Monday, December 24, 2012

Make Your Readers Work? Really?

I just read a blog post where one of the commenters stated that his readers needed to work when they read his stories. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that he did his part in writing the story, but that he expected his readers to do their part by working to see what he wrote. Since the original post was about hurrying through the editing process to get to the next story (and thus let editing errors through to the finished product), the implication seemed to be that if this author had misspelled words and poor punctuation/grammar, then so be it. It was the reader's job to figure it out so they could understand the story and see it in their minds.

I find this attitude unbelievably appalling. An author should NEVER expect their readers to "work" to understand the story. It is the author's job to work so that the readers don't have to. The author is the one getting paid in this scenario, and as such, the onus is on the author to provide a quality product to meet the reader's expectations. The reader should simply be allowed to sit back, open their mind, and flow through an experience that is free from errors and clearly lays out the story for them.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, an author's job is to provide a reading experience to those who spend their hard-earned dollars on his or her books, and the reader's job is to simply have that experience. Errors and poorly written passages impede that experience for a reader.

When I buy a shirt, I don't expect to have to sew on the buttons or attach the sleeves before I can wear it, thus doing some "work" before I can enjoy that which I have purchased. Should my Galaxy S3 have come incomplete without all the necessary programming for me to finish before I used it? When I buy a car, is it my job to air up the tires and put oil in the engine before I drive it? So, why should a reader have to take their proverbial red pen through your manuscript as they read it in order to understand it? Why should they have to trudge through poorly written dialogue and narrative to figure out the story? Why should they have to read a passage multiple times before figuring out who's doing and saying what? Does this author's customers not deserve the best story he can give them? Is it okay to simply rush through the editing process and send out sloppy, poorly written work simply to get to the next story as fast as possible so the author can make more money?

I'll tell you what happens when you make your customers "work": They will take their business elsewhere, and you will get the reputation of a being an unprofessional, selfish (only want the money) writer. Businesses that make their customers work that hard  and sell "lemons" go out of business pretty quickly.

Yes, I'm mad. When I read comments like the one this author made, it pisses me off. If an author is going to be that selfish and lazy, they have no business charging for their books, let alone writing them in the first place.

My suggestion for authors is to never scrimp and never go into writing a book with the attitude that it's the readers' job to work to figure out the story you're telling. If you expect your readers to work that hard, you do not have the right mindset of a true author and should consider hanging up the writing hat until you learn that it's an author's job to do the work, not the reader's. ALL the work.

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Missing Salad—The Cause of the Apocalypse

I usually blog about writing or something having to do with writing, but 1 out of 50 posts, I blog about something else. Today is one of those days.

Through the course of a chain of events, back in May I took a contract job working for a friend of mine at a company I used to work for. I like most things about my job, but yesterday, during our company party, I was witness to some of the most appalling behavior by my coworkers. I told my husband last night, as I recounted the incidents, that I was unbelievably embarrassed by their behavior.

What happened to make me see several of my coworkers in a new, negative light?

The salad and rolls were missing from our catered holiday lunch.

Yep. Catastrophic, huh? Let me explain.

The tale of the missing salad spread through our office like an explosion of Agent Orange on the Ho Chi Minh trail, its toxic fumes and plume of smoke infecting the masses. In the minute it took me to get in line for food, the sarcastic jokes about the missing salad had reached epic proportions, and for one person (the lady who organized the lunch...we'll call her Wanda), the missing salad and rolls were cause to erupt like a volcano. She would still be fuming over them three hours later. Talk about the end of the world. You'd have thought it was. Missing Salad—The Cause of the Apocalypse.

The delivery guy was still in the building, and there is no way he couldn't have heard the remarks or avoid Wanda's wrath. I looked around at the people barking about the salad and asking for salad dressing and making all manner of other insensitive commentary, my mouth gaping. And we had croissants, so it wasn't like rolls were a big deal. I'm actually wondering why we even ordered rolls if we already had a platoon-sized tray of croissants, which I think are better than rolls, anyway.

But I digress.

Here we were, about to sit down to our Christmas lunch, a time of love and sharing and good cheer, and all anybody could do was bitch, joke, and laugh (and not in a good way) about the missing salad. Not a single person thanked the delivery man except for me. As he was walking out and past my desk, I stopped him and told him the green beans and mashed potatoes I was eating were the best I'd ever had. And they were. I don't think I've ever had such delicious mashed potatoes (I even had them for dessert, they were so good). And who'd have thought green beans could be so yummy they'd be the first thing I finished on my plate. The ham and turkey were good, too. And the jellied cranberry sauce was a delightful touch. I'm a sucker for jellied cranberry sauce, and I won't lie, I actually got excited when I saw it was part of our luncheon.

So, anyway, I wished the delivery man a Merry Christmas, as he did me, and waved goodbye as he left.

Everyone else was too busy bitching about the salad to wish him a Merry Christmas. Shameful.

Wanda continued to rant and bark to the point I wanted to tell her—and pardon me here—to shut the fuck up and eat her damned food...oh, and Merry fucking Christmas. I was so aggravated, and Wanda's behavior, as well as that of others, just soured my joy for the day. Because not only did she bitch ad nauseum for hours about the lack of salad (are you getting tired of this, yet? Yeah, now you know how I felt yesterday), but then, in front of everyone, she said the catering company would give her a free meal. I'm not quite sure exactly what was meant by a free meal, or how valid this allegation was, because Wanda has a tendency to embellish and...well...lie. For example, she had also told employees that my boss had told her in a meeting (of which I was a part of) that if employees wore jeans the day of the Christmas party they would be putting their job on the line since the company president was joining us.

Ummm, that wasn't true. Not even close. My boss never said anything like that, but yet, Wanda told at least one employee that if she wore jeans, she'd be putting her job on the line. Guess who came in wearing jeans and who didn't? Yep, almost everyone, including my boss, wore jeans yesterday. So, when it comes out of Wanda's mouth, I automatically take it with a grain of salt. She's an office gossip, a trouble maker, and a pot stirrer...not someone I'm gonna put a lot of credibility in. Unfortunately, she has a big mouth, and enough people DO listen to her to make her dangerous, and I know she's bitched about me. God only knows what she's said about me and what words she's put in MY mouth if she's so willing to shove words in my boss's mouth (and he's the VP and head of the office).

So, anyway, Wanda said something about us getting a free meal and implied that yesterday's meal should be free, cocking her eyebrow and getting all uppity, blah, blah, blah. I sat back and shook my head. All they had forgotten was salad and rolls, and I'm not even sure if rolls were even supposed to be delivered. The catering company had already drastically reduced our meal by hundreds of dollars just to get our business, and now Wanda wanted the entire lunch to be free? Over salad???? Seriously? I could see getting a $50 or even $100 break on the meal, but completely free? No. That's not right.

Excuse me while I hang my head and put a paper bag over it, because it's embarrassing for me to even admit I know Wanda and work with her. And I'm equally embarrassed by the behavior of several of the others I work with.

A few hours later, I got a call from someone looking for Wanda, and I think it was someone from the catering place. When I gave Wanda the message, she snapped off some bitchy retort about how "they don't want to be talking to me until I've cooled off." Blah, blah, blah. Get over yourself, Wanda.

So, let's all send Wanda some Christmas cheer this year, because God knows she needs it. I'm just glad she's not in MY family. Whew! Dodged a bullet there.

Happy holidays everyone. Don't be Wanda. And DON'T FORGET THE SALAD! :)


Monday, December 17, 2012

New Year's Resolution For All Writers - The Patient Edit

"I will never rush through an edit again. I will give my first draft a month to breathe, then edit it, then another month to breathe, then edit it again, and another month, and another edit. Then a final edit and a proof...unless it needs more edits. And I will be honest with myself and not accept my book as finished until I feel to the bottom of my soul that I can't make it any better. I will also encourage my beta readers to be brutally honest with me and not get upset with them. I will listen objectively to what they have to say and if they don't like something or think it's not working, I will take their critique seriously and look into the issue and make necessary changes to alleviate the problem they pointed out."

I've already made this resolution. I took this vow earlier this year, and I kid you not, once you go through this exercise once, as long as you're editing right and utilizing your critique group correctly (by encouraging them to absolutely shred your manuscript and be blunt-force honest down to the ugly, hard, no-holding-back-for-fear-of-hurting-your-feelings truth), you will NEVER go back to editing in a rush again.

[A word on beta readers: They are there to help you. If you argue with them and don't listen to their critique, they will stop being honest with you and will stop reading for you. They can see things you can't, because you are too close to your manuscript. They have distance, so they can see where the piece falls short better than you can. LISTEN to them, and DISCUSS with them, but do not argue with them. Make them feel a part of the process by trusting their judgment. If you do that, you will win their trust and their loyalty.]

Okay, that's my lecture on how to work with a beta group. :) Back to the resolution and why I am so passionate about encouraging other authors to make it:

Four months ago, I thought my latest AKM novel, Rebel Obsession, was ready. I set it aside for a two months and when I picked it back up to proof it, I was appalled at how flat areas of the story were, and how a few scenes didn't flow smoothly. So I edited it again and set it aside for about a month. In that month, I read a powerful book on Deep POV (I blogged about it). When I re-read Rebel Obsession again during the proof, I was flabbergasted at how passive the story still was. Using the techniques I learned in the book on Deep POV, I put the manuscript through an intensive final edit and shot it to my editor.

Instant success! Night and day difference. It took that fifth or sixth (I lost count) edit to FINALLY bring the story to life.

I am so unbelievably impressed now with how Rebel Obsession turned out. The editing phase on this one lasted over six months and went through so many edits, I lost track. It's not even the same book it was after the first draft was written. Hell, it's not even the same book as it was after the second edit. And I'm damn proud of it. The loose ends have been tied, the awkward areas have been eliminated, the mechanics have been cleaned up, the characters have been honed, etc. The story has come alive, and the characters have with it. And here I thought it was ready two months ago. Ha! Two more rounds of edits proved me wrong, making me a die-hard believer of the "patient edit," as I'm calling it.

So I encourage all writers to be patient and have faith in the editing process. Fully commit to it, and I promise, you'll never edit the old, fast way again. Oh, and never stop educating yourself on good writing. Read every book you can get your hands on pertaining to the crafts of writing and editing.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Everywhere I Look, I See #BDSM

WARNING: This post contains strong adult language.

It seems everywhere I turn, another BDSM book has popped up. They're like weeds in a garden, overtaking everything. Is this the Fifty Shades legacy? Is this what we can expect for the next few years?

What's aggravating is that before Fifty came along, I had a hardcore dom character who was just coming to life in my AKM series. People were poised and ready for him. They all wanted to know what Micah was going to do now that the itch to return to his previous legendary dom status had hit him after taking a new mate (Micah is a vampire, hence the unusual wording there). Now I wonder if those who hadn't yet discovered Micah will just think I am a bandwagoner, jumping on to ride Fifty's coattails.

All I can say is that if they read what Micah does as the series progresses and compare it to Fifty, there will be no comparison. No offense to Fifty, but he was pretty tame in BDSM land. Sexy, but tame. He didn't operate like a true dom. Micah is all dom...and he goes to places Fifty refused to go (some of which is to be seen in upcoming books in the series). For example, I just wrote a scene today for a future book (probably a series novella) where Micah engaged in fire play, which was strictly on Fifty's won't-go-there list.

Micah also relishes the mindfuck, and oh, he is gifted with its use. The scene I wrote today had one of those, too, and there's one in Micah's Calling, another novella I wrote for the series. Don't know what a mindfuck is? It's an exercise in psychological terror, and it can lead to a truly remarkable scene in the playroom.

By the way, no, I am neither a dominatrix, nor am I a submissive. I just spent a LOT of time reading and researching BDSM as I prepared to write the characters of Micah and Trace in my series (Trace is a hardcore submissive). 

I guess my point is that everyone is writing BDSM now, and I hate feeling like I'm doing what everyone else is doing. Gee, thanks Fifty. Grrr.

Those of us who are smart will start writing the sweet romances now. I know I am in my non-series stories. I'm working on several "sweet" (but not too sweet—those who know me know my romances always come with a twist and lots of conflict), emotionally charged romances. Because I have a feeling that after a while, readers are going to grow numb to the master-slave theme, and to the unimaginative ball gags, floggers, spanking, handcuffs, etc., and will want something different. Heck, I'm already growing bored with BDSM books, which is why I challenge myself to make my Micah scenes unique and not all about whips and chains and bindings as I work up to Trace's book.

However, sweet romance or BDSM, it's just a matter of time before those who ARE on the bandwagon jump off and leave writing BDSM to those who are in it for more than just the shock value.

Micah looks forward to that as much as I do. 

Happy Reading and Writing! -D

Sunday, December 9, 2012

RT Book Lovers Convention

I know it's still four-and-a-half months away, but I am already super stoked about the RT convention in Kansas City in May. I've been dying to go since my friends swung through Indianapolis for lunch on their way back from last year's convention in Chicago. I met them at Bob Evans and listened to them talk about what an awesome experience it was and how much they had learned and all the free books they got and...well, let's just say it was awesome.

I vowed that very minute that I would attend next year's.

As soon as I learned where the convention was being held, I made my hotel reservations. That was done months ago. And just his past week, I finally registered. My friends convinced me that I needed to obtain some promotional space, so I now have a table along "Promo Lane," where I'll be setting out bookmarks and other swag for people attending the convention. Part of me wants to participate in one of the other promotional events, but the other part of me wants to make sure I don't miss any of the classes I want to attend. And there are a lot of wonderful classes, let me tell you. Classes on marketing, promotion, craft, genre-specific classes, and sooo many more.

I'll be at the convention for five days, and I don't think it will be enough time to do and see all that I want. All the authors, materials, agents, fans, parties, books, and everything else. But this will be my first RT, so it'll get me geared up right for the next year. Because, oh yes, I'm already planning for RT in 2014, because I want to fully take advantage of ALL the promotional opportunities in 2014, and want to unveil the book that all my fans have been waiting for there, as well. Yep. That's right. Trace's novel. He deserves such an unveiling.

And I think I just heard a few of my fans fall over, because now they know when to expect Trace's book. :) And if you want them autographed, come see me at RT in 2014. Wherever and whenever it may be held.

Happy reading and writing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rebel Obsession—The Cover! Yes, Io's Book is Almost Here!

My next novel in my All The King's Men series is due out in January, and it's time to unveil the cover and blurb on my blog! Woot!

Former cobalt addict and AKM drug counselor, Io is a male vampire known as much for his abrasive personality as for his playboy lifestyle. In other words, he's not the likeliest to make friends and settle down. Life on the edge suits him, and he lives full throttle, making his own rules, and damn the consequences. What he wants, he takes, and what he wants now is Miriam. If only he can find a way to see her again without getting himself killed, but her father stands in the way.

Miriam is the daughter of the king. Strong-willed and defiant, she feels like a prisoner in her own home and struggles to break free from under her father’s oppressive hold. The king’s law surrounding Miriam is explicitly clear: No one touches her. Period.

In a fit of rebellion, Miriam has turned to cobalt to find relief and freedom, but now she’s a prisoner to addiction as much as to her father’s strict control. What's more, she can’t get sexy Io, who tended to her so gently as she recovered from her first overdose, off her mind. Will she ever see him again?

When Miriam overdoses a second time, she and Io are thrust back together, and all bets are off. Seeing each other was the one thing both wanted, and not even the king’s laws and threats of punishment will be enough to defuse their rebellious obsession with one another now that they’ve found each other again, even if the consequences are death.

Author’s Note: As we follow along with Io and Miriam, new and old enemies begin to emerge, and we get a glimpse of their deranged plans for the vampire race. Traceon’s story continues to develop as new characters are introduced who have had, and will have, a profound effect on his life. As usual, Micah is a dominant force, because…well…it’s Micah. Need I say more? I hope you enjoy this new installment to my All the King's Men series, due out in January, 2013. –Donya Lynne

My thanks to cover model, Zach Tesar, and Joem Bayawa Photography in Chicago. Love, love, love their work!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's December? Ack! Bumping Up My Book Release Will Cost Me Christmas.

Hee hee, ha ha, ho ho! That's not Santa Claus. That's my delirious laughter. The manic sound of having too many things to do and not enough time in the day to do them. I'm so busy I have to remind myself it's December and that Christmas is only 21 days away. I might have time to celebrate the February or maybe March of next year, right after the Super Bowl, but right now? Not gonna happen.

My next book is due out in January, and I'm on a tight deadline to get the last edit —which was a proof until I decided to deepen my POV, based on what I learned and posted about in my last blog post—finished. Now I'm trying to cram in a final edit AND a proofread in only a couple of weeks so I can have the manuscript formatted and ready to publish by December 31. Talk about pushing my luck.

I had initially announced that Rebel Obsession (my next book) would be out on January 15, but due to a miscommunication between my assistant and I, my blog tour got scheduled for the first half of January instead of the second half, so now I'm trying to get the book ready two weeks early so the release can coincide with the tour. It would be kind of a waste to miss out on all the excitement the blog tour will generate by not having the book available for purchase, so now my holidays will be spent putting in double-time to finalize the manuscript.

Consequently, my blog series on Showing vs. Telling is being temporarily set aside along with everything else in my life until I get my manuscript ready. Sleep? Who needs sleep? And my husband is probably going to slit his wrists by the time this book is released, because he's having to do most everything around the house right now while I lock myself in my office and hunker down on corrections, swag orders, and promotion...and did I mention corrections?

This is the longest book I've written to date at 111,000 words, and as I trudge my way through the manuscript, which I've read in its entirety at least five times now, it's not something that can be done in one night. Not even two. Not even five if I want to make sure I'm being thorough. Proofing is not about "reading." It's about looking at each individual word and punctuation mark, and it takes a great deal of brain power to proof properly, which means once the eyes and mind grow tired, you can't plow ahead. You have to stop so you can bring a fresh mind and a fresh set of eyes back later. Ugh. I don't have time for my eyes and brain to grow tired, know what I mean?

Stress? Yes, I'm there. But in January, it will have all been worth it.

Hope everyone else is having a less stressful and mroe enjoyable December than I am. :) Happy Holidays and roasting chestnust and all that jazz!

Oh, and as always, happy reading and writing!