Saturday, May 31, 2014

Covers, because of course people judge a book by the cover

Okay, book is done and it's time to take all the finished pages and bundle it up into a pretty package for sale. Oh, you thought the countless hours spent writing and revising it into coherent and an intelligible story was all you needed to do? That's cute. 


Now, it's time for the cover, finding a good cover shouldn't be so hard. There are so many cover artists out there, but that's kind of the problem. Competition is fierce and covers are so important that it isn't a piece you can skimp on. Oh, you can do it yourself? That's cute, really. Go ahead and go for it, the books that aren't moving, from this post by Jami Gold (Jamigold.com), 50% percent more of those authors with books selling had professional covers. You wanna kiss half of your readers goodbye before they even open your book? 

Remember that post I wrote about giving your readers what they want? Well, the cover gives that impression. Me, I write erotic romance and my covers have people almost nekkid and in a tight clinch. This is not a fade to black story the cover screams and if it did, people would probably feel robbed. The cover sets the whole tone, as someone in my writer's group has found. Her book is murder mystery, with a geriatric heroine so people are probably thinking cozy mystery. That's what the cover says and that's even what the blurb indicates but not even close. You open it up and it's a gritty, unflinching blood-soaked story. The word surprise keeps popping up in her reviews and that's not a good thing. Does she need a new title, cover and maybe even a more descriptive blurb? Maybe all of the above. Personally I don't think it's a bad cover, I was impressed actually as she did do it herself. But there's no punch to it, nothing that makes you stop and wonder what the story is about or indicates blood is spilled in the first few pages and just keeps running.  

It's understandable that people think covers should be easy, half the covers on books in the bookstore aren't that impressive. Yeah, but they're published and approved and that's approval that an indie doesn't have. Cover prices are all over the place, most premade covers running anywhere to $30 to as high as $150. You can change the font (sometimes) but too much specialization and the costs start adding up. Custom covers start at $100 and can go up $1200, ($1200??? Seriously?) yes, seriously. Most want to charge three hundred and that's for up to three stock photos and two or three back and forth fixing. 

I trawled the web for months, and I do mean months to find my cover artist. TOTALLY WORTH IT. She's super easy to work with, works quick and ridiculously under priced. Her name is Carrie and you can find her at CheekyCovers her premades are solid and even her custom pricing isn't crazy. Another cover artist is apparently the go to (this made my bull-headed ass run the other way) for indies. Her prices are good and her work is impressive but her custom covers seemed out of my range and I knew I wanted the knot on all my covers and a little something memorable. But from what I have heard she's a good option, EbookIndieCovers her premade selection is huge and is comprised of several different genres from romance to mystery to poetry.  AlchemyBookCovers and Design caught my eye not just because the covers are so cheap, (they start at $25!!!) there is an interesting style and depth that make them eye catching. I know nothing about delivery and working with the person but definitely worth a try, let me know how it works out. KitFosterDesign premade covers are 75 pounds and they blew me away, mystery, thrillers and suspense seem to be his specialty. He's out of  England and even his custom cover pricing seems reasonable, check him out but just remember there's an exchange rate and you might want to run it through the exchange calculator before you hit buy. The premades at Damonza run way higher than I was willing to even consider. HOWEVER, there are custom covers that don't look as good as the premades, they are $195 and custom covers run from $395 to $720 (ouch) but if the premades look so good, it definitely seems like it could very well be worth it. 99designs I feel has to get a mention but the prices start high and just keep going higher. Yes, they are all custom as the way it works is you buy at a price level (that starts at $299 and goes up to $1199) and then designers basically bid as submitting a cover but it just seems like a lot for a who knows what you will get. 

It's all perspective, there's no doubt about that but remember to weigh the cost versus the benefit. It can take a while to find the right artist but your cover is your first introduction to your story so make it a good one. Also, make sure you don't end up here Lousybookcovers I know someone who did and they were pretty torn up about it. Not the kind of advertising you want. 

Want to shout out your cover artist, feel free to comment. 




Saturday, May 24, 2014

Work life balance

I will admit that I am failing miserably at finding a work life balance and I'm not talking about my day job because it just feels like where I spend half my day in a blur. The day job does make it harder to write and actually have a life though. The weekends used to be for running errands, catching up with family and friends and the dreaded cleaning.

I'm going to be completely honest and admit I didn't have much of a life even before I started writing. I've always been a bit of a loner, I'm loyal but honest and I have smartass mouth that oddly other women don't really like. I have a few women friends but they have kids and I always feel like their family is more important so I hated asking if they wanted to catch a movie or try out the new place I'd heard about. I have guy friends but when they have girlfriends the girlfriends get all jealous and I'm out. So going out was sporadic and it didn't bother me in the slightest. I have no problem catching a movie on my own and I usually preferred staying home and reading over a crowd anyway. But at least I talked to my family and saw them about once a month.

In the run up to prepping my books to go out and the deadline I had set, I completely lost track of family and friends. It was my birthday during that time and two people said they wanted to take me out to celebrate. I went still and I nodded but in my head I was screaming, "No, that's time I could be writing. No, no, no." They said call them and let them know and I nodded and just didn't call them. Not even for a free lumch that hopefully would have included cake did I dare step away from the laptop. I went months without talking to family out of state (the thing about that is that hey, they have my number too and they didn't call me) I felt guilty and then annoyed about feeling guilty.

My apartment wasn't a sty but it did look as if someone had been living here and just suddenly walked out and away. Only the bare minimum was done and I cringe when I remember the weekend it took to get it back to right. Right now I'm trying not to let the writing suck me back in but I just lied to a friend and said I wasn't feeling well when she asked if I wanted to go see Godzilla, which I do want to see. But I'm half-way through a story and I know I can finish it over the long weekend.

The work life balance is hard but I have to figure it out because if I'm not careful I won't have much of a life once I need it when I step away from work.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review and Author Interview with Christa Tomlinson about awesome book The Sergeant

I didn't get the whole BDSM thing. I also didn't give it much thought.  My father raised us that what went on behind the doors of someone's home was none of our business so because it didn't interest me, it wasn’t on my radar. Then came the deluge of BDSM erotica and I couldn't get away from it. I will say my reticence stems from growing up with an extremely physically abusive mother who got off on our fear of her. So the whole thing just didn't appeal. I didn't read the Grey books, because as I said it held no interest . Still, in trying to read everything in the erotica genre, I felt compelled to read something on it. I read a few freebies and not one made it any clearer as to why it would be appealing. They all danced around the subject and then went to sex and I shrugged my shoulders and moved to the next book. 

I have a gay brother that I love dearly. I didn't play with dolls I took care of him and another brother. When it became clear he was gay, my family did our best to let him know we loved and accepted him. Which for a very traditional, mid-west, masculine-leaning family I was quite proud of how everyone handled it, but it didn't feel like he accepted himself. He hurt and I didn’t understand how to make it better, wasn't our love and support enough? It wasn't and he moved away far too young.

I remember reading recently there is a surge in m/m erotica and the readers were women and I was surprised but yeah, not interested. Then my friend calls me at one in the morning demanding that I read The Sergeant by Christa Tomlinson. Why does that sound familiar? I pull up Amazon and search. Hey, I know that chick from Twitter but BDSM and gay at that? I hang up on her.

Cut to the next day and I'm up until three in the morning and my bladder was bursting, I hadn't stopped once, couldn't stop. Running for the restroom, I remember thinking, damn that was good but way too long. I was also thinking, I finally fucking get it. Not just what the Dom got out of it (my dumbass had previously thought, duh who doesn't want to be in control) but it was so much more than just power and control. Also, what a Submissive would get from it, what I had the hardest part understanding. 

I reread it the next day and I gradually realized it was long for a reason. The angst and turmoil of Clay accepting he could be a sub was real and that's what helped me understand it. I also finally understood my little brother's difficulty accepting himself. Even though his family and every one around him was saying it was no big deal, to him, it was a big deal.  Accepting that he was gay, that he wasn't just 'boo-boo'  but he was the gay one in a family of masculine men. Clay was a Submissive in an environment where men were presumed dominant. In my mind, it went from great to awesome.

All that rambling was so you would understand why I am doing something I have never done before and am not sure I will again.  What I have always loved most about reading was the discovery of something new and the seeing of the world through someone else's eyes. This book did that for me and then some. 

It was well written, sex off the charts but a true strong heart and connection between the reader and the characters.  Five stars and did I mention I reread it? (TWICE)

I tried multiple times to write a review but Amazon wouldn't let me. The minute you tell me I can't do something, I figure out a way to do it. So I contacted Christa Tomlinson and told her how much I loved what she wrote and since I couldn't write a review on Amazon I'm blogging my review and invited Christa to talk about her book.

Where the hell did you get the idea for this? Gay SWAT, BDSM, that's not um a go to scenario. 

I wanted something that would require them to be in close proximity and that would already have a bond between them. Putting their lives on the line in such dangerous positions is great for bonding I think. As far as the BDSM, I wanted to explore what it was like for someone who is so strong in other areas of their life to give up control. 


I loved Logan, loved him. I wanted to spank Clay by the end but I got his angst and where it came from. Did you base them off of any particular celebrities in your mind to keep them clear? 

When I first started, they were based off two of my favorite wrestlers. Then Logan sort of morphed to Captain America in my head because he's such an upstanding man. (That's a compliment to Captain America) Clay was really just Clay. His personality was so strong in my head and I hope that came through in the story. But each of their personalities and motivations were so distinct I didn't have any trouble keeping them straight and deciding who would do what in the story. 


What did you research and how? I liked the field scenes, I thought they were done well and just enough to flesh out the dynamic of the world Clay and Logan moved in. 

For the BDSM stuff I did lots of online research. Then I kicked my shyness in the face and went to several D/s meetups where they discussed the lifestyle. And I went to a play party. That was amazing. I'm glad you liked the field scenes! It was hard deciding on the right balance. It is a romance, not a SWAT story. SWAT just happens to be their job. So I wanted to make sure it didn't overwhelm their romance. As far as research, the very first thing I did was sit down and watch the movie S.W.A.T with Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Ferrell. I know it's Hollywood's take on the job, but it helped to set the scene in my head. I also watched lots of Dallas SWAT. But the coolest thing I did? I got to do a phone interview with an actual SWAT officer from Atlanta. My derby coach put me in touch with her cousin, a veteran SWAT officer. He gave me all sorts of lingo and explained how the system worked. It was fascinating! He gave me so much good stuff I couldn't use it all for this book. 


Sex scenes some of the hottest ones I have ever read, total props on that. I have to admit I thought I would try and skip those, the second time I read those again and again. I HAVE to ask, where the hell did you get those? I just thought it was interesting because my gay brother doesn't like gay porn-he watches straight porn (yes, we are that close) but if it's even half as hot as what you wrote, I'm considering watching it. 

Thanks for the props on my man-on-man lovin'! I daydreamed each of those without watching any porn. I've read several times from other authors that if the sex doesn't mean anything it doesn't belong in the story. So my goal was to make sure the sex wasn't just fucking for the sake of fucking (can I use that word on here?) (obviously she’s never read my blog before) and I put lots of effort into those scenes because they push the story forward. After I wrote them I went and watched gay porn to make sure I had the mechanics right. If your brother or anybody else is looking for good gay porn, check out Cocky Boys. Beautiful work by them.


I saw on Facebook that you said something about more Clay and Logan????? Really, all about them? (Side note, I might have embarrassed myself begging to read it-totally using excuse as offering up to be a beta reader and god I’m hoping she’ll let me do it. I swear I’ll be honest but not a bitch and unlike some betas *coughing* I’ll read and respond ASAP.)

Yes, there will be more Logan and Clay! The Sergeant is actually the first book in the series. Several other members of my SWAT team will get their own story. And Logan and Clay will definitely get another turn. Possibly two more!


How do you write, outlines, free flow or everything in between?

My process? It's a convoluted path that seems to work for me.

1. Daydream
2. Free flowing hand written outline
3. Tidy up the outline, breaking it down into chapters

4. Break up the chapters into scenes, written on index cards.

5. Vomit draft. Just type what's in my head, skipping anything I get stuck on. It's barely punctuated and there are no paragraph breaks

6. Cry from exhaustion
7. Edit, edit, edit (cry from exhaustion and growing hate at the story) edit, (cry from happiness that I'm almost done) edit.
So basically I'm a plotter.



Do you listen to music when you write? Is it the same as your favorite?

Oh yeah I listen to music. It's sort of a joke with people who know me because I can't write without music. I'm easily distracted - squirrel! - so I write with headphones on at full blast to block out my wandering thoughts and focus. My niece has to flick the lights to get my attention because I can't hear anything else when I have them on. For songs I pick them specifically for the mood I'm trying to convey. Crazy, angry sex on the floor? Marilyn Manson, Tainted Love. Sweet playroom sex with a sub floating in subspace? Cibo Matto, Sugar Water. I'll listen to a song on repeat for hours until I finish a scene. 


Influences? Go to writer to enjoy a day reading and why. 

I grew up reading long historical romances authored by ladies like Johanna Lindsey, Roseanne Bittner, and Judith McNaught. Maybe that's why The Sergeant ended up being such a heavy weight tome. Now a days, my go to reader is Kresley Cole. Her books have such great characters and dialogue. And I like her urban fantasy because it's so different from the contemporary stuff I prefer to write. 


What made you want to write m/m?

It's actually who made me want to write m/m. Evangeline Anderson. I read two of her m/m stories (Broken Boundaries & Pledge Slave) that were so amazing. And it never occurred to me to think, "Two guys! This is weird!" 


What do you want people to know about you?

I like cheese. Also, I've wanted to be a writer since I was eleven. So publishing a book and getting messages and comments from readers telling me how much they enjoyed my story is pretty much the best damn thing that's ever happened to me. Someone told me she wanted to crawl inside my book. That totally made me cry. And also laugh at the mental image. 


What do you want people to get from your writing?

I want people to do like you did. Identify strongly with one of the characters and live the story through them. Having people tell me that they understood Clay's struggle and thought Logan could be a dick or that Logan was such a sweet Dom and they were frustrated with Clay's reluctance was awesome. To me that meant they were putting themselves into the story as they read and that's what I want. For people to personally go through all the drama and angst and happy sexy times as they read my books.


What are you writing now and how soon until we see it?

I've just finished a freebie that will be hosted in an anthology by the Goodreads M/M Romance group. It's called a Second Chance for Three. I think the collection will be out in June. My next story is Reggae Heat, a short erotic m/f romance, out in August. Then I'm diving back into the world of The Sergeant. Can you guess who's up next?




You can find Christa all over the place at:
Her blog: http://christatomlinson.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christa.tomlinson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christa_writes





Saturday, May 10, 2014

Per suggestion, a second excerpt of A Favor

Kindle
 This is also available on iTunes

This is a standalone novella at 44,262 words


This is an erotic romance so please be aware it is graphic in nature and includes rough and anal sex before purchasing.



“I’ll go and talk to Taylor. No promises on what I’ll do. However, if you really want me to go then you’ll need to make it worth it.”
He stalks me across the room, and fear of my desire for him has me backing up and away from him. My back comes up against the wall in the hallway and I shake my head. “Sam, I meant it. No.”
A wicked grin spreads across his face, and instantly my nipples are hard. He stops only inches away, and his hands come up on each side of me, caging me in with his body. “Oh, Zoe, I would almost believe you if I didn’t smell your pussy wet for me. If you didn’t tremble when you looked at me and if your eyes didn’t beg me to touch you and fuck you hard and fast. I would believe you, but I don’t. So if you want me to go with you, then you’ll have to pay for your sweet little lies.” He leans down, and his breath feathers against my ear. The vibration of his voice shoots right to my pussy. “One kiss, and if after that you still keep saying no, I’ll back off.”
I’m fighting to be flippant, only it doesn’t quite work when I’m so breathless. “Sam, don’t you think talking dirty is just a bit too forward, especially when I’ve told you no?”
“Baby, I say what’s on my mind, and I know what’s on yours. Dirty? You think that was dirty? You have no idea how dirty I can get, and it will make you even wetter than you are now.”
Swimming in the smell and heat of him, I never see it coming. One moment his hands are up and the next a thick finger is tracing the wet line along my panties, where I’m just as wet as he accused me of being.
“Sam.” His name, a gasp of sound, is pulled from me.
“That’s what I’ve been wanting to hear: my name on your lips, soaked with as much desire as your pussy. Say it again, Zoe.”
It’s an order, and I’ve always hated orders, so it gets through to me where his soft tones didn’t. “No, damn it, Sam. Please, stop this.”
“Are you pleading with me because you don’t trust me or yourself? It’s your turn. You give me one good reason why.” His finger continues to caress me along the seam of my pussy through the now-soaked panties. I want to die from embarrassment as I grow wetter for him, and my body trembles with need.
“I’m not good at relationships. I’m really, really bad. I end up hurting the other person when I can’t be what they want. Apparently I’m cold and empty inside. It isn’t something I try to be, but I guess I am, and I can’t control that. But I can control me not hurting someone else. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Sam laughs, and an odd feathering sensation runs over my stomach. “Ah, sweetheart, that’s kind of you to care, only I don’t need you to care about me. I just want to fuck you long and hard until we both have scratched this itch, and you itch, don’t you, baby? Your pussy is so wet you want me inside you buried deep to soothe that, and I can. I’ll have you begging for it and I’ll have you screaming when you come. I’ll take care of your body and you’ll take care of mine, that’s all the care you need to be concerned with.
Also, it might have escaped your attention, but I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself.” He removes his finger and presses his thick, large cock against me, making it clear he isn’t talking about age. “I’m large, but I’ll make it good for you. The only thing I’m wondering about is if your sweet little mouth can take me as deep as I want. Do you know when you clench your pussy deep inside with longing, the sweet lips of your pussy tremble? You want me in your mouth too, baby? I like knowing that, I won’t lie. I want to fuck your mouth deep, but I’m not greedy. If you can’t take me deep, your tongue will do. Jesus, did you just come?”
Shame has me closing my eyes and shaking my head, unable to believe what had just happened. Then his hands are under my skirt, pulling my panties down my legs. I open my eyes to see Sam on his knees in front of me. Shock keeps me from moving. “Sam!”
Sam ignores me completely, “Finally, a woman who looks like a woman, so damn sexy. Nice and neat, trimmed and soft. You make my cock ache from wanting you.”
I can only watch as he leans close and licks me where his finger had touched just moments ago. He sounds disappointed. “No, just a gush of sweet juice preparing for my cock inside you. You taste so good, like a ripe strawberry right off the vine. I’m going to enjoy eating you for hours. I love how wet you are. Your body knows what you need, me inside you, and that’s all you need to think about. The rest is just noise and fear, don’t let it scare you from what we’ll both get out of this. Usually it takes a couple weeks of some long, hot nights but you—yeah, baby, it might take a couple of months. I’m willing to settle in for that if you are.”
I’m fighting my body and trying desperately to figure out how the hell to regain control. Sam moves back to me and chuckles as he licks along my inner thigh, slick from my overflowing pussy. His tongue roams again and I shake with need. I’m terrified of just how far he’ll go, how far I won’t just let him, but beg him to go, so give I in. “Okay, stop, please. I promise, one kiss. Once we get back to Austin and you meet with Taylor, then you’ll get one kiss, that’s it.”
Sam is on his knees, except his smile of satisfaction makes it clear he’s the one in control. I want so badly to wipe that smile off his face only I can’t. I have no weapons against him. “I get to use my tongue.”
The condition has no meaning to me, of course a kiss from Sam while he’s trying to persuade would include his tongue. I shrug. “Fine, yes.”

His smile is so devilish and delicious I want to scream. “Go get packed.” The words grind out from between my teeth. He doesn’t move, just watches me, and I move to the front door. “I’ll be in the truck.” With my dignity in tatters, I flee from him. It isn’t until I slam the door closed that I realize I left my panties behind.

In real estate it's location, location, and location. For authors it's reviews, reviews, reviews

So I formed a writer's group so I wouldn't feel so alone on this terrifying journey and at one of the meetings one of my fellow writers was practically vibrating in her frustration of the amount of books she'd given away to her low number of reviews. I felt for her, I really did because I'd been in her place before. That first book that you put so much work into and you get great feedback. I even had people email me directly and tell me how much they liked it, but did they review it and basically tell others that? No. The first book I self published, over a year ago, to this day I get emails that straggle in asking for when book two will be out. It had an open ending but yes two more books are planned. Did those people write a review? Nope.

I have people now telling me that they are on their third or fourth of my seven. So that means you liked it enough to buy more but yet no reviews? Great, thanks for that info, that doesn't help me out though so if you want more books you have to tell other people how great they are, not just the writer. I wish I didn't have to work to pay the bills and the writing would be enough to live off of but it won't be if the people who are buying the product don't let others know it's a good product and they should buy it too. That's what reviews are, they say 'hey, I liked this and will buy more and you should too."

I'll be honest, I was guilty of this. I didn't write reviews of everything I read, even if I liked it. If there were more than twenty reviews and they were all positive I shrugged and moved on. If there were only a handful and I liked it or hated it, I'll review it. If I hated it and the reviews were low I shrug and move on. If there were eighty five stars and it was crap, then I'd write a review. Not because I'm a bitch, although I can be, it's because I was sick to death of wasting time on bad books with high reviews. Did they purchase the reviews? Did they round up a whole bunch of family and friends and get those reviews? Who the fuck knows but as a reader I am no longer alone in the ambivalence of reviews.

The problem is even that now more and more people aren't always trusting reviews.

I'm seeing it now, not just for indies but for established writers. In the comments people are getting more and more ticked by the high reviews that just don't jive with the book they read. I stopped believing the five stars and jumped to the three stars over a year ago. John Locke didn't just hurt himself, he hurt other indies and the authors that pay for their reviews are again hurting other authors because people don't trust the reviews anymore BUT at the same time, before most people are willing to even click a sample they check the reviews to see if it's even worth wasting their five minutes on, let alone money on.

My reviews on Amazon are nonexistent but I'm selling, better than I'd hoped but you wouldn't know that from the lack of reviews. I see it happen, the books sell like dominoes. The spike in the free and a few days later one book and then another one. It's hard to see that without the reviews to back it up. My reviews on the Nook are for the most part positive, I laughed at the one star review I have as she called it vulgar which actually made me quite happy. It's erotic romance, the cover has a woman with her tits practically hanging out and the word wild in the title, if it wasn't vulgar then I wasn't doing my job. There's a reason why it's for mature people only, if you aren't an adult enough to not freak out over a couple of sex scenes and stop when it offends you then you deserve what you get. It does annoy me there are spoilers, but not too much. I practically scream that I am writing HEA so yeah, it's going to end with them together, how they get there is story. The thing about the Nook versus Amazon is that on Nook, you can just do stars and aren't required to write a fucking paragraph and you can post anonymously. Is that why people were more willing to review, because they didn't have to see their name or handle beside a 'dirty' book? Yes, they read mystery or literature but they don't want their name beside erotic romance?

Immediately, I began to think, why won't Amazon do the same thing? It would be sooo much easier on everyone but then I thought more about it and I don't know if that's the right way or thing to do. Even at the cost of reviews.

I saw a horrible, sad announcement on Facebook about this poor writer who was pulling her stories off and going offline because she was being bullied with bad reviews and mean comments on her pages. WTF? It made me so sad, not just for the person being bullied but as a whole the fact that you can be so anonymous on the internet and provoke and be a bully without anyone knowing who you really are, I think it makes people bolder. I don't know maybe I'm wrong and there are always people who get off on making other people feel small and no matter what, they would find a way to do it.

I don't know if the fact they can do it anonymously is the only reason why I have so many more reviews on the Nook versus Amazon and I don't know if I really want Amazon to go anonymous as I'm sure it would make the buying of reviews worse. I do know that it's frustrating that I've given away over three thousand copies of a book and gotten less than one percent of that back in reviews but am around forty percent in buys which seems really freaking good. But could it be better? Readers need to understand that if they want more books, they have to know that reviewing, whether it's a three star or five star will get them more books from the authors they like.

Last week I was talking at the meeting and admitting how guilty I felt about getting a freebie and finally reading it probably a year after it was put out but when I went to give it a good review it had disappeared. There were only three others out by the writer and the book I read and another that was mentioned in the back of the book was gone. It made me guilty, had she given up writing what she loved the way I had because of no positive feedback and without it she hadn't sold and had moved on?

The guy I was talking with shared a similar story, he had downloaded a sample and liked it but because of either time or circumstance it was almost a year before he went to buy it but it wasn't there anymore. He's searched but can't find the writer anywhere. We both got quiet as we pondered what had happened to that author.

It's made me look at how I'm doing things and have decided to always write a review if I can give at least three stars, whether there are twenty reviews or a hundred.





Saturday, May 3, 2014

Side by Side the digital revolution/evolution for movies mirrors digital publishing

As a full disclosure, Keanu Reeves has held a special place in my heart since I was sixteen and saw Point Break, pretty sure I have watched Speed more than twenty times, yes I'm 'special' but not enough to ride the short bus to school. My love waned as he stopped taking off his shirt in his movies. I fell in love again watching The Matrix then the two that followed had me seeking a divorce. Occasionally I have caught a movie and was drawn to it more for Keanu than the movie and I enjoyed it. I caught the interview of Keanu pushing the documentary and the way he talked about it drew my attention. He mentioned the ability to touch the film, that there was something to hold onto when it was done. My mind went to what I would like to hold onto and I watched it that night. So, yes I watched it hoping I could just stare at Keanu for an hour but then I started to really pay attention and began to hear things I've heard before, only in reference to epublishing versus traditional publishing. (I promise I always have a point, even if it takes forever to get there. There's a reason why editing myself is so damn painful.)

While yes, there are places where the comparisons just don't meet, I was surprised by how often they did. It is in and of itself an interesting documentary and I recommend it just for opportunity to learn something new. (It's available on Netflix.) I learned ten minutes of film is all that can be recorded at a time before a new roll must be used. Ten minutes, I couldn't wrap my mind around it for a few minutes, I thought of all the long beautiful films that had to be cut together ten minutes at a time. I found it hard to believe, how could something so limited  be used for so long and not have everyone rushing to the new use of digital? The film recalls George Lucas holding a conference at his ranch declaring the death of film, long live digital. But still movies are being shot on film, about ten years after that declaration. Seeing the differences, of film versus digital, it's obvious why. There is a difference in quality of viewing that could not be denied. But now there has been a progression in technology that has even those clinging to film, letting it go.

Keanu seems to mourn the loss of film but the documentary is shot digital as is his first movie he directed, Man of Tai Chi. So even as he seems to be advocating the continued use of film he is using digital.

Is it a revolution or an evolution for film? Is traditional versus ebook publishing a revolution or evolution? A revolution, to my tiny mind, means there's blood on the floor when it's over. There is a fight and one wins, one loses. Evolution means to me, it's natural there's no fighting the change that is coming so it moves on and people do or get lost and it is the end of them.

It was interesting that someone in the documentary says close to the same thing, either you evolve or your time is over and it's time for someone else to take your place.

Those most excited, jumping on the digital bus and riding into the sunset were not surprisingly those that had more to gain. George Lucas makes blockbuster movies but those blockbusters come at a high price, by lowering the price there is more of a profit left over that makes the studios happy, that greenlight the movies. Robert Rodriguez was all over that, he's an interesting filmmaker that isn't to everyone's taste. His movies have been small, his budgets even smaller, he could use digital to do more, push his own envelope and impress not just the moviegoers but again, making the studios happier perhaps?

Then the focus came to the indies of digital, the real indies making movies and how excited at being able to make something different, and doing it their way. Lars Von Trier, Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle, Mantle had made a tiny movie called Celebration and had been lauded for the tiny thing done by handheld cameras. The freedom, the word came up so many times I lost count. The freedom to dream, imagine and create.

Isn't that what a writer does and seeks out? The characters that come and won't go away until their story is told, they can be uneven and edges unsmooth, that's life though and not everything ends with a bow tied around it. The publishers, the gatekeepers they want the edges smooth, they need the edges smooth because they know what they can sell. Uneven doesn't work, the bow doesn't have to be tidy but it needs to be there.

Lena Dunham appears and shares that as a writer she felt safer in making her first movie with a small hand held camera as she didn't feel she had to build something large to go around it and she could go at her own pace, in her comfort zone.

Mark Linklater (he made dazed and confused and a scanner darkly), remembering when it used to be guys would sit around talking about what great films they could make if the man gave them the chance, well now they have the chance.

Sixteen half-completed stories that I didn't bother to finish as I didn't believe they would be good enough to get published. Two of those are now self-published and one of them is selling extremely well. One of them was turned down by Harlequin, it's selling second to the one I just mentioned. I didn't cry or was upset or depressed when Harlequin didn't even respond to my query, it wasn't a possibility I even allowed myself to hope deep down. My hope was I could at least get feedback to make it better but I didn't even get that. So I shut it down and then three years later the epublishing began and I began again.

My not good enough to even get a no is selling, was the gatekeeper so wrong, or did I get better? As it is now, would it have been picked up or would I still be waiting if I hadn't taken control of my own future as a writer? It's interesting, I see the free go up and then I watch sells trickle in thereafter. So the buyers, they think it's good enough, and they come back for more. Self-publishing has given me a means to tell the stories, a means to become the writer I have always wanted to be.

At one point, Keanu is talking with a producer and says something to the effect of "More movies, that's a good thing, more stories being told."

The response is immediate, "No, less good, more bad. My children won't have the same quality, a taste maker isn't involved." A producer, he's the money man, he doesn't make the movie but him fronting the cash for it to be made, makes him a gatekeeper, or as he calls himself, a taste maker.

The consensus as the documentary draws to a close is that film is sadly going away. A loss of something special is going away. But here's the thing, the stories, they will never go away, it's just being told a different way.

Print books, they aren't going away. I still buy them, love them more than my ebooks, I really do. I like the feel of them the smell, the pages that become worn with reading and rereading them. The 12 boxes still packed full of books, I have already read and will 'someday' read attest to that. I started reading at five, then I really started to read by six, my mother handed me a dictionary to save her sanity. It was medium sized, about the size of a hard back book but a little thicker. It was blue and the outside wasn't flat it was woven with texture. Books became my escape, when the real world became to painful to endure I slipped into another world where the books took me but in my youth not all the worlds made sense because I didn't really understand them. The dictionary made the worlds clearer, sharper and brought it all into focus. I carried it around for years, my hands lingering down the front more gently and with as much love as any woman has ever caressed her lover. I lost the dictionary in one our many moves and I miss it still, more than I miss anything really in my childhood. It was real to me, it explained the world to me and the holding of it close made me feel real. So it is with the sincerest belief there are others that won't let print books ever go away.

It was interesting to learn at the end that for all of the raving about digital, the only true way to back it up, is put it to film. Digital keeps changing and so the means to store and playback changed and some lost completely. With film, it can still be seen, shot for shot, frame by frame against light.

For all of the love of ebooks and self-publishing, I know people that have published their books not for the readers but for themselves, as a means of proving what they created, to hold it in their hand and run their hands over the covers and see their name in print.