Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Testing Ping.fm function.

Do you write to live or live to write?

This question has bugged me for a few days, since I've followed a thread on a writer's message board about writing for the masses versus writing for yourself. The initial post summarized an author's thoughts of one publisher's assertion that in order to be a bestseller of erotic romance, you have to write a specific sub-genre. Using my incredible skills of deduction, I figured out the publisher and paid a virtual visit. Sure enough, eight of ten top sellers listed for the month were that sub-genre. This revelation left the author pondering whether she should try the sub-genre - one she doesn't write - for herself and see if it makes a difference.

Naturally, the publisher in me considered the subsequent posts from other authors. I contributed briefly, yet there was much more I wished to add. However, as a publisher, I do become skittish at times for fear somebody might misinterpret my words. It's difficult to smoothly switch author and publisher hats, even when you are not as prominent as other eBook pubs. Let's see if what I have to say makes any sense, or waves.

In reading the thread, I don't think the publisher was trying to dictate what an author should write in order to sell well. If anything, the assertion to new authors (I was told the initial advice was directed to that audience) might have served as a guide to selling well with that particular publisher. The sub-genre in question isn't one that breaks records with us, though some of our authors have done well with it. Phaze has two sub-genres of erotic romance that perform extremely well. If you have kept track of our bestseller lists, you have an idea of what they are. However, not every title in those sub-genres has done well.

I believe in order for a title to perform well, you naturally need more elements than the sexual preference. For the sake of clarity, let's say Incredible eBooks, Inc. does a bang-up (heh) business in menage romances, particularly MFM. Everytime a new bestseller list is posted, all the titles are heavy on the MFM threesomes - some HEA, some not, but three is the magic number. It would be expected that the publisher, wanting to stay in the black, tends to call for more similar stories to keep readers coming (double heh). A new MFM from an established IeI author is released and sells well. The publisher then banks on another author, new to IeI, with an MFM, expecting good results. Instead...flop.

What happened? The books was well-written, chock full of three-way action, and the publisher sent the book through the same PR channels as other titles. Why did it fail? There could be a number of reasons. Perhaps the author did little to promote the book, or maybe regular IeI readers overall felt skittish taking a chance with a new author as opposed to an established one. Maybe the book was historical as opposed to contemporary, and that combination turned off readers. So perhaps the scope of the publisher is further limited by this discovery?

I would hope not.

Please bear in mind I'm not saying that all new authors will stumble the first time out of the gate, or that new authors aren't apt to succeed in self-promotion as established writers. In my experience as a publisher, I have seen debut authors roar up the lists, and I have seen them fizzle. I have prepared books I on which I would have bet the farm to explode, only to seem them actually explode in my face. I have seen established authors release a book to middling sales compare to backlist titles, only to come back again with another book. I'm sure, too, some authors could tell you that their titles perform better at Publisher A than at Publisher B - stories of similar genre, too. Why do the readers not cross to buy the rest? Is it bias? Is it cover art? I wish I knew.

I have experienced this myself. I have titles with Phaze, Samhain, and Liquid Silver. My Phaze titles bang then plateau into a comfortable monthly pattern. My Samhain title did the same, but my LSB book...poof. I do take responsibility for that, however. The timing on Love's DoMINion was overshadowed by the abrupt exit of Phaze's publisher. Just as I signed the contract for LD, I was issuing contracts to new Phaze authors. I wasn't prepared to balance both hats on my head, and unfortunately this nice, hot little romance I adored suffered as a result. The planned sequel has gone unwritten and more than likely may not come to light.

Am I off topic yet? Was I ever on?

Getting back to publishers dictating what to write in order to sell, I wouldn't do it myself. Yet, I won't fault a publisher for doing so. A publisher needs to sell in order to survive. Give the readers what they want. If a publisher finds the M/M is selling like hotcakes, they are going fire up the griddle. Case in point, I have seen quite a few authors who once wrote a specific genre now venturing into M/M. I don't blame them - it is a hot genre in erotic eBookdom right now. Would I tell an author she/he needs to write M/M to be a Phaze bestseller? No. Like I said, not every M/M title we do lights our sky with sales, and I won't guarantee success. I don't promise the moon, but I do my damndest to help build a good rocket to get there - editing and proofing, cover art and promotion. The author, I hope, will co-pilot the ship well.

I like to believe that the books that sell well are those created with passion. An author who puts everything into a book, regardless of subgenres and sexual situations, will find that passion can extend to readers if it's radiated correctly. You wrote a book, tell the world! I suppose that's why my Dareville stories do better than other works - not necessarily because there are more of them, but because I love to write them. I love that little town I created, and the people therein. I want to explore Dareville further, and I think as I do readers will follow.

So, should you write a menage or an M/M or an interracial because that is what is selling with your publisher right now? Look at it this way: write the menage, M/M, whatever because it is what YOU want to write, because THAT is your passion. If you're going for the brass ring, reach with both hands.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Virginia is for Luv-vahs

After much tinkering with Paint Shop Pro, and in anticipation of the new Dareville site, I've been poking around CafePress, making all sorts of promo goodies. You can see a preview of the Dareville shop via Phaze's CafePress store. I have a few designs up now, but in the future I plan to have some buttons and bumper stickers made for RT and other signings.

I'm really looking forward to doing more with the series. I wrote another thousand words at lunch today, bringing the total for The Dares That Bind to 2500. The target is HeatSheet length, around 10K, but I have a feeling it will be a bit longer. I realize in order for the kink to be believable there should be some interaction between the characters that doesn't involve the whips and chains. In reading some feedback on erotic romance, one common gripe is that stories often work like this:

"Hi," she said.
"Hi," he said. "Wanna fuck?"
"Okay."

Well, not like that, but you get the idea. In this age of hotter, faster, sexier we may tend to ramp up the sex at the expense of the story. Of course, readers buying an erotic book expect erotica, so you can't leave them hanging too long to the point that they are checking their watches as they read. With this story, I will try to maintain that balance between spice and reality.

As real as one can get with nipple clamps, anyway.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's the Great Pumpin', Charlie Brown

Thanks to you, YouTube, we now have the opportunity to look back and cringe upon shows watched that we once thought cool, or unique. Yesterday's hip is today's cheese, yet when I look back I can still find a modicum of intellect that isn't present in the contemporary fascination with reality television. Case in point, a timely topic: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. One could argue it doesn't get any weirder than this. Never again are we going to experience a more diverse cast of characters than Paul Lynde, Gene Simmons, Margaret Thatcher, and Tim Conway sharing the same soundstage. It's like The Surreal Life on acid, dusted with rhinestones:


It's gaudy, it's bewildering, and the jokes are corny. We watch Paul Lynde, a man once described as "gayer than Christmas" trussed up like Liberace and hitting on Pinky Tuscadero and we accept it as plausible. We think to ourselves, "What in holy hell were Gene and Paul smoking to agree to something like this?"

And yet, compared to something like E's The Girls Next Door, this is something I'd prefer to watch. I think I've seen two episodes of that show, where cameras follow Hef's three bunny girls around Europe. I'm watching the youngest roll her eyes and offer such thought-provoking insight as, "Yeah, we were in Rome last night. It was nice, but the buildings are like, old and junk."

Stunned pause here.

Consider the civilizations, the learned men who once sat in those hallowed "old buildings and junk." All I could do was watch and hope Hef left enough in his will for her to get by later in life. Have to wonder if Margaret Hamilton would have appreciated the trip more.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Porno Inferno


The first X-rated film I ever saw (outside of a "legitimate" film like Midnight Cowboy and Last Tango in Paris) was this Ged-awful beach romp called Baby Cakes. I don't recall too much of the storyline (such as it was), but I remember it was about this young girl who aspired to be a bicycle racer. She had two really horny friends - what biker doesn't? They rent out a beach cottage and the horny chicks hook up with two horny guys. Kismet. The two horny guys have a friend who experiences a meet-cute with Biker Chick, and...the memory is fuzzy, but I'm sure there was a lot of sex. A hotel maid gets nailed somewhere along the way, too.

Baby Cakes looked and sounded as though it were filmed in the 70s. The credits boasted talent with names like Misty Dawn and Seymour Cox, and everybody either sported hairspray flybacks or bushy 'staches. I saw the film probably a good twenty years after it was made at a drive-in called the Playtime. By day, it was this shit-hole of a flea market. By night, ooh la la. For years we had driven past its omnious sign, white with bold red letters, advertising some clever blue title. Interestingly enough, the place was a quarter mile from my church. We used to joke about it.

When I did finally take the opportunity to go, however, I was very disappointed. The sound speakers were of poor quality, and thanks to the state's blue laws the films had to be heavily edited - the Playtime had been raided often back in the day. In other words, no money shots. Not even Monopoly money shots. Just miles of chicka-wa-wa music, skinny bobbing asses, and O faces tinged with rouge. The next movie I saw there was the sequel to Debbie Does Dallas. I estimate we didn't even get past Grapevine on that one.

Eventually, the Playtime stopped peddling the Swiss-cheese porn and showed second-run movies. Triple feature for a few bucks per car. Sounds like fun, but the grainy films and bad sound (even when they switched to using the AM band in car radios), provided no improvements.

So I learn today an Anglican church bought the old Playtime, which now borders a Catholic nursing home built on the property of my old church. While cleaning up the place, they unearthed about 100 vintage X-rated reels and decided to have a good old fashioned celluloid BBQ. Yee haw! There were singing, I'm sure, and kids got to take turns holding the fire hose. We never did stuff like that in CYO. I feel cheated.

Also, I feel a bit sad. Not because the Playtime inspired me to write erotic romance. Like hell it did. If anything, the need for me to prove that sex could be written better than the crap at the Playtime prompted me to enter this double life. To me, it's the end of an era. For years I watched that section of the Westside develop to the point I no longer recognize the sights of my youth. Use to be there was absolutely nothing between our church and the town of Orange Park going down Blanding Blvd. except the Red Barn BBQ. A Ford dealership sits there now, and the street is bloated with strip malls and other curiosities. Throughout college and occasional visits home, I'd still see that fading Playtime sign and think it was nice that something still remained, even though the Playtime was never really a part of my life. It was a drive-in theatre, one of the last in the city, and to see that go just hearkens the death of something we may never reclaim.

I wonder if Baby Cakes was among the films burned. Maybe it's a fitting end to a really bad film, yet there's a part of me that would like to remember how it ended. I'm sure sex was involved.

Today's Chocolate


While at this nice wine store in Chesapeake, I picked up a package of Taza Chocolate, vanilla flavored. This is organic, stone ground chocolate, created in the manner of old Mexico. It comes in two thick discs, wrapped in wax paper. The idea is to grate a disc into hot milk to make drinking chocolate, though the wrapper implies that it may be eaten as well. Having just sampled half a disc, however, I'd be more inclined to make the drink.

It is not that the chocolate is bad. It is dark and has a decided quality snap. It is very sweet, which could be from the vanilla, but I am guessing the "stone ground" nature of the chocolate accounts for the gritty texture. Imagine somebody taking a scoop of Folger's Crystals and packing them tight into bar, then biting into it. Not the same flavor sensation, but you might expect to feel a bit of sand between your teeth.

I'm going to try the second disc in a drink, now that the weather is colder. I did also get a traditional Taza bar (70% cacao) so I will report on that shortly as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

She's just an excitable gal...

Here's the new cover for the upcoming omnibus, Excitable Gals, due from Loose-ID on November 25. This is a collection of two stories, interracial with paranormal elements. The first story is a menage as presented in the cover, the second a werewolf romance. Both stories are connected through the two "excitable" gals who work together on the sci-fi con circuit. I'm working on second edits this weekend and excited myself for the outcome.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm November's Book Club Pick!

Now it can be told: Dare to Dream is the November Book Club selection at All Romance eBooks! Have to tell you, I was dead shocked when I got the e-mail with the good news. Considering that the past selections this year have included titles by Debbie Macomber, Bianca D'Arc, and Lynne Connolly, I feel honored to be included among the great titles chosen by ARe. When I sent the work in I was curious if DTD had a shot, considering it is the fourth in a series. But it is written to somewhat stand alone (you don't have to do too much research to enjoy it), and hopefully this pick will generate some backlist interest as well.

This is the third Phaze title to be picked, the other two being Sammie Jo Moresca's wonderful Smolder and Sarah Winn's delightful For Old Times' Sake.

So thank you, ARe, for the honor. I'll be happy to chat with readers at the Book Club on November 20. Thank you, Debi, for the awesome cover, and thank you, Denise, for your editing skill, and thank you, Loukie, for your eagle-eye proofing.

You don't know what this means to me. There was a time I thought this book wouldn't be written, because of the increase in my workload and my parenting duties. I came to write DTD following a massive case of writer's block and depression. I sat in the library of the A.R.E. writing this story in spiral notebooks, then transcribing everything to the computer. How weird is that - writing the book at the A.R.E. to be chosen by ARe? This book saved my sanity, in a way, and from this I've written Daringly Delicious and outlined two follow-up stories. Just goes to show when you dare to dream, good things happen!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This Week's Chocolate


I may not blog it daily, but I'm certainly enjoying it. :) I've been going back and forth on two bars: the Dark Chocolate Santander (65%) Colombian single origin, and something from Nestle simply called Nestle Black. I haven't been able to find a decent picture of the latter on the net. It is an import, that I know from the foreign scribbling riddled with umlauts and accent marks on the back label. From what I can pick out, this bar is 51%, though it's bitter and therefore tastes darker than the Santander. It's weird to try them side by side because of the multitude of flavors that come.

Where the Santander is sweeter and milder, the Nestle Black is comparable to the Choco-diffusion minis I had earlier this year. There is almost a coconut aftertaste to it. I can't say I would choose a favorite among these two - neither one particularly knocked my socks off, but the Nestle might make for a good palate cleanser should I need it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ben and Jerry in '08

The latest edition of Ben and Jerry "Chunkmail" sent to my inbox informs me that all scoop shops will give a free scoop to anybody on November 4th who comes in with an "I Voted" sticker.

Would you believe, too, that there is a Ben and Jerry's literally right around the corner from my polling place? Vote early and often, indeed.

I knew an author in the North Carolina area who got a local ice cream shop to create a flavor to promote her book. Of course, it was a collection of mommy humor columns a la Bombeck, so I imagine it was easy to do. I could propose that somebody design an ice cream comparable to my writing career, but I dread the inevitable fallout of snarkiness:

Pithed ice cream? Vanilla with a hint of formaldehyde and bits o'frog?

Saints Preserve Us? "Saintly" strawberry preserves mixed in with decadant chocolate? Each bite comes with a dose of Catholic guilt and a brain freeze to knock you blind.

The erotic stuff? Don't even think it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's Gaylactic! The Healing shortlisted.

Just found out, courtesy a Google alert, that The Healing was shortlisted for the Short Fiction award at the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards last weekend! Many Phaze titles have been nominated for the Spectrums over the last years, but I believe this is the first time we made a finalist roster. I am beyond chuffed to hear this. Hearing this news, along with something else I hope to share in the near future, really buoyed my spirits. That one of the judges of the awards paid a nice general compliment of the shorts on his LiveJournal is a plus, too.

So congrats to the winners and my fellow shortlisters (list from andyhat's LJ):

Winner: "Ever So Much More Than Twenty" by Joshua Lewis (So Fey)

Shortlist:

I had planned for ages the prequel to The Healing, which would have told the story of Julian and Dan's meeting and coming together as a musical act. Of course, life got in the way of those plans. Perhaps that is something I will revisit soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

She Knows What to Read


Coming Together For the Cure gets it props today on SheKnows.com's video podcast on products helping breast cancer awareness. We're on right after the BMW plug.

Don't forget, we're still taking entries for the For the Cure giveaway at Phaze.com!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Potpourri for $500, Alex


Lots to cover today. First, some words of wisdom from our old friend Ed Cayce. Got this in the inbox this morning:

There is progress whether ye are going forward or backward! The thing is to move! - Edgar Cayce Reading 3027-2

It's a nice thing to know when I think I'm in the wrong direction, I'm at least going somewhere. Right now I feel as though I'm being pulled to different places but I'm stuck in indecision. More about that later. Right now, the rest of my week.

Brought to you by the letter R

Rejection from Harlequin books. I sulked, I ate chocolate, I cranked up "Far Cry" on the drive home. I'm okay now. I can get back on, I can get back on...

How the other half edits

Lately I am the one on the editor's side of the table, noting corrections and suggestions for an author. In fact, I just finished the first round of Jude Mason's Fertile Domain, a spicy futuristic set in a "domme" dominated world, where men must fight for the privilege to reproduce. It's hot.

A few nights ago, though, I got to take the hot seat when my editor at Loose-ID, Jana, sent back the first round for Excitable Gals. Many good points made on the story, and I have to admit I'm surprised I didn't think of some of things she had brought to light, especially since these stories have appeared elsewhere. So I nipped here, tucked there, and expanded somewhere else. The omnibus looks like it will end close to 27K words, which is a pretty good number for me. I've turned in the cover art, so I'm looking forward to seeing what will grace my website soon.

Speaking of websites, I have decided to further brand my Dareville series by having a separate website created. Rather than do it myself - it would never get done - I hired on a design firm to tackle the project. More news on that as it comes.

Buy a book, mister?

The Collingswood festival was a nice day. We were fortunate enough to get booth space next to our friends Stella Price, Cat Johnson, and Tilly Greene, who are also Phaze authors. Phaze did a modest business at the book fair - we sold more books than received odd looks at the banner advertising our erotic romance. I hadn't realized when I signed on for this that the fair would be so huge - booths took up several blocks of the town's main street, people everywhere. The experience overwhelmed me, to say the least, probably because I manned the booth pretty much alone. Though, my neighbors did pop in to watch the place while I used the bathroom. Definitely, I would like to come back next, and I'll bring friends.

Did you hear about so-and-so doing this to that?

Gossip abounds in romance blogdom, this time about eBook distribution. I know quite a bit about what is going on, but am trying to lay low for a while. The decisions I make in the near future may or may not impact others in a good way, and I want those decisions to be good ones. That means time in the thinking chair for me. If you've been reading around you know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Next I'll be riding a nuclear bomb and waving a cowboy hat


I admit it, I love the Rocky movies. Okay, I loved the first four. I never saw Rocky V (which most fans have discredited, I understand, and insist It. Was. All. A. Dream.) and have yet to see Rocky Balboa, but there's something about these series that keeps the remote set to the Spike Network when they're not running another Bond marathon. The first one, especially, always finds me in tears at the end, because it reveals its true self as a love story. Yes, the movie revolves around boxing, and the whole rise of the underdog theme, but what happens at the end? It isn't about winning the match, or winning the adoration of fans, it's just Rocky and Adrian in the ring when she says "I love you." There is the true victory.

So this time when we went to Philly after the Collingswood Book Festival (more on that in a bit) I made sure to take home my souvenir:

And yes, I ran up the steps of the museum, too. I'm such a dork, but I wasn't the only one doing it. Seems to be a rite of passage among tourists to recreate that iconic scene in the first movie. One more thing to cross off life's to-do list.

I think it's an appropriate pic for October, considering this is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we need to KO it pronto. Hey, did you know Phaze is doing a For the Cure giveaway?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Today's and Yesterday's Chocolate

I hesitated to review the Ithaca Fine Chocolate Milk Art Bar with Hazelnuts because at first taste I didn't much care for it. I thought the chocolate was too sweet despite the presence of the crunchy nuts, and it just didn't do much for me at the time. Rather than offer a resolute thumbs-down, however, I saved the rest of the bar for later. I realized I had been enjoying quite a bit of dark chocolate lately, and perhaps my tastes had been trained to better appreciate the bitter. So I waited a bit to cleanse the palate and took on the rest of this bar.

Good thing I held off, because the Art Bar tasted better the second time around. The milk chocolate has a decidedly milder taste and nose this time, and the sweetness did not feel so prominent. Perhaps there is something to be said about chocolate aging like a fine wine does, though you do have to be careful the bars don't temper after exposure.



Today, though, I'm back to dark and the Kschocolat Orange and Cardamom bar (72%). Cardamom is a spice found mainly in Indian cuisine; it is part of the ginger family but the taste is sort of spicier and more curry/cinnamon like to me. This bar's bite is thoroughly grainy with tiny bits of it. The orange by contrast is milder and doesn't appear to bring too much sweetness to the bar; seems if you hit a larger nibble of cardamom just right that's all you taste.

Still, it's a pleasant bar with a bold flavor, and I'm curious to compare it with the Dark Orange Chocolove bar I purchased recently.

Off to Jersey! Where's Geddy?

If you are in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area, be sure to come to the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, New Jersey. The fun starts at 9AM on Saturday, October 4, and all through the afternoon. Phaze Books will have a booth, offering a wide selection of our print titles for sales...with a few discounted items. Perfect for early Christmas shopping or to treat yourself to a sizzline erotic romance to keep you warm for the long winter ahead. :)

Please visit the official site of the Collingswood Book Festival to learn more and to get directions. See you there! I will be manning the Phaze booth and will have my Mundania title, Pithed, and all of Leigh's prints for sale and signing. There are also a few Phaze authors who have their own spots for the event - Stella Price, I know for one. I think Cat Johnson and Tilly Greene will be there, too. Promises to be a fun day.


This being Geddy Friday, I thought I'd share this wonderful story about Rush granting a Make-A-Wish wish. Just a sweet story, and probably one of the first times I've seen the whole band in a meet and greet picture. Take Kleenex with you.


And a nice pic to get me through the loooong drive there and back.



Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A ring and a date

UPDATE: The Phaze site is working again. Don't feel like editing this post. Carry on.

Just got word my first release with Loose-ID, Excitable Gals, will bow November 25th. Quite a quick turnaround from acceptance, so it appears after a long drought I will have two releases in one month. Dare to Dream at Phaze Books bows a week or so prior. I'm looking forward to the edit and cover art process with LI and seeing how this book works with both stories put together, since they had originally appeared in separate anthologies at their first home.

Meanwhile, you can still buy Daringly Delicious and all my Phaze releases. The main site is still down - it is a problem on the server end which is affecting many, many sites in addition to ours. Mundania.com and the EPIC site are also down because of this. If you want to buy, just go here:

http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/product=Leigh+Ellwood/exact_match=exact

Hopefully the server will be restored soon. It's a challenge getting the word out that our books can still be downloaded. In a way, though, I'm grateful the cart isn't on this server, otherwise we'd really be in trouble.

Speaking of Phaze, I am happy to say I just outlined the next full book in the Dareville series. Dare's Destiny promises to be a hot menage story filled with backstabbing of one kind and...another kind, ifyouknowwhatImean. Heh. I kill me.

Still working on Daring Red as well, and started a new story which I plan to send to LI - an M/M short to be called Long Awaited Friend. The title comes from a lyric in Rush's "Limelight," and will feature a few characters from another short I did a while back. More on that later.

What else? Oh, I'm creating a new trailer just for Dare to Dream. Trying to get the hang of Movie Maker and how it can help me promo. I'll have the results up soon. I'm talking with a friend about original music for it. You gotta have friends...

The Collingswood Book Fair is close, too. I can't wait. Received a batch of Phaze prints to take over, and they look fantastic. The covers for Surrender and Coming Together With Pride look awsome (you can buy both at Amazon.com or at the link above). They are going to look great on display. So if you're in NJ this Saturday, look for the Phaze booth.

The Phaze site is temporarily down, but you can still buy Phaze Books

Phaze's main shopping cart is still working, though our main site is down.

http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/frontpage=yes

You will find all of our books there, ready for order.

We are also available at Fictionwise:

http://www.fictionwise.com/eBooks/phazeeBooks.htm?cache

and All Romance eBooks

http://www.allromanceebooks.com

Please pardon the inconvenience. We are working to get the servers back running.

Kathryn Lively
Publisher