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Messages - Athena Grayson

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Pet Peeve: Motivation that requires Explanation
« on: March 17, 2018, 09:14:08 PM »
I'm going to speak heresy here, but your mention of the V-man brought it to my mind.  I thought Voldemort was a weak (i.e., poor, or unimpressive) villain.  What WAS his plan?  World domination?  Yawn.  Big whoop, nothing interesting about that; it's fine for young (kid) readers, but for older readers, it's not enough.  I had the same issue with the Stargate TV series.  The Goa'uld were pretty good villains for a number of easons.  The Orii?  Not so much.

Voldemort's strength as a villain came from the changes he wanted to make to the world--his personal power didn't matter nearly as much as his personal entanglement with Harry (making the motivation very immediate--Harry had to get him out of his life/head/wand/etc. or they'd kill each other). Voldy was strongest as a representation of a worldview--aka the wizarding Nazis/bigots/racists win and get to shape the world to their views, where muggles were tormented at will, purebloods were the only ones with rights, and everyone else was subjugated to the powerful few.

A villain's primary purpose in the story is to give personification to the consequences of the hero's failure to achieve his goals. The Emperor in Star Wars is unchecked authoritarianism and oppression, the consequences of the Rebellion's failure. Darth Vader is the consequence of Luke's failure to be there for the people he cares about (which echoes the whole purpose of the Rebellion along the "all politics is personal" theme).

Motivations can be complex and subtextual and faceted as all get-out. Connect with the reader, though, by showing the consequences of success and/or failure in well-defined terms. The Fellowship of the Ring was about friendship, loyalty, working together, uniting the races and kingdoms of the third age to defeat Sauron by tossing jewelry into hot lava, but all that is complex and faceted and shows in the little, quiet scenes where hobbits talk about breakfast and humans argue over the appropriate uses of power and Sean Bean gets his contractual on-screen dramatic death. The *consequences* of their failure, however, are shown in simple scenes of armies of swarming Uruk-hai and acres of flaming Ents. Simple stuff, writ large. Get this done or else everything burns and orcs kill what's left.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Rant: Stop telling me you like my book!
« on: February 21, 2018, 06:40:07 PM »
Do people really ask friends and family to read and review books? Ick.

Yeah. If I have to make six metric tons of macaroni salad for the family reunion, then they can pony up a few bucks and say something nice about my book. It's a family thing.

In seriousness, I don't. My mother can't remember my pen name, and most of my family does not know how to buy things off Amazon. And we're not even Amish. I have one cousin and one aunt who read my stuff and remember who I am, but they don't live nearby and they don't tell me when they're reading or if they review.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is it wrong for me to choose a life of privacy?
« on: February 19, 2018, 08:53:22 AM »
People I know don't even have my picture.  ;D

Another option, for the "market yourself, not one book" angle, is to use a logo rather than a book cover. You won't have to change it 50 places every time you release a book, and there won't be any "who's this?" reaction when a strange avatar shows up in someone's social feed. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate designed by a professional, just something you don't mind being associated with at a glance. (Mine is my initials in the typeface used on my book covers.)

^^This. You don't have to expose yourself or your face to be consistent with branding. Pick an avatar or a brand logo and be consistent with it, rather than a single book or cover.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Throwing your readers into the deep end!
« on: February 11, 2018, 05:54:58 PM »
I throw them right into the deep end, but...

Since I detest exposition and description in block/bulk, I try to inform the reader as much as possible, as quickly as possible, as to what's important in the moment. I use lots of double-duty words and infer as much as possible. I don't say a character is old, I mention her smile or worry wrinkles, which denotes age, character and situational emotion. With exposition, readers have to memorize stuff, but by weaving information into the narrative, they get to experience it, learn it - which is much easier to remember.

Structurally, I usually start with a tight focus on who the MC is and then slowly broaden the circle to their surroundings, from the immediate, including emotions, to the larger world and its implications. The main thing I try to accomplish is to draw the reader in emotionally and engage their empathy, if successful, I can hold off on the action for a long time, building character and suspense and tension.

I'm generally not a fan of opening with action (because if I don't know the participants, the stakes, then I just don't really care what's going on) or in medias res, at least not in a stand alone or first book of a series; all of the rest of the books in a series are fair game for whatever, since the reader already knows the characters and setting and writing style. They've already bought in, so to speak.

^^This. I tend to care a little less if there's opening action because I haven't yet cared about anybody. I like starting out in deep POVs. I do get the occasional review that says the reader wasn't sure what was going on at first, but they almost always say, "but I was swept up and figured it out." I tend to trust readers to figure out the world as we go, because the characters already know, so they wouldn't be thinking their "As you know, Bobs" any more than they'd be saying them.

Writers' Cafe / Re: LibreOffice and eBook Formatting.
« on: February 11, 2018, 05:41:50 PM »
Me too! I love LibreOffice. I love that there's a program this functional and you can have it for free, legally.  :)

And I keep hoping we're going to someday get LibreCar and LibreMortgage among other Libres, but I guess I shouldn't hold my breath. LibreOffice developers if you're reading this, get on it!  8)

LibreCar will come first, but you'll have to drive it via the command line.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Banging Hot Beta Males
« on: February 06, 2018, 04:33:36 PM »
Lani Diane Rich gave a really good breakdown of alphas and betas in a talk she gave my RWA chapter a zillion years ago. Basically, in a threat situation, Alphas will hit first and ask questions when they get tired of hitting. Betas will ask questions first, then hit once in the exact right place and it'll all be over. Whether it's literal or metaphorical, Alphas will attempt to overpower or power through, but Betas will plan and strategize.

My own definitions are more archetypal: Warrior-King versus Philosopher-King.

I too agree with Ros in every way and try to write strong but decent to the core heroes. However, readers do stick labels on my guys, and what I've noticed is that the ones of my heroes that IMO would be the easiest husbands to live with are the ones they label beta - or to be fair, a noticeable number of reviewers label that way.

I don't know whether to be sad that so many people fantasize about having difficult relationships or what.

I'm no fan of "alpha-holes" either, but I will confess to the occasional hate-read to watch one be brought down. Like watching "World's Dumbest Criminals" videos or the like. But a steady diet? No thank you, I will leave that to others. The only author I've seen who can (or could, it's been awhile since I've read her and I am not sure if the suck-fairy has visited or not) pull off a just-this-side-of-alphahole is Anne Stuart.

I write beta heroes. I used to call them omega heroes because more often than not, they don't emphasize hierarchy in their worldviews. But after some googles led me into Rule 34 territory, I noped out of the whole alpha/beta/whatever thing altogether and I'm sticking with my archetypes.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How do you stay patient enough to write long books?
« on: February 01, 2018, 04:58:47 PM »

This is good advice, thanks. The TV series thing is something I hadn't thought of and you're right. You look at filmmakers like David Fincher and he's said he moved over to the Netflix model of late because it allows him to tell these longer, more involved adult stories - the kind of which the Hollywood studios have largely turned away from. Thinking about it now, you could break down a ten-episode series like 'Mindhunter' and use its narrative structure to plot a novel in a similar genre. You've got my brain percolatin' now, thanks for that.  8)

Look at what the Wachowskis did with Sense8 that they couldn't do with Jupiter Ascending.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How do you stay patient enough to write long books?
« on: February 01, 2018, 07:53:47 AM »
Gah! How dare you! Now I'll be humming that tune for weeks! Weeks I tell you!

Or better yet...I can fight fire with FIRE!

*hits play*

You can pants
You can write
Having the time of your life

Ooh, see that girl
Watch that screen
Dig in the pantsing queen

Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out to tell not show
When to plan the right plot beats
Getting in the swing
You better get typing

Every indie should just try
Night is young and the caffeine's high
Writing can be confusing
Everything is fine
You're in the mood to pants

And when you get the chance

You are the pantsing queen
Tired, unclean
Chapter seventeen

Pantsing queen
Save the tears for the editing, oh yeah

You can pants
You can write
Having the time of your life

Ooh, see that girl
Watch that screen
Dig in the pantsing queen


Seriously, though, don't sweat your book length. Let the story be what it is. If you want to write longer, watch how they do it on modern TV series. There's a long-form story in between the episodic shorter arcs.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Kindle Unlimited on the way out?
« on: January 31, 2018, 03:40:16 PM »
Has anyone considered the "3 months for 1.99" is a(n admittedly low) barrier to entry to try to control the clickfarm/bot accounts that use the "one free month" with a disposable email address in order to sell services falsely inflating page reads?

Has anyone considered that KU is not only a lending library you pay for, but also an infomercial channel you pay to use? Any time I go to an Amazon book description page, I see about 40% of its real estate devoted to Things That Are Not That Book--other books, sponsored books, product display books, three or four little ribbons with other departments, products, and streaming/digital content. All things to attract me from the page (one-click? Maybe not? Doesn't matter--I'm paying them for my eyeballs on the stuff they want me to want, AND I'm paying them to take my habitual information--how long I stay on the page, where I stop scrolling, the heat map of where I'm clicking versus where I'm not, etc).

But I'm also paying them so I can access nonfiction and indie publishing guides, many of which would cost me more than I currently make in book sales, so there's that. I'm getting a little, they're getting a little (more than I'd like to, but it is what it is).

Writers' Cafe / Re: How do you stay patient enough to write long books?
« on: January 31, 2018, 03:16:59 PM »
If you aren't putting your outline on a pair of dungarees and wearing them as you write, you ain't a real writer, bro. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT!!!


You can pants if you want to
You can leave your friends' outlines
Cause your friends don't pants and if they don't pants well they're
No friends of mine.

You can go where you want to
Your story's in your mind
Write about things from out of this world
Or the real one, if you like.

You can pants (outline!)

If you get lost, you can outline
It couldn't hurt to try.
You can plot real neat
Weave in action, theme, and beat.
Add sidekick death to make 'em cry.

Mix it up 'cause you want to
If you don't nobody knows
You can write act 3 before you write act 2
And add layers by fleshing out foes.

You can pants
You can pants
Write yourself out of control.
You can pants
You can pants
Plot structure gives you your tent poles.

You can pants
You can pants
It might take you more than one draft.
You can pants
You can pants
It's one good way of learning the cra--a--aft.

It's safe to pants
It's safe to pants

You can pants if you want to
Even within an outline
As long as you can use it
Even if forums abuse it
Use whatever makes it work out right.

It's safe to pants
It's safe to pants
Yes it's safe to pants


Writers' Cafe / Re: Let's talk about shifter romance
« on: January 21, 2018, 04:54:02 PM »
Actually, I've been writing PNR for five years and a lot of men read it as well. There is no bestiality in PNR that's just gross.
You know not to say that where The Internets can hear you, right? <g>

Why do women love shifters? They're edgy, they can kill and have that conflict deep inside, and who doesn't love danger? They are silent heroes. They mate for life, love unconditionally, and are faithful forever. You never have to wonder if he's the one, if he'll leave, or if he'll have an affair. He's yours and you're his - simple.

He wants kids and will be an exceptional father. His whole inner world is centered around family and pack, and he'll crawl over broken glass a thousand times and fight demons to protect that. He can and will kill to protect what's 'his'.

Is he perfect? Nope, he has flaws and apart from the obvious one, he's generally a male chauvinist character, domineering, 'get behind me',  me-Tarzan-you-Jane, but even some feminists like that. And let's hear it for the fact that he has the stamina of an Olympic champion and the moves to give anyone a HEA or three.

Let's be honest, who doesn't want a tame wolf as the family pet?

Shifter romances tend to explore the concept of "manimal" much closer to the surface. The appeal for many readers is to see the story arc of a man with an animal inside who must overcome that "inner beast," but can only do so through the love of a good woman.

Personally, I would settle for my children acting like *tame* wolves instead of the feral critters they are...

Writers' Cafe / Re: Feedback on female body cover illustration
« on: January 19, 2018, 11:11:25 AM »
The neck and the sideboob. I think if she's large-busted it'd be okay (although with proportions like that, if there's not a subplot in there about just that, you might get a little side-eye) because women do come in many shapes and sizes. But right now, the illustration to me tells me to expect either a big dose of "busty dame" male-gaze, or a character whose curvy proportions are going to be a trope.

But the thing that stands out most to me is that the sideboob is unreal and emphasized so because of the lack of drape of the jacket. Jackets are structured and made of fabric which is flat. The geometry to make something flat fit around something that is (decidedly) not-flat is such that a jacket in realistic illustration would have darts, seams, and in this case, boning, to make it conform to the curves. And even then, without a LOT of spandex, it would not mold perfectly to her body. It would hang down and not stick to her waist. There would be folds where the fabric bunches at her underarm/armscye as the fabric pulls out to curve around the bust. The link below is of a pinterest pin with a full-bust woman wearing a shirt to illustrate the point. And even though the shirt is not as super-fitted as the illustration's jacket suggests, you can see how the fabric pulls around the armscye and side seams and requires darts to shape it to the curve of the bust. This may be way more than you asked for.

"Dear Mr. Trump, I have said Very Bad Things about you in all my books. Signed, Athena Grayson"

And now we wait...

Writers' Cafe / Re: Play to readers' prejudices or challenge them?
« on: January 09, 2018, 10:51:03 AM »
It comes down to knowing who your audience is, and whether or not they trust you enough to push them into new territory. If you write in a genre that's known for "new territory" like sci-fi. A big element of romance is that the territory is familiar, but the iterations are unique, so that's an audience that relies on expectation a bit more. Doesn't mean you can't push them, but it does mean you do so at a little greater of a risk. And for the record, the president of RWA back in, I think, 1999, was a gentleman who wrote under a female pseudonym

Romance gets to be a very unique unicorn, though. Because it's a woman's genre, and almost exclusively dominated by women, looking at it like a gender-neutral genre forces you to leave out a facet of it that can't be separated from the greater environment. Also, its very history has noms de plumes baked into it. It wasn't that long ago when no author owned her (or his) pen name and if you left your publishing house, the pen name stayed.

In the other thread, people were pointing out that readers treated their romance groups as "safe spaces" and that's unique to the situation precisely because of the world we live in. So I get that there's a double-standard for people choosing neutral or male names that don't reflect their identity, versus choosing female names. Also not to be entirely ignored is the fact that thanks to the puritanical origins of our society, romance and erotica (and the communities that surround the genres) are sometimes the only sex ed open to a lot of women. So when the talk gets frank, I think romance authors who are active in communities where this happens do sort of have a responsibility to be worthy of that trust and not misrepresent themselves.

I subvert and lampshade tropes so much that I'm thinking of changing my pub company name to "Upside-Down Lamp media." While I've been told my writing style has more of a "male voice" than a female one, I still write more about people and less about pew-pew, although there is plenty of pew-pew. I challenge a handful of reader prejudices just by existing.

But I don't think they're as bright-line solid as we might think. Sure for some people, they'll never touch a book that looks like it doesn't tick all the boxes, but that goes as much for genre tropes, cover elements, and titles as well as author names. I already know those people aren't my audience. My worldviews tend to bleed into my work, but I doubt I'm the only one. And you're welcome to label me as a Social Justice Warrior, but if you want to get technical about it, I'm a Social Justice Shaman with energy management issues, so I'm good for off-DPS during a burn phase as long as the glass cannons stay out of stupid and the tanks hold aggro and pop their cooldowns.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Best Bookbub 99-cent strategy
« on: January 09, 2018, 08:44:31 AM »
Up-front disclaimer: I've never gotten a book bub OR been in Robin Reads, and am basically making plankton money, so I went to Rural King and bought you a salt lick to take this with. <g>

I'd go for the RR ad, if you have the money for it. RR is one of the big results-getters these days, so if you're looking to maximize your exposure, they'll help. 8 days is long enough for you to begin to sink again in Amazon algos, if you care about them, so you'll get a little juice as you're beginning to deflate. AND if the Zonbots end up rank-stripping you, that crap usually lasts 3 or 4 days (with sometimes-devastating consequences for BB tails) and this RR ad will hit hopefully after the Zonsense has cleared up to keep you lofty for maybe long enough to get sticky.

That's my take from the plankton side. :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Anyone else receive this email? (Book Brawl)
« on: January 08, 2018, 05:40:31 AM »
By pitting your book against another, they're encouraging you to do the heavy lifting to bring your fans to their site so that you get the upvotes. Problem with that is that if you're going to do all that heavy lifting to bring people somewhere, why not bring them to Buy pages for your books directly?

Plus, any system that "gamifies" can be *gamed.* Three minutes after the site reaches some arbitrary critical mass, the little side-hustles will pop up overnight. "Get 1000 upvotes for your Book Brawl entry for just 19.95!" aaand we'll be back to bots, botting books to other bots to garner bot-likes and reads by other bots. Either this is how the robots take over, or this is what we do to distract them so they don't take over. Pick a dystopia.


Incidentally, that 2 year experiment of the misnomered "net neutrality" (a bit Orwellian, that) has resulted in a decline in investment & development of internet infrastructure & technology because the carrot to do so has been eaten by the government.

At the behest of companies like AT&T and Comcast. Note how Google Fiber has been blocked at the municipal level in many places, along with any attempt by municipalities themselves to put forth "municipal fiber" or internet access. Because that would be "competing" with private entities and the gubmint that everyone insists is too incompetent to tie its own shoes apparently would do such a good job at such cheap rates that the Titans of Private Industry would be driven to the poorhouse. But here's the thing. If the gubmint did a crap job, we could vote the illegitimi out every few years. When the cable company does a bad job, we suck it up and keep paying our bills because there's no other option short of another part of the country where the same company has another stranglehold. And make no mistake, when we move, I'll be looking at broadband access as a critical point.

Net Neutrality should have been regulating the internet as a utility. As someone who lives in the boondocks, I personally had to beg Time-Warner on bended knee to get broadband out here. Of course, they wouldn't talk to me as a resident, but they had all the time in the world for me as a small twice the price. I'm very fortunate in that I have means. And by means, I mean I "knew a guy." Not everybody "knows a guy." Utilities make it out here because they're mandated to do so. Things that are not utilities--like pizza delivery and up until a few years ago, internet, did not.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Trade Reviews?
« on: December 07, 2017, 03:34:23 PM »
Midwest Book Review? My crit partner sent them her first indie a few years back and they reviewed it. I don't remember if she paid (if she did, it wasn't much), but she got a nice pull-quote from it. That did just about nothing, although I hear Bookbub thinks they matter.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Could this work to monetise short stories?
« on: December 07, 2017, 07:25:16 AM »
You could always just put Google AdSense on the page where the story is and monetize it that way. More passive and a little more universal for folks who aren't in the sphere of your local energy provider.

Remember the mantra: everyone on the internet has A.D.D. Anything you do that takes your readers AWAY from you risks sending them away for good as they follow down the rabbit hole that is the internet.

I need to cross-stitch this on a sampler the size of a wall.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Advice on using the "n word" in books
« on: December 06, 2017, 06:34:09 AM »
To the OP: look for or put out a call for a "sensitivity reader" when you are ready to beta. A sensitivity beta will read with a special eye for how you handle their subculture if you're not a member of that subculture. There are worlds of nuance that outsiders don't get but insiders do. Consider it like historical research - you wouldn't try to write about Haight-Ashbury in the 60's without contacting some hippies, and you wouldn't try writing about Regency England without doing your due diligence on the social habits and language of the day.

This is all going to be the whitest [crap] I've ever written, but... I'd love to write (and honestly, speak) using [the n-word] as its usually used these days. As a relatively young New Yorker and a basketball player I hear it constantly, and I just think it's kind of brilliant. There's no real equivalent to it. It can be endearing, used to show outrage, or absurdity, or disbelief, or camaraderie, or respect, or love, it really is just kind of a beautiful word. I know that sounds strange.

I've had dudes I play ball with tell me I should just say it and not care. They're usually much younger than me. I can't really bring myself to because to me, it's a matter of respect to them that I not say it. Honestly though, I'd love to. All the time I'm in situations where I want to use it just because I literally can't think of any other word that conveys what it conveys, but I don't use it because it feels kind of wrong.

Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

The price we pay for having all the white privilege in America is that we don't get to say the N-word and have it come off as anything but blanch-worthy (pun intended). In this one instance, this is where white people are judged institutionally (uncomfortable, innit?). The uniqueness and expression that comes with the word isn't currently available to white people (and it may never be, or perhaps it will be in some distant future). As another poster upthread said:

Some real world things just don't translate well on paper, especially if you're not intimate with the culture. We can always tell. Linguists even have a hard time explaining why natives can pick up on things that non-natives can't.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Failed marriage, writing, and starting over. Advice?
« on: December 05, 2017, 04:23:18 PM »
Man, that sucks. I'm sorry. There's some good advice on this thread. The *strategy* hasn't changed, and probably never will (write the best books you can, write good books people want to read, etc.), but the tactics go back and forth. Focus on content, because that's the stuff that sticks around. Finish book 3 and start working on a new series. Give yourself some time to figure out what your working pace is before you over-schedule or dig yourself into a hole.

Also, don't forget to give yourself time to heal. Going from having no time to write to All The Time to write is a bit of a culture shock in the best of situations. Your mental state is something to consider. Treat yourself better than she treated you.

"Choose a work of popular genre fiction from a modern day author and discuss the themes and elements of fictional construction used to portray the subject matter, and support a thesis statement that declares whether or not the author has met the requirements of the genre."

While it's odd-seeming as a product review, it does make a nice term paper. I hope the writer got a good grade.


My first series went 13 books, because I locked myself into a timeline. I can see in the stats where after 9, there is a huge drop off. 12 and 13 were about as good as my books get, and yet, they flopped really badly in comparison to the rest. I basically peaked at 5, because 6 was too different, and after that, it slides into oblivion. These days, I see a lot of people give up after book 5.

The other issue is cost. Free #1, but the rest at $4.99, makes 13 books an expensive read. 6 books would be an acceptable read, so 2 6 book series in the same universe, but completely different, would most likely sell better. I'm ending my current spin off at 6.

Hi Tim,
You've had an amazing journey thus far and I'm grateful you chose to share it here. It might not be apparent to you, but your season has changed - success is no longer an "event" but a process to you. Once you have reached some value of "success" your focus should naturally shift to "sustainability." This isn't something unique to us writers or to indie publishing. It's time for you to figure out how you are going to "level up," and I wish you luck and joy in that endeavor.

Having said that, I pay attention to what some longer-term heavy-hitter romance writers do. Romance series frequently are more interconnected books or "continuity" series than they are about the same people having adventures over multiple titles - the long-form story takes a backseat to the spotlight couple, so to speak. One thing that contributes to their staying power is to have multiple "points of entry" into a series or continuity. It's harder to keep promoting the same old Book 1 after multiple times, when you're launching a book 7 or 9. But if you have another point of entry closer to the current release (say, a side story, an in-universe story, or a "spinoff" series), that provides another point of entry into the universe you've created AND another, fresher book to promote.

9 books feels intimidating to the "non-whale" reader, but 3 omnibuses (omnibii?) might not. Especially if you're going wide. Offering higher-priced collections on other sites besides Amazon can help you attract readers at higher price points and of different consumption habits. It's worth a shot, at least.

Anyway, your journey is still very worthwhile, so I hope you continue to keep updating. And keep enjoying the ride. :)

RTW, those are some nice numbers!

Ram, I'm looking into scheduling a 99-cent promo for a first in series that's not been discounted in about a year, but I'm looking to schedule the promos out over two weeks as a way to do a more consistent build-up. Can the promo-stacker packages accommodate that?

Writers' Cafe / Re: Confessions...
« on: November 14, 2017, 11:07:37 AM »
I still reflexively double-space after a period when I'm on a roll.
I'm an introvert that looks like an extrovert.
I will someday subvert ALL the tropes. I will tip every sacred cow.
I write a lot of run-on sentences and I'm not sorry at all.

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