Word of Mouth

I just finished rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Sigh. I have never reached the tipping point with any of my novels.

At some point you have to believe that it’s you and not just luck. Even though my writing has won awards and contests –heck, I’m up for the New England Reader’s Choice award with Mystic (two weeks from now)–I can’t seem to break out. And it doesn’t help that I see an acquaintance get excited about her first book. It has reached number four on some YA list. I’m am truly thrilled for her. Really. I am also wondering what the heck she did or didn’t do to get such word of mouth about her first book. I can’t get such reception on book fourteen!

Am I whinging? Perhaps. But as I said above, at some point you have to believe it’s your writing. You’d think that if you were truly good, people would have discovered you by now. I just don’t seem to generate word of mouth.

When I read a book I love I talk about it–to friends, on social media, in lists. I’ve talked about Ready Player One and Theft of Swords. I’ve loaned out my copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until a friend spilled coffee on it and had to replace it for me. I’ve taught Dandelion Wine and bought From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler for my kids and will buy it again for my grandkids should I ever have any. I have recommended Jennifer Crusie and Julia Quinn when people claim romance is mindless.  You want a scare? And Then There Were None.

I don’t claim literary genius, a case I can make for the above books. However, I don’t even seem to touch or reach the mavens (see The Tipping Point). MysticCover

Do your favorite authors, or even the ones you just enjoyed,  a favor. Become a mini maven. Leave a review at Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads, or wherever. Or tell a friend or twenty. Or tweet about it. Or whatever. Or send the author a note. That can make an author’s day.  But word of mouth helps. It’s still the best way to build readership, and no one really knows how to create word of mouth except to write the best book you can.

Hope this wasn’t too self-centered and self-pitying.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Tippping Point by Malcom Gladwell

Trial and Error by Jack Woodford

 

If You Think…

I love language and languages. I especially love when I learn something new about it. Like the saying “getting his just deserts.” One “S”. Because it not about that sweet thing you eat after a meal and getting one that fits what you’ve done, although that makes sense and it’s what most people think, but because deserts is a noun form from the verb deserve, so it means getting what one deserves. (Oversimplified, but, hey, you get what I mean.)

Just desserts (One of my favorite Hungarian cakes)

Stuff like that probably makes me a pedant, but I wear that badge proudly. I like knowing things. It’s because I like learning things. I make mistakes. I know for a fact that at least one of my early books makes the mistake between loathe and loath. The copy editor didn’t catch it, so it’s in print that way forever. I know the difference now (loathe is the verb meaning to hate, and loath is the adjective meaning reluctant).

So back to the title of this post. You know the saying, “If you think …, then you have another…” and there I pause. We learn language by making errors. Little children will say things like, “I goed,” or “He drinked.” They have internalized adding -ed to make the past tense, but haven’t learned that irregular verbs have different forms. We internalize language and don’t think about grammar when we speak. We just speak.

So when someone makes an error on purpose, it’s hard not to try to correct it in our minds. The saying actually is, “If you think you’re right, you have another think coming.” Think about it (there’s that word again). It’s grammatically incorrect on purpose. It sounds strange to our ears to use a verb, think, as a noun, but doesn’t think make a whole lot more sense than thing? What does “You have another thing coming” even mean? Oh, we’ve tried to make sense of it, like the dessert vs desert thing (there’s that word again). Before I knew the true form, I always thought the saying meant you should get a punishment of some sort. But, really, how harsh is that for thinking something (Oooo, think and thing in the same sentence)? Thing is so vague, so meaningless. Yet look how often we use it, even in this post. Think makes more sense, when you analyze it. (I almost wrote “when you think about it,” but that would be excessive, don’t you think?)

But language is nothing if not fluid, and most people will tell you that the saying is “If you think you’re right, then you have another thing coming.” That’s our internalized grammar editor trying to correct an error made on purpose. We know English, and you can’t use the verb think as a noun. So using thing has become acceptable. You will hear thing used on TV or see it in books, but now you know better.

Perhaps it will drive you as nuts as it does me. >twisting my evil villain mustache< Bwhahahaha. Wait until I point out the difference between fewer and less.

–Gabi

Books I am reading now:

The Unseducible Earl by Sheri Humphreys

Sonnet Coupled by Roxanne D Howard

 

 

Violence

Since my last post was about sex, I thought I’d follow up with violence.

It’s funny to analyze where we’ve drawn our lines of acceptable fare. Again, I maintain it’s a matter of taste. What one person declares wonderful and gripping, another person will close their eyes and refuse to watch or read. The issue arises when you are faced with an unfamiliar author or work and you have nothing to gauge your personal reactions on. Vague descriptions on the back of the book don’t always give you an accurate picture of what’s inside. For example, in my WISH trilogy, the back cover copy doesn’t indicate that I write with a lot of humor in my stories (at least, I think they’re humorous) and that I have a light touch. The cover of the first book, The Wish List, gives an indication, but the covers of the second two absolutely do not. And yet, there’s violence and even death in the stories. My current work in progress (WIP) has a really high body count, but because I end up writing with a light touch, it isn’t as noticeable.

Because that’s how I like my violence. Cartoonish. I can handle the Roadrunner vs Wile E. Coyote, but I cringe and wince when I watch nature shows (and yes, have cried as well–never watch how barnacle goslings leave the nest). I can handle the violence in the Marvel movies and even cheer when the bad guys get “theirs,” but Breaking Bad is not my thing. I watched every episode and acknowledge the brilliant writing and acting, but it makes me uncomfortable. I won’t and can’t watch boxing or MFA fighting, but I can handle wrestling (Not that I watch it, but it’s a perfectly valid form of entertainment. Just not my taste. And I’m not saying they pro wrestlers aren’t athletes, because they are, but it is scripted.) KINGSMAN was one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, but it was cartoonish, so it didn’t bother me. I thoroughly enjoyed that movie. Paranormal violence doesn’t bother me much because by definition it isn’t real, but movies like Black Hawk Down are too realistic. DUNKIRK, a brilliant movie,  is excruciating to watch, and should be, so that we never do such things to one another again.

Let me live in my bubble, which in today’s world is getting harder and harder to do. Reality is rapping at our doors right now. I hope it doesn’t start pounding, but I have no control over it. In the meantime, I don’t enjoy realistic violence in my entertainment. If I do watch or read such things, it’s for a purpose other than entertainment.

And one last note… Have you ever noticed how people get more upset with sex than violence? As if sex and expressions of love are somehow more offensive than the brutality that humans can show.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und die Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

 

 

 

Gratuitous Sex

I love a good story, so when my friends talk about a new TV show that is wonderful, I listen. And when I have time, I will watch it. But I am leery because many times the show, especially on the “premium” channels, will suddenly lose the story in order to show two people having sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written romances, and mine all include sex scenes. I have no problems with sex scenes…when they are appropriate to the story. But too often the scenes on the TV shows are gratuitous. They’re there for throwing sex on the screen, not for advancing the story. They’re there because sex sells, not because it helps characterization, or plot, or conflict, all of which are good reasons for sex scenes. It’s a writing issue, not a moral judgment.

I stopped watching a certain paranormal series for that reason. I was on the fence about the show, but was interested enough to continue. Then came the gratuitous sex scene. There was no reason for it except titillation. I stopped watching. It happened again yesterday. I was watching a show about colonial America, and two characters have sex. They have completed a dangerous assignment, and they are angry with each other because of how they had to behave. One of these characters has just learned her husband is dead, and the other has a wife. I get it. It’s the release, it’s the sudden revelry in success after danger, it’s a celebration of being alive. Except. Except the concept of honor and decorum which has been portrayed as huge elements of both their characters has been conveniently forgotten and thus undermined. I might have bought it if they were so caught up in the emotions of their success that they tear the clothes off each other and do the act without thinking, but it was a slow, relishing of each other. For me, it didn’t support what the writers have established.

The same is true for nudity. First of all it’s not a big deal. I have long thought we make too much of showing the human body. We all have one set of parts or another (generally speaking), and while we can enjoy those parts, parts are thrown on the screen just for the shock effect. Sorry. If I wanted to see a pair of boobs, I can look down my shirt. Does that sound hypocritical? First I say we make too much of it, then I say TV shouldn’t show parts. No, what I’m saying is that using body parts for shock effect is wrong. I believe it perpetuates the drooling culture, which should have disappeared long ago. When a show like Games of Thrones, an intricate, political, and gripping drama, can be reduced to nudity jokes by comedians, it’s a sign of gratuitous nudity.

Look, sex is boring unless you’re doing it (Of course, I have the same opinion of viewing sports). The act itself looks rather funny too. In writing there are only so many ways to describe a fairly basic act. It’s the reason I don’t read many romances any more. The sex is the least interesting part of the book and now there is an emphasis on the sex instead of the why. (That and the emotional baggage characters carry these days, so I can’t believe in a happy ending unless these people go through serous psychoanalysis.)

Maybe I’m a prude.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

And the point is ….

I have been frozen. Figuratively, not literally. I can’t bring myself to write because of the explosive and uncertain times we now live in. As a student of history (yes, I have a history degree), I can’t bring myself to think that my puny little career can change anything. As a student of literature (I have two lit degrees), I know that fiction doesn’t change the world. Few, very few, books have had an effect on bringing about social progress. Yes, I know that reading fiction encourages empathy, but I don’t have enough readers to make much of a difference anyway (That is not a whine; it is a statement of fact. I write because I like to tell stories; I have long since given up the delusion that I will have enough influence to affect a difference.)

Right now I’m trying to figure out what I can do.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Rereading for escape: The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan

The Name Dropping Blog

In which I drop the famous names I saw this weekend.

This past weekend I attended Bubonicon. Bubonicon is exactly what it sounds like—the local SF/Fantasy con here in Albuquerque named after something New Mexico is famous for—the bubonic plague (we still have it fairly regularly here). I was honored to be on three panels and participate in the massive book signing they have. I always give away my books for NM tax reasons, unless someone has already bought my books at a bookstore (on site, so it’s easy to buy).

First let me just say it’s always nice to speak to and answer questions from people interested in my work—even if they come to hear someone way more famous than I. I was on a panel on Villains with SM Stirling, Caroline Spector, Joe Lansdale and Andy Kuhn. I love writing villains (which I’ve posted about here), and it listening and adding to the conversation showed me a few things as well. By the way, for me the most interesting book with villains is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Read it and find out why.

I then was on a panel on self-publishing and sat next to Rachel Caine (!). The panel also featured Emily Mah, Pari Noskin, Robert Vardeman, and David Summers. An interesting give-and-take here. My biggest take is that I have absolutely failed in creating a newsletter and email list, mostly because I hate those things myself so I don’t want to subject anyone else to them. Besides, I’m not so interesting.

The last panel I was on was called Good Writing: I Know What I Like. We spoke about what makes a story, what makes them good, and what our processes comprise. Big names here: Stephen Donaldson, John Maddox Roberts, Ben Bova, and Pari again.

My big name drop of the weekend though has to be that I stood in a conversation circle with Connie Willis, Melinda Snodgrass, Jeffe Kennedy, and Darynda Jones, and we were joined by George RR Martin (It pays to be friends with Darynda). Not that I said a word (I’ve also posted about my shyness here). He likes to laugh. I like that in a person. And he wouldn’t recognize me again. Not only did I not say a word, I had forgotten my name tag at home so nobody had a clue who I was.

The name tag I forgot with the cool lanyard donated by Rachel Caine.
The name tag I forgot with the cool lanyard donated by Rachel Caine.

But the absolutely highlights of my weekend were two tiny incidents. The first was Pari Noskin, who came up to me and said that she was so happy to be on panels with me because she loves my work and respects me so much. What an absolutely beautiful thing to say and I don’t think I can even express how much those words meant to me especially coming from a colleague. The second was at the book signing. A couple came up to me, having bought my book, and they told me that my words on the panel on writing helped them so much, and they thanked me for appearing. They had gone out to buy THE WISH LIST, which I gladly signed for them, but I also gave them a copy of THE STONE KEY. To have total strangers admire oneself is such a joy.

So that was my name-dropping weekend. No, I can’t tell you when George will be finished with his series.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch by JK Rowling (That’s right; German, baby)

The BIG Reveal

In which I introduce my newest book available April 26.

Ta-da. I could probably hook up some sort of music file here to produce a fanfare, but music erupting from a web site can be pretty obnoxious, so I will refrain. However, you can help me. Right now, imagine a trio of horns blasting a triumphant fanfare as I introduce …

 

Stone Key 1000

 

The Stone Key is my latest book, and it will be available April 26 as both an ebook and a print book. You can preorder it now at Amazon. (Or if not at this moment, any second now)

If you can’t tell from the cover, The Stone Key is a time travel novel.

Sworn to protect a powerful artifact, Arden of Throckmorton is reluctant to carry out her duty until the relic whisks her nearly eight hundred years into the future. Her only way home is to find it. Modern England is no place for a medieval maid.

Hawkins Arlington is a prominent medievalist and just the man to help her, once he gets over the whole time travel and magic nonsense. Besides, the chance to study a real medieval woman is too brilliant to pass up.

But when a villain from the past appears, Arden and Hawk race to find the artifact first, risking their lives, their homes, and their reputations. And if they find it, can Arden discover what her heart wants and will Hawk be able to let her go?

I hope you will check out this newest adventure of mine. More inside stories will follow.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

A New Beginning–Changes in the Air

In which I look at rebranding, revitalizing, and renewal. Perhaps a fitting post for the day after Easter?

I promised that you’d be seeing changes in me. Well. they are arriving. First, my website is being overhauled. Right now (today) if you visit my website, this, as in this blog, is what you will find. More is coming, but we’re not there yet.

Second, I’ve decided not to let the Gabi Stevens name die. After my three  WISH books, it looked like Gabi Stevens was through. Not true anymore. Gabi Stevens writes paranormal (a lighter tone with heavy subjects–the kind of book and stories I like to read) and the voice that I love. I have big plans for her. Starting with …

…(Third) a reboot of THE FALCON AND THE WOLF.

Falcon  500
The Falcon and the Wolf

I had released it under Gabi Anderson, but it didn’t fit with the non-magical historicals I’d written under that name.  It is now available from Amazon and –this is the biggie–CreateSpace. That’s right! You can order it as a print book. Here is the link (I always find it wierd to create a link with the declaration of a link–it’s so meta.). A bit more expensive than the ebook, but what can you do?  The link to the ebook is the caption. And I’m giving you a heads up–the listing hasn’t quite caught up with the changes yet; while, the author is now Gabi Stevens, it still is linked to Gabi Anderson, but you can find it on the Gabi Stevens author page, not the Gabi Anderson author page, but if you look up Gabi Anderson, it will still list it there too (Lots of buts). I figure it will take a little while to catch up. Maybe a few more emails.

And there’s a new cover. Looks much more fantasy, huh?

So keep watching. There will be another Gabi Stevens book before the end of April. Brand new, never seen before. I’m excited about this one.

–Gabi

What I’m reading now:

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (a re-read)

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

 

What I do wrong. . .

In which I look at bucking the trends and its consequences, especially when it comes to series.

My career took a twist when my agent left me. I took stock of my career, regrouped, and have decided to take the direction I was pointed in. But I still don’t “follow the rules” in a lot of ways. I will be releasing a new book soon (stay tuned–I’m not giving information now because I want to give it a big send off, but here’s a hint: Daylight Saving Time has nothing on this book) and unlike everything they tell you when one self-publishes, it is NOT part of a series. It is a stand-alone novel. A complete story in one book.

I have a lot of stand alone books. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of series–I do. I’ve written three trilogies myselfTriSet (although one only has two books in it because the third book was never optioned. Someday I will write that third.) It seems nowadays every book is the starting point for a series. Heck I have a fantasy making the rounds right now that is the start of a series. But it’s a planned three books and it’s done. I suppose I could continue in that world if it takes off, but this story is three books. I was prepared to continue all my series if they took off, but they wouldn’t have been the same characters, just the same world. And I wrote stand-alones too.

Look, a series is great, but frankly after about three books, I’m bored with reading them. I want to get to the end. Harry Potter is an exception. I loved every one of those seven books and couldn’t wait for the next one to come out when they were, shall we say, fresh (although an argument can be made for Order of the Phoenix as being a bridge book). But, and perhaps this is blasphemy to the Potterheads, I’m glad the series is over. I loved every minute of it, but the story is now told. I would happily read (and have) other works by the author, but Harry Potter has an end and I’m glad for it. It’s wonderful for what it is and more would just ruin the experience (for me, but this is my blog). Frankly, I made it through Chronicles of Narnia only once (re-reading is my metric for excellence) because I didn’t care after about book three. The same is true for many of the ongoing romance series. Love the first few, but then I’d had enough. In fact, sometimes I resent having to read several books to finish a series just because I want to know what happens. I usually end up skimming.

When I make a list of my favorite books, many are stand-alone : Ready Player One, To Kill a Mockingbird (look at the controversy its sequel started–I ignore the sequel), And Then There Were None, Dandelion Wine (although there is a sequel, but it’s not as good, so I ignore it as well).  Some are part of a series: Huckleberry Finn (but it is so different from the first book in the series, and nobody reads the Tom Sawyer Detective novels), Bewitching (but the second book didn’t make nearly the impact). I would say the one area where I am willing to read more than three or so books is mystery. Agatha Christie is wonderful, and although she hated Poirot , I enjoyed the character, but each story was its own and there wasn’t a never-ending story arc.

There is a famous fantasy series that I have never started because it’s too long–too many books. I’m sure they’re fun, but really, I want a story to end, and then I want to move on to something new.

But that’s me, and that’s what I write. I complete a story and move on. If I like an author I will try their other books. It’s the voice that draws me in, and the voice will appear throughout the author’s body of work. I don’t need the same story dragged out. And if stand-alone books is the reason I don’t become huge, I can live with that.

I break other rules too–like being almost impossible to market (look at the covers of my last series)–but not writing in one series is the biggie.

–Gabi

What I am reading now:

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Mast Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

 

 

 

The Whole Truth?

In which I look at how much is too much and what to share.

I follow some authors on social media who put their political and social viewpoints out there for the world to see without qualms. I admire them for that. Many of them are popular, successful in their careers, and have continued success after airing controversial opinions. I have strong opinions about politics and society, but I’ve limited my sharing to clicking the “like” button and the occasional link to Snopes to counter sheer stupidity. I’ve never been comfortable sharing information about many aspects of my life or my views. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had security in my chosen career–I can’t afford to offend potential readers. Of course that hasn’t garnered me best-selling status either. Maybe it’s because I don’t do confrontation well. Of course, who does, and that really is a ridiculous excuse. Maybe it’s because I can’t express my thoughts clearly, and one can’t do rebuttals well on social media (comment sections aren’t conducive to civilized debate or discourse). The world is not made of sound bites. Of course, I do enjoy the sound bites and memes that make the rounds and reflect my views.

So I struggle between the what to tell you and what to keep hidden. In person I am very open about what I believe and what is happening in my life. That’s because I once heard a wise woman (Jennifer Crusie) tell a roomful of people at a conference the reason she doesn’t let her workshops be taped: (paraphrasing here) If it isn’t recorded, I can claim you all were high on mushrooms and don’t remember correctly what I said . (She is welcome to deny she ever said this). I’ve used that line more than once in teaching (toned down for my eighth graders to omit the drug reference) and also at our local sci-fi, fantasy conference, Bubonicon. If I say something and you don’t have it recorded, you can’t prove I said it.microphone-626618_640

Which leads me to this blog and social media. Here, I am writing down my words. Here the words are etched in stone (figuratively). Here, I can’t escape what I’ve said, and I have been smacked down more than once for something I’ve written and I don’t have the power or influence to combat negative repercussions. I still want to attract readers; I still want to be “popular”. I mean, they still invite Mel Gibson to the Golden Globes after some of the things he’s said. Brad Pitt is still listed as one of the world’s sexiest men and his social leanings are out there for the world to see.

So I don’t know whether I’m a chicken or if I’m cautious. What do you think?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan (I mention this one again because it’s spoiled me for other books at the moment. I loved this series. Which is the reason I’m reading …)

Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Azkaban by JK Rowling (rereading an old favorite, albeit in a different language, because I know its good and won’t disappoint me after the above series.)