Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cyberbullying . . . or not

I decided that I just had to address this here. I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a hot-button topic, and I’ll probably get into trouble for this one, but what the hell. I stay in trouble with somebody all the time. Might as well go for broke.

And the topic is cyberbullying. Everyone’s talking about it and it’s happening all around us, all the time. Cyberbullying happens when someone decides to destroy someone else using the Internet as their primary weapon, and they set about undermining that person at every available turn.

One of the cyberbullying issues I’ve seen in the last few months involved reviewers and authors. It went something like this:

* Reviewer gets a book, either just picks it up or has it given to them by the author or the author’s agent.
* Reviewer reviews book and gives an honest review.
* Author decides they don’t like the review and sets about to destroy the reviewer.

Before we go any farther, I want to say that I do know there are some hinkey reviewers out there. I accidentally found one not too long ago. For all intents and purposes, this person took a belief system mentioned in one of my books and used it to belittle and degrade an entire community of believers, some of whom are the proud men and women of our armed forces. Despicable. My mention wasn’t an exposition on the belief system – it was merely mentioned in passing. Those kinds of reviewers? Yeah, I know. They’re why I make it a policy to never engage a reviewer or I’d be in big, big trouble.

But there are also a lot of hard-working bloggers and reviewers out there who truly try to do a good job. They try to be honest in their reviews. Some of them miss the mark. By that, I mean if you don’t like erotic romance and you pick one up and read it, don’t give it a bad review because you don’t like erotic romance. Just pass on it and do a review on fluffy bunny books or cookbooks or whatever it is that you like. But most of the reviewers do a pretty good job of it.

Conversely, there are a lot of crap authors out there today, throwing stuff together that’s barely legible, doing cover releases without books, releasing books they’re still writing, shit like that. There are authors who don’t know what the word “conjugate” means and get bent out of shape when you mention the Chicago Manual of Style because they’re so damn sloppy that they don’t want anyone telling them to use any kind of reference manual – they’re brilliant, their writing is brilliant, and they don’t need no stinkin’ thing or person telling them what to write. Be afraid – be very afraid. And when these same crap authors get a one- or two-star review (and a lot of times that’s generous), they attack the reviewer or blogger. Even more disturbing, I’ve seen authors who got a four-star review attack a reviewer because they just knew their book was worth five stars.

Yeah. Really.

Then there are the billions of guys out there who are throwing up fake profiles to troll for women. If you don’t know what I mean, congratulations and good luck, because you’ll find out soon enough.

Here’s a good example. I try very hard to look at all the friend requests I get. With women, I check to see who our friends in common are and what, if anything, they’re doing. If they’re selling Mary Kay or spending all their time talking about Jesus, then nope, not getting in. But I’m very wary of the guys. And sometimes they still slip past me. Here’s an example of a message I got recently from a guy I’ll call Jim Bob. Note that I've tried to preserve the idiosyncrasies of his side of the convo so you can tell that if he's from the UK, he obviously didn't go to schools like the other people I know from across the pond.

Jim Bob: Hi.
Me: Hello.
Jim Bob: How you doing, which country are you from?
Me: I’m in the USA.

This is very clear from my timeline.

Jim Bob: Ok, am from UK, what do you do for a living?

At this point, I’m already tipped off because if you’ve seen my Facebook timeline you know that the banner is huge, has an enormous fuchsia bra and panties, and says “Proud Weird Smut Writer.” And he asks what I do for a living? I fry pickles at the Dairyette. What the hell do you think I do for a living?

Me: I’m a writer.
Jim Bob: Okay  Am a business man, are you married?

This from a guy whose profile picture is a not-spectacularly-attractive man with what appears to be his wife. Yes, I know they do this all the time, but read on.

Me: Yes. 33 years. To a spectacular guy who treats me like a princess.
Jim Bob: Hmmm, that's nice, are you the one on your profile picture?

Now I’m laughing out loud. Am I the one in my profile picture? Well, let’s see . . . the pic is obviously not of a Hollywood actress or a model from a magazine so, no, I just went out and picked a random picture of a woman with her dog and put it on my profile. Yeah, that’s it. Of course, asshat, it’s me. And things just deteriorate from there.

Me: Yes.
Jim Bob: You are looking nice babe, i appreciate your beauty, keep it up....
Me: Thanks. I'll be sure to tell the hubs that you think so.
Jim Bob: Okay, can i be your friend?
Me: Only if you understand that if you don't respect my marriage, I'll block your ass and report you so fast that it'll make your head spin. Otherwise, yeah, sure.
Jim Bob: Just to be your friend only
Me: Exactly.
Jim Bob: Okay

I never heard another word. I’m sorry, but I consider this type of shit to be cyberbullying. It forces women to put up with come-ons that they wouldn’t have to tolerate in public. It’s usually a guy in a developing nation looking for a woman to snare to get him into the country. They try to pass themselves off as being from the UK or Japan or India. Insufferable.

Except for the Italian pervert who wanted to see my . . . never mind. That was interesting or something like it.

And then there’s the idiot who friends you and then starts PMing you while they’re drunk or high. They won’t stop. It’s pinging constantly. I just love those. I think that’s cyberbullying too.

Shamefully so.

And yes, there are just those people who decide they’ve taken a dislike to a particular person and try to make their lives hell. They follow the person around, make accusations against them, call them names, garden variety things like that. The worst of these find a way into the accounts of the object of their hatred and pretend to be that person, sending out vitriolic messages and generally fucking with the person’s life. Oddly, sometimes they don’t even know each other. The bully just picks them at random. Maybe they look like they’d fold easily and the bully wants someone to torment. Maybe they remind the bully of someone. Who knows.

But there’s a phenomenon that’s started recently, and it just rankles me to no end. I’ve heard about a few of these. I’m not going to call any names, because I know in some of the instances, there are two sides to the story. It still disturbs me, so I’ve got to say this.

If you have to stage your own cyberbullying to sell books, just cut it the fuck out. What a pathetic, lame-ass way of getting your name out there. You’re being persecuted by Person X, Person X is threatening you, Person X is threatening your children, Person X is breaking into your accounts, stealing your identity, badmouthing you all over the Internet.

Yeah, well, we’ve had a couple of instances recently where the person being persecuted got caught falsifying emails, messages, etc., and made it look like they were being cyberbullied when, in fact, they’d made the whole thing up to sell books. Drama draws in readers, who buy books for the drama in them anyway. People got hurt. The person being reported as the bully got hurt. The people who’d supported that writer got hurt. Promo people had their reputations tarnished. Readers felt foolish because they’d treated the supposed bully badly. Worse yet, the reported bully took the brunt of the nightmare, and all for who-knows-what reason.

In the end, the writer ended up looking like a lunatic and lost a huge number of their fans and friends. Was it worth it for a few sales? I'd like to hear the answer to that question.

If you’re having trouble selling books, work harder. Get some people to help you. Study some books on marketing. Go to some conferences and seminars. But for god’s sake, do not fake a bullying episode. That’s just juvenile and stupid.

And besides, I hate drama. Go back to junior high and get that mess out of your system before you come into the publishing world and make us all sick. All you cyberbullies out there, here’s your notice: A lot of us are onto you and when you cross over into our realm, we’re going to expose you and send you packing because we don’t want the drama. We’re over here actually trying to work at our jobs instead of letting a bunch of made-up hype get the attention of potential readers.

So here’s a novel idea to keep you busy. Why don’t you try writing a book? If you do it right, it’ll keep you busy for a long, long time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Reads: Dark Love by Olivia Howe

The book I chose this week is one in a genre I don't usually read. It's rare that I even open a book with characters under the age of 25, but I was curious about it and decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did. It's Dark Love by my young friend Olivia Howe.

I didn't really know what the book was about when I started it. I'm not sure what I expected, quite frankly. I just knew that I was curious and wanted to read it. I'd already decided that if I didn't like it, I would say nothing. Olivia is a lovely young lady and I didn't want to discourage her from writing.

I didn't have to worry about that. And it wasn't at all what I thought it would be.

First, it's a Young Adult book. I don't read YAs - I just don't. Second, it's a fantasy romance. Sorry, but the first thing that went through my head was Twilight. And then I found out there was a vampire and I got really discouraged. All I could think was, Oh, great. Another vampire book. How many of those are there?

Turns out there's not another one like this one, at least not that I've seen or heard about. As you well know, I don't give plot synopses or spoilers in this blog. That's just not my style. But I wondered if there would be sparkly vampires. There weren't. That was a relief.

So I dived in. I was surprised at the way it started; not at all like I'd expect a YA book to start. When I got to all the high school parts, I almost lost faith, but I forged ahead, and I'm glad I did. Because somewhere around the end of the first quarter of the book, that thing I love above all else happened: I started to wonder what was going to happen next. See, I have this thing about that phenomenon. It wouldn't have mattered if it was the most poorly-written thing on the planet (and trust me, it was not!). As long as it makes me wonder what's going to happen next, I'm happy. And I was pretty damn happy.

I was even happier as it all unfolded. I was asked last night by a member of my street team which scene was my favorite in the book. I'd have to say when Nina goes to talk to her mother. She's afraid to tell her mother what she knows she has to divulge, but the surprise is on her - her mother already knows. I suspected she did, but I was curious to see how she was going to react, and I liked the way it was written. It was perfect, and the dialogue was very realistic.

Oh, and did I mention there's a witch? There's a witch. Well, not one that you see, but, well, you'll understand when you read the book. Suffice it to say, it made me very happy.

All in all, I liked it. I was pleased with the way it progressed, and I'm curious to read the next one. It's already out, and I haven't had a chance to pick it up, but I will and when I finish it, you'll see it here. I don't know how many books Olivia's planned in this series. I just know I'll read them all. So thanks, Olivia, for a YA that I actually enjoyed! I'm going to one-click Seeing Red!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Baton blog hop!

What the heck is a Baton Blog Hop?

Each writer involved answers four questions and then passes the baton on to another person. I received the baton from my friend Olivia Howe, author of the Dark Love series. Her second novel in the series, Seeing Red, just came out this past Tuesday on her twentieth birthday, June 24!

What am I working on?

Wow – what am I not working on. Let’s see . . . the fourth novel in the Love Under Construction series, Planning an Addition, will be coming out on November 1. It will be followed by the Citadel series, a series of three novellas, with each book having a main character(s) who was a minor character in the Love Under Construction series; the first one is already well underway. There will be more Harper’s Cove novellas; one’s almost finished. So many readers asked about the other characters in Adventurous Me, one of my stand-alone novels, that I’m planning two more books from it. And there will also be a new series starting. I don’t want to give the name of it yet, but let’s just say it’s a departure from my usual. It’ll still be steamy, but it’ll be different.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

It’s unusual in that most of the main characters are well over forty. They’re not kids. They’re also working people; they didn’t mysteriously become millionaires from unknown sources. They worked hard and rose up through the ranks to be where they are. I’ve also discovered that I do something that few romance writers really do – I write villains, really nasty ones, psychologically damaged ones. I love them. So my work tends to be very different from the rest of the genre.

Why do I write what I do?

That’s a good question. I guess it’s because I love people, and I love to watch people fall in love. Plus I’m well over forty, and I get tired of 22-year-old sexual experts and billionaires. That’s so unrealistic that it makes my head hurt just thinking about it. I want my romances to be realistic, to be something that could actually happen to a reader. I want them to be hot; I want those over-forty characters to have the wild, passionate, uninhibited sex that I know people that age have, because I am one. And I want it to be as entertaining as humanly possible. Plus I try to always build in a “wow, I didn’t see that coming” moment. I love those!

How does your writing process work?

I wish I could tell you, because I honestly have no idea. My plots come to me fully-formed, and they usually only need some detail work to make them not only work but to be fully plausible as well. I start writing, and the characters just come out of the woodwork and make it all interesting. When that happens, I stop and get out a three-page character dossier and start filling it out on the character. It covers everything, physical description, personality, age, parents, siblings, kids, work history, everything. Then once I’ve got the plot pretty well settled, I go back and start doing detail work. I also work heavily off of recognizable holidays for time placement, and I go back with a calendar and do a timeline so I know everything is in the order it needs to be. Once that’s done, it’s time for hardcore revisions, then proofing and editing. That can take me longer than the writing (as it should). For a 170,000 word novel, it’s usually an eight-month process.

Time to pass the baton!!!!

I will be passing the baton to Liz Crowe, author of the Stewart Realty and Black Jack Gentlemen series. Liz is an outstanding author and loves to write books featuring soccer in which Spain never loses a game! Just kidding. But she is a soccer super-fan and a beer aficionado. Check out her work and go and visit her blog to see what she’s up to and watch her pass the baton on July 14!