Friday, February 17, 2012

This Ain't no Travelling Pants or Sparkly Vampires Book

You can even buy a sparkly vampires necklace.
What makes popular literature? Or for that matter, what makes a movie popular? Or TV? Or music? Judging by all the critics out there, you would think that what people read, watch, and listen too is actually pretty low quality. For all the folk that hate Nickleback or Justin Beiber and claim they are manufactured, formalistic, or have no talent, those artists sure have a lot of fans. I've often thought the Grammy's has done  great job of rewarding one hit wonders over the years. Smart TV shows struggle for viewers and always sit on the edge of cancellation while reality drivel permeates our living rooms. And a really lame sequel (or sequels) can make an awful lot of money off of a decent (or sometimes still crappy) original. They make some really great movies from unknown books but those books were often not best sellers before the movie. It takes a visual representation to make a book popular.

I, for one, have always been mystified by the popular. Uggs boots are nice? Really? I'm not one to jump on bandwagons and what other people think is cool, I often don't see the point. I've never been a Lance Armstrong fan. And yeah, Mark Cavendish is hot, but I prefer his side-kick Bernie Eisel by a long shot.

This is perhaps a long winded way of saying that I doubt I could ever write a best seller. I have too quirky off-centred a way of looking at the world for that to happen. But it would be nice to break even on this venture. And breaking even requires that I sell about 300 books give or take in this up-coming Kindle venture of mine with my novel So, Save Me. The cheapest I can sell the book for, given my copywrite settings for Amazon is $2.99 which is already a dollar more than I intended to sell it for.

I did a lot of research reading 6 years ago in the months leading up to writing this book. I recognize that I am supposedly mature now and too old for these books, but I found that the majority of the books written for teens out there were gimmicky drivel. When I was 14 or 15, I wanted to read stories about relationships and friendships but I wanted the heroines in those books to be less than perfect. It bugged me that they were all goodie-two-shoes and wouldn't dare drink or smoke or go a little farther than they were supposed to with the guy at the party. At some point in their lives most teens do something a little rebellious.

I also often think that my own romantic expectations got screwed with by reading these books. I was inevitably set up for relationship failure. The guy's in these books were always emotionally deep and had great communication skills and I expected this in real life.  Let's face it girls, teenage boys are emotional midgets that for the most part don't know what to do after they kiss you while watching SCTV on their cousin's basement floor even though they'd been hanging over you and teasing you for months before getting the courage. [True story, by the way, and not one that appears in the book.]

So I wrote a book about a very flawed girl who doesn't always make great decisions and is profoundly confused about sex. She happens to be 18 because her author (i.e. moi) seems to live well inside the head of an 18 year old. Well if you are 18 and you live in Winnipeg, there is going to be alcohol and bars involved because our legal drinking age is 18. This is problematic because we happen to have one of, if not THE, youngest drinking age in North America.

And I'm not very good at imitating popular so I wrote the book that I wanted to write and to hell with what was going to sell. You will not find a group of girlfriends of all different shapes and sizes that magically fit the same pair of jeans.   The Travelling Pants series is actually not a bad series as far as teen books go (the movies are hollywood and chiche) but it was not what I wanted to write. The Sloppy Firsts series is great, though -- and it is not a movie.

About 4 years ago and after I had already finished writing So, Save Me (and probably my second novel too) being a connoisseur of teen fiction, I got stopped 4 times while shopping in Costco with the complete Twilight series in my cart. This is before the movies were made. I heard about the series, I can't recall where, but why I was being stopped was because four different women independently felt the need to tell me how absolutely amazing the books were.

Complete strangers. In a big box store.

I was pumped to read them. And after I started reading them I kept waiting for the magic to hit. And I waited and I waited.  And I waited.

It never happened. In fact, I read the first two books and I had to stop reading because to be honest, I was kinda disgusted.  In the time since the movies have come out the series has become a ubiquitous pop culture icon and of course the criticisms of it have been pretty vicious at times as a result. The more it sells, the more people seem to hate it. It was never the criticisms of bland writing with meaningless images that disturbed me. Whatever. Is it perfect literary writing? No. Far from it. But the books do read well and it is a good story. It wasn't the fakeness of it that bugged me. Sparkly vampires and oversized Werewolves aside, there are elements of the story that are immensely creative and amazingly not predictable.  It was the whining and the moping (Bella in general). It was the fact that the two lead male characters were controlling (Edward) and passive aggressive (Jacob) and they were being idealized.

I mean you don't have to write likeable characters. What scared me was that these two "men" ARE likeable and they get away with some despicable behaviours that are justified as being for poor Bella's own good as if this is what it means to be loved AND is the best and truest version of love in a healthy relationship.

I'm so confused. Whiny. Moping. Controlling. Passive-Aggressive. What is a healthy relationship?

I'm not writing this to dis-Twilight. It fully deserves its success. It just kinda scares me sometimes what gets chosen by society as "successful" -- in general, I mean.

I had to re-read So, Save Me twice in the last 6 months. This is my book that I once thought was perfect and not a word needed to be changed. It has been over 6 years since I wrote it and the date on the last draft was somewhere around May of 2006. What do I think of it now? It's still good. It's great actually. It tries a little too hard in places, in particular in the beginning when I was still getting my writing legs back. I can see where I was imitating others at times. I abhor imitation that is obvious. I especially hate when I realize I'm doing it. I fixed a lot of that, I hope, in my recent edits. But the book is still fun. I am very much a character writer so you know exactly who these kids are and what drives them when the book is done. But some of it astounds me with the punch it packs. Did I write that? Yes, yes, I did.

What packs a punch for me isn't going to be what packs a punch for you so I won't go into the details. Just read it when it comes out. And remember, I didn't write it for adults.

It is nearly ready for upload. It is ready actually. As you'll see by the photo below, on the iPad view shows the author's name as "Unknown" -- I have no idea how to fix this. There is no tangible way of getting help. I've posted in forums but the forums have some kind of point system for number of answers and helpfulness of that answer so I've mostly only had trite responses that don't really tell me what to do to fix it. Soon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You CAN Judge a Book By It's Cover -- I INSIST

Well, there it is. The choice. The very hard decision. The book cover image courtesy of Andrea from Tetro Design. (She needs no introduction.)  I'm happy. Very happy. Pretty excited although trying to be subdued about it. What do you think?

There is a long and interesting market study I did to come to this decision to pick the cover (I was presented with 2 options as you may or may not recall). I'm sparing you the entire story in favour of focusing on the important stuff this morning.

I've done a lot with the manuscript too. Last night I thought it was ready for upload so I put it into the preview program and there are a lot of things to fix. I have this cheeky idea that want it's publication date to be February 29th.

What's the book about? Here is the blurb, the same one I wrote 6 years ago, that will act as my Cover Flap sell, maybe with some edits.

Janey Gillis is a virgin, but would anyone believe it? She’s the kind of girl guys invite for a walk in the bushes but can’t be bothered to take to a movie. Her friends Gillian and Andrea, since hooking up with their boyfriends, have become clingy and whiny, have had twenty-five IQ points vanish from their heads, and now put their friends second. If that’s what it takes to have a boyfriend, Janey would rather stick to being the queen of making out. No commitments. But none of this stops Janey from fantasizing about the big romantic rescue – like some day she’ll find some guy she can save and maybe he’ll save her at the same time.

SO, SAVE ME, (a novel written for young adults ages 15+), is Janey’s hyper-reflective and introspective story about “love and friendship and screwing up.” While waiting to hear news about her friend Marc, who is in surgery following a motor vehicle accident, Janey flashes back over her summer after high school graduation when she’s invited to play softball with a new group of friends. Janey navigates a romantic relationship with Marc, a self professed “good French Catholic boy,” who grieves the recent loss of his mother from cancer in self-destructive ways, thinks nothing of driving after drinking, and pushes for sex as a way to feel emotion. After a period of awkwardness, Janey also develops a friendship with Colin, an injured former junior baseball star and one of Marc’s best friends. The problem? The previous summer Janey had an embarrassing encounter with Colin in the bushes at a bonfire party. And Janey senses there may be something about Colin that she missed out on when she pushed him away.

This is sorta surreal for me. Once I had the book uploaded in Kindle I could see it still has a lot of work needed. The indents are wrong, for one, and they are all over the place through the preview manuscript. I've been fighting with the friggen indents for days in Word. Somehow the table of contents became inactive in the transfer even though they are hyperlinked in the manuscript. Don't know how to fix that. Oh and the author is Unknown. Who the hell is this author?