimes but feel that Harri’s need to be told first. But sometimes when I am writing Harri’s, I feel that Nikki’s needs to go first. (insert dramatic sigh)

While in Minneapolis, I started writing Kaye and Annette’s story but I need to do some research for that one.

And, bless my heart, I am also seriously considering Simple Sarah again. I know, I know. Write it or shut up.

Anything else active-ish? Nope, not really. I am always open to ideas, though!