Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I had a hard time starting this piece. My critique partner is sleeping. Let’s be truthful, I can’t live without her. When I think my writing sucks and that this time the magic isn’t going to happen, that I’ve lost my ability to write, just the word ‘more?’ will encourage me. No, she’s not a cheerleader or a crutch. In fact, she can be pretty hard on me. She’s a brave woman.

Why? Well, I don’t take criticism well. Okay, see, now it’s out there. I get cranky at myself when I’ve missed words or misspelled something, but tell me a scene isn’t working…I’ll pout. Yeah, I’m such a baby. So then I’ll stomp back to the drawing board and fix it. She’s never steered me wrong, and I hope she can say the same back.

Because we’re partners. We take it to a little higher level than Anny mentioned yesterday or than she’d want. Not only does my critique partner comment on story flow, but she marks structural problems. She’d be horrified if I turned in a manuscript that wasn’t clean. Same here.

But that’s what’s expected of our partnership. I would never try to rewrite her story, but I will point out errors. When setting out in a critique relationship, it’s of the utmost importance to know what’s expected—just like in any relationship really. For example ‘this is good’ as a comment alone won’t cut it for me when I’m looking for a critique—but I won’t complain if I hear it. I expect to be flayed and have the words cut to the bone. Thankfully, painful flayings are much less frequent than they used to be.

My critique partner and I have been together since 1992. That’s as long as I’ve been married. In fact, we hooked up two weeks before my wedding. I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say we know each other well. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think that’s important, too. You won’t get a feel for each other’s writing in just one session. It takes several. Patience is important, as is communication. If you don’t like the way a critique is done, you should tactfully say so—and not because you’re pouting (like me) or because you don’t take criticism well.

Anyway, 1992…that’s a long time. We were together for fourteen years before she was published and fifteen for me. Ironically, our books were accepted mere months apart. Since we essentially learned to write together, we’re at the same writing level and it seems just. Time together aside, I could have been bitter or competitive because she got an acceptance first. I’m a very competitive person, but let me say and be very clear, there is no place for competition or bitterness in a critique relationship. There just isn’t. Neither is there a place for superiority. Both of those things will kill the partnership in short order. Even if your partner is published first or more frequently published, she still needs you. She trusts you to be there for her.

For the record, my critique partner is Bronwyn Green and I couldn’t be more proud to have her at my side as I write and to stand beside her as she pens great books.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fix This... and this... and this

Writing is a solitary profession. So solitary, in fact, that it's easy to get lost in the forest of words. If the writer is lucky, very lucky, he or she will have a few critique partners. Some authors never use a critique partner and that's all right. If a writer is going to successfully write without a critique partner, they must be both confident and meticulous. I confess that I'm not that confident. I want someone to read my story or chapter with a critical eye. What could I do better? What words do I use over and over and over?

I once sent a scene off to a partner for a quick read. She wrote back... "lovely scene, so well written I could feel the tension, smell the sweat and tears. The critical necessity to reach their destination in time was clear. I just have one question. Where are they going?"

Well, I knew where they were going! Unfortunately, I didn't tell the reader where they were going--not in the scenes before or after this scene. As a matter of fact, I went back to the chapter before... and no, I never shared that information. I didn't notice the information was missing because I knew the destination.

The difficulty with having a critique partner or two or three is that it's hard to find a fit. By that, I mean that it's hard to find someone that meets several criteria.

a) You must trust their writing skills. Sadly, an individual may be a published author, yet have poor grammar and spelling skills. They might even be like me--a head hopper. I never heard that term until I started sending my work to critique partners.

b) Your critique partner must be comfortable enough with you to actually point out your problems. Unfortunately, our critique partners are often our friends and fellow writers. They hesitate to hurt our feelings or put down our writing. In truth, I want them to say, "Hey Anny, this is waaaay over the top. What the heck are you doing?" I would much rather have a critique partner privately point out those things I need to improve rather than a reviewer underline them in a public forum.

c) Critique partners must be committed to your partnership. Life does happen. Yes, it certainly does. But when it's your turn to critique your partner's work, you just have to be committed enough to do it in a timely fashion. And do it well! Rushing through the job and sending back a note--"Hot, very hot!" isn't a critique. It's especially not a critique when you receive that note three weeks after the critique was due. In three weeks time, I've moved six chapters further in my story. If my partner has detected a flaw that's going to materially affect my story, it's possible that much of that work will have to be discarded.

d)Know the difference between a critiquer and an editor. I once received a critique back where every single typo, grammar mistake, and misspelled word was corrected--in red. That's fine. It seemed a bit time consuming, but I was okay with that. What I was not okay with were the actual changes in my manuscript--some over a paragraph long. A note in the margin would have sufficed. You know, something like, "This is a really awkward or clumsy paragraph. Please rewrite." As for the other corrections, a note would have sufficed for most of them, too. One critiquer I had used to just mark them with a red X. That's sufficient. If you have a suggestion about rewording an awkward sentence--great!

I just want to add a bit about beta readers. I know some people have them. It must be very nice. I've had offers from friends and even relatives. What they don't understand is the time constraint. Once a book is finished, I will most likely submit it within two weeks. Sometimes I don't even have that much time if the piece has a deadline. Being a beta reader does not mean that I just like you so much that you're going to get a free read. It's a job. Your payment for doing the job is the free read. And just as in critiquing, time is everything.

I've been incredibly lucky with my critique partners. Probably they get the short end of the stick with me because I'm just learning. But I do my best. I read their work several times over the week that we have. And I give my honest opinion of those things that could use a tweak or two. That's really the best we can do. Honesty and commitment.

Anny Cook

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Death Dealer

Someone once asked me how I could possibly spend so much time writing about death and the animals who bring it to the unsuspecting masses. After all, I appear to be quite the friendly, stable person. I have a smile for most everyone and I often go out of my way to help those in need. In short, it seems I just don’t fit the image of a person with such horrible characters running around in my head.

I suppose I should feel flattered… I think.

I do not write about these things because I’m a dark person. I have no brooding soul. The things I write about come with the mother of all safety nets…they are purely fictional. I get to create an environment with all of the adrenaline rushing thrill (if I’ve done my job correctly) of jumping from a tower. The ground comes rushing at you. You see each object below with growing clarity. You are in the moment…lost to the sound of your pounding heart. Doubt tugs at the edges of your soul. You see the point of impact; you’ve marked your spot, but before you splatter and bounce, the tension on your left leg increases. Slowly at first, the grip of the bungee cord becomes incessant before you jerked back through the air and out of harm’s embrace.

No, I write what I do, because it offers an escape, a glimpse into a world I have no desire to be part of in real life. If the things I wrote about were true, I would surely end my days by dining on a bullet. Whose sanity could remain whole under such conditions? It’s just entertainment.

Are you not entertained?

Show Me the Money

Okay, here's one for all the writers, readers, and writers-to-be. Contests. We are in a very strange industry, boys and girls. One of the main criteria on which our works are judged by readers, publishers, editors, and each other are contest wins. Big, little, and in-between. Now actors have the Oscars, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes, etc, but writers? we have literally HUNDREDS of contests. And you have to pay an entry fee to enter almost all of them. I'm speaking mainly to romance, as that's my genre, so those of you in other areas may not know these names. But I'm thinking that a lot of the same applies throughout the publishing industry.

To start with there are the RITA's. Big splashy award given every year to romance novels at the RWA National Conference. They claim to be the best of the best, honoring the very cream of that year's romantic fiction. My problem with this? You don't even get considered if you don't shell out the 40 or so bucks for each and every book you enter. AND you have to hand over 3-5 copies of the finished book. With a 15 dollar trade paperback, that's a lot of cash. Not the publisher, either. The author. This is a nice way of limiting the number of small-press entries. You know how everyone loves it when a little indie film beats out the big boys at the Oscars? Don't see that a lot in romance. There also is NOT a category for erotic romance, though inspirational gets its own. But I wasn't even planning to get into that debate. And yes, they only accept books available to the public in print. So no e-books.

The same goes for the innumerable chapter contests...all kinds of names familiar to most of us. Each requires several copies of the book and 25 to 50 bucks. There are a few authors of small press who can afford this. One of my publishers dotes on one particular author who has won or finaled in several. I suspect she is independently wealthy, and though the book is, in fact, excellent, it is far from the only excellent book at that house. But because she is able to enter so many contests, she is able to win, while other books, perhaps just as wonderful, are utterly ignored.

Partially for this reason, I treasure my "finaling" in The Romance Studio's Cupid and Psyche award (CAPA). Curses was one of the top five erotic paranormal romances of 2007, in their reviewers' opinion. It didn't win, but the coolest thing about it was I didn't have to "enter." The nominees were pulled from all of their reviews throughout the year. So it was a surprise as well as a pat on the back. And yes, almost every review site now has annual awards, so it's become quite diluted, but it's still nice to be put in a category with Jory Strong and Charlotte Boyett-Compo. Kind of takes the sting out of losing. There are also those that require reader voting. Honestly? Those bug the crap out of me. I go nuts when everyone is on-line begging for votes every week. It seems getting the masses to go vote from every possible email address is far more important than the book itself, and that just stops holding any validity for me.

So that said, do I enter contests? Quite rarely. I did support my home RWA chapter by entering theirs--and found out afterward about the FIVE copy thing. Won't again, unless I have money to burn. I am entering the EPPIES: The Electronic Publishing Internet Connection's (EPIC) annual contest. There's still an entry fee, but at least I can submit the pdf and not have to fork over another sixty bucks for copies. I can't enter all of my books, but maybe one or two of my favorites. I also like to support this organization as I think it is really there for ebook authors. So I can tell myself the money is well spent.

What are your thoughts and takes on contests? Do they matter when you choose a book to read? Do you enter them? Judge them? Am I the only curmudgeon that has issues with the way this industry works them? Let us know!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Words that make me go EWWWW....

I believe we all have words that make us cringe. And perhaps the feeling is stronger for those of us who write, who make our living by the written word.

The following are a few words that get under my skin like a virus and eat away at me every time I see them on a page, or hear them in conversation. Come, won’t you join me down the path of Dakota’s squig?

Chunk – There is not a single food you are going to get me to put in my mouth if you refer to it’s shape as a “chunk.” No chicken chunks, no pineapple chunks, NO CHUNKS. The very sound of it makes me want to blow them. Yeah.

Preternatural – This one pisses me off to no end because it is not even a real word. It is some bullshit phrase that A.R. came up with and suddenly everyone who writes the genre is supposed to jump on board, (which they did) and regard this world as if it exists. It doesn’t. Let me break it down for you. The prefix “Pre” means before, prior to, etc. Therefore, Preternatural would mean, in it’s essence “before ternatural.” What the fuck is a “ternatural?” Are we in it now and everything else was “preternatural?” I don’t know.

Now, these next few words are in relation to the erotica genre. If you have used these words, well…good for you, I guess. As a writer I wouldn’t dream of using them, and as a reader I would think seeing these words on a page would rip me completely out of the story.

Spunk – I tend to use the word “spunky” to describe my female characters. Therefore if the hero shoots his “spunk” on my “spunky” heroine the reader is lost and the author is in trouble. Best to stay away from this word when describing…release.

Jism – Um…no. My current publisher has a stigma regarding this word, the owner of the company flat refuses to allow it into the books of any of her writers, so I know that I am safe with their books. Any time I see this word it reminds me of being fourteen years old in my father’s closet reading his Hustler Fantasy magazines and giggling like crazy. There is nothing sexy about “Jism.”

Ooze – Okay, nothing should EVER, not EVER EVER EVER, ooze from any character’s lower half. Not EVER. It makes it sound as though they have a horrific disease. There are few people out there clamoring for syphilis porn, so best not to have them ooze. EVER.

Moist – This just leads to all kinds of icky visuals in a readers head. Moldy bread is moist. Towelettes are moist. Your heroine should not be.

Penis/Vagina – We are writing erotica, not sex education text books. I am very happy for any man who, after much struggle with the spunky heroine, gets to put his penis in her vagina. But it doesn’t matter what happens after that because I won’t be reading it. I understand if you have a problem typing out the “graphic” terms for body parts, but if you want to write in the genre you are going to have to get over it pretty quickly. If you don’t, the readers will just get over you.

Now this next one I did read, in a book, and I was so put off by it that I felt a little nauseous. If you are the author who put this phrase in your book feel free to email me. I will be happy to forward you my PayPal account address so you can give me my $7.50 back.

I was like a poop-hole pirate.” – No, you weren’t. And your editor should be shot.

Please tell us what words make you want to kick someone’s teeth in. And have a great Wednesday!

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: Molly Daniels

I'm looking for a replacement blogger with something to say, who's not afraid of giving an opinion. If you're interested in taking my place on The Grip blog, Tuesdays, send me an email. KellyKirch@gmail.com. In the meantime, Molly has graciously offered to fill in for me today. Please welcome, Molly Daniels.

I’m author Molly Daniels and I self-published my first two books, Love is Sober and Love Finds a Way, and both can be purchased on Amazon.com.

I’m not e-pubbed yet, but I’m getting close! And my second book is doing well in its first year of sales. Four of my latest manuscripts have been making the rounds at various publishers, and even though I’ve gotten rejected, I’ve received some valuable feedback for improving my stories.

One thing authors must have is thick skin. Otherwise when we receive that rejection notice, depression and self-doubt take over, and we seriously begin to re-think the publishing business. When I receive one, I remember that Dr. Seuss was rejected 28 times before he found a publisher to take a chance on him. I’m still a long way from 28, but the number is climbing. I just have to have faith; one day my manuscript will land in the right editor’s inbox and will be given that chance to find readership! If I don’t believe in myself, who will?

I’ve read a couple of interviews with editors who have said they don’t like authors who respond angrily to rejections. This floored me; I had no idea anyone would ever do that. When I receive a rejection, I print it out so 1) I remember who I’ve submitted to and 2) it documents my struggle toward published author status. I’ve heard of some authors using their rejection letters as wallpaper.

There will always be people who don’t like what we write. In my case, my mother objects to my use of the ‘F’ word; others don’t mind it. When I started reading erotic fiction, some of the buzz words bothered me, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with them over the past year. I’ve done several signings this year, and I always point out that there is graphic language in my books. Consequently, people have written me, complaining of certain words, and offered to pray for my soul. At one signing, a woman prayed over me, asking God to ‘cleanse my mind’ and to write with a clean heart. I didn’t get confrontational; I simply stood there with my eyes closed respectfully while she prayed. After all, a sale is a sale, and she bought my second book because it is ‘cleaner’ than the first one!

I accidentally made a few enemies last fall, when I discovered not everyone shares my sense of humor. I issued an apology and have redeemed myself (hopefully!) although I still shake my head over the fact I can curse, post sexually explicit material, but I’d better not post certain song lyrics? Makes no sense.

Secondly, I have met quite a few talented authors out there, and many I’ve met because of interviews I’ve read on my friends’ blogs. I also belong to a few chat loops, and when I’ve been invited to participate, the darn list grows! It grew out of control and I had to force myself to stop adding to it. I can only buy so many per week, after all, and I’m happy to report it is finally getting manageable again!

I try to pass on my favorite books, and if I’ve read one of yours which only gets a mention, but no raving, don’t hold it against me, please? I do read them more than once and sometimes the first reading will only bring a lukewarm response. But I am a loyal reader, and I do spread the word to my non-author friends!

Now I just need an e-reader so I’m not fighting my children for computer time!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mortgage Mess

Sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder just what has happened to the banking in this country. Back when we desperately wanted a mortgage, banks wouldn't touch us because we were a one income family. What changed?

Part of the problem of course is the eternal culture of keeping up with the Smith's and Jones'. Part of it is the inability to delay gratification and teach our children to do so. Part of it is our inability to save even one dime from our paychecks. What happened?

My grandparents saved their pennies, spent wisely, and lived thriftily. My step-mom pinched pennies so tight she could make them screech. The house hunk and I (after many years in debt) live a cash and carry lifestyle. Frankly, if I have anything to say about it, we'll never live any other way.

There is an overwhelming culture of greed in this country. Corporations, government, the oil industry in particular are all more interested in making money that turning our country around. Now that the banks and corporations have reached rock bottom, we're supposed to bail them out. That's right--you and me. So, here's my question. If it's my money propping up the financial district, shouldn't those folks have to give me an IOU? And when they get back on their feet and they're taking in money hand over fist, shouldn't they have to pay me back? Isn't that the way it works when you borrow money?

After all, if I borrow money from them, I have to pay them back. Maybe after a certain point all the taxpayers should start calling them and ask them when they're going to make a payment. You know what I'm talking about--like those creepy bill collectors that call you all hours of the day and night wanting to make arrangements for a payment. What if we all started calling the White House and the Congress demanding to know what they're doing with our money?

After all, this buy out is going to cost all of us $3000 per person. So I want my money back--with interest.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Keep Them On Their Toes

The winner of the free e-book of Pixels and Pain is Elissa Abbott. Please join me in offering her a big round of applause. Elissa, please send me an email (jgoodman @ goodysworld.com) and I will send you your copy.

And now for something completely different…

I have been a bit of a prankster for as long as I can remember. My pranks don’t always go through as planned, but they are usually quite funny (to me at least). Most of them are harmless, having only a high aggravation factor. Here is a list of some of my favorites in no particular order:

1. Monday Morning office assault. Sneak into a co-workers office before they arrive and apply liberal amounts of Scotch-tape to strategic items on and around their desk. Put tape over the ball of their mouse and a small paper clip under their left mouse button. Disconnect their Ethernet connection from the wall jack but leave it in far enough that it looks like it is still hooked up. Place a single piece of Scotch tape on the telephone receiver to secure it to it’s stand on one end. Crank the volume on their speakers to max. When they come in on Monday morning, the first thing they will do is fire up their computer. The mouse prank is the easiest to spot at this point, followed shortly by the blast of noise that spouts from their speakers. Once they get logged on, they realize that they can’t connect to the network (this is a fairly common occurrence in my office) so they grab the phone to call IT. Since the receiver is connected to the heavy base, they both come crashing down on their desk. It is a great way to start a work week.

2. Wait until an unsuspecting co-worker goes to the restroom for an after lunch visit. Once you are sure they will be there for a while, kill the power to the entire bathroom. As we have no windows, they find themselves in quite the pickle. Of course, it is a good it is a good way to find out the answer to an age-old question: How does a blind man know when he has completed the paper work.

3. Put anti-seize into the headbands of your entire crews hardhats. They won’t notice anything amiss until they start sweating. This one is usually received badly. Apparently the gray goo is a bugger to get off your skin.

4. I have super-glued quarters to the floor in almost every hall/bathroom in every company I’ve worked for.

5. Of course, I have applied liberal amounts of stickers to hardhats, jackets, shirts etc. But, I have also went so far as to make up bumper stickers that were custom made to reflect the one thing in this world that would embarrass the receiver most.

6. I have tricked co-workers into using the intercom thinking they were talking to a real person. I have conferenced phone calls with their significant others into a PA system. That one nearly got me fired.

7. For my most homophobic co-workers, I have paged/called them and had them call the Gay and Lesbian Support Hotline. Oddly enough it still didn’t help open up their minds.

8. I have gotten into their cars and turned on the windshield wipers, cranked up the radio, set their emergency brake, and pushed their seat all of the way up/back.

9. My most common prank is the sudden noise/movement. I often find co-workers so engrossed with their work that they have no idea that I am in the room with them. Yeah, they figure it out pretty fast. You would be surprised what kind of things gets thrown into the air if you scare someone bad enough. I am also a big fan of banging on doors/walls when people are expecting a little peace and quiet.

10. Take one lonely piece of shrimp and tape it to the back of their desk. If there is no easy way to access the back of the desk (or place the little critter where it is hard to find, put it in the hole on the bottom of the chair (where the rollers meet). After a day or so, it will start to decay. Not an over powering smell. But every time they set at their desk, they will get a strange whiff of death and they will wonder where the smell is coming from for hours and hours on end.

Now don’t get me wrong, this has never been a one sided affair. I have gotten almost as much as I’ve given. I was just sharing some the favorites from my personal repertoire. Enjoy, but use with caution.

Happy Pranking!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You've got to be taught

You’ve got to be taught
Before it’s too late,
Before you are six,
Or seven or eight,
To hate all the people
Your relatives hate.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

From South Pacific. Possibly the single finest piece of wisdom to ever come from a Broadway musical. Don’t know why I’m in such a snit today about prejudice, but there you go. Oh wait. Might have something to do with the political brouhaha currently happing here in the US. Bleh. Politics. Full of things I get cranky about. Lying, self-agrandizing demagogs, and money. All of my favorites. Frankly I don’t think any of ‘em are people I’d want to live next door to. But if one moved in, I’d make the time to find out before I built the ten-foot fence. That’s the whole point of being a rational adult. Learning the facts before you make up your mind. Not suiting up in bullet-proof vests and trying to shoot a person just because he’s running for office and you don’t like the color of his skin.

Of course, the political arena isn’t the only one where racial prejudice comes into play. Sad to say it’s alive and well, along with sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, and other such bullshit. I come from a very blue-collar suburban Detroit background. I’ve seen first hand prejudice going both ways. I remember, though just barely, the 1967 race riots. I remember my brother being shot at in the 70’s for being a non-union trucker. I’ve been the first female in a particular job. I’ve faced enormous amounts of prejudice as a short, plus-sized woman. And just to make it fun, I live in a town where the KKK is alive and well, and the Michigan Militia (another group of supremacist nutjobs) keep all the bigots very well armed. Anyway you look at it, it’s all just stupid.

As a parent, I try to get these messages through to my kids. Mostly, I think they get it. My youngest did ask permission to miss a class last year to attend the GLBT tolerance rally at his school. And I let him. Just because I happen to live a very traditional lifestyle doesn’t mean I think everyone should. Everyone should live the life that fucking works for them. As long as it’s not directly harmful to others. Shooting people is harmful. Having a relationship with another consenting adult, or even multiple consenting adults is not. Neither is choosing to live alone. And neither is practicing a religion—for the most part. Pray, chant, meditate, or contemplate your navel and it’s all fine with me. I draw the line when religion crosses over into abuse, as some of them sometimes do. Then I believe in freedom FROM religion as well.

As a writer this comes into play because I try to make my work reflect a variety of people and situations. Though most (yep—most, not all) of my stories are about monogamous heterosexual couples, their worlds are filled with folks of all shapes, colors, and persuasions. I’m working on one right now that’s both m/m and interracial. Did I do that deliberately. Nope, the characters just came together that way. I’m not trying to make a point. There shouldn’t be a point. People are people. In any group, you have the good, the bad, the clever and the ignorant. I find it very odd that in a genre where nobody thinks twice about whether a vampire and a werewolf can find love, they have to argue about the melanin content of someone’s skin, or what entity their parents prayed to. Fortunately, my publishers don’t, and I think most of my readers are savvy enough to get past it as well. So I’ll continue on my merry way, coming up with new and different characters as I go. And in real life, I’ll continue to encourage my kids to look at people as people, instead of seeing just the labels.

After all, you’ve got to be carefully taught.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Time Out

Busy busy. It has been a crazy few weeks. Jumping from project to project, trying to switch publishers, begging favors off of friends. Yup, it is the 17th and it has already been an overly hectic month.

I am so tempted to issue a time out. For myself and my fellow writers. Maybe we could decide that every year on say September 20th, it is national Writer Time Out day. We can use this day to take a breather. Have writers get together for lunch and cocktails all over the country, no writing will be done this day. No promo. No editing. This day is OUR day damnit and we will relax, laugh, have fun, and enjoy the benefits of this lifestyle we have chosen.

Did you just get scared? Or did you breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of not being required to DO anything for just this one day? Is this an exciting prospect, or a terrifying one? Either way, I'd say you all need a vacation.

Granted, this is not a very controversial post. But so what. Perhaps today Getting a Grip means grabbing onto your sanity and screaming from the rooftop that our careers are not always as fun as they were supposed to be. Yes, we write because we love it. But you know what, I love a lot of things, but I don't bury myself in anything else the way I do with my writing. I don't eat chocolate until I get sick, until just the thought of LOOKING at a candy bar makes my head spin.

You cannot truly appreciate something until it is gone. Until you pause, walk away, and get your barings again. If it is not fun to turn on the computer in the morning anymore, perhaps it is time to not do it for once. Go out into the world, take 24 hours to let your creativity rest, let it stew, give it a day to ferment. It could be the best thing we ever do for ourselves.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rant on America

This may make me unpopular, but I don't care.

Most of you know that I spent the majority of my life growing up overseas in third world countries. I loved living overseas and was often embarrassed by the arrogance of Americans from the world perspective. Where most Americans believe the U.S. is something of a savior, helping less fortunate countries and spreading the words of democracy, many countries see the States as cocky, overweight, and lazy by culture.

However this is not my rant. Every culture has its quirks. You either love them or hate them, stand up for them or against them. It's the way the world works. But nothing, NOTHING, disgusts me more than America's penchant for wastefulness. I'm not talking fuel or energy, though surely a case can be made, but of food.

Turn on the television and you see advertisements for food products. Food for those commercials are coated with shellac and inedible. Not just for one take, but for ever single take. If an actor takes a bite, multiply that by the number of takes that individual had, the food on the side waiting for an additional take, etc. Think of that exact droplet of ketchup they needed and how many burgers melted under the light requiring another one to replace it.

That's minor. What really pisses me off is when reality shows or television sitcoms have pies in the face, food fights, food wrestling, fish flinging, or eating competitions which completely obliterate the actual use of the food.

Okay, so I know that the producers pay for those things, but let's get real. How many countries would gladly take even though scraps, would humble themselves for food personalities have rolled around in, just to have SOMETHING to eat that day. Something for their children to eat. It makes me ill to see how callous we are.

We Americans are great at talking about issues. But we never act on them. When I lived in Indonesia it was a fortunate family of nine that had even $10 dollars to feed the family for a week. That would have been wealthy. In Brazil, we provided meals to those who worked for us though it wasn't expected, and it was considered generous to have an endless pot of rice and beans.

But Big Brother does mash potato and gravy maze contests, pudding wrestling. It's a common joke in television or movie or even state fairs to have "stuff your face" contests or food fights. And folks, here, we find it FUNNY. We find squandering critical resources FUNNY when there are entire nations which starve.

I have no solution to this. It's rampant and it's disgusting, shallow, petulant, and idiotic.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blog Wars

Whilst I was tootling around yesterday afternoon surfing the blog world, I came across a strange phenomenon--BLOG WARS. As closely as I could figure, this is akin to the old word wars on the editorial pages of the local newspapers. Of course, there was a huge difference. By comparison, the word wars were extremely civilized. After all, there was an editorial staff responsible for what the public was subjected to.

Unfortunately, in the blog wars, there is no editorial staff to apply the brakes. No one is responsible for saying "enough" so the war escalates into tasteless trash with obscenities and insults tossed in for good measure. So instead of one party or the other metaphorically walking away from the fray, the war continues.

Then there are the readers who feel that it is appropriate to comment in favor of one side or the other. Soon the readers are slinging additional arrows into the fray. After a while, no one is even sure what the war was about. But every one is angry.

Now when I was growing up, my grandmother used to point out that it takes two to fight. Oh, I know that it only takes one to be the aggressor. But after that... it requires at least two. Now if you're being physically assaulted, you can either fight back or run away. But when words are involved, especially written words, you can choose to ignore your attacker. Or if you must make a rebuttal, then turn off the comment capability.

The truth is that blog land has opened up a new arena in the word wars. What I find very disturbing is that this new arena is global. In the old word wars, they were mostly conducted in small local papers that didn't have a huge circulation. But this new arena reaches all parts of the world.

Why do some people feel comfortable with airing their dirty laundry under the merciless light of the public eye? If you're truly unhappy with something I've done--whatever it is--then why not e-mail me privately? Public picking through the laundry is done for two reasons only--humiliation or one-upsmanship. Either way, it isn't about getting me to change my behavior.

Yesterday, my friend Amarinda commented about the general lack of manners in our society today. I think it goes much deeper than that. There is a terrible lack of self respect in the world today. When I was a youngster, there were certain things that you did because they were "respectable".

You stood up for the pledge of allegiance to the flag. If you were male and wearing a hat, you removed it. You stood for the national anthem. If you weren't singing along, you were quiet and respectful. It angers me when I watch football, baseball, or basketball games on television and see people talking to each other, walking around, and generally acting like they are bored silly.

Before I was allowed to walk out of the house when I was a kid, my hair was combed and I was dressed. My parents took care to impress on me that you try to look your best at all times because that showed that you had respect for your appearance. If you don't respect yourself, why would anyone else?

In the blog wars the overwhelming thing I observed was the complete lack of self respect. Why would anyone who truly respected themselves want to continue in a war of words? I suppose if the debate were about world peace I could see that it was important work. But that wasn't the case in any of the wars I encountered.

It's sad in this day and age that we've gone no further down the road than this same old pothole we've been stuck in since high school where the cliques abounded and the harsh war of words could devastate an individual for life. We still use words to hurt instead of heal. And believe me, they do. Bitter biting words once spoken cannot be taken back. Once typed and sent out over the electronic net, they can never be recalled.

So for all the combatants in the blog wars, I wonder if you all would consider a cease fire? The next time you are tempted to leap into the fray ask yourself will what I say make a difference in one year? Five years? Twenty? Then why waste the time? All of us are given a limited number of years on earth. It's up to us to use them in the best way we can.


Blog reprinted from November 17, 2007.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Flash Me

I don’t know about you fine folks, but most of my early attempts at writing were overflowing with useless information and far more adjectives/adverbs than necessary. I thought the more flowery my writing, the easier it would be to make word count.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I was on the wrong path. I set about making my work more concise and crisp. Oddly enough, it even improved the flow and the pacing. Brief is good when it comes to writing apparently.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a small (at the time) group of bloggers who participated in a very interesting writing exercise. It’s called the Friday 55. The object is to write a complete story in just 55 words, no more, no less and it is a lot harder than it sounds. When working within such narrow margins every word needs to count. It has done wonders for my writing style.

Here is an example of one such story:

Eyes so big, they seem out of place in something so small. The mother watches her, heart torn, mind conflicted. How doe she explain? Helpless, she pulls the child close. “You can bring him back, baby.” The child’s body shudders under the weight of sobs. “Why did you take your brother out on the ice?”

So, now I must throw down the gauntlet. I want to see what you can do with 55 words. Make me laugh, cry, love or lust, I don’t care which as long as I feel something.

What’s in it for you? Well, aside from the obvious joy of completing such a fun project, for everyone who drops a 55 in the comments, I will add their name into a drawing. I will leave the contest open until next Wednesday night at midnight. I will pick a winner from the entries and announce their name (with links if provided) in next Friday’s post. The winner will also receive a free e-book of Pixels and Pain.

Happy writing!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Too Much Sex?

How much sex is too much in a romance?

I suspect there are as many different answers to that question as there are readers. I write both erotic romance and mainstream romance. Both have lots of sex, both have it fairly well spelled out, but there are differences. I use certain words much more frequently in the erotic. The ratio of sex to other plot points varies dramatically. The sex in the erotic romance tends to be a bit kinkier, a bit, well, rougher. And yes, it happens much earlier in the story.

I've had reviewers complain that some of my short stories are nothing but sex. Well, in ten thousand words for an erotic publisher, I'm sorry, but you're not going to get much else. I'd strongly suggest not picking up a story labeled "Quickie" or "Lust Bite" if that isn't what you want. On the other hand, those are far and away my best selling books. So I'm guessing there must be readers out there who like that. Honestly? I've got no problem providing that if that's what my publishers and readers want.

On the other hand, I've had people complain my mainstream titles have too much sex. For my cowboy series, which are labeled "spicy", that means usually two to three scenes per book. Hmmm. That publisher has a rating system, folks. You want sweet, buy the ones labeled sweet. If you want HOT buy those. Seems pretty easy to me.

Of course that doesn't mean I want my teenage sons to hand my books over to their female friends. I keep waiting for their parents to come after me with pitchforks and torches. (Yes, we are talking about the spicy cowboys here, not the erotic menage, for example. But still...) On the other hand I think it is a bit hypocritical for them to get bent about my romance with a bit of lovemaking when they LET their kids read some of the anime and manga titles out there. Really. I can learn stuff from those books. Yowza! But parents are not always rational, so until they're all in college, I'll keep telling my sons no when they want to pass my books out to their friends.

There are segments within the romance industry that claim erotic romance is ruining the genre. My response to that is a more politely phrased, WTF? Please. If some of the drivel that's been out since the 50's didn't manage to kill the industry, I doubt my sexy romances are going to do the trick. And I DO get pissy when someone implies that with 20 contracts under my belt, I'm still not a "real" published author. Yes, e-publishing is still the new kid on the block. Doesn't mean we're not the wave of the future. I mean where's the problem with E-books AND print-on-demand. Seems like that way we don't have warehouses full of dead trees, but those who want paper books can still get them. Wouldn't be surprised if that was where the industry eventually ended up.

So what do you think? Is there such thing as too much sex? Not enough? And do you like pixels or paper, or a mixture of both? Where do you see the romance industry headed in the future?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wasting Time

So yesterday I initiated a change. I stood up and said, I want someting new! And I bit the bullet.

I am scared, and nervous, and utterly flustered at the concept. But that's okay. Sometimes it's good to shake things up. Makes for more interesting conversations with family and friends.

I finished Heartstrings, wrote the synopsis and query, and shipped it off to a different publisher yesterday. Yay and OH MY GOODNESS! Now the waiting begins. This is always the hardest part for me. Sitting on pins and needles, hoping for a positive response.

I have faith though. Heartstrings is my favorite of all of the books I have written. So I am going to believe in the power of Mitch and Jarrod and all of their hunky goodness and let the words speak for themselves. (Isn't he beautiful? Mmmmm.)

Though now I am in a quandry. A good writer would move on to the next project. Using the waiting period to push through a story...but I don't have anything I want to work on.

I want to make videos for YouTube. Now that I have figured it out all I want to do is play around with it. I want to find tons of pics of my inspiration for Mitch and Jarrod and put them to music. I want I want I want to waste the next few weeks screwing around on the internet and not worrying about it.

I know that I cannot do this. I must continue to work if my dream of writing full time is ever to come true. Hell if I can't force myself to do it part time then there is no hope at all for full time.


But did you see my commercial? I'm really proud of it.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review and Free Stuff

I received my first review for More Than Words today!! Here's what she had to say:

I immediately fell in love with More Than Words. I love the premise of Kylie composing a story to have characters leap from the pages, or in her case, the laptop. I can visualize Kylie’s expressions as she wakes to see she is in a different setting. This tale is amusing, with attention-grabbing dialogue that keeps the story moving at a good pace. Kelly Kirch spins a well-written tale where this reader felt transported back into time in this fantastic read. It has some humorous perks that are quite delightful.
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance

Nice huh? I was pleased. This book was my favorite to write so far and the fact that it shows thrills me immensely. Yes, I know it's just a review and there will be those with differing opinions, but I also went to fictionwise and saw the "Great" rating dominated reader's pick. So yeah, I'm floating at the moment. Sue me.

I have promoted my book lately so I thought this would be a great time to run a contest for an eCopy of More Than Words. I'll post this on myspace and The Grip so that there is ample opportunity to win.

All you have to do is leave me a comment, in one of those three places, which quotes the very first sentence in the book you are reading now (site the title and author please--credit where credit is due).

I have four adults under my roof at the moment. The one voted as having the most intriguing first sentence will win a copy. All entries due by 11:59p on September 9th. Good luck!!! And thank you for helping to make More Than Words a success!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Giant of the Oceans

Numbers don't necessarily count when you're taking on a giant--whether it's a corporate giant or something more personal. Mother Nature is perhaps the biggest giant of them all. This week a lot of "little" people are pitted in battle against Hurricane Ike.

There is little to be done against a hurricane except get out of the way. I've read a lot about people in shelters complaining about their accommodations. And some others complaining about their evacuation problems. So I want to ask something. Why take a space on the bus or train? Why take a space at a shelter? If you have a better plan, why aren't you using that?

It seriously burns my butt when volunteers and the government work their behinds off to provide a measure of safety against the giant only to have the very people they are sheltering complain. Dammit, if you can do better, then do so!

Since when is the government responsible for protecting people from storms? What strikes me is that hurricanes and tropical storms are a way of life for people who live in coastal areas of the gulf and east coast. They are not a sudden catastrophic event like a tsunami. They are annual events! So why are people always surprised? Why do they never have a plan?

I've been through several tropical storms and hurricanes in various locations. One of the first things we do when we move to a new location is make an evacuation plan. When hurricane season rolls around, we tweak our plan for any new variables that have crept in over the winter and spring. How is it that no one else understands the necessity to have a plan?

Some parts of the country have annual wild fires. If you know you're in a fire prone area, then you plan for that.

The government is we the people. It isn't some amorphous conglomerate that's responsible for our welfare. Every year, I watch people flocking together like a bunch of sheep waiting for the shepherd of big government to tell them where to go and what to do.

Yes, there are some people who don't have the means to evacuate. For them, the evacuation plan is wonderful. But I have to wonder about the people who are clogging the highways, sitting on the side of the road because they've run out of gas. Hurricane's don't sneak up on you. The media is blaring for days ahead about the dangers. Um, fill your gas tank! Get your personal papers and medications together! Stash a little cash in your wallet. Pack an emergency bag so you can grab it and go! Get a plan!


Saturday, September 6, 2008



Series…what can I say? A series is a series. It either continues or it ends. You either like them or you don’t. So there it is. What’s that? Do I have any more to say? Always. But to be honest, this topic bores the socks off me. Why? Because I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. You lot are smart. If I said series were good and you hated them you’d think what does she know? If I said they sucked – you would tell me I sucked. So, I’m not going to talk about series. Yes, the grip people are now slapping their heads. Stick to the topic. Come on…you knew I wouldn’t follow the rules.

I want to talk about when did we lose our balls? Okay – I mean metaphorical balls. When did we stop having an opinion on stuff and start writing about safe topics like series, and names and fluffy things that are pretty and innocuous? If we are saying Oh Get a Grip it means we are having an opinion, making a point, doing the eye roll thing after hearing something we perceive as dumb-arsed. Yes, I know, we’re all good girls and do not want to offend anyone. That’s fair enough but having an opinion does not mean people will get their knickers in a knot. Some of the best patronized blogs are the controversial ones in blogger land. They talk about who they hate, who they think sucks, and why, and they give opinions that make people get all hot, bothered and thinking. These blogs get read because they give people the vicarious thrill of reading gossip and being appalled or bemused.

Hell, think back to the Golden years of Hollywood when Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons were dishing out the dirt and making deals with Hollywood execs to shut up. People loved that stuff. The only series people were interested in then was the next chapter of scandal. Yes, of course we all hate gossip. It’s terrible, evil stuff and that’s why it has to be whispered at work or cc’d on email. No, me neither, I never listen to gossip.

And yes, you are absolutely correct – we cannot all be controversial. It would be anarchy. Anarchy is bad for the economy, your skin, law enforcement and the sales of chocolate skyrocket. But hells bloody bells are we so scared of saying anything even remotely challenging? How does anything ever get changed? Do we want people to think or just zone out? And yeah, people may hate your opinion or mine but give it anyway. Why am I ranting on a blog when I should be toeing the line and writing about series? Because I can. The women on this blog are top notch, tough as nails and smart as hell. I know in their hearts they want to bust loose and say something controversial. Maybe they will.

So there it is…my thoughts on series…who am I? Check out www.AmarindaJones.blogspot.com . I swear I will not discuss pretty things and I probably will swear as I am an annoying piece of work yet strangely loveable in a pirana kind of way. Take a squiz below…it’s my latest release. Yes, the heroine has many opinions.

Micah Blue out now at Ellora’s Cave

A demon has been waiting one hundred and twenty years for the next chosen one who commands the power of the sapphire. He will stop at nothing to make that woman his own. He needs her power to survive.

Ever since a fortune teller gave Micah Blue a lump of blue rock the drought in her sex life came to a screaming halt. Dark, erotic dreams of a stranger haunt her nights and a tattooed builder drives her wild with lust during the day. Both men are wicked. One wants to enslave her and one just wants to love her.

Ned Langford, builder and part-time garbage collector isn’t about to the let the love of his life be taken from him. He will do whatever it costs to thwart a demon and keep Micah at his side.

Go ahead: Live with abandon. Be outrageous at any age. What are you saving your best self for?

Friday, September 5, 2008

As Easy As 1, 2, 3,

I love a good series. When I find memorable or even likeable characters, I think it’s great to be able to have grand adventures with them again, as long as the author can keep the stories fresh. I experience déjà vu enough without having a book trigger the feeling with a rehashed plot.

Another thing that will kill the thrill for me is to read the first couple books in a series and pick up the anxiously awaited next installment only to have it suck… big time. You know what I’m talking about. You recognize the characters names and even the environment, but the plot and pacing are so piss poor, you can almost feel the pressure the writer must’ve been under to put out something… anything. I wonder if they experienced a feeling of dread as they sifted through their final edits, knowing that the work they held in their hands fell far short of the tales they’d released before. I pray I never have to experience the sensation.

As a writer, I’m now giving serious consideration to trying my hand at a series of my own. I have characters from a certain novel who have endeared themselves to me so much, I just can’t bear the thought of letting them fade into a distant memory. They still have secrets to share with me, tales to be told and havoc to be wreaked. My only dilemma is whether or not there is enough original material there to actually justify a series.

How many ways are there to kill a man? How many different sorts of monsters can come out of the shadows before the reader begins to wonder what kind of a world the hero and heroine live in? How many trials and tribulations can I subject them to before they decide they don’t want to play with me anymore?

I guess we’ll see…

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Qualified Yes

Series can encompass a variety of different things. As a kid growing up, I loved the teenage mystery series—Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, heck, even the horribly dated Bobbsey Twins. Nancy Drew was the one exception. Never could stand her. These books followed the same characters through a variety of adventures, hopefully learning a little something with each episode. I graduated to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and the Mrs. Pollifax books when I was a little older, and those are much the same, except with adult characters and situations. Then I discovered fantasy and science fiction. The Narnia books, Lord of the Rings, Robert Aspirin’s Myth Adventures, and so many more. Still the same concept though—same main characters, different stories.

But in romance, series usually don’t work that way. For a romance to be a romance, you have to take two (or sometimes more) characters from not being together, to their happily-ever-after. That’s pretty final. Although I have read a few great books where the romance continues to grow and evolve in a second book, (Jayne Ann Krentz has a couple good examples of this) that’s about the limit if each story is really a romance. So a series takes a different turn. Usually it’s a common world, town, family, or group (a Navy Seals team, perhaps) that have overlapping stories. Each book of the series features a different character finding that HEA. So each book as a unique hero and a unique heroine. One of the great features of this kind of series is that you get to peek at the HEA of earlier couples. It can be kind of like catching up with old friends.

From a reader’s standpoint, I love series. I love seeing that couple A is still together a few years later, maybe with children, or still helping to save the world. I still have the first romance series I ever collected, Roberta Gellis’ fabulous Roselynde Chronicles. She broke a rule in this series, too. The first two books had the same heroine. Yep. Her first HEA wasn’t so ever-after. Husband number one was much older and died while the heroine was still in her 30’s, leaving her to remarry a man much closer to her own age. I’m not sure you could get away with that in today’s market, but as Ms. Gellis was one of the founders of the historical romance genre as we know it, she did. I had the chance to meet her at last year’s RT convention, and practically genuflected at her feet.

Series have problems though. They can go on way too long. Then they run the risk of being repetitive or jumping the shark. There are a couple of very big names that I used to run right out and buy on release day. Now I get them from the library if I bother at all. I totally respect author Linda Howard who said she wasn’t writing any more books in her MacKenzie (sp?) family series, because she didn’t want to have to kill off the parents. Sometimes, you just have to let go. And who knows? If she hadn’t, we might not have had all the NEW wonderfulness she’s written since.

As an author, I am learning about the pitfalls of series. Writing the last of my Crazy H trilogy was hard. There was a lot I’d written in that couldn’t be changed, so I had to write around a lot of things I might have changed if they hadn’t been set in stone by previous books. I had to really work to make this heroine different from the other two—can’t have them all blending together. Even names are a bigger challenge. But sales-wise, there’s a definite plus. When Always a Cowboy came out, sales did spike again for books one and two in the series. And when you’ve written a character who’s just too cool to say goodbye to, it’s nice to be able to give them their own HEA.

So yes, I’d have to say I’m in favor of the series concept, both as an author and as a reader. But if I ever drag one out to the point of absurdity, will somebody please let me know?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hesitant: The Series

I have always enjoyed reading series. I like to get attached to characters, watch them over come obstacles and prevail in the end. Series such as Harry Potter, Anita Blake, and The Gunslinger have always been favorites of mine. I have even been known to stand in line for all three in hopes of getting their latest installment as soon as possible.

But that is as a reader.

As a writer, I do not have the attention span to sustain worlds, or even characters, beyond one set moment in their lives. I don't know if it's because after the first book I want them to live happily ever after, and they can't do that if I keep pulling them out of retirement and forcing them into dangerous situations. Or if it's because I am lazy and like the ready made excuse above to get out of doing it. Whatever it is, I don't see a lot of series in my future. But I hope that others continue to write them because I totally enjoy reading them.

That being said, I just finished a book over the weekend (thank you ,thank you). It was so much fun to write, and I fell so in love with the men in it, that I had to promise myself I would revisit them at a later point to actually push myself into finishing. Not necessarily a sequel, but perhaps pulling one of the secondary characters out and giving her a book of her very own. I may never do this, but telling myself I could, admitting that I love Jarrod and Mitch so much that I have to check up on them from time to time, gave me the push I needed to write the last 5k of the book.

So when it comes to series I suppose I am on the fence. I love to read them, but it would take something or someone pretty special to make me want to do that much work. ;)

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Series: Hate to Love 'em

I'm not a series junkie. In fact, I get miffed sometimes when there's a book I want to read which is part of a series. Why? Because I don't want to be drawn into a large, unending spiral of stories which will nag me to be read.

There are also the times when I pick up a book, read the blurb and think: "Wow, this one sounds great. I HAVE to read it." Only to find out it's number three or four in the series and to get the full affect, it's recommended I read the preceding ones, which don't interest me in the least. I almost always put that book back.

Now, here's the hypocritical part. I write in series. The Marriage Series wasn't intended to be one because of the above reasoning. I only meant to write Marriage Mart but my critique group and publishers insisted that the secondary characters have a story. Because I loved them too, I submitted to that request. I thought for sure it would be my only one.

I backed out of six more books for the Marriage series. There were supposed to be three off-shoot books for the peripheral females in the three books, those characters with cameos were to get a story and it would have been called the Companion Series. The peripheral males, particularly the men the Ester hung around in Marriage Mart, were supposed to receive stories in a Corinthian Series. But alas, Kelly Kirch is disappearing and I revoked the books before contracts occurred. I'm not sorry though I do wonder what I would have written for them.

As it turns out, I'm making headway into the inspirational market. And what comes out? Another series. I don't have a name for this one yet, but the first book is titled FOR MURDER, BY OWNER and will be written by my new pen name, Kelly Marstad. The series will follow four women, sisters, who still live with their mother and slowly move out, finding what life and faith have to offer them. It's been fun and instead of it being a romance strictly between woman and man, it is also a romance of the family. I want the reader to fall completely in love with the Hickerty family. Accomplishing that will be my primary concern.

Now if anyone can explain why I hate to read and commit to a series but seem drawn to write them, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Never-Ending Series

Some people love to read series books. Others hate them. And a few--eh, they can take them or leave them. Writers are much the same. Some writers make a deliberate decision to write stand alone books because they revel in developing new characters, settings, and conflict. Others become enamored of their cast and enjoy getting to knew them better from book to book.

I, myself, follow both lines. I enjoy the details of setting up a new book--the characters, setting, the world building--and I also enjoy exploring the peripheral characters in succeeding books. There are advantages and disadvantages to series writing. There are readers--like me--who are relatively rigid about reading series books in order, even if they are, in essence, stand alone books. If the number of books in the series grows too large, new readers who may discover the series after a number of books are released feel like there are too many to purchase in order to "catch up." That is a valid concern. I have two series currently with several books in each. The books in both series could be read as stand alone stories. I worked very hard to make that so. But I freely admit that the readers enjoyment of the stories will be enhanced if they read them in order.

On the other hand, the advantage to a series is the immediate familiarity with the cast of characters. For a reader who has read Nora Roberts' In Death series, the varied interesting cast is comforting and familiar. Because the reader knows the characters' backstory, there are some things that don't have to be explained. For the reader who has limited time to read, series offer them the enjoyment of reading, while allowing for a certain shortcut in figuring out characters' motivations. I think that might be the attraction of reading a series.

Now writing them is an entirely different horse of another color. While it might initially be more work to invent a new world with characters and background, it is a lot of work to maintain that world through book after book. The devil really is in the details. Lots and lots of details that seem to increase exponentially with each new book. Tons of details that depend on how elaborate the world building was to begin with. My series do not take place in the contemporary world so even the smallest details must be cataloged... plants, animals, buildings, laws.

My current work in progress is a stand alone time travel. There are days when it seems to me that there are more details for this one story than all of my series books together. Yet, I know that isn't true. Already, one beta reader has commented, this will be a great series. Excuse me? No. Stand alone. One book with a beginning, a middle, an end. Finished. Because unlike a stand alone, series never seem to be finished. There's always one more character that beckons. One character that begs you to tell his or her story.

Series can be never ending.