Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just do it

I finally did it.

I bought a Nook. I'd researched e-readers, talked to friends who had one and knew exactly what to buy when the time came. I feel a tiny bit guilty about not buying a Kindle since I used CreateSpace to re-release my journal, "I'd Rather go to California," but the scales tipped about an ounce in favor of Nook.

I hadn't planned on getting one just yet, but then an on-line writing friend published a book. When I tried to buy it, it was in e-format only. That alone did not make my mind up to take the plunge, but then another friend published a book and it wasn't available in print either.

Now, I could have ordered the book anyway and had it downloaded to my computer. I've done that, but I find it hard to read a book on the computer monitor. No matter how engrossing, my back tends to protest before very long.

And, my readng time is confined to the hours after five, when I stop work for the day. I like to curl up in my favorite chair and read while Jim watches television. If the show is interesting, I might watch it but the book comes back out during the commercials.

You can't do that with a computer.

So I went to Wal-Mart and bought a Nook. I took it home, read the directions, and had one book that very day and pre-ordered the other which came online this week. Then I visited Smashwords and re-downloaded a book I had purchased there some months ago and had gotten only as far as the first few chapters.

Okay, this is like giving a kid the key to the candy store. You can access the entire B&N site from the Nook and if you see something you like, you just press "Buy." No connecting cables or special codes. It charges your account and the book is in your hand in less than a minute.

I could see right away that I would have to set myself a limit or I'd have my credit card maxed out in no time.

When my son found out I had bought my new best (electronic)friend, he sighed and said he had planned on getting me one for Christmas.

"That's okay," I reassured him. "You can get me a gift card to buy more books."

Nothing like hinting very, very broadly.

Like everything else in my life, I now wonder why I waited so long. My device will not replace printed books--I still go the the library and stock up. It just adds another dimension to my reading list.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Continuing Education

There are two great advantages to belonging to a writing group. One is you get to meet other writers and commiserate or congratulate. And, you get to talk about writing with people who understand the joys and frustrations.

The other advantage is that most groups have either a guest lecturer or a hands-on workshop at their meetings so that you get to learn more about your craft.

I belong to the Carolinas Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. I went to a meeting Saturday and the guest speaker was A.J. Hartley. Dr. Hartley is Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. That sounds as impressive as it is, but Dr. Hartley was both informative and down-to-earth. He writes in several genres (see Books to find out what he's written) and generously shared with us both the advantages and pitfalls.

I was interested because I have written an historical romance (unpublished, but finished -- if I can ever stop tinkering with it), two contemporary women's fiction (one published, one awaiting word on my submission), a contemporary romance (also awaiting word) and a book that is a paranormal romance in an alternate history.

Dr. Hartley said that agents don't much like their authors to genre-hop because a "brand" leads to longevity. In other words, readers associate an author with a particular genre and might be disappointed to pick up a book under the author's name and find out it is something quite different from what they previously read. Also, he warned, it is more difficult to completely know one genre and to know its market.

On the plus side, he said, "Do it because you want to."

That's what I wanted to hear, besides learning that he has done it successfully. More than that, he used his own name on each book. No putting a different name on his young adult books than his adult mysteries, it's the same name on ALL his books.

Some other points he made during his lecture were:

Push the limits of your genre to create something else; write in more than one genre so if one genre should collapse (paranormals, believe it or not, are getting harder to sell); and meld two genres together to create a new genre or a niche market. I thought, on hearing this, there is hope for my paranormal, A Question of Boundaries, after all.

Model your work on what other people are doing. This does not mean plagarize, but if you do not know what is selling today, your out-of-date pace and structure may not catch an agent's eye. If you want to write romance, you should be reading other romance writers every chance you get.

Lastly, after you read enough to know what is popular in a genre, figure out the rules so you can break them.

Of course, none of this matters if you are writing for fun, but if you are serious about breaking into the industry, you have to know what is selling now and why.

I pay my dues to belong to CRW, and I drive over an hour each way to the meetings. If I didn't think it was worth it, I wouldn't go. I'd stay home and write. But it isn't likely I'd ever get published without the help I find there.