Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Brave New World of Publishing... Without the Publishers

Ladies and gentlemen, things have just gotten a lot more interesting.

In the past, publishers printed, distributed and marketed books. Authors had to write something publishers wanted to buy before they could figure out whether readers wanted to read it. Publishers were driven by the desire to produce great works of fiction (and non-fiction), but they were also driven by the bottom line. Publishing is a business and that big publishing house wants to make money. Predicting popularity is a gamble and they are always looking for what will be the next new thing - which can be great if you are what they think will be the next big thing and not so great if you aren't. They hold the keys to the kingdom.

The internet is changing all that. New electronic publishers with lower overhead costs are able to take chances on new authors (like me!). And if you want to skip the publisher entirely and try to print and distribute your own book (like my cousin did) then there are self-publishing companies available offering their services. (Note: I'm talking self not vanity publishing. That's a whole nother kettle of fish.)

But what if you are an established author and you want to skip the publisher entirely, releasing your own ebooks directly to your faithful readers... Is that the new trend? Straight from the author to the reader with no middlemen?

J.A. Konrath talks openly on his blog about the relative profitability of his Big Publisher books and the ones he self-released through Amazon. And now... drumroll please... Lynn Abbey, CJ Cherryh & Jane Fancher have opened up their own online storefront, designed to distribute their books the way they want them. You can read more about their venture and the intentions behind it HERE.

Are editors, agents & big publishers a thing of the past? I don't think so. But I do think the industry is changing a little bit more every day and this is a fascinating time to be a part of it. Market analysts are calling this Christmas the Year of the Kindle and Amazon bragged that more ebooks than print books were sold on Christmas Day.

The way we read and the way we get books may change, but I am certain there will always be work for those who want to make good books and get them into readers' hands.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Random Collection of Awesomeness

1. Today at Samhain a bunch of New Year's themed stories release including... drumroll please... Bite of Silence, the next Biting Love story from Mary Hughes! Woohooooo! I know, I know, I talk about the freakin' awesomeness of Mary Hughes to an obsessive degree, but her books hit me right in the funny bone and keep on hitting. And they're super-hella-sexy. Really, does it get any better?

2. It's my sister's anniversary! Eleven years. Time certainly flies. I remember their wedding like it was yesterday and now they have three adorable kids and over a decade of matrimonial bliss behind them. Here's to another few decades! Current family record is sixty-four years (and counting) of happily-ever-after. Beat that. Big congrats to my big sis and her hubbie.

3. I'm over at the Ruby blog today talking about sequel jitters, the movie Nine, and why I think Desperate Housewives lost its way after the first season. You are encouraged to swing by and leave a comment. I will then comment back and we will have what is known as a "chat" in the comments section. It will be profound and life-changing. (Disclaimer: Actual life-changeability/profundity may vary.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Slogging Through

I'm about to tell you something that will blow your mind. It's a truism that runs counter to instinct. Ready? Are you sure? Braced? Are you sitting down?

Writing a whole entire book takes dedication.

Oh my god, right? You're totally blown away, yeah? Okay, I'm being a bit of a sarcastic brat right now, but there are days when it is really freaking hard not to scream hysterically and then curl up in the fetal position when I'm having the "yes, I'm a writer" conversation and the friend/acquaintance/stranger says to me "I could write a book."

Yep. You could. But you know what? You haven't. And I bet I can tell you why. You either lack the drive or the discipline. Or both. Ideas are great. Ideas are necessary. Books, however, are more than ideas.

I absolutely adore Pride and Prejudice. There is this fabulous line (dozens of fabulous lines, actually, but this one in particular) when Lady Catherine says, "If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."

Lady Catherine is talking about music, but the sentiment can be easily paraphrased as "If I ever bothered to write my masterpiece, I would be a best-seller with a Pulitzer in one pocket and Nobel Prize for Literature in the other."

The thing is, that might be absolutely true. You might be the Mozart of the written word. I'm not going to tell you that you aren't. If you tell me you have a genius idea, I believe you. So instead of screaming and curling, when people say this to me (and people have said things eerily close to that exact sentence), I say, "Writing takes discipline."

I had a conversation along these lines last week with a fellow guest at the wedding festivities. It went something like this:

Him: How long did you write before you were published? (Translation: It's really not as hard as everyone says it is, is it?)

Me: I wrote for fifteen years, but I was only seriously submitting with the intention of becoming a published author for about two.

Him: Does it take you a long time to write a book? (Translation: It's really not as hard as everyone says it is, is it?)

Me: It varies a lot depending on the book.

Him: Oh... because I've sometimes thought I could write a book. (Ahh, now we're getting to the point.)

Me: It takes a lot of discipline and dedication.

Him: Do you write at the same time every day? (Translation: Set schedule = dedication.)

Me: Nope.

Him: More when the muse strikes you, then. I get that. (Translation: Excellent! I can write a book whenever I feel like it and become a published author!)

Me: Nope.

Then his girlfriend interrupted us. But I've been thinking about that conversation ever since. The assumption that my comment about dedication meant scheduling has been tweaking at my brain. And the idea that the only alternative to a fixed schedule was the muse seemed like a total cop out.

Here's the thing: Discipline is about personality, not scheduling. The discipline of being a writer is doing it when it sucks and when it rocks your socks off. The discipline of being a writer is writing all the way through to The End, pushing through insecurity and overconfidence, mania and doubt. And then starting all over again with revisions, the next book, etc.

Writing isn't always a magical flow of words from the Muses. Yeah, sometimes it is. But if I only wrote when "the muse" struck me, I would never have a whole book. I would have brilliant little bits and pieces that never added up to a complete anything. The Muse can be a real bitch and she doesn't really like writing certain parts of the book - like the tying-up-all-the-loose-ends parts.

I don't write at the same time every day, but I have deadlines. I have goals and I bust my butt to meet them - even if the only person I'm accountable to is myself. That self-motivation is no easy skill to pick up. How many people would spend an afternoon strolling along the procrastinatory pathways of the internet or playing solitaire if their boss was out of the office and there was no one holding them accountable for their productivity? That is why I say dedication is a mindset. There is no boss to keep you in line. You gotta want it badly enough that you keep yourself on track - even as the temptation of a new (better!) story pops up in your brain. Even when it isn't fun and bright and easy. Dedication is slogging through.

You think you could right a book? You're right. You can. Will you? That's between you and your mental whipwielder.

(And if you need help wielding the whip, might I suggest National Novel Writing Month? Here's an interesting blog about NaNo pep talks and the elusive muse.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rave Review

With only 16 days until the release of the second Serengeti Shifter story, it's perfect timing for a new review of story numero uno, Serengeti Heat, don't you think? What a great way to get geared up for Serengeti Storm!

The Raving Readers were beyond flattering in their assessment of Ava & Landon's story. Here are few of my favorite bits: "Serengeti Heat is a fabulously well-done lion shifter story, full of heat and romance."
Not bad, eh? Well check this out: "...the thought of a small beta lioness felling a powerful alpha male like Landon is darn nigh impossible to resist."
Nigh! Darn nigh, even! A reviewer who uses the phrase "darn nigh impossible to resist" is after my own heart, no two ways about it. And then this happened: "Vivi Andrews is a master at her craft, and Serengeti Heat keeps me on a contented afterglow for hours after I finished reading it."
Jeez-ma-crow. She just called me a master at my craft. Crikey. Did you feel that? That was my ego expanding to natural-disaster-causing proportions. Quick! Somebody tell me I suck before my ego explodes and takes out the northern half of the Pacific Seaboard! There's no time to lose!

Or you can just read the review or leave your own comment HERE. Thanks, Raving Readers. Happy reading!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree...

The very best presents, in my opinion, are the ones that show a real understanding of the recipient. I had an amazing Christmas. I got a bunch of stuff that seemed to indicate that the givers were really thinking of me - not just another checkmark on their list, but me specifically. Little things that seemed to show they were listening when I babbled incoherently about my favorite places and things. That means a lot. That is the thought that really counts. So I feel tickled and special and all sorts of good things on this day after Christmas.

How did your Christmas (or holiday of choice) make you feel? Was it all you wanted it to be? Greeting card perfect? Maybe you're riding the high of the best Xmas ever or grumbling over the pain-in-the-ahem of the holidays or gleeful that the shopping stress is behind you for another three-hundred-fifty odd days. Whatever the case, here's hoping the rest of your holidays bring a smile to your face.

And here's my attempt to bring you a happy new year, or maybe stretch the season of giving just a bit longer: <-- Click it! You know you want to. It's a contest, boys and girls! It's a chance to win a pretty new e-reader or an ebook or two! Scavenge for resolutions and you might get a belated Xmas gift to feed your reading addiction.

Also, just in case you missed 'em, there are holiday freebies from Samhain authors HERE, including some by the excellent Kinsey Holley and marvelous Kaye Chambers. MK Mancos, Misty Evans and Juniper Bell, oh my! Oh... and MINE. And a little birdie told me to keep an eye out this week as there will be New Year's themed freebies added to the list!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little...

Happy Holidays!

I can't believe it's Christmas Eve already. This month has galloped by - which I'm a little bummed about, honestly, since this is one of my favorite times of year and I feel like I missed it. Today I'll be watching holiday videos all day and wrapping a few last minute packages. Then maybe some cookie baking is in order...

How will you be celebrating the 24th? Will you be unwinding online? Then you might want to consider that TODAY is your last day to enter the Rockin' Raven Holiday Hunt. A shiny new e-reader awaits the grand prize winner. ENTER HERE.

Good luck and happy holidays.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas to Me!

I'm back! I have returned to the frozen north, tanned (for me), rested (though still on the wrong time zone), and ready for the Christmas juggernaut. (Any excuse to use the word juggernaut.)

My Christmas Presents from the Unvierse:
1. Emails - 250+ (Ye Gods)

2. Author Copies - Due to Murphy's Law of Shipping, they arrived the morning after I got on a plane for parts southern, but now they are here! They are pretty! I have held my book in my hot (cold, actually, it's Alaska, doncha know) little hands! Woot!

3. Reviews! I got home to not one but two five star reviews! Many thanks to the goddesses at Fallen Angel Reviews who liked The Ghost Exterminator and Bitten by Books who gave The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo & the Poltergeist Accountant five tombstones.

Now that I've basked in the glow of presents two and three, it's time to buckle down and address present number one. Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Multi-Racial Issues

Do you only want to read books about people who look like you? Only the stories that revolve around your culture?

I don't. I think that would get old in a hurry. I thrive on variety. I love to read about things which are foreign to me - whether that foreignness stems from a real culture different from my own or from a world the author made up out of whole cloth. (Also, I tend to think brown-skinned people are the most visually appealing and it would be a shame to cut them out of the game just because I'm so darned pasty.)

Race in romance novels is a topic that seems to be coming up more and more frequently of late. (Or perhaps I've just become more aware of it?) Dear Author has
an interesting thread focusing on multi-racial romance recommendations. The world isn't monotone and it is nice to see romance novels starting to reflect that.

I'm white (of mixed-European descent), but I come from a multi-ethnic (multi-racial, whatever
I'm supposed to call it) family. My father's side of the family is from Hawaii and I spent a fair chunk of my childhood there. My time in Hawaii among my ethnically-varied family engendered my attitude that we are defined less by our racial profile and more by our cultural upbringing.

Take actress Thandi Newton. What race is she? I have no idea. Mixed, perhaps? How would I describe her? British. Her nationality defines her and how she interacts with the world around her more than her skin tone, in my opinion. To me, it is the dominant aspect of her cultural profile.

I don't feel comfortable creating characters if I am not familiar with their cultural profile. That is why I feel most capable writing European, Caucasian-American, Latin-American or Asian-American characters, as those are the cultures I have been most prominently exposed to in my life. I would not want to disrespect anyone's culture by inadvertently misportraying it.

Could the dearth of romances about non-white characters actually have to do with racial sensitivity? We've been told to "write what you know" and what do I really know about being anything other than myself? (But how boring would it be to write only about Euro-mutt girls from Alaska/Hawaii all the time? Not to mention the narcissism involved.)

Then, supposing you decide to put some realistic racial mixing in your book, you have to take into account how you are going to broach the topic of race. Bookavore posted
this plea a few days ago, that authors stop naming the race of their characters only when the characters aren't white, bludgeoning the reader without the affirmative action in their prose.

I can agree with that grumble on several levels, but I do have a bit of a rebuttal: Point of view. If my heroine is white (I'm thinking of Jo, from The Ghost Exterminator) and she thinks of her boss as Asian, then when I am describing Karma from Jo's point of view don't I have to refer to her as Asian? (This argument is a one-way ticket to "Well, then your heroine is racist and that's just as bad!" isn't it?)

I have two series going right now. Serengeti Shifters & Karmic Consultants. In the Serengeti Shifters series, I've set the world up so that most of the shifters have leonine coloring (blondes, mostly), and they all come from a small collection of families (inbreeding, yay!) so there isn't a lot of racial diversity. (And I gotta say, it gets boring writing about a bunch of people who all look so similar to one another. I have to bend my own rules just to make it interesting.)

In Karmic Consultants, it's a "real world" type setting, just with some paranormal zaniness thrown in, so the races are all over the map. The Ghost Shrink's hero is mixed race and so (of course) is his sister, Karma, who is a recurring character throughout the series. Depending on whose POV we're in, they are described in slightly different ways, but I don't think I ever come right out and say what their ethnicity is. (Japanese-African-French! The truth revealed! You heard it here first!)

The Sexorcist
hero is Mexican-American. He very strongly identifies himself by his culture and he has an pretty strong accent. It would be weird if I didn't identify his ethnicity. Of course, I also identify the heroine's. So does that make it okay? The Naked Detective heroine is Chinese-American, and the hero (racist bastard!) thinks of her as Asian all the time (and hot enough to burn his tongue). Is that bad?

When the racial filter is coming through the characters themselves is it still as offensive? We don't exist in a bubble. We can't ignore race without making the book ring false - well, you can, but not if you're writing about the modern American culture.

It's a tricky subject. And now I feel like I ought to apologize for bringing it up. Well, I'm not gonna. We should be allowed to talk about these things. Taboos just make people more inclined toward prejudice. So here's to diversity! And to my feeble attempts to accurately portray the beauty of our diverse populace. I haven't had any hate mail yet. I'm hoping that's a good sign.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Explosion of Ereader Giveaways!

Greetings from the high seas! While I'm away, I thought I'd drop a note to remind you of some fabulous opportunities to win FREE EREADERS and other great prizes. Behold!
Go! Play! Win!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life Interrupted

Today I'm over at the Damned Scribbling Women blog, talking about life's interference with our writing goals and getting through the holiday season without losing writing momentum.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jingle Bells & Wedding Bells

This week I'm trading in jingle bells for wedding bells. One of my oldest and best friends is trading in her single status.

(Warning: I'm going to gush sappily for a paragraph or two.)

I met the bride on the first day of eighth grade when I made a smartass comment about the way a teacher had mispronounced her name. Since she's a smartass herself, that comment was the cement that firmed our new friendship.

I am who I am to day because of that friendship. She was the one who suggested we backpack across Europe after highschool. She was the one who talked me into auditioning for my first play. But, perhaps most significantly, she was the one who sat on the other end of the couch the very first day when we got out our spiral bound notebooks and started writing.

We joke sometimes that she's an enabler. That she enables my laziness and procrastination. But the truth of the matter is she has enabled a lot of things that have enriched my life - travel, theatre, writing, and more.

She's the one who said, "Yes, your writing is good" and "You can do this. Why not?" when I was nothing but raw potential and hope. She's the first person who ever read a word I wrote - even when they were mostly incoherent words.

And this week she's getting married on a tropical island and I'm going to be there with a great big idiotic grin on my face. She's gonna be a knockout bride.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Serengeti Christmas

Merry Christmas from me, boys and girls! It's the holiday season and my gift to all the readers of the Serengeti shifters stories is a festive prequel to my January release, Serengeti Storm. What's on bad-girl Shana's wishlist this year? Mistletoe and naughty intentions... it's gonna be a very hot Christmas Eve.


And check out the Samhellion for more Christmas Freebies.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ann Lory Interview

Today I'm being interviewed by the fabulous Ann Lory. We chatted about holiday traditions, mythical creatures and the personality requirements for an author of smexxy books. Check it out!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Faking It

**Warning: Vivi is in a mood. Brace yourself for a rant.**

You know what drives me nuts? The phrase fake it til you make it.

And hyperbole in advertising. I love hyperbole (so tempted to make a hyperbolic statement about the depth of my love for hyperbole here), and I hate it when my favorite literary device is abused for selfish gain. Abused for comedy? Heaven. All other abuses should be punishable by medieval torture devices. (Can you tell I've been watching the Tudors lately?)

The literary devise of hyperbolic exaggeration has been absorbed by the marketing and advertising gurus. It has become hype. Advertisers can't come right out and lie, but bending the truth is another matter.

Seriously, how many cars can be the Number One Car in America? And how many times do we hear "The critics agree! Movie X is the Best Film of the Decade!" Technically, all you need are two critics who agree your film is the best, but the implication is that all the critics love you. And the belief is that the public will then want to jump on the awesomeness bandwagon that is your movie.

It's all about manipulation for profit. I hate being manipulated.

What does this have to do with being an author? A couple weeks back I was visiting an author's website and I saw the phrase "bestselling novel!" attached to a book which I knew for a fact did not belong in that category.

It drives me nuts when authors hype themselves as "bestselling" without context. There are certain bestseller lists (New York Times, USA Today) which are THE bestseller lists, but there are dozens of others and if you want to draw your circle small enough, just about anyone with a book out can be a "best" seller.

Serengeti Heat hit a number of ebook sales site bestseller lists. It was number one at MBaM and it still (much to my surprise and delight) periodically jumps up onto the Kindle Romance list. Am I calling myself a bestselling author? Hell no. Who would I be kidding?

Months back, I gushed about SH making some sales lists here at the blog, but that was more about sharing my excitement over the fact that people seemed to be liking it rather than any attempt to say "Look! It's a bestselling book! Everyone is reading it, so you should too!" And I'm always very careful to keep things within the context of it being a MBaM or ARe or eBookwise bestseller.

Those lists are a pleasure to be on, but they ain't NYT. And until I'm on one of the Big Lists, I'm not going to throw around accolades I haven't earned in an attempt to con my way to the top.

What do you think? Fake it til you make it or honesty all the way? Is there dishonor in manipulative exaggeration or is that just the name of the game? Am I naive to be offended by the abuse of hyperbole?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Doomsday Snark

Do you like disaster movies? I'm over at the Raven Happy Hour today, taking a look at the end of the world as we know it in 2012. Our hero, the intrepid writer, survives natural disasters, double crosses and godawful dialogue to become the pre-eminent (i.e. only surviving) scribe in the post-apocalyptic world. Sound to anyone else like a screenwriter's fantasy? Make California slide into the Pacific and drown your competition, leaving you the pinacle of creative thought. Job security, Mayan style.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Emotional Roadblock

Hello, darlings. It's been a few days. One of those weeks when I barely feel like I'm keeping my head above water - even though I don't think I'm busy enough to justify that feeling. Just a few words now...

Random Sidenote: The Rubies are having a Q&A day over at their blog. Ask and be answered.

A couple days ago, while reading a Ruby blog, I had a random epiphany. I realized that I hadn't written the death of a single character since I lost my brother. In some cases, this involved some pretty extreme contortions to do. (Especially since I was writing a Tarantino-esq gore-fest when It Happened.)

Instead, my writing took a distinct turn toward the comedic. And now I am fascinated by what moves me to write particular stories. You see, I wasn't really writing much comedy before then. And it never occurred to me until now that there was a cause behind my sudden swing to the funny side.

Why do certain stories call to us? Why do I love to read books I would be bored to tears writing? Does our writing have more, in fact, to do with our lives than our reading tastes?

Whatever the causes, I cannot put a character I like (or even one I don't) through grief. For purely selfish reasons. It would pain me too much to have to write about grief and loss. Perhaps that is why I veer away from Romantic Suspense? Because all too often, the hero/heroine are dealing with overcoming an enormous tragedy - My wife was murdered by a serial killer. My sister was abducted when we were seven - tragedies for which people always grieve. Yes, they give the character deep, dark issues to overcome, but I can't read them. And I would never write them. Even if the obstacle is overcome, there is too much pain in that emotional hurdle.

So I'll make 'em laugh (I hope) instead.

How does your life cross over with your reading/writing habits? They say escapist books boom during times of economic crisis. I know others who begin reading/writing lighter during times of family illness and tragedy. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tickle My Fantasy Release-tastic Day

It's release day, y'all!

Tickle My Fantasy has officially hit bookstores. I'm blogging at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site, looking for wild and crazy suggestions about what I should do to make this day memorable.
You can read excerpts from all four of the TMF stories HERE.

And to add to the awesomeness that is today, the Rockin' Around the Raven Christmas Tree Hunt launches. Among the prizes is a Sony ereader! Play now!