Tag Archives: novels

A New Series in the Making

Yes.  That’s right.  I’m writing a new fiction series.

No.  I’m not going to tell you much about it, yet.  It will be a surprise.

But I will share this: It features a female protagonist.  It’s set in today’s rural West (as in U.S. West), but, unlike Through Better & Worse and To Have & To Hold, it’s NOT a Western Family Saga, and it’s certainly not Modern Western Romance.  It’s got absolutely no profanity and no sex.  It’s got no ‘gruel’ — no gratuitous cruelty, gore, and/or barbarism.

Will you like it?  I think a lot of people will, yes.

Why am I writing it?  Because I need something in my catalog that will appeal to a broader audience than my more literary efforts.

I write good books.  But, unfortunately, what I’ve published doesn’t fit neatly into a genre.  This series will, though.  This series will fit right into one major fiction genre that people love.

More later.

Mystery Cover

 

The Trans-Dimensional Shift Machine Let Loose

8 Months Research, a Breakthrough, So It’s Build Time

Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, strip

Back in January, 2016, I quit publishing.  I had book #3 of the Country James series ready to throw to my editor and was pounding out the final manuscript of E. J.’s Come-Back Road, the second book of a planned three book series covering the life of one Dr. Warren Jeffries, DVM that started with Old Hickory Lane. I quit because I got a good solid look at the piracy numbers of just one of my titles.  Then, I got the rest of the numbers, too.  

Throughout 2016 and 2017, I published nothing.  And I was pretty darned sure that I would never publish another novel, not until piracy could be defeated (Ha! Dream on. Did a year of research on that and found no good solution.) Then I met author Laura Belgrave, mystery/crime author of the Claudia Hershey Mystery series.  Like a drip of water that slowly wears away stone, Laura got my rock hard petulance worn down bit by bit.  It took her until January of this year.  Then, once again, I began to research.

I’ve got a very interesting brain.  It works at its own pace, and, usually, that pace is quite fast.  Not this time.  I kept shoving data in, but got back …silence.  I shoveled in more data.  Then more again.  Still silence.  Eight solid months inputting more and more data; eight solid months of dead silence.  …Until last week, when, like gears finally starting to move once the penetrating oil does its job or like one of those strange flowers that takes months to form, then bursts open into full bloom all at once, the whole evaluation and conclusion precipitated from subliminal simmering into fully served answer.

So I tried it.

And it worked.

Now, I’m scurrying about, pulling out projects I built, then mothballed as unworkable, and all the pieces are hanging together quite nicely.

I’ll keep you posted on progress as I work through all the various branches of the project’s build. See you on the other side.Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, DLKeur 2016 web

 

Pondering Why I Write

I had an interesting discussion last night that made me think about the books I’ve written, the published and those sitting in files, real and virtual. An author friend, Laura Belgrave, whose website I manage, admitted that, yes, her books matter to her. I admired that when she said it.

I’m not sure why, but, for me, while the books I’ve written and published delight me when I happen to reread them, I don’t place them as ‘important’ in things I actively care about most: my husband, the animals I care for, the land and trees, friends, my husband’s musical compositions and his instruments, my brain, body, knowledge and skills, maintaining my father’s house, my own musical instruments….

The books I’ve written? They’re just things I’ve done and released into the world. So, too, when it comes to my artwork, and my musical performances.

Laura’s caring about her creative works in contrast to my own curious attitude about my creative outputs gives me pause to wonder at myself. It especially makes me wonder why I write.

I do feel quite happy, even proud, of the books I’ve self-published (not, though, the ones previously published by others). In my opinion, my books — the ones I’ve authored without interference from money men — are very good, despite errors missed in editing, some due to Microsoft Word’s auto word-replace penchant, errors that I should, but don’t, make the time and effort to go back and fix. They’re great stories, written with passion and skill. So why, I wonder, don’t I place them high on my ‘most valued’ list?

I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it might be something of the zentaoist in me. Those books, though brought into existence by my hand, exist completely independently of me, their author. They are, in essence, each their own entity once created. I own copyright, but they are not me, nor I, them. I certainly delight when someone enjoys them, but not because I wrote them. Rather, it is a delight in someone appreciating them, the books themselves, and the animals, aliens, and people, that live within their pages.

And, now, I think I’ve touched on something pertinent: I write to bring the characters within to life, so you, too, can meet, greet, and appreciate them, whether they’re people, animals, the land and its lore, or aliens from other worlds and cosmoi.

An Uncommon Market

One thing I get asked a lot via email/formmail and private message (and, now that I’ve been dragged into Quora, pestered about), concerns marketing my novels. My hand always reaches fingers through my hair at that point. Why, I wonder, are these people–people who mostly write novels that fit in popular genres that aim to fulfill the reading delights of people who prefer standard and predictable, even simple, cause and effect–ask me about this?  I write to a narrow audience and very cross-genre, mostly to people who enjoy thinking for themselves and making their own decisions about what is real, what is true, and what is significant, as well as who enjoy puzzling things out, not having it spoon-fed to them.  In essence, I write the kind of stories I prefer to read–where the questions and the answers aren’t apparent, where individualism and character, rather than accepted/acceptable norms, determine, not just actions, but results.

I write about life, not fantasy…though, admittedly, I usually stick to stories that end well, rather than tragically, but, then, what I consider ending well would be an ending like you find in The Last Samurai where most all the good guys get slaughtered, but hold onto their honor and integrity. Or, closer to what I write, where which side is actually good and which one bad gets blurred and that decision is left up to the reader, who I hope comes away with the idea that there’s no simplistic truth.  But, yes, my novels don’t resolve in tragedy. I’m an optimist, despite my droll, sometimes snarling, tongue and slightly(?!) cynical eye when it comes to politics and human antics.  I always hope for the best in life, but prepare myself to accept the worst, should it come to pass, but, honestly, in my world, the good always wins, even if and when it loses.

But I digress. Back to book, or, more specifically, novel marketing, my style.

I don’t like to be marketed to. By anyone.

I don’t like sales. I don’t bite on loss leaders that attempt to trap me into buying something else, as well.  And, in fact, I’m suspicious when something is on sale, wondering why. (What’s wrong with it?!)

If an advertiser screams ‘clearance sale’, I pointedly avoid them. And you can bet that I always avoid going anywhere near a store on infamous Black Friday…and, now, Black Thursday, too.

I believe in paying a fair price for goods and services, not taking advantage of some shop or worker because they’re desperate for enough funds to pay their overhead. And, yes, I tip. Generously.  …But neither will I pay exorbitant prices just because something’s popular or prestigious. Nope. I’ll take the unpopular and that which lacks prestige, so long as it’s high quality…which is usually the case, the prestigious actually shoddy in its quality. (A certain ‘high end’ car that wound up proving itself ‘lemon’, one and all, is an example, its warranty not honored by its manufacturer when new owners started to discover significant problems.)

Because I know how much I despise and avoid businesses that employ all those tactics that I mention, and because I know that readers of my novels feel likewise–it’s characteristic to their demographic group–I don’t ‘market’. I’ll advertise–judiciously–offering my ‘product’ honestly and very forthrightly, but I don’t pound the pavement, hawk my wares, beat on doors, or flood your mail with junk mail, not in the real world and, most importantly, not in virtual space.

Mine is an uncommon market, so I employ an uncommon strategy. If you write genre-normal, though, I suggest you use the most common schemes. Google it. It’s everywhere.

 

Top Ten Novels get Nine ‘No’s from Me

No

There was a shared around link in varied posts on G+ about readers’ habits that got some comments–some snide, some honest, some haphazard. In other words, normal levels and types of replies.  As the conversation moved forward on several of the iterations of the link share, I said this in response to one gentleman who said that he reads any book he buys all the way through, regardless, because he paid for it.  He also said that he’s very forgiving of editing errors.  This was my reply:

Hey, I’ll read books that have atrocious editing…and do, because the story is good.  Very good.  But I won’t sit through, even a well-edited, well-presented book that bores me.  Once my eyeballs roll up in my head three times, through boredom or disgust, I’m done.

And, now, because I think it’s pertinent, I’m going to take the top 10 best sellers from over on Amazon, and I’ll tell you why I either won’t even crack the cover or, having read all or part of the excerpt, why I would or would not read on.

Let’s start: (Numerical order of the top ten best sellers on Amazon was stable throughout the day and a lot of these books have been on the first page for awhile, now…but, by the time you check they could have since changed.)  RED and strike-through means NO WAY! White (normal text color to this interface) means, not interested, but I could recommend it to readers in search of that type of story. Green means “yes.”

1. The Next Always: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy (The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy Book 1) by Nora Roberts — Nora Roberts is a good writer, always has been. I don’t read her, though I did manage two of her books during my time belonging to a book club. I cracked the excerpt on Amazon on this one and the novel starts out very well.  Then we get to the boring stuff — leading man and leading lady, with all the modern day trappings that so do not intrigue me.  So, nope.  But, were someone looking for a nice contemporary romance, yes, I might suggest it.  Nora Roberts can be counted on to deliver a good read for those who enjoy that kind and style of story.

2. Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella — “The sky cartwheeled overhead.” <– first strike.  “Black spaghetti” <– second strike.  Read on…and, by the end of the second page in the Kindle version, my eyes dried up, which is my way of saying ‘my eyes glazed over because I was completely bored’.

3. The Last Girl by Joe Hart — Read the description. That sent off warning bells. So, I checked the reviews. First up on the page was the one star review by F. carillo, posted on February 2, 2016. Then came the 4 star review by Bill Anderson (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) on February 1, 2016. (That was a four star review? Read more like another one star review to me. And it went on that way. So I didn’t even crack the cover to read the excerpt. Auto-nope, mostly because it’s yet another dystopian-horror book that features the completely unrealistic.

4. Roomhate by Penelope Ward — NOPE. Won’t even look at the excerpt.  Here’s why: ” Due to …sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.” I’m over 18, but, sorry, not into explicit sexual content, and the reviews suggest that this book is more about heating up readers’ crotches than about delivering an actual story.

5. Some Sort of Love: A Happy Crazy Love Novel by Melanie Harlow — An excuse to deliver explicit, graphic sex. The whole focus seems to be the guy’s large penis. Nope.

6. A Shade of Vampire (New & Lengthened 2015 Edition) by Bella Forrest — I’m not a fan of teen fantasies or vampires, neither one. For this exercise, I did check out a bit of the excerpt and the story delivery seems smooth and well-written through the first few pages of the prologue and chapter one. But, no. Not into vampires and teenage love fantasies.

7. Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold — No, no, and no for several reasons — sex, historical fallacy about the SS and culpability, and dwelling in the horror of an era that makes me shudder, similar reasons of which you can find from readers in the one-star reviews.

8. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman — It’s Neil Gaiman. Of course it’s a ‘yes’.

9. Guarding His Obsession by Alexa Riley — Blatant erotica. Nope.

10. The Lie by Karina Halle — Nope. More erotica, this one with a warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes…. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

What is most disturbing to me is the number of sexually explicit or erotic books that are top ten. And then there’s the dystopian, teen vampire romance, and Nazis-as-victims books, some also with graphic sex. Does NOT say good things about American tastes in novels. Not good things, at all.

No

Sorry, Charlie. People Want Tuna That Flips Their Switch.

2-17-2016_Guess1140Strip

Had a discussion tonight that wound up with an author I support and admire pulling his post. I blinked, and it was gone, just that fast. So, I private messaged the gentleman, asking where our discussion had gone. He told me he’d deleted it…because, he said, his opening statement needed to be edited…and he didn’t want to make other writers mad.

Really? You don’t want to make…other writers mad.  I’m another writer, and I wasn’t mad.   I actually THOUGHT we were pursuing a lively, intellectual discourse.

Wrong. His post wasn’t meant for discussion. It was a ‘call-out’, a change-order.

But it was a good discussion. And I made good counter arguments to his points. (Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of my replies, so I can’t replicate them when he replicates his…if he does.)

In the private messaging, I came to understand his underlying motive.  it’s the basis for a common misery I recognize exhibited by a LOT of writers/authors–depression and a sense of overwhelming futility, coupled with dogged determination to continue, despite all odds stacked against one.  Namely: there are so many books being published (now that independent publishing is coming of age), that getting any book noticed by masses of people is nigh on impossible.

Well, yep. That’s too true.

  1. It requires a LOT of lucky breaks (also called serendipity);
  2. it requires one to be an extrovert, when writers–good writers–are, by overwhelming numbers, introverts; and
  3. it requires an army of “connector” friends and fans who are willing and capable of effectively spreading the word about your book being the greatest thing since [enter your favorite title] to other readers of whichever genre you write.

But here’s the problem, even if you have all those things. People who read books, especially those who read novels, are a less than overwhelming percentage of the population. About a quarter of Americans don’t even read one book a year.1 Instead, they:

  1. play video games,
  2. hang out online,
  3. watch sports,
  4. watch the news cycle/talking heads, high drama, vitriol-driven world of politics,
  5. watch movies, TV series, game shows, reality shows, and,
  6. generally, do everything and anything exCEPT read…books.

Reading for them is Twitter or Facebook, not cracking open some made-of-paper or made-of-bytes tome filled with tens of thousands of alpha-numeric characters. I mean, really. 144 characters is about their upper limit. Of those who do read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), the numbers are even less. …And, of course, of those who read a specific genre of fiction, you guessed it, even less than that–a lot less.

Interestingly, young people are reading MORE.2 Which is good. But I’m afraid the kind of reading that holds the Millennials are books they can personally connect with…which doesn’t include what a lot of writers shopping their books are writing. That limits certain genre novelists to an even smaller pool of potential readers, and that pool of potential readers tends to avoid spending money on books, so if it isn’t found at their library, isn’t free, isn’t available and at hand for cheap–very cheap–somewhere, you’ve got a hefty job convincing them to spare their dollars for your book. They’d rather spend their money on their grandkids. Or on their next vacation. And, yes, in fact, unless they’re an avid reader of more than eleven books a year, up into the book a week category, chances are the books they buy won’t be those you’ve written. And, in fact, even those who read a book a week won’t be buying your book. Why should they? They can sift through the thousands upon thousands of free books out there to find their next read and not spend one thin dime.

So, how do you get your book to the point that a whole bunch of somebodies crave to read it so much that, yes, they’ll shell out their cash to actually buy a copy? Well, you either write what sells–gore, sex, perversion–or write what sells–romance–or write what sells–your book promoted well and appropriately, marketed at just the right moment to just the right people when those people happen to be looking for just that kind of book.

And an aside (something mentioned in the above-noted ‘disappeared’ post): Does your book have to be well-written and well-edited?

Let’s look at the stats on that: Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nope. Does NOT need to be well-written or well-edited. Nope. Not, at all.

2-17-2016_Guess1140

 

 

“A Great, Raging Bloodbath”

DLKeurMacabre_InflamedBrainSnip

“…A great, raging bloodbath….”–that’s what a reader gloated about in a review they publicly posted. Those were the first words of their review.

I blinked, a crinkle furrowing my brow. My brain did a cross between a ? and an !, not so much in surprise at the fact of it, (I know graphically depicted sex and gore sell very well, thanks.), but because it was a gloat–an adamant one. And not just by one reader. Many readers of the same book and the same series of books expressed those exact sentiments…just not quite as concisely.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to that one review that brought me pause.

The reader/reviewer only gave the book four out of five stars. Why? Because of “unbelievable scenes” and “too convenient” plot answers. Plus, the reader admitted that the end was a “cheat.” In other words, the story was poorly written, but that didn’t matter much–one star subtracted–because of the visceral satisfaction the writing delivered to that reader.

Reading other reviews of this highly popular book, both the positive and the negative, I found similar sentiments among those ranking the book three stars and above. The positive reviews outweighed the negative by far, and all of the positive ones had one common thread: the one element that drove readers’ ecstasy was what that one reviewer succinctly summed up as one “great, raging bloodbath” of a book.

Checking the rest of the novels in the series, I discovered that, yes, that one element drove all the books in that series to crest the best sellers lists, and the reasons given were that the books all satisfied readers’ tastes for pain and misery vividly and viscerally portrayed, fulfilling their fascination with the depraved, their obsession, even craving, to witness hate mercilessly enacted in the worst kind of viciousness and violence, all very graphically rendered.

The genre was Science Fiction, a genre I like to read a lot, but now find myself either avoiding or, at least, exercising extreme caution and care when choosing a next novel for reading.  …Because the genre is filled, first, with Sword & Sorcery dressed up like SF, and, second, because it is now laden with what I call ‘gruel’–gore and cruelty–and, of course, right with it, perverse sexual depredation.

These are not the kind of books I read. They are not the kind of books I write, either. But what makes my brow furrow isn’t that my preferred reading, that my own writing and published novels, can’t draw that same level of popularity among readers. (I’m not writing for those kind of readers.) No. What bothers me is what this signifies about where the prime time tastes of the culture of which I am a part has taken itself. I wonder about my fellow humans and my fellow citizens, a large majority of whom embrace this kind of ‘entertainment’ as preferred.

DLKeurMacabre_InflamedBrain_webLrg

How Not to Sell Me on Your Novel

book_NotAuthors, really.notimpressed Do I care that you’re having a “huge sale”?

No. I’m not a bargain basement book shopper, willing to spend my time on anything that comes my way because it’s cheap or free.

I also don’t care if you’ve won some award or contest with your book. I know how contests and awards work from the inside, so I know that, chances are, the only reason the book won is for reasons that have nothing at all to do with its actual quality and value as good reading. Likewise with professional reviews.

Next on my list of “I don’t give a damn” is whether or not you made some best seller’s list or, worse than that, some “pop” list voted on by Joe and Josepha Public. BS lists are just that–bullshit lists–manipulated by skill and subterfuge, and “pop” lists rank even lower, being manipulated by cliques and back-scratchers.

What will convince me to buy your book? Good hook, good writing, and a riveting story I can’t put down, written in a genre I like…which is most anything that, A, doesn’t dwell in the dreary, disheartening, perverse, stupid, insipid, banal, and/or trite and, B, which lacks any descent into gratuitous sex, gore, and/or violence.

How do you catch me? First off, a good slag-line. Second, a good description. Third, a first page that makes me want to read on…and that continues to pull me along all the way through the excerpt provided by Amazon. Then, yes, you’ve just made a real sale, and, despite being a KU member, I will actually pay you your full asking price…because I believe GOOD writers should be paid.



Image by D. L. Keur with base image By Raúl Ruano RuizOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22768706