Reader’s Question: no guns?

From Perryavenue on Tumblr:

Why didn’t Renaldo and Hank carry guns with them for protection? Eduardo had a gun when he was at his parents’ home, wouldn’t Renaldo and Hank carry guns when they’re traveling along open and rough terrain with potential predators (both animal and human)?

Fun (and probably shocking) fact, most cowboys didn’t carry guns! Turns out that’s a Hollywood fabrication. Guns were expensive, hard to maintain, and cumbersome as a guy on a horse. Six shooters? Super pricey. You had a rifle if you were a frontiersman (bear, wolves), and you had a handgun if you were a man of the law, but cowboys? They were the bottom of the barrel.

I cannot stress enough how low on the totem pole cowboys were at this time.  Cowboy = guy who literally rode next to or behind a herd of cattle on a cattle drive for very little pay.  They didn’t have the funds or need for such hardware. It was considered a dangerous practice to carry a pistol, and wasn’t something that was looked upon with positivity. (Not to mention that handguns were considered a luxury item.)

A dispatch from the Texas Live Stock Journal dated June 5, 1884, 14 years after Bitter Springs is set:

The six-shooter loaded with deadly cartridges is a dangerous companion for any man, especially if he should unfortunately be primed with whiskey. Cattlemen should unite in aiding the enforcement of the law against carrying of deadly weapons.” 

Continue reading

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Used Bookstores – When Authors “Lose” Money But Gain Readers

Salon had an article recently addressing the post Kristen Lamb posted (that I also referenced) about used bookstores, their effect on authors (short story: authors don’t see a dime from the sale of their book in them), and how that can have long-term implications to an author’s livelihood.

Lisa writing is hard

…not so fast. The long-term implications aren’t dire. I touched on this before and stand by that post. For those who might be click averse, the point in that second post is that getting readers is what really matters.

Someone having a copy of your book–from a library, a used bookstore, borrowed from a friend–means that someone has a copy of your book!  As a writer, you put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into those pages, and you just want someone to read it. Even better if they like it. (Gold medal if they love it, but hey, fair-to-middling emotions are just fine, too.)

From the Salon.com article:

“Used bookstores are not the end point to a reader’s journey, but often the starting point, not to mention that they are often treasure troves of out-of-print books, many of which might not exist in e-book or audiobook form.”

We readers (especially voracious readers) typically find an author we enjoy and the buy or check out of a library every book they have. When you find a writer whose style clicks with your way of reading, man, that’s the stuff. Once that book is done, you’re ready for the next one. Who cares how you find that author! Half Price Books led me to so many beloved authors, authors whose books I bought for myself, new, and still have on my shelf.

LGBT books reading animation

Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I’d like a writer’s style, so buying a partially beat up, dog-eared copy at HPB seemed less expensive of a gamble. And when it turned out that I really enjoyed it? Off to the “proper” bookstore to get my hands on everything. Sometimes. Sometimes I didn’t have the funds to get brand new, so if the library didn’t have a copy (or I didn’t want to wait for my turn to come around), I’d grab another battered copy from HPB.

To me, what’s important is that people are reading. Because if you as a writer can hook a reader, you’ll have a reader for life. I mean, it’s like the drug dealing analogy: you get them on the comeback. 😉

It’s important to remember that while yes, selling books is a business (and it’s not profitable unless you’re at the top, either in sales–your Stephen Kings, etc–or by being a big muckity-muck in the publishing world) it’s also an art. Art is meant to be shared. Books are meant to be read.

So let the readers read.

(And then readers? Reviews, mentions on social media, and shoving a copy in a friend’s hand and pointing at the words are about the best PR an author can get. We love you for it.)

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Going beyond lip-service. How to really support authors you love.

Well, lip-service is a big part of it, actually. Active lip-service?  You’ll see.

I’ve spoken before about how to support authors — reviews are key, maybe even more than just you buying a copy of their book, and WHERE you should put your reviews — but I read another writer’s post that goes into the serious nitty-gritty of the publishing world, and it just hits home so much harder.

book reviews authors readers

Guys, we’re not making a lot of money here*. If your name isn’t something like Rowling (or Kardashian or King), you’re making a small percentage of a few hundred (or hopefully a few thousand) sales. If that’s a 10,000 print first run–pretty decent for a standard Big Name publishing contract–and you sell out in a year, that author made $20,000! …before taxes. That becomes $16,000. For the year. Those are poverty level wages in the USA, if not accompanied by any other income.

Keep in mind that I just posited a Big Name publishing contract. When you talk about smaller presses, you’re in the 1000 printed copies for a first run range. Big difference, huh? Hey. It’s a business. It’s how it works.  (This doesn’t include eBooks, but the number of sales and the percentages are the same.)

What tips all of this over into a livable wage (which, anyone who writes would love to make their living writing stories. That’s the dream! Most of us have second jobs.), is when more people beyond our small social media scope begin to read our books, either through a purchase at a bookstore, online, or through a library.

writers block typewriter LGBT

 

But how do other people HEAR about such and such author? From you.

From the article by Kristen Lamb:

Reviews are more important now than ever before, especially for the indie and self-published author. The reason is that with the change in the publishing paradigm, the slush pile (unfortunately) has been dumped into the reader’s lap. There are a lot of bad books out there. But even then, that really isn’t all that big of a problem.

With the Internet and social media and the explosion of books there is SO MUCH content. This means consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Reviews help writers sell books because if readers see a book with no reviews or five reviews versus a similar title with thirty reviews? Who will they choose?

Instead of sending me an e-mail about how much my book changed your life? Put it on Amazon and change MINE! 

Readers are essential to our success beyond just the sale. If you love our books, your promotion means a thousand times more than any ad I could pay for. Ads and marketing don’t sell books. Never did and never will. Only thing that sells books is word of mouth.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for those private messages I’ve gotten about how much you’ve enjoyed my books. I am so, so grateful for them. I keep them safe and warm and pull them out on days when I think about giving up (something that happens a lot, to be frank).

But you know what really helps? What makes me feel like maybe I can do this, maybe I can put another story out there, maybe work a little harder at this whole “being a professional writer” thing? When I see reviews out in public.

book reviews readers share

Who doesn’t love knowing that people are willing to stand by you publicly? Privately is nice, but publicly legitimizes your work in such a magnificent way. It not only means so much emotionally, but it means a lot to the bottom line, and that, my friends, is what will enable your favorite authors to continue to give you stories you love.

The sad truth is that until a book gets at least 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon won’t advertise that particular book. But once you hit that magic number? They start promoting the hell out of it. You know when your Kindle goes into the home screen? That’s a big one.  Or when you buy a book and they do the whole “people who bought that liked” thing?  Oh, yeah. Or when you click onto Amazon and they have a book title as the banner?  [salivates and makes ungentlemanly noises]

That means more exposure for an Indie author, which means more likelihood that they’ll be able to give you more stories.

writing books typewriter vintage

It’s a symbiotic relationship. We need each other to keep this beautiful, crazy cycle going. Your reviews are crucial. They can literally make or break a book.

Reblogging and liking posts on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook is awesome. Even more awesome is going to a place like Amazon and sharing your thoughts. Talking about books you love to the general public is how people decide what to read. It’s been shown that people tend to buy books based off of trusted reviews from people they know/follow.

So you guys sharing your favorite books with the public at large? Yeah, that’s the stuff. <3

*and this doesn’t even go into the serious damage that pirated books cause. Yeah, I know, we all hate how Lars from Metallica and Taylor Swift were griping about losing money from their stuff being pirated, but those are multi-millionaires with multiple revenue streams. Authors are hundredaires. You pirate their books, and you’re seriously harming their careers to the point where they can’t afford to keep writing you books. See the difference?

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The Birth of a Notion

One question I’ve often been asked (and I love it!) is,  “Where do the ideas for your stories come from? What’s the kernel? The 4-1-1, as the kids say (if the kids are 33).” For Bitter Springs, I stumbled across something that led me to months of research into actual LGBT history and a proper education of our past, and not the straight-washed “everyone was murderered if they were even kind of homo back in the day” mindset most people hold.

First off, that’s not even how you spell it. Second, it is my utter delight to show all the ways in which that mindset is incorrect, this idea – that every single LGBT person was shunned, that they were hidden away inside attics and broken down sheds at the edge of their family’s farms*,  or basically forced to live their lives in misery until dying from their ‘gayness’, not unlike consumption**. Turns out, that’s not true. LGBT people lived long, happy lives with their partners, and often. Not everyone did, religion always messes things up, but enough folks did to make it a Real Thing.

Gay cowboys gunslingers Tombstone

I’d like you to meet, as I call them, “The Fellas.” Bobby Jackson, Frank Hart. Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, AZ

*Let’s not act like the whole attic thing isn’t a completely rich, white straight thing for illegitimate children born on soap operas. Because that’s what that is. Yes, I grew up on All My Children and Days of our Lives, why do you ask?

** I use “gay” as a catch-all term to encompass the many beautiful and varied colors of the LGBTQIA rainbow because we still have a long, long way to go

But back to these gay gunslingers who couldn’t bear to be separated even in death… Continue reading

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19th Century Mexican Feminists You Should Know

My upcoming novel BITTER SPRINGS is set in 1870′s San Felipe Del Rio (Del Rio, TX it’s called now), and it follows Renaldo Valle Santos (I use Spanish naming protocol, in which the mother’s surname is added after the paternal family name). Renaldo has a twin sister Calandaría, and she’s a bit of a spitfire. And by a bit I mean a lot. And it’s on purpose, and it’s not anachronistic.

In the latter half of the 19th Century in Mexico, revolution was brewing. Within the past hundred years, they’d already won their independence from Spain, fought nasty, long battles with Texicans (Tejanos were people who separated from Mexico in that they lived in Texas, the ‘border lands/buffer zone’ that Spain established, didn’t want to become American, didn’t necessarily want to be Mexican even though that and the Native Americans of the region were their heritage; they just wanted to be left alone), and some nasty battles with America–still ongoing.

 

Mexican feminists Nineteenth Century,Mexican feminist radicals

Dolores Jiménez y Muro, 19th Century Mexican Feminist and all around awesome person of whom you should know.

Some of the most important Mexican feminists in history were born at this time, and man, they kicked butt. Continue reading

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Why Should Writers Love Libraries?

librarian in library,libraries

This is the face of someone who wants you to find the right book.

Here’s a wild tidbit for you, there are more libraries in the United States than there are world-wide McDonald’s restaurants. (The American Library Association says that there are 119,487 of them, and there are 35,000 Micky Ds in the world.) Here’s an even wilder fact for your face: library book sales don’t count towards your book’s ranking in those ever important BestSeller lists.  Isn’t that… weird? I think it’s weird, but then, the NYT didn’t ask me, so there you go.

So you have an author wanting to build and maintain a career, and that means selling books, and anyone buying a book is a saint. This also means building a reputation as someone who produces an excellent product–that’s how you make your money, on the come back.

Which brings us back to the library. Let’s say your local library is super awesome and buys four–four!!–copies of your latest book. They’re going to keep that on the shelf for years, and hundreds (I’m being optimistic) of people are going to read it!

…those originally purchased four books. Welp, that’s a loss.

NO. IT ISN’T. And this is why we’re here: libraries are amazing sources for authors. You should love and thank every dang library that buys your book, and I’ll tell you why: Continue reading

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On Buying Books and Supporting Authors

The original post I made about this has gotten a lot of wonderful attention on Tumblr, so I wanted to put it here, as well.  It’s a good insight into the world of publishing, how you get paid as an author, and how you can build a career. I received the following question a while back:

“I want to buy your books, but wanted to ask how you preferred them purchased because I think I’ve read that Amazon shorts its authors on e-book sales and I want you to be fully paid for your work. I can buy e-books or physical copies.”

First off, let me inform you that you have jumped past my kids in my Last Will & Testament, because not a one of them have tried to buy my book. 😉

Oprah overcome with gratitude, gratitude for fans,thanks

Second, I’m traditionally published, which means I have a publishing contract, and my publisher is contractually obligated to pay me x% of each book sale based off net proceeds for the price THEY set the book to be, be that a physical book or an eBook. (When Amazon temporarily slashes book prices, they still have to pay publishers the agreed upon price.)

NOW. Whether this is true for self-publishers, I have no idea.  But I do know this: Continue reading

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Wait, who’s talking?

Dialogue tags. Super important, can be controversial, and can be used in ways that invoke madness. (In me.)

pubLIZity Nick Kroll show

We could talk about how you need to cut out using adverbs and how that’s tell, not show, but if you ever want to really get why you shouldn’t use so many dang adverbs with dialogue tags, go on a road trip with nothing but the (truly delightful) audiobooks to Harry Potter. I prefer the ones voiced by Stephen Fry.  But every single bit of dialogue is:

“What is it, Harry?” Hermione shrieked quite panickedly.
“Professor Umbridge’s hairy ankles,” Harry groaned vomitously.
“Merlin’s pants!” Ron moaned decidedly.

It’s, uh, it’s a lot. Lot of adverb abuse there. (Please know I love the HP-verse something fierce.)

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.  No, what really chaps my hide and makes me tear out my hair is when I can’t figure out who the heck is talking. Let’s look at a few examples. Continue reading

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Why you should love the Editing Process

Personally, I love working with editors.  I’ve learned more about myself as a writer–and more importantly, how to improve as a writer–through the editing of my two novels than in any other capacity.  I’ve heard of writers bursting into tears, of feelings being hurt, and some writers up and quitting the whole shebang from frustrations regarding the editing process, and it leaves me baffled.

Lisa writing is hard

Listen to me: everyone needs an editor.  Everyone. And if you’re smart, you’ll get to a point where editors want to work with you–and you’ll be eager to work with them. God knows I get excited each time I hear who I’ve nabbed as an editor on my books.

Here’s how it works (and YMMV, depending on your publishing company, etc, but this is pretty standard): Continue reading

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It’s ARC season!

Not Ark, even though I would love 40 days and nights of rain.  ARC, or Advanced Reader’s Copy, is the mostly-edited-but-there-still-might-be-a-few-tweaks-left version of a book that is sent out to review houses, book bloggers, and so forth so they have enough time to read and write a review by the time the book is released.

If you think about it, if you’re, say, USA Today or Foreward Reviews‘ book reviewer, you’ve got a lot of material coming at you.  To have the time to read critically and write up your thoughts requires some breathing room. So these copies get sent out a few months in advance.  (I’ll say this though: there aren’t going to be many tweaks between this and the Final Copy, maybe two or three typesetter issues.  I have amazing editors with eagle eyes.)

I got an early morning call that my ARCs went out and a surprise knock at the door was a copy for me to hold, too! (I cannot stress enough that I have literally rolled out of bed here.  I’m in my Oak Cliff Film Festival sleepshirt, for crying out loud.)

LGBT literature,LGBT lit,gay lit,gay cowboys,vintage cowboys

I am so proud of this book, of all the research I did while writing it, the eye-opening experiences from researching a time that has been Anglicized to the point of absolutely washing away important people in our nation’s history.  And beyond that, I really, really love these characters.

I hope that come December 3 (release day!) you will, too.

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