Friday, January 25, 2013

It all started with Twilight.


I find this humiliating. If you’re like me (either an academic type or a heavy reader of much more hard-core books that include things like pre-marital sex), you’re supposed to trash the Twilight books. I’m very happy to do that, but honesty compels me first to confess the following sins.

1. I absolutely devoured them the first time I read them
2. I’ve read each two or three times
3. The series started me on my current life-path, first reading paranormal/fantasy and then writing (the adult version of) it.

Here’s the background: I’d been teaching English Lit. especially “Great Books” for several years and was working on an academic book on Jane Austen of all things. Being as I was this schmancy academic type, I of course NEVER read ANYTHING that could be characterized as popular fiction.

But in one of those chance occurrences that I must now view as DESTINY, in October of 2008, I got horribly sick on a vacation. Desperate for something to fill the lonely hours in my hotel room, I found myself in the resort gift shop, where prominently displayed were these two books, Twilight and New Moon, which I had never heard of. In my fevered state, they looked like cheesy fun, so I bought them, got instantly hooked, and read them through over the next day and a half. As soon as I got home, I bought the next two books (in Hardcover!) and read them through in two days.

The books represented a couple of firsts for me:
1. First YA (since I was a teenager)--except for Harry Potter
2. First Vampire book (since I’d read Dracula in a comp lit class in college)
3. First popular fiction I’d read in ages--except for Harry Potter
4. First romance novel I’d read since I devoured Shirley Conran’s Lace during high school (to go with the epic TV mini-series; see note below).

You might say that the Twilight series awoke this reader’s appetite for blood--or at least reading about blood-suckers. It started slowly enough: over the following months, I plowed through the major non-Harry Potter YA fantasy series: Paolini's Eragon (Inheritance Cycle), Riordan's Percy Jackson series, Pullman's His Dark Materials, Colfer's Artemis Fowl, and especially Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy (one of the few series I truly wish I’d written myself).

Then on March 10, 2009, a truly momentous day in my life, I got a KINDLE.

Hundreds of vampire stories later... (also werewolves, alien abductors, wizards, demons, vikings, red-hot highlanders, and more recently gay werewolves and alien abductors)

As it turned out, getting the Kindle was like emptying a bucket of coke in front of Tony Montana, or maybe getting a paper cut in front of Jasper Hale. I immediately went from reading a couple books a month, to reading a book a day. (I'll give my thoughts on Kindles and book-buying in another post).

I checked out the actual numbers: Over the last four years, I’ve bought 851 books, for an average of 212 books/year. About ten of those were purchased by my husband. Those ten are also the ONLY ones that do not fall into the genres of paranormal, romance, erotica, fantasy or sci-fi. Of the 841 books I bought, I didn't finish about a third, but I reread at least another third, most of those more than once.

And of course, I’ve written and published my epic work of (adult) fantasy, The Heartwood Box: A Fairy Tale.

Does this mean I shouldn't in good conscience trash Twilight? I DON'T THINK SO. But we'll save my critical ruminations on that topic for another day.

(For those you not born before 1980, Lace by Shirley Conran was the hugely popular best-seller from 1982 that featured the immortal line: “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” Like a lot of women’s popular fiction from that era, it is a bit too lurid and cynical to fit neatly into the romance category. Astoundingly, the current list price for the Kindle version is a staggering $30.59, proof positive that the old-line publishers truly do not have a clue about the new world we live in.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Best Books Quotes: Dark Space

First we talked about girls. Not girls like any of us had ever seen in the flesh, but those girls in magazines with huge tits and puffed-up lips and sleepy eyes, like they'd been fucked hard all night and they were mostly pouting now because the guy finally pulled out. We talked about those girls a lot. And it was all talk.

Dark Space, by Lisa Henry

Monday, January 21, 2013

Best Books Quotes: Shattered Glass

   “Is he my competition?” I asked.
   “Everyone is your competition.” Peter lifted his hand to his
eyes and began lowering it incrementally. “It goes normal human beings, crazies, republicans, my hand, imaginary characters, corpses and then, in a moment of lustful psychosis, you.” By the time he was done, his hand was below the table.

Shattered Glass, by Dani Alexander

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Favorite Books Read in 2012

Here is my belated list of favorite books read during 2012:

Bloodraven, P. L. Nunn
Shattered Glass, Dani Alexander
Out of the Woods, Syd McGinley
Collared, Kari Gregg
Dark Space, Lisa Henry
Cethe, Becca Abbot
Draconian Measures, J. C. Owen

Favorite series: Josh Lanyon, Adrien English Mysteries
Favorite book for sheer enjoyment value: My Fair Captain, J. L. Langley
Favorite YA: The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson

Observations: Wow, except for the YA, all of them are M/M! It makes sense though. I’d read nothing in the genre before August. For a voracious reader nothing is better than discovering a new genre you’re really excited about. You still have all the best books left to read!

I joined Goodreads in July, but it wasn’t until the end of August that I started adding new books instead of rating ones I’d already read. The first book that I discovered through Goodreads was Morgan Hawke’s Interstellar Discipline series, which I loved. (Thank you Menage Reading Group). In one of those serendipitous readerly moments, I next found Collared by Kari Gregg, which I rated and reviewed on August 31.

I have not looked back.

Since then, I have read 62 M/M books. In four months!

(Parenthetical note that pretends to correct but is really covert bragging: that number is not exhaustive. I did not include M/M books I didn’t finish or non-M/M, most of which were newly published books from series I was already reading. More bragging: I read every book on the above list at least twice, a few of them four times).

I will be posting my reviews of all of the books on the list in the coming days.

Note: All of the links are for Amazon, except for Bloodraven, which is available at Smashwords.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Process. Also Hello.

"It’s all a process.”  Since I started self-publishing, I think I’ve told myself that four or five times a day.  Usually, I think of the word "process" as one of those meaningless corporate catch-phrases, adored by bureaucrats and middle-management stooges.  Surely I, the great Lilia Ford, must have a grander, cooler, wittier word for describing my experience becoming an author and part of the self-publishing community? 

Apparently, my inner self is nostalgic for my years as a paralegal/administrative assistant. 

Rather than striving for impressiveness, I will try for candor.  So why “process?” I’ll give two reasons.  First of all the word actually works as a kind of mantra, a source of calm and comfort when I approach the "vortex of despair." Just watch: I knew nothing, and I mean nothing, about self-publishing before I started.  Therefore, I make mistakes.  Sometimes I beat myself up and call myself dreadful names like “loser” or “incompetent” or “vile idiot who is worse than Voldemort.”  This is the "vortex of despair."  Enter the Mantra.  This is a process, it says soothingly.  I am learning as I go. Mistakes are inevitable.  Other people make them too.  None of my self-publishing mistakes are threatening the lives of my children.  Sanity is restored. 

Why does it work?  Well, that's the second point.  Process implies incremental: I’ve always known writing is an incremental process—I spent seven years on my dissertation.  It turns out, so is learning an entirely unfamiliar business.  I finished a draft of my book: now what?  Here’s an incomplete list of things I had to do:  Find an editor. Find a cover designer. Figure out how to format an ebook for Kindle.  Figure out how to upload the book. Figure out how to get the chapters to click and upload it again.  Figure out how to format for Barnes and Noble.  Figure out what Kobo and Smashwords are.  Figure out how to format for Apple ibooks.  Discover I need ISBNs for my books and figure out how to get them. 

Books are uploaded--hurrah!  OMG: I have to get people to buy them! 

Introducing a concept called “publicizing”, otherwise known as HOLY SHIT!  Get on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads.  Figure out where to advertise and then design ads!  Reviews!  Kindle Author Page! Get a domain name and then design a website!  (I designed this website all by myself!  With no help!  It shows?  Well duh!)  Discover there is something called "branding."  Try to get over my complete skepticism at the idea of a "Lilia Ford" brand.  Wonder endlessly what else I should be doing.  See Mantra above. 

Bottom line: It’s been a nerve-wracking, exciting, tedious, useless, necessary, wonderful, time-wasting, fulfilling, humiliating, glorious, never-ending PROCESS. 

A few high points: exchanging advice and support with other authors in various Yahoo groups; just about everything to do with Goodreads; selling twice as many books in November and December as I did in September and October; having readers reach out and say they loved the book. 

A few low points: trying to figure out how to get my chapters to “click”; learning how to design a website (sort of); selling lots of books based on my Facebook ads, only to have the ads banned because of complaints that my book cover was too steamy; proudly opening my book on my new Kindle Paper White and discovering I had to completely reformat it. 

Soooooooo… to get to my ultimate point.  In this latest stage of “the process,” I have decided to add a blog.  I don’t have an agenda for subject matter.  Posts will likely include book reviews, hopefully updates on the WIPs, musings on reading/writing/self-publishing, and maybe even my recipe for the MOSTDELICIOUS whole grain chocolate chip cookies in the solar system if not the galaxy.  I also don’t have a hard plan for how often.  Once a week?  (Should be doable.)  Twice a week?  (Within the realm of the possible.)  Once and then again in May?  (Also within the realm of the possible: in the history of blogs this has happened.  It's even happened to me.)

I hope you will stay tuned for this stage of the process.  And the cookies really are delicious.