"Emotional Wheel of Fortune"
Positive thoughts, positive thoughts, positive thoughts. I'm trying, I'm really trying. As I read the works of others and hash out the first draft of my new novel, I feel like I'm on an a new game show called Emotional "Wheel of Fortune".
I'll play off a few posts on social media that I've been reading. Some of them have been about the level of "polish" or "quality' in lesbian fiction of late. Errors, typos, less than stellar grammar, you know those things that bother readers. Things they don't want to see when the hit "buy".
There have been discussions about the price of books and what readers expect for their money, discussions about cliffhangers and cover art, Indie vs Publishing Houses, lesfic authors stretching their wings into main stream fiction and is it a betrayal.
I can tell you as a new author it's daunting. I've caught myself more than once trying to steer clear of a post, conversation/discussion, or having any reaction to the things being said. Why is that? I've examined it from as many sides as I was able to relate to. My post from my author page, about what I've experienced in my own writing, plays a big part. Yes, even after my manuscript was proofed, and not just by me, there were still errors. Stray words, dropped words, and yes..shocker typos. Advice ranges from pay the money for a professional editor, pay for professional cover art, read it backwards, read it in big print, read it out loud, just to name a few. Sigh. My publisher wants the book to be right. So much so that there is always this disclaimer put at the end of every book Desert Palm Press publishes…
"Note to Readers:
Thank you for reading a book from Desert Palm Press. We have made every effort to edit this book. However, typos do slip in. If you find an error in the text, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so the issue can be corrected."
Lee Fitzsimmons does this so when errors are discovered, we can correct those and make sure the next printings go out without them and that the e-book is corrected. Authors, Indie and those associated with publishers, don't want errors in their books. If you think any author wants to give someone have cause to leave a review about errors instead of whether the book moved them, then you would be mistaken. I've found them in books outside the lesfic genre by big publishing houses in both fiction and nonfiction. IT HAPPENS, more than we'd like, but it does. To err is human….unless you're publishing a book apparently.
From my post yesterday, I described my own dilemma's while slogging through the first draft of my current WIP. I never appreciated the incredible amount of work authors put in, as much as I do now that I've gone through the process once and am sticking my neck out to do it again. I see people upset at the price of a book then I laugh when they think nothing about their discussion of the latest greatest coffee creation. Little thought is directed to the five bucks we pass across the counter for a Carmel Machiato Grande, that will be gone in fifteen minutes but we dig our heels in and scream about the price for a book we'll own a lifetime. If authors charged by the hour, none of us would be able to afford one book. I've found the same in the other hat I wear as a farmer. If I wrote down every hour I spent on one particular crop and charged even MINIMUM WAGE, most people would not be able to afford to eat.
Now you are probably thinking at this point, where are the Positive CJ Thoughts you've come to know and loath? I'm getting there. Think of it as me setting the stage for where we are, by examining where we've been.
Can you remember the first time you read a book and truly saw a lesbian character portrayed correctly? Can you remember how you felt to identify with that character, their thoughts, emotions, and actions? Can you remember watching the Ellen Show when she leaned over to Laura Dern and said those magic words…"I'm gay"? I can, I was with a huge number of my friends in a lesbian bar in Morgantown. We were so excited knowing it was coming. When those words rang across the airport's PA system, the cheers that went up in that bar were as loud as any after a Mountaineer touchdown.
Why? Because that night, we were visible to society. We were no longer walking in the shadows. That night, someone like US was out and proud. We were looking at ourselves on television, seeing a live person say they were gay on TV and not while talking to a reporter in a tabloid interview. We were watching a character involved in a popular show admit, to being exactly what every one of us…or most of us…in that bar were- GAY. And then the hammer came down and her show was canceled. Once again, our society showed their homophobic self and put it's boot across our throats. Ellen Morgan and Ellen DeGeneres came out and so did the criticism and the vitrol. It was so overwhelming they nearly destroyed her. It took a long time for her to come back. In interviews, she's said, she couldn't get a job. Hell, Laura Dern said she couldn't get a job for over a year because of her part. Cut to 2003 and the Ellen DeGeneres Show's debut, and now to today. Her talk show is one of the most popular ever produced.
Now, I'm not saying everyone loves Ellen, but every time I turn on that show I am personally and profoundly, grateful for her bravery in 1997.
Authors put themselves out there on the line. They open themselves up to scrutiny and criticism. Even the very best authors, from the most respected publishing houses, and the very best Indie authors, are criticized when they take a chance on a new story line, or they don't continue a series, or heaven forbid….kill off a character! Shocking, I know. We cookie cutter everyone into conformity. Then, we criticize every little thing…their characters are the same in every book, it follows the same predictable story line, I don't like the character's name, and, well.. you get the idea. I've even seen reviews and comments about the science fiction and fantasy genre's that say…."it's not realistic"…WTF???
Take a deep breath here for a moment and imagine a world where we go back to being invisible. A world where you go into a mall bookstore to look for a lesbian book and don't find ANY, or try to find more than ONE source to order a book that you have little idea what's it's about because you all you can do is read a few lines in a paper mail order catalog. I thank the stars above me for modern day, when with a few clicks, I can read a blurb, or an author blog, or be a part of a group that discusses lesbian literature, all from the comfort of my home. I have a wide choice of authors of every category, every style, a million story lines, fantasy worlds, action adventure, intrigue, mystery, drama and YES FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SHINY…ROMANCE. No longer do we have to read Harlequin romances and replace a name and a gender to find escape and a happy every after.
We are blessed to have so many indie authors out there crafting their stories and publishing them for us to read. We are also blessed to have publishers who are willing to take a chance on a novice author, yours truly included, who take the risk and spend the time and money to publish the story we pound out on our keyboards.
Instead of tearing each other down and nitpicking the works to death out of spite, and then dogpiling on, how about we give thanks for being able to read a story with two women in it? How about we rejoice at seeing our lives, or some facsimile of it, in the written word? How about we show author's the thanks deserved for the thousands of hours they spend crafting a story we have the privilege of losing ourselves in?
Don’t like the story? No one is saying you have to. Want to leave an honest review about it? No one is saying you can't. Find that a book you read is not your cup of tea and decide you aren't going to take a chance on that author again? No one is forcing you to click "buy."
Decide you want to be critical and mean about what someone has spent time crafting? It's your right, but I'll pass on something my MaMaw always used to say. You can be right, but it's just as important to be righteous too. If you find errors, how about passing those on to the author in private and not as a public stoning? If the story was not to your liking, leave a review if you feel you need to warn someone, but you don't have to be hateful, spiteful or get personal. NO ONE likes that or appreciates it. It's not constructive and you never know what their next book will be like.
If every author who ever received a rejection letter or a review that said the work was less than Pulitzer Prize winner, your choices would be pretty limited.
I looked up award winning authors who were rejected. It was shocking some of the comments and these were from publishers, not readers who can have a host of reasons for disliking something other than content.
Zane Gray was told…."You have no business being a writer and should give up."- Riders of the Purple Sage ring a bell?
“Undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer.” That's what Jacqueline Susann was told…Ever heard of the book, Valley of the Dolls?
“Frenetic and scrambled prose.” Jack Kerouac eventually laughed all the way to the bank with, On The Road.
“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” H.G Wells and a little book called War of the Worlds.
“Stick to teaching.” Where would we be without Jo, in Louisa May Alcott's, Little Women?
I'm going to bookmark this website because it gives me great hope when I read this list of books I enjoyed as a child and as an adult. I shudder when I realized if the author had given up- Harry Potter, The Great Gatsby, Roots, Watership Down, Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess Diaries and so on and so on would NEVER have seen the light of day.
So, how about those PCT's, Positive CJ Thoughts. I'm thankful for the emotional "Wheel of Fortune" I go on every time I purchase a new book. Ernest Hemingway said. "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed."
Thank you to every author who has typed until your hands were numb and your back ached. Thank you to every author who has poured out their heart and soul into a story and in doing so, put themselves out there for the world to throw rotten tomatoes at. Thank you to every author who has dared to defy the naysayers and push publish or send….one more time. My life has been greatly enhanced for the privilege to read your work. You fueled the imagination and passion of this reader to the point, I asked myself "what if?"
Please keep sharing your stories, your ideas and your dreams with us. For every person that tells you…"stick to something you know", there are a dozen more that say thank you. For every person that has said, "just be you, CJ", I am eternally grateful. For all those who thought the novel I produced was drivel, too long, too short, too depressing, too boring, too mushy, had too much sex, had too little sex, had too much dialogue, had not enough dialogue, had too much description, had too little description….I thank you because it has only driven me to produce a better second novel. I hope I will evolve as a writer with this next book, but since I really don't have experience in producing a superfood that can grow without any rain, in any type of climate, in any type of soil and feed the world… and do that by being grafted onto the root stock of a weed, I'm sure I'm not sure I'm sticking to some of the advice I've been given, BUT…I'll do the research and hopefully produce a book where there are more reviews that tell me they want to see more from this "new, unknown author" and less "don’t give up your day job."
Whatever the future holds, I'm willing to spin that emotional "Wheel of Fortune" to continue reading and writing, to continue to support authors regardless of their chosen process of publishing, and to let them know how thankful I am to be able to see lesbian characters I can relate to. THANK YOU FOR MAKING US VISIBLE and doing so with a description that has allowed me to see myself in living color.
If you are so inclined, my debut novel is available at all the outlets below. 'frame by frame' was my first, but definitely not my last novel.