Is The Pendulum Swinging Back?

book cover universeI’m showing this cover for a couple reason.  The first is that I like it.  Thanks NASA, I love looking through pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and as soon as I saw it I knew this was right for my first on-line short story The Eye of The Universe.  (In case anyone wants to read it, it’s available free from Smashwords.  Amazon charges .99 because they don’t do free unless a reader finds something free somewhere else and tells Amazon about it.  Then they’ll change it to match the lowest price elsewhere.  Hasn’t happened yet.)

The second reason is that there are no people in the picture, even though it’s a romance.  Which is okay because it seems that some people are getting tired of naked and half-naked people on romance novel covers.  When I chose this cover, I didn’t know that.  I just knew I wanted this cover so I added a blurb to tell potential readers that it’s a romance because they couldn’t tell from the picture.

I thought I was going against the tide by choosing a cover without an obviously in-love couple on it.  But I’ve since discovered that, as happens with every trend including romance novels, there is a small mini-trend bucking the huge, mega-trends in romances.  That trend is called ‘clean romances’ and it’s what I write.  Sort of.

‘Sort of’ because as of yet there’s no precise definition of a clean romance beyond that there are no sexually explicit sex scenes.  Some purists feel that there shouldn’t be any profanity either, or any pre-marital sex at all.  None.  My work doesn’t qualify on those counts, I do include premarital sex and profanity where it fits, but I don’t follow my characters into the bedroom and give a blow-by-blow description of what happens next.  No particular reason why not.  I like sex and have  no problem with writers who do erotic stories.  But I find it hard to write while rolling on the floor laughing and that’s what happens when I try to describe the sex act.  Too many body parts.  Too many positions.  Too much work.  Guess I’m lazy.

This new trend has been in existence long enough that there are groups on Goodreads (where I first ran across the term) and elsewhere and there are a growing number of reviewers who specifically mention that they will review clean romances.  And there’s an e-publisher dedicated to publishing just clean romances.  Astraea Publishing is very clear about what they will and won’t accept.

Which is good news to writers because not every romance writer wants to include specific sex in their stories.  And maybe I’ll be able to use more covers from NASA.  I really, really love those pictures.

Coming of Age as a Writer

When I first started writing professionally, I couldn’t imagine what I’d write about.  Where I’d find inspiration.  Who my characters would be and what would happen to them.  As time passed and I discovered that a steady living as a writer could be had by writing confession stories, everything came clear.  I’d write about myself and anyone and everyone I knew because no one, including me, would ever be embarrassed by what I wrote.  Because confession stories are written anonymously.

I soon learned there was another advantage to writing for the confession market.  By writing about past problems large and small, I could get rid of a lot of emotional baggage that I’d been carrying for a long time.  It worked in much the same way painting or writing or any other creative endeavor works in an institutional setting.  Like when mental patients paint pictures of their demons.  Or write about their nightmares.  It worked and, by the time I’d gone though every negative experience I’d ever had or anyone I knew  had ever had, I was well on my way to being a fairly good writer.  My catharsis was complete.  I started writing happier things and I’ve never stopped since.

Some time later, when I joined a writers’ group, because I had some experience in the writing field, new writers sometimes came to me for advice and to critique their work.  Guess what?  I saw a lot of writers doing the exact same thing I’d done, using their writing as a way of getting things out of their system.  It was such a common phenomenon that I  privately began to call it the ‘cathartic phase’ of becoming a writer.  I suspect we all go through it in one way or another.

I mention this today because, if that’s where you are now, in your own personal cathartic phase, go for it.  Get it out.  Get rid of the angst.  And when the day comes that you realize you don’t have any more negative things to write about, be thankful and find other topics.

Don’t worry that your readers will think you are no longer the same writer as before.  You are that same writer, just without the baggage.  And that’s a good thing.  It means you have come of age as a writer.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COVER!

novel... Spirit Legend... cover picture

Meet Ian and Charlie.  Charlie is a forester.  She’s employed by Ian Macallister to care for the piece of Northwoods forest that his company owns.  Macallister Outdoors recently added to their wilderness holdings, and Ian wants Charlie to give him a tour.  If you look at the cover closely, you’ll see a third character. Its in the lake.  Watching.  Listening.

You’ll find all kinds of things on this cover.  The north woods.  The characters of my new book.  The spirit that holds them in thrall when they are stranded beside the tiny lake that sits in the center of the new acquisition.  The attraction between Charlie and Ian.  The spell the spirit casts.  Or does it?  In short, you’ll get a good feel for the story before you read a sentence.

This cover came into existence because I decided to end the torture of creating my own cover and to go with a professional.  I don’t want to admit how many hours… and hours… and hours… I spent creating the covers for my first self-published stories.  And  how comparatively poor they were.

I chose Laura Shinn because I liked her other covers, I liked her, and I hoped she would do a good job.  I knew she’d do better than I could.  I’m amazed with what she came up with in what I suspect was a couple hours of work one evening.  I could be wrong about that, but that’s what I think and is what can happen when you’re a professional and good at what you do.

Thanks, Laura.  And to every other self-pubber out there, consider having a professional cover done.  It won’t break the bank and it will do more to promote your book than anything else I can think of.

My next book will definitely have a professional cover.  I hope Laura will have time to fit me into her schedule.

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL

I learned this tip while still a teenager.  I studied ballet from one of the country’s (perhaps the world’s) best technicians.  She was so good that professional dancers of all kinds who were in Chicago for a gig took whatever classes she could fit them into for the duration of their stay.  They weren’t good enough to be in the advanced classes, so they always ended up in the intermediate classes, the ones I was in.

We students couldn’t help noticing that, almost without exception, they were really bad dancers, much worse than us, and we weren’t even advanced students.  They were so bad that eventually we asked our teacher how they could call themselves professionals when they were terrible.  We expected her to shake her head and say that it was ndeed hard to understand.  Wrong!!!  Instead, she verbally tore into us until we were cowering and chastened and wished we’d never said anything.

They could call themselves professionals, she said, because that’s just what they were.  Professionals.  And we weren’t.  They might not have much inborn talent but they used what talent they had in such a way as to create something that people who worked hard for their money would willingly spend some of it to enjoy whatever those professionals had to offer.  And, between peformances, they worked on their craft and honed it.  Whether they were in the mood or not.  Whether they felt good or not.  Whether they were busy with other things or not.  Because that’s what professionals do.

She cowed us so thoroughly that I never forgot her words.

When I decided to become a professional writer, I knew I had some small amount of talent but it was her words that gave me the courage to quit my day job and go for it.  Because, thanks to that lecture, I knew that inborn ability is only one component of a successful creative career.  And not the most important one.

I knew that if I took what talent I had and worked at writing as hard as I’d work at any job or profession, I could make it as a writer.  And so can you.