Monday, October 21, 2013

50 Shades of Anything Goes

A few years ago, the publishing world was rocked by the phenomenon known as “50 Shades.” Dubbed “Mommy Porn,” the industry couldn’t stop scratching its head that female readership wanted to read explicit sex scenes.

I never read the series – I heard the writing wasn’t great – which is the same reason I never got into the Twilight series. Fifty Shades, of course, began life as fan fiction for Twihards who couldn’t wait for their celibate couple to finally get it on, and six ways to Sunday. And that impulse, dear reader, is one I could understand. I’ve been a die-hard shipper since I first saw Hawkeye and Hot Lips exchange barbs over an operating room table, and there’s nothing more satisfying than when two people you’ve wanted for years to find each other finally come together.

However, I’m going to go out in a ledge and say that reading a detailed sex scene between two or more people and/or animals to whom you were just introduced a paragraph ago isn’t necessarily the most satisfying papersex experience a reader can have.

Which brings me to events that occurred in indie publishing last week.

Not surprisingly, 50 Shades generated a title wave of “erotica” books designed to cash in on all this pent-up demand for Mommy porn. And it collided with a title wave of “indie” writers – most of whom were delighted to be able to share their stories with the world without benefit of agent and big six/four publisher, but some of whom who seemed only interested in pushing the sexual envelope as far as it will go and making as much money as possible.

Last week, Kobo Writing Life, which sells independent and traditionally published books for its own ereaders, abruptly pulled all its indie published works as a result of one of its distributors, WHSmith, doing so. WHSmith blamed certain indie titles for its decision, calling them “disgusting” and “unacceptable.”

Originally, this looked like censorship, and many in the indie writing community decried WHSmith’s, and by extension, Kobo’s, action to decide what was or was not fit to be read. But then things got more complicated. This was not the same of “60 Shades of Salmon” being pulled. These were explicit books describing gang-rapes, incest, bestiality and more. What’s worse, their authors were attempting to trick the distributor – and readers -- by uploading fake titles and using tag words that would let their descriptions come up in searches for non-erotica. They were not just trying to reach readers who wanted to be titillated; they were spamming and shocking readers in search for everyday fiction.

And sadly, they were causing other indie writers to be tarred with this same brush.

I am not a prude. I don’t think. And yet I’ve been a bit disturbed by the number of indie writers offering erotic titles. Because reviews, Facebook likes and Twitter followers are so important in publicizing our books, many indie writers form groups to help each other publicize our books. But truthfully, I don’t want anything to do with a book called “Hot and Horny Over 40;” I don’t want to read it; I don’t want to publicize it; and I don’t want to be reviewed by its author. And I’m really scared that these books and their writers are going to change the reputation of indie writers. Right now indie writers as a whole are seen as authors offering books at a lower price point that may not be quite as good or marketable as traditionally published books, but offer similar stories. It would hurt all of us if this reputation were changed to authors trafficking smut for a quick $1.99.

Again, I’m not a prude. I love a hot sex scene in a book that features well-written, multi-dimensional characters, sharp dialogue and loads of sexual tension. And I’m sure some of these books offer lots of detailed, well-written sex scenes. But if I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about them having sex.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take Kobo to clean up this mess, and I’m angry at the writers who caused it by lying about their books’ content. For me, the bottom line is these writers are offering a completely different product and reading experience than other indie writers are. If we refuse to acknowledge that, we risk having our own books viewed with suspicion.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Working with a Critique Group, by Cristin Harber

(Please welcome Cristin Harber, an author I met last year at a writer’s conference. Cristin is an award-winning romantic suspense and military romance author. Her Titan series debuted three weeks ago with three novels and two novellas. The novels are ranked on the Amazon’s Military Romance Best Sellers list and have been applauded by reviewers as a fresh voice in romantic suspense. The first title, WINTERS HEAT, follows black ops mission gone wrong, and a couple forced together to survive. She lives outside Washington, DC with her husband, toddler, English bulldog, and has a baby on the way. She loves southern food, sings too loud along with the radio, and could spend hours reading and writing. And she has some sound advice about working with a critique group.)

Hi, Jami. Thanks for having me today to talk about critique groups.

I belong to an online group. We’re scattered across the country, but all write romance novels and agree that no one is an expert. Everyone offers something different. We focus improving our craft to meet specific goals—landing an agent, hitting a best seller list, selling to a particular publishing imprint, et cetera.

Based on my experiences, I’m sharing a couple lessons learned and tips from my crit partner adventures.

Why are critique groups so important:
• Friends and family will never be impartial. It’s the truth. At least on your first work.
• Writers can be too close to their work. It’s hard to see plot holes, word echoes, and repetitiveness. A reader who actively studies a manuscript can provide a bevy of feedback.
•Crit partners need to understand your goals and want that for you also. It helps if they are about the same level of writing. A newbie writer and a multi-published NYT bestseller won’t have much they can exchange. Crit partnerships can fail for a variety of reasons, but a few key things to watch out for include partners that:
• Don’t understand your voice
• Don’t read your genre/ sub-genre
• Try to impose their voice on your style
• Crit to make themselves feel better (RUN FOR YOUR LIFE FROM THOSE FOLKS)

Now for what makes a great team—a similar sense of style, a similar reading list. Try to find partners that:
• Bolster your confidence without blowing sunshine. The truth doesn’t have to hurt, and don’t waste your time with someone who thinks everything is incredible. The goal is to improve. Learn what your flaws are and seek solutions to improve your craft.
• Understand that your time is valuable also. Typos happen. Titanic-sized plot holes are easy to miss as an author. But it’s not fair to you to constantly be the spell checker or if you find yourself writing the same notes on each progressive chapter/book.
• Are in it for the long haul. Having someone pop in and out every few chapters doesn’t help the overall arc of the story.

Be a better crit partner by:
• Being honest. If something’s not working, don’t ignore it. If you don’t have time, be upfront.
• Sandwich criticism with praise. Example: Excellent word choice here. I think the second and third paragraphs are running long. I’m a little lost. But, I’m digging this dialogue section. Reads very conversational.”
• Respect the level of writing your partners are at and know where you are also. Offer what you know and learn from what you read.

How to find an online crit group:
• Check out professional associations like the Romance Writers of America. RWA has online and local chapters, many of which have crit groups. They also have forums where critiques can be exchanged.
• Look into yahoogroups. Several groups are genre-oriented and have varying levels of commitment.
• Search for websites that specialize in critiques. Critique Circle is an excellent crit trading website. New ones pop up, but be sure to Google them a little to make sure you aren’t accidently “publishing” your work or sharing your rights.

I hope your find a critique group that works for you! Mine is incredible and I’m lucky I get to thank those ladies every day for their help. I wish you the same success in finding your writing partners.

Cristin Harber
Romantic Suspense Author: Higher Stakes. Hotter Action.

Where to find Cristin:

NEWSLETTER signup for series info




Monday, October 7, 2013

Meet chick lit author/blogger Suzy Turner!

This week I have Chick Lit/YA blogger Suzy Turner guesting on my blog. She’s written her own chick lit novel, Forever Fredless, that sounds terrific. And my book, Keeping Score, is on sale this week for 99 cents! Check it out here!

Some thoughts from Suzy before getting into her book….

Browsing on Jami's blog, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful picture at the top of the page. It could so easily have been taken just down the road from where I live. You see, for the past twenty-seven years I've lived in Portugal. It wasn't my choice, mind you (I was only ten when we moved here), but it's a lovely place to be - most of the time anyway.

It's not easy moving thousands of miles away from family and friends at such a young age but I had a good head on my shoulders (my parents always said I was ten going on twenty-one!) and I soon settled into the way of life here.

But no matter how long I stay here, I just can't bring myself to love the beach, or the sand, or the sun. I'm a Capricorn, born the day after Christmas so for me, the perfect weather is cold where I can wrap up in woolly clothes, coats, hats and boots. During the summer months I can usually be found indoors with all the shutters closed to keep out the heat. I only venture out whenever I'm forced to (okay, maybe I'm not quite that bad but close!) and I usually say no whenever I'm invited to the beach. I mean it's full of sand! It gets, like... everywhere. Bleurgh!

Seriously though, I don't mind going for a walk on the beach in the middle of winter, in my jeans and boots, on a freezing cold day. To me, that is perfect. Sigh.

Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner


Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday. Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?


Thank God for anti-perspirant, I thought as I sat on the couch and waited for the countdown to begin. I clutched at my hands until they were white and looked across at the two people sitting opposite, both completely at ease in front of the cameras.

Five, four, three, two, one...

'Welcome back to this morning's edition of Good Morning GB,' announced Ireland Rothschild, the blonde-haired, blue eyed darling of morning TV.

'I'm here with Fergus O'Reilly and we've a special guest with us this morning. None other than Britain's love-struck multi-millionaire, Kate Robinson.

Welcome, Kate,' she said with a dazzling smile aimed more towards the camera than at me.

As my cheeks began to heat up, I was so grateful to the make-up artist, who had insisted on caking on the foundation before the show had started. In fact, I had so much make-up on that I was hoping once I'd removed it, nobody would recognise me when I headed to the airport in my now rather stupidly chosen car. I couldn't exactly blend in driving a pink Mini could I?

'Good morning,' I whispered shyly.

Fergus grinned back at me, tilting his head as if he was about to speak to a child. 'Now, tell us, Kate dear, how does it feel to never have to worry about money ever again?' he asked, his toothpaste advert teeth twinkling beneath the heat of the studio lights.

'Erm, well, I guess it's... erm, kind of... erm,' I felt so bloody stupid. Great time for my brain to stop working. 'I - erm. Great,' I nodded. 'Great, really great.' Idiot.

Ireland glanced across at her grey-haired colleague and pouted before nodding. 'Tell us how you knew this man. This,' she glanced down at the iPad on her lap and continued, 'Samuel?'

I cleared my throat and lifted my head, feeling like my brain was back in action. 'He was a very good friend of the family, some years ago,' I answered.

'Just a friend? Why did he leave you all his money and his property?' asked Fergus.

'He didn't have any family and I guess you could say that my mother and I were the closest he ever had to a family.'

'Isn't that lovely?' pouted Ireland. 'You certainly are a lucky woman. But what about your mother? Didn't she receive any of his inheritance?'

'No,' I said before swallowing hard. 'My mother lives a rather... nomadic lifestyle, in Africa. She doesn't want any of it. All she asked of me was to donate a sum to charity which, of course, I have done.'

'She lives in Africa? A nomadic lifestyle? That sounds intriguing. Perhaps we should interview her one of these days,' laughed Ireland and Fergus together.

'Have you splashed out on anything since receiving your inheritance back in June?' they asked, leaning forward eagerly awaiting my answer.

'Yes I have actually. I bought a car and a new house.'

'Well good for you, Kate. But now, most of us are curious about this boy you lost. Tell us about him?'

Oh no. Why did I agree to this?

Taking a deep breath, I knew I had no choice. Several articles had been printed since the one in Liberty; everyone wanted to know more and nobody was going to leave me alone until I told them everything.

'He was just a boy who I had a connection with when I was much, much younger. It was at Skegness. At an afternoon disco for kids. I was dancing and I felt someone touch my back and when I turned around there he was. The most beautiful boy I'd ever seen,' I said, stopping and smiling as I reminisced. ‘It was one of the happiest memories of my life.'

Sighing, I continued, 'We just looked at each other and it was like everything else just disappeared into the background. We stood staring, for what seemed like ages. I could barely move. And then, almost as soon as it had begun, my dad appeared and took me away. I couldn't do anything as we walked to the car. I looked around for the boy but he was gone. And then, just as we were driving away, I turned around in my seat and there he was. He had a daffodil in his hand. I always assumed he'd gone to pick it for me, but that's just a childish fantasy, I guess. The whole thing is probably nothing but a childish fantasy, really.'

Ireland was very carefully dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, pretending to be moved, while Fergus smiled sadly.

'What a beautiful story, Kate. I don't believe for one second that this is a childish fantasy. It's romantic and beautiful,' Ireland said.

'Now, tell us, Kate. Why did you call him Fred?' asked Fergus.

Smiling, I explained about the Right Said Fred song, just as the music began in the background.

'What a wonderful tale. Thank you, Kate, for joining us today. It's been a pleasure having you with us to share your story,' said Fergus.

'Thank you,' I whispered before the camera moved back to Ireland as she straightened her skirt and looked alluring. 'Do you remember this moment in time?'she asked. 'Are you the elusive Fred? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact us at...'

Before I could hear anything else, I was ushered off the couch and back behind the scenes where Jo stood, waiting patiently for me, with open arms.




Suzy Turner has worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor and magazine editor. Early in 2010 however, she began writing full time and has since completed six books for young adults (the Raven Saga and The Morgan Sisters series) and one chick lit novel, Forever Fredless. Although Suzy is a Yorkshire lass at heart, she left her home town of Rotherham, UK, to move to Portugal with her family when she was ten. The Algarve continues to be her home, where she lives with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 15 years, Michael, and their two neurotic dogs and a cat who thinks she's a princess.

For more details about Suzy and her books, visit:

Chick Lit Blog
YA Blog
Facebook Page