Pirates Without Ships: Are You A Pirate?

Remember the stories of swashbuckling pirates sailing the high seas? Taking ships and stealing the property of others? Buried treasures and tropical islands?

Some of today’s pirates still sail the seas in order to steal from others. But there are far more pirates out there, surfing the uncharted waters of the internet, stealing property left and right.

And many don’t even realize they’re pirates, or that they’re stealing from someone else!

Are YOU A Pirate??

Have you ever downloaded a song, book, movie, etc., from a file sharing site? You know, that new release that you can’t wait to get your hands on, and suddenly, it pops up free online? So of course, you download it, and tell a couple hundred of your closest Facebook friends it’s there, right? Of course you do. Why shouldn’t you?

Well, here’s why. If that book or song or movie isn’t free from the creator or licensed distributor, then you’re stealing it.

With all the recent attention on SOPA/PIPA, I wanted to let everyone know why some sort of legislation that protects Intellectual Property from being stolen needs to be enacted, until such time as the creators of Intellectual Property are compensated for their work, regardless of who’s downloading and who’s distributing copies.

Everyone Does It…

Yes, many people do. That doesn’t make it right. It’s still theft.

Okay, so it’s a crime. But it’s victimless, right? So who cares. Everyone knows authors and musicians are rich. They aren’t going to miss that couple of bucks. WRONG!

A few authors earn big money. They are not the average! Most earn a few hundred dollars for each book they write. Gone are the days of big advances from publishers. The few that still offer advances have cut them down to an average of $3-5k, and that comes in 3 separate parts, usually months apart. And guess what! That advance has to be paid back! It’s an advance against the book’s future earnings.

So, if the author’s contract stipulates that royalties will be 15% (about average for a traditional publisher) of the net profit (after the publishers expenses – offices, editors, artists, secretaries, actual publication costs, and who knows what else – and the distributor, the people who get it from the publisher to the bookstore shelves, take 50% right off the top), then depending on the cover price, each copy sold earns the author from a few cents to maybe $3 (for a hardcover at full price) at most. The book has to sell enough copies to earn back that $3-5k advance, one dollar at a time, before the author sees a penny of the royalties. And that can be for months, or even years, of work! So, every single copy sold is important to the author. And so is every single copy stolen.

Yeah, but…

One of the arguments used to justify this kind of piracy is to compare it to a library. Not the same thing at all. A library purchases a copy. That one copy gets lent to one person at a time. If each person keeps it 2 weeks, and it’s immediately checked out again, that one copy is viewed a total of 26 times a year.

But, if that one copy is uploaded to a file sharing site, it can be downloaded thousands of times a day! And that’s just that one original copy. Each of those thousands of copies can potentially be uploaded to file sharing sites, and each of them downloaded thousands of times a day. And each of those thousands… You get the idea.

Another argument is that the people who download pirated copies wouldn’t purchase a copy anyway. Well, maybe. Maybe not. You see, there are unscrupulous pirates out there. They charge visitors to their sites a subscription fee, or a download fee, or whatever they want to call it. Essentially, they steal copies of a book, share them however many times, and charge the people downloading that stolen copy. The pirates are getting paid for what doesn’t belong to them. What’s the world coming to, when criminals cheat?!

The downloaders actually bought their copy, just not from the person who created it. They bought it from thieves. So, at least some of those people would have purchased it from the creator, even thought they did.

Do YOU want to work for NOTHING?

So, here’s the thing. If you want your favorite authors, artists, musicians, etc., to continue to produce the entertainment you enjoy, please don’t steal from them. If they can’t earn a decent living for their families doing what they love, they’ll have to devote more time and energy to a regular job. Most authors do have dayjobs, writing the books you enjoy in the evenings and on weekends, giving up most leisure activities in favor of entertaining you. They can’t feed their children and keep a roof over their heads if their work is always stolen, and they can’t continue to devote the kind of time and focus it takes to write a book if they’re not going to get paid for it. Would you work a second job for free? Didn’t think so.

If you want to read you favorite author’s books, shell out the 5 or 6 bucks so she gets paid for the 3 or more months of hard work she spent creating it. If you seriously can’t afford to buy it, there are lots of legitimate ways to get free copies. Authors and publishers often have a couple of days where the book is free to download. Watch the author’s blog, they often host giveaways on other blogs in order to promote the book. Sometimes the book will be included in a huge giveaway where the winner receives a dozen or more books for free. Become a reviewer – larger review sites often need new people to read and review books, and normally, they provide the books.

Let other people know that not only is downloading pirated copies illegal,  it isn’t just stealing from some faceless corporation. Encourage people to borrow from the library. Several ereaders allow the owner to lend copies of books they own. Suggest a couple of friends go together and buy a paperback copy.

When you download a free book, make sure it’s legitimately free. Download for the author’s site, the publisher’s site, or an authorized retailer’s site. If you doubt whether the book might actually be free, check with the author or publisher. If you come across pirate copies available online, notify the author or publisher so they can take action to stop the illegal downloading.

Do the right thing. It’s not that difficult. Really.

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What The H*ll Do You Want???

What do you, as a reader, want on author blogs? I see all kinds of things, and some pretty nonsensical advice from gurus claiming to know what readers want from author blogs and websites. So, as usual when I want to know something, I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth. BTW, if you’re a reader, that’s you. So, here goes.

Not All Readers Are Created Equal.

A large percentage of the visitors to writers/authors blogs and sites are other writers. What they want may be vastly different from what the non-writer reader wants. As a result, we each have to decide which reader we want to target. Do we go for other writers, and have a pretty much guaranteed audience? Or seek out people who might actually buy our books and enjoy them?

Or, do we perhaps try for a mix, other writers and regular readers? If we do that, how do we achieve some sort of balance, or even separation, so that everyone gets what they want, without the parts they don’t want? Separate blogs/sites, one for writers, one for readers, aren’t an uncommon solution. The writer has to split her time and efforts, often inefficiently, and often leading to one blog being of far inferior quality than the other. If we take that course, which side gets sacrificed?

Other Writers As Readers

See, while writers tend to be voracious readers, we also tend to be 1.) very selective in reading material, and 2.) often, many of us are on a pretty tight budget. We often read extensively in our own genre, sometimes with a very narrow focus within it, but not much else. Or we read lots of writing craft books. Or only authors we wish to emulate. Or… Anyway, often, we don’t look at all the carefully placed marketing materials on author blogs.

With frequently limited reading time, as we push to write our own material, we look for blogs and sites that have materials that will help us improve our writing, find an agent, get published, and sell our books. Word quickly gets around about blogs that provide such useful materials, and they develop large followings.

So, if we’re aiming our blog or site at other writers, we need to focus on materials that will help other writers be more successful.

Readers As Readers

Here’s where things get tricky. What if we want people who are looking for books to make our blog their favorite online hang-out? Of course, we’d love to have the avid reader, the one who consumes multiple books per week, reading our blog. What does she look for in an author’s blog?

Our avid reader might be up for an occasional day-in-the-life sort of post, if she’s a little curious about how and what writers actually do. Writing craft posts aren’t too likely to catch her attention, though. She might like reviews, to help her choose other books to buy, but do we want to send her to buy from the competition?

How can we keep her focus on our work? Cover art, blurbs, and buy links should probably go without saying. How else will the reader know what books we have, and how to get them? I also see excerpts on quite a few author sites, of all levels, so the conventional wisdom would seem to favor excerpts. Give the reader a little taste of the product, as it were. But where do we go from there?

Leave It To The Imagination

One author (I’m sure there are many more doing this, too.) has a page on her website dedicated to artwork related to her books. That sounds good, on the surface. The problem is, she uses these computer drawn images of her characters, which can be gorgeous, when well done. Hers aren’t. They’re very took-one-class-and-now-I’m-a-professional-artist looking, with uneven proportions and colors that resemble dog-puke together. Such things, done purposely, can work, but not in this case. It ends up making her look like an amateur, almost childish, instead of a professional author.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but even before I came back to writing fiction seriously, that sort of thing really turned me off as a reader. If the representations of characters aren’t extremely well done, I greatly prefer my imagination.

Involving Readers?

I know of one mid-list author whose fans sometimes sent her original, professionally done graphics, just to share their enthusiasm for her books. She, with the artists’ permission, used the graphics on her website, and when the collection grew, on merchandise. She has gorgeous hoodies and tees with the graphics, and short quotes and slogans, for sale on her site. I have no idea how well that’s going, but with fabulous artwork, reasonable prices, and good quality, I’d be surprised if it weren’t successful.

How that can translate to other authors, I have no idea, but it seems worth exploring.

Other authors involve readers in various ways – giveaways and contests, responding to reader questions publicly, social media interactions, interviews, blog tours, reviews, newsletters, and etc. The problem with these things is that everyone is doing them, making it tough to stand out from the crowd. We’re told by all the experts that these things will translate to book sales, and they probably do for some. But isn’t there more we can do, without wasting effort and money?

The Question, Then, Becomes:

What can writers/authors do to draw actual readers to our blogs/sites, and keep them involved and returning? Even those of us just starting out, perhaps not even published yet? What can we do to build a loyal following of readers, eagerly anticipating the release of our (next) book?

Do any of the methods listed above catch your attention as a reader, bring you to our blog/site, and keep you coming back for more? Or do they all just get lost in the shuffle? What kinds of things writers do to promote their work annoy you? Would you buy their books even if you’re a little put off by their marketing?

What can authors do to make you feel special, and valued, as an individual? What can we do to convince you to be our reader?

 

Writer Wednesday: 10 Qualities Of The Perfect Critique Partner

This is Part 2 in my Writer Wednesday Critique Series. If you missed Part 1, Fresh Eyes is about the value of having someone else’s opinion of your work.

I recently joined a community, Ladies Who Critique, for female writers searching for Critique Partners, and I’m also a member of several other writing communities that have areas for members to post work for critique (crit). Others, like Book Country, place a great deal of importance on reading and critiquing other members’ work. As I meet more people in these communities, it becomes more obvious that many writers out there aren’t sure what makes a good critique partner (CP).

I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a few things, from having a perfect CP, and a few bad ones. Other writers post about their experiences, both good and bad, and conclusions they’ve reached. So, these are my conclusions of what makes an ideal CP, no matter the genre being critted. Some of these can develop as the person learns to crit, but others are more personality traits, and if they aren’t there, the person won’t make a good CP for anyone.

  1. Their criticism is constructive, aimed at helping the writer improve the work. No “This is dumb” or “I hate this character” remarks. Instead, “I don’t understand this”, and why, or “This character needs work on being consistent”, and why.
  2. They are objective. They don’t just praise a piece because they like the subject, or like the author. Likewise, they don’t tear a piece to shreds because of their own agenda. They give reasons for why they like or dislike passages. (Not following their own agenda is essential from the beginning.)
  3. They recognize that your story is yours, and that all the decisions are up to you. They don’t try to make you change it to suit their tastes. No “This character should use more swear words” or “There’s no need for the sex scenes to be explicit. You should change them” or “You know, she really should find a dead body there. That would make it more interesting”, unless those comments actually fit your story. (Not trying to take over your story is essential from the beginning.)
  4. They’re fair, pointing out the good as well as the bad.
  5. They treat you professionally. They don’t belittle you or your work, and they give you fair and useful critiques when they say they will. (Not belittling you or your work is essential from the beginning.)
  6. Their skill level at writing and critiquing will be similar to yours. You can’t expect a good crit of your nearly publication ready novel from someone who just started writing last week. They may have valuable input, but it probably won’t be as comprehensive as you need. Likewise, you can’t expect an author who has several published books selling well to take on a rank newbie as a crit partner.
  7. They will be familiar with your genre. Ideally, they read widely in your genre, and write it as well. Yes, good writing is good writing, no matter the genre, but each genre has its own conventions. If your CP isn’t familiar with the conventions of your genre, they may feel something is incorrect, when you’ve actually done it right.
  8. They are proficient in the mechanics of writing – grammar, spelling, punctuation, as well as sentence structure, dialog, exposition, etc. If they don’t know how to punctuate dialog correctly, they can’t spot your errors. These elements of writing are where many of us make mistakes, and we need them pointed out early on, so we don’t propagate the errors.
  9. They are familiar with voice (narrative, authorial, and character), style, pace, flow, concept, theme – the more complex elements of writing that many of us find difficult to grasp. We often need someone to point out that the pace is a bit slow there, or the authorial voice is too intrusive in that passage, etc. Some of these elements are beyond the skills of many writers, so someone with a similar skill level may not be familiar with them. In that case, in a long term CP relationship, both partners will ideally work together to learn the more advanced points. Or, once a writer has surpassed her CP in skill level, it might be necessary to find a new CP. That isn’t being disloyal, it’s doing what’s right for your book and your career. Besides, no one says you have to end the relationship with the original CP.
  10. Finally, they will be able to accept, as well as give, constructive criticism. By critiquing their work, you sharpen your skills and learn things you can apply to your own work. If they have a tantrum over every less than raving-in-awe comment you make, you feel uncomfortable giving honest crits. Often, these people will start to tear your work down, in an effort to get ‘revenge’ for comments they didn’t like. (Essential from the beginning.)

Next week: where to look for CPs.

Book Review: Short Stories by Angel

Angel

Born: November 19
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Angel was born in the small town of Humboldt,TN. She’s currently going to college
online at The International Academy of Design and Development going for her Associates degree in Web Design and Development.
Angel is a mother of two. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing video games, listening to music, reading, and relaxing.

Angelsworld
Angel’s LinkedIn Profile
Angel on Facebook
Angel on Twitter

Desires

A Short Story by Angel

Publisher: Sugar and Spice

Erotic Romance – Contemporary

Menage – f/f/m, m/f/m

Purchase “Desires” on Amazon

Blurb: Daphne is a single mom who isn’t sure if she’s ready for love and commitment. She was used to having her way. Almost every fantasy she’d ever had, Gideon fulfilled. Will she leave or will her every Desire come true?

Summary: Truck-driver Daphne fantasizes about sex with Star and Gideon. Gideon arrives and he and Daphne have sex, and he reveals he loves her. Her regular casual hook-up, Daemon, shows up and joins in the fun one last time.

My Thoughts: Nit-picky stuff first, distracting little crap. The mechanics of the writing are pretty good, without major grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, and I only spotted one or two typos. The sentences are fairly well constructed and easy to read.

There’s quite a bit of action between the sheets in this short story, but it isn’t as detailed as it could be. With little in the way of emotion or description of sensation, the sex scenes were almost – not quite, but almost – anatomy lessons. The character growth and conflict resolutions feel a bit contrived.

Angel spent a lot of time in the characters’ heads with them reflecting, and showing their backgrounds, rather than in current action or dialog. In a short story, there just isn’t enough words or time to do that.

Over-all, I’m giving this story 2 ½ Flames.

Wanting

   A Short Story by Angel

Publisher: Sugar and Spice

Genre: Contemporary Romance with Paranormal elements.

Hetero

Purchase “Wanting” on Amazon

Blurb: Heather and Jasper had been through everything together. After his divorce, she thought she’d never reach him again. Will she be able to heal him and his son?

Or will he forever leave her Wanting?

Summary: Jasper’s wife screwed him over, and his friend Heather was there to pick up the pieces. Heather puts her life on hold to help Jasper, but doesn’t admit to him that she loves him. He finally figures it out, and reveals that he loves her, too.

My Thoughts: The mechanics of the writing – grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence construction – are all good. I didn’t have to try and puzzle out what Angel was saying.

The story opens in real-time, but moves quickly into a long flash-back to show why Jasper’s head was so screwed up. I think the story would have been better served by limiting the flashback to a paragraph, two at most, and spending more time with the growth of Jasper’s relationship with Heather.

Jasper and Heather both spend time fantasizing about each other, with one real-time sex scene. There was some emotion and description of sensation, but the scenes didn’t get as much page-time as they deserved.

Heather is Pagan, a witch, and works spells to help Jasper and his son heal from the betrayal of his wife. Though the scene was a bit glossed over, the parts that were shown were accurate.

Over-all, I’m giving this story 2 ¾ Flames

Falling In

A Short Story by Angel

Publisher: Wicked Nights

Genre: Contemporary Romance with Paranormal elements.

Purchase “Falling In” on Amazon

Blurb: Miriam was in love with her best friend. Will her love be able to penetrate

the poison and ill content another woman has placed in his heart?
Or will she be forever ‘Falling In’?

Summary: Miriam is in love with her best friend, Sean, but he’s involved with another woman. When the other woman dumps him, he’s actually relieved. Miriam confesses her love, and Sean realizes Miriam is the one for him.

My Thoughts: Again, Angel shows good writing mechanics – grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence construction.

Angel spends quite a lot of time with the characters reflecting on their feelings, but it is balanced a bit with action and dialog, which keeps the story from being too slow. After Sean’s thoughts of wanting to work things out with his current love, I was surprised at how easily he accepted being dumped.

Miriam’s natural abilities and beginning study of witchcraft are well portrayed. Miriam’s lack of self-confidence seemed a little at odds with a woman who just tells her best friend that she loves him, out of the blue.

Overall, I’m giving this story 3 Flames.

Conclusion:

These stories feel to me like they’re written fairly early in a writer’s journey of learning the craft. As Angel continues to write, I believe she will grow and progress. She has potential that’s certainly worth watching.

Sharing Saturday

*Sigh* Fine. I’ll admit it. My name is Kenra Daniels, and I’m addicted…

…to Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy! You totally thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you? No? Okay, so I’m also predictable.

Anyway, I recently found — actually, it found me — a site that EVERY Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy enthusiast, reader or writer, NEEDS to bookmark.

GraveTells  is full of PNR/UF reviews of old faves and new releases, guest posts, interviews, and enough PNR/UF news to keep the fangirl in you satisfied.

Plans for more features are afoot, including a community forum, and something code-named “Shadowcat”.

It all adds up to an incredible resource for readers!

 

Book Reviews

In the coming weeks, I am going to add twice monthly book reviews to the blog. I’ll review Adult fiction of any Romance sub-genre, Urban Fantasy, Horror, basically anything with paranormal, occult, or supernatural elements. I’ll also consider Adult non-fiction dealing with paranormal, occult or supernatural subjects. I will consider books that haven’t yet been released, but have a release date, as well as already published books, new releases or backlists. Traditionally published, ePublished, and self published (Indie) works are all fine. Short stories, novellas, and novels, all considered. Any heat level, any kink, or any degree of violence is okay, though I refuse to review works with pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, rape as positive, bodily waste as erotic, or other content I consider objectionable.

** Note:  When I first decided to do reviews, it didn’t occur to me that I’d be asked to review Young Adult books because my own writing is adult, but I’ve had several requests for them. I don’t want younger readers coming here because the content isn’t really appropriate, and thus far, it’s been pretty tame. But in the future, I’ll be putting up excerpts and hosting guest posts, and other material that may be sexually explicit. I also don’t think it would be appropriate to follow up a YA review with one of an erotic romance, and, given my stated preferences, that is entirely possible. After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided I can’t, in good conscience, review Young Adult works. My apologies. ***

Reviews will be posted every other Monday, 8am EST. Authors can contact me directly with an email to kenradaniels AT gmail DOT com. I reserve the right to refuse to review a book, with the decision based on the back cover blurb or other information provided by the author. Reviews will be my honest opinion of the book, but will be tactful. No snark. Authors can schedule their review to be posted on the Monday of their choice, as long as the date is available.

The author (or their representative) is responsible for providing the book for me at their expense, in digital or print form, though digital is preferred, a minimum of one month before the review is scheduled to go up. Exceptions to the one month reading time will be considered on a case by case basis. The cover image, buy link, link to the author’s website or blog, and back cover blurb will be included in the review, as well as author name, genre, publisher, release date if applicable, and length. Authors are welcome to do short (750 words or less)  guest posts to go up with the review of their book. Longer guest posts can be scheduled independently.

Comments I consider abusive, derogatory, or offensive will be deleted, no matter who they’re from. I reserve the right to close comments if things get out of hand. Authors who pitch tantrums will not be considered for future reviews. I will not take down reviews because the author doesn’t like them. My reviews are targeted to readers, and not meant to be constructive criticism for the author’s benefit.

Okay, I think that pretty much covers it. Suggestions are welcome. These guidelines may change at any time and will be posted at the bottom of the Reviews Page for future reference.

So, if you know anyone who needs a review…

Romance Novel Pet Peeves Part 2

This one really isn’t about the actual novels, but about those who criticize Romance as a genre. In recent months, various people, from writers of literary fiction to someone calling herself an expert in psychology, have publicly bashed Romance.

Romance novels have been called everything from unrealistic and unimaginative to outright dangerous. The image of romance readers as vapid housewives fanning themselves and eating bonbons while reading about a pirate ravishing a virgin still prevails in some minds. The so-called danger comes in with accusations that Romance novels cause readers to have unrealistic expectations for their relationships. Readers supposedly expect their balding, slightly overweight accountant husband to behave like the virile, dashing hero. When the hero doesn’t fulfill those expectations, the reader becomes dissatisfied with her life.

While other genres are allowed to be blatantly unrealistic, with elves and fairies, aliens and spaceships, Romance is criticized for being unrealistic. The characters and relationships, the central focus of the book, bears the brunt of this criticism. A hero who is willing to listen to his heroine, or put her before himself, or even have her best interests at heart, is too unrealistic, as is the man who swoops to the rescue. Well, duh! The idea is to take the reader to a different place, where her dreams of the perfect man are realized, not where the man would rather watch the game and drink beer than spend time with her. The heroine draws her share of the hate, too, never mind that she’s meant to be the kind of woman the reader can wish circumstances allowed her to be.

And then there’s the belief that all Romance novels are written by the same formula. The only thing that changes, such critics say, is the name of the characters and details of the circumstances or conflict. This one is hard to refute at times, especially when some writers believe it as well. The fact is, some writers find a combination of factors that works for them, and continue to use it. Others start from scratch every single time. Part of what perpetuates this myth is that, in order to be a Romance, the focus of the novel must be the couple and their developing relationship, and there must be a Happily Ever After, or Happily For Now ending. Regardless of what other elements are present, if those aren’t there, it isn’t a Romance.

One of my favorites is the belief that Romance novels are easier to write than any other genre. People think all you do is plug the variables into the equation, add an exotic location, and viola, you have a Romance novel. Sorry, just not true. It doesn’t work that way. If anything, it’s more difficult to write a good romance, especially one of the many sub-genres. The author has to combine the romance with elements of another genre in a way that’s balanced, and satisfies the reader. A plot is absolutely essential. There has to be a source of conflict, either from outside sources, or internal – and in some cases, both. And the conflict must have a satisfactory solution.

And everyone knows Romance is full of poor writing and purple prose. Again, just not true. The quality of the writing in a Romance novel is just as high as any other genre. Sure, it might not be full of convoluted sentences and obscure words, but the standards are high for both traditionally, and e-published, novels. (Just like in any genre, self-published, or indie, novels vary in quality, depending on the ability of the writer and whether they’ve put the in the necessary time and work to prepare the book for publication.) As for the purple prose – yes, Romance novels written 20 or more years ago commonly used euphemism and purple prose to refer to the body parts and actions in intimate scenes. Social mores were different then, and the frank language of today wasn’t tolerated as well then. Today’s romances are written with mature language and eschew purple prose as much as any other genre.

To all those critics of Romance as a genre, I say: Our readers are educated and accomplished, from powerful CEOs, trial attorneys, teachers, parents and grad students. Our characters are as solid and well developed, maybe more so because of the very nature of Romance, as those of any other genre. Our stories are as well plotted and imaginative, and well written as those of any other genre. Our vocabulary is as complex and varied as as that of any other genre – with the possible exception of the fact that we don’t normally use obscure words that require our readers to stop every few sentences to refer to their collegiate dictionary. Yes, we write about fantastic heroes and heroines that our readers can imagine themselves in the place of. Rather than creating unrealistic expectations of relationships, our stories often inform readers of the ideal relationship. Sometimes, they have no other point of reference for ideal relationship standards. Yes, we do write fiction that allows our readers to escape their every day life for a while. Doesn’t everyone?

The following links are from both detractors and defenders of Romance as a genre.

What do you think? Are the critics right about Romance? Is their position founded on fact?