Friday, May 18, 2012

Blog Challenge #3: Reading speeds and editing

I'm not a fast reader. Even if the Staples eReader speed reading test stays I read faster than 60% of the nation, I just know I'm not a fast reader. Never have been and it has frustrated me in the past because friends would finish books hours (in some instances days) before I would and sometimes spoil the ending for me. In high school, I started "skimming" through texts I had to read just to avoid this and the bad habit stayed through college. Mind you, some of the reading material we had in college was boring as hell and skimming saved my sanity (and my eyesight) but it made it difficult and sometimes even more frustrating when someone would catch something I missed.

When I started working in the textbook publishing industry, one of my first jobs required me to do a Quality Control check (QC) on page elements. We were expressly told NOT to read text but to review the "look" of the page. Were there widows, orphans on the page? How many sentences started with the same word? How much white space was there between paragraphs? Were the headers equidistant and centered across the page as required? What about styling? Were there any "soft returns", manual line breaks or double spaces after periods? If so, we fixed those elements then sent the text back to copyedit to review for consistency, grammar, spelling and fact-checking.

Unfortunately, I had a real difficult time NOT reading the text and would catch misspellings, comma splices and poor sentence structure in the text then get verbally reprimanded for marking it up. I couldn't help it! I can't NOT read the text and if I see a wrong, I must right it! I MUST!

You can see why I got along with the editors and copy editors better than the production teams now, don't you? As time went by, I learned to QC without reading and just "skimmed" the text for anything that stood out in glaring detail. I became the nightmare of many restaurant waitress whose menus had typos and poor design. I would actually take out my green pen (red = editorial, blue = design, green = QC) and mark-up their paper menus. Now, I can't read anything without looking at the whole picture. If there are too many similar words together in a paragraph (or several sentences start the same way) I stop and mark it up on my eReader. Sad, I know but it's just a part of who I am now.

ereader test

What about you? Do you read pretty fast? Do you skim the text when you read at a quicker pace?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Blog Challenge #2: Personal Reading Interests vs Professional Ones

Continuing with my Blog challenge: 100 Things Important to Me, I've decided to post today about personal reading interests versus professional reading interests. While these are usually the same (genre, pairings, etc.), my professional reading interests also include those of the editors whose lists I'm hoping to pitch my clients' works.

Here are a few personal reading interests and how these then translate to my professional ones.

My Personal Reading Interests include:
  • M/M erotic romance in all sub-genres with my tastes leaning more toward BDSM and Sci-fi. Combine the two and do it well and I'm in reading heaven!
    • Some of my favorites include Christine D'Abo's No Quarter. I also love it when books remind me of a world I'm already familiar with and enjoy. In this case, it was Star Wars with Han Solo and the Bounty Hunters. While the story is not fanfic, per se, it has a taste of the world I've always loved and explores aspects of the world I would have loved to see in a homoerotic Star Wars. 
    • Another one with this same feel (though much more pronounced and evident in its fanfic origins) is Evangeline Anderson's Slave Boy. I enjoyed Ms. D'Abo's rendition better than Ms. Anderson but it had everything to do with writing style and editing and not the story content (especially since they're so similar in origin).
    • If you're looking for something similar with M/F erotic romance, pick up Lauren Dane's Undercover.
  • Historical erotic romance NOT set in Victorian time frame. While I enjoy a good Victorian or Regency novel, I love reading books set in various eras of time.
    • One I've fallen in love with and could not put down was Marguerite Labbe and Faye Sutherland's The Gladiator's Master. This m/m historical erotic romance reminds me of the show Spartacus (which I adore) and still remains its own story with a powerful cast and delicious imagery. While the show is more bloody, this book is truly much more erotic. It's not your typical historical romance and you really learn about the era as you learn about the characters and their world. The prose and dialogue in this book is so poetic, you feel enlightened just by reading it! :)
    • Along the same lines of a non-Regency historical romance is Liz Fischera's Captive Spirit whose incredible tale of a Native American woman's quest to return to her people after being captured by the "white man" in 16th Century America remains one of my all-time favorite reads. Yes, it's listed as romance by the publisher and it does have a happily ever after but the "meat" of the story is really Aiyana's plight to achieve her freedom.
  • Vampire and werewolf books. As saturated as these topics seem to be in the publishing industry, they're still selling and likely because of people like me who really enjoy a good vampire book.
    • I'm a bit of a vampire and werewolf snob and not ashamed to admit it. I like to read vampire books that are bloody (and can be erotic) and enjoy books that push the envelope and my level of comfort. One of those came as a surprise to me as it was a Young Adult horror book in the Vampire's Assistant series by Darren Shan: The Vampire Prince. These books had me reading the entire 12-book series in a week and it had a lot to do with the fact the vampires in this book are not your typical "beautiful" Anne Rice vampires (which I adore as well). Their battle with the Vampinistas is truly an epic saga and in this middle book of the series, you're taken on an emotional rollercoaster!
    • As far as werewolf stories go, the one I keep going back to and enjoying immensely is J.L. Langley's Without Reservations from her With or Without series. I love the world-building in this series and the way we fall in love with each character and pairing then get their stories in other books. They're unapologetic about their wolf nature without beating me over the head about their wolfish tastes. It's a great series and one I have on auto-buy as soon as they are available for pre-order.
My Professional Reading Interests include:
  • M/M Erotic Romance in all sub-genres (see the pattern here?) but while I love Sci-fi and will gravitate toward those for my personal reading, these are not as easy to place. Sci-fi just doesn't sell in the romance genre as quickly as contemporary romance. It has a lot to do with where the readers are when it comes to Sci-fi and usually, they're not sitting in romance forums or seeking for romance titles. The truth is, romance is still a predominately female readership world and most Sci-fi readers are male. Most... not all. What IS selling in M/M Erotic Romance (and now M/F thanks to Shades of Grey is BDSM).
    • One of the books I was able to sell and it has been selling like hotcakes is Heidi Cullinan's Nowhere Ranch. My personal opinion on why it sells so well is biased as I think it's a fantastically-written book but it likely has a lot to do with the fact that Heidi doesn't hold anything back from the reader. Would I have picked up this book to read if I'd never read anything by her before? Maybe. The cover alone would have intrigued me to at least peruse the first few pages but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that after reading that sample, I would have purchased the book outright. I had such a visceral reaction to this book that I had to email Heidi and tell her I was in tears and loved this book so damn much I had to have it.
    • In the M/F and M/M/F world (though these camps usually don't like to play together), I sold Kele Moon's Beyond Eden whose menage tale of BDSM exploration is not only dark and sensual but filled with symbolism and controlled chaos. You root for the underdog in this book (Paul and Eve) while loving how much you hate the dark and punishing Dom (Danny). It was not a difficult sale to the publisher when the editor fell in love with Kele's "voice" which I knew would be the case the minute I read the manuscript.
  • Historical Romance is still selling to publishers as their readership continues to make their buying power known and while I may prefer to pick up a book set in 16th Century middle America, it may not sell as well with some romance publishers as it would with others. Regency and Victorian continue to make strides in this genre.
    • An example of one such great sale was Alex Beecroft's By Honor Betrayed set in the 16th century and featuring (as is her brand) life on the seas. She's known for her "Age of Sails" tales and I knew this book would easily find a home. Of course, she came to me with an offer to read already on the table so this sale was not a difficult one but after reading the manuscript prior to pitching it, I knew it would get picked up quickly! Alex has a way of immersing you in her tales that if you've never read a historical romance in your life, or have no idea what life on the sea is like (or even been on a boat) you can still relate and feel like part of the story. It's a talent and a gift she wields with great humility.
    • Another great sale and one whose fruits we're working hard to see bear is Jay E. Hughes's Valiant One; a M/M historical romance dubbed "The Gay Braveheart". This one was sold as a romance but in the "rules" of romance it toes the line. It has more history than romance so it doesn't sit well with readers seeking for the softer side of M/M romance rather than the almost brute-like force with which Ragnar and Prince Edward get it on.
  • Vampire and werewolf books are selling to publishers but in smaller numbers as these continue to saturate the market and it feels like everything's already been done. But if you have clients mine, who like to break rules and live for a challenge, you may find a few surprises in this arsenal as well.
    • This was the case with Louisa Bacio and her New Orleans series. The Vampire, The Witch and the Werewolf returns to the simpler days of the genre where vampires were sexy, sucked on your neck and kept a pet werewolf for protection. Ok, so maybe those weren't the simpler times but it's certainly the romanticized version of it that has kept Hollywood buzzing with movies like Van Helsing. This series is picking up steam and speed as she releases other books in the universe giving us glimpses of the world she's created. Her follow-up in the series, Chains of Silver features her werewolves and is just as entrancing as her menage prequel. I think what's helping this series grow in popularity (aside from the obvious of a menage with a vampire and a werewolf) is the character-driven stories that weave throughout the series.
  • Contemporary romance is what sells though and what will continue to sell as escapism is what most romance readers look for when purchasing their books. It's true for traditional publishing and even more so in ePub where romance can be as erotic as you want it to be!
    • When it comes to steamy erotic romance you can count on Kele Moon to deliver and boy does she in her Battered Hearts series: Defying the Odds. This series has several great things going for it, the first being the hero having a career as a Mixed Martial Arts UFC fighter, then there's the small-town feel of the fictional town Garnet and the many steamy sex scenes she doesn't shy away from. The fact that this one also comes in at that sweet-spot of a word count (50k-80k) She's got several books planned in this series and the second one is scheduled to release in July.
    • But she doesn't just write M/F, her M/M Packing Heat is as steamy as her hetero works and I believe the reason both sold easily to the same publisher was the likability and ability for readers to connect and relate to the characters in the books. It didn't hurt that this one also had a bit of a cliché character-pairing with a cop and a firefighter pairing off. You can't go wrong catering to the masses at times and having a bit of indulgent fun as an author. Both of these books have sold extremely well for the author and it doesn't look like we're going to have to wait long for her next ones to hit best-selling status as well.
So I suppose my reading interests don't vary as much. If they did, I wouldn't enjoy the manuscripts I'm selling and believe me, I don't ever want to be in a position to sell a manuscript I don't enjoy. I have several great manuscripts I'm shopping around and some that have been out in submission for longer than I would like them to be but I believe in the stories... I just have to find an editor who likes them as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blog Challenge #1: 100 Things Challenge

So, I'm kinda late to this party but I figured it can't hurt to start it but not sure what to post about so I'm keeping my 100 things to various sundry and whatever strikes my fancy. I may post about movies, books, music, coffee, traditions, cultures, photos (could put my Pinterest account to good use then), quotes, fandom things or dog pictures. You just never know what you're going to get with me. I'm going to call it 100 Things Important To Me.

If you'd like to participate as well, click on the banner below to get started.

{Take the 100 Things challenge!}

My first post:

with baby sary

My grandmother, as some of you know, was (and continues to be) the most influential woman in my life. When I think of everything she endured and lived through in her lifetime (1922-2007) and the way she embraced being a human being, not just a GENDER, I'm humbled to be part of her legacy. I've started writing about her life and fictionalizing a few things I'm not 100% sure of especially since those who would have known about facets of her life are no longer living or were not around in her youth.

Here's one excerpt:
Sarita climbed the tree in record speed doing her best to avoid being seen by her older siblings as they walked home from school with a few of their friends. Being the youngest of four and still a child while the rest were teenagers was a blessing and a curse. She was either ignored by her siblings or a burden to them when their parents needed a "baby sitter" for the night. She wasn't a baby! She was almost double-digits and she already knew how to heat her own meals, patch up her torn pants, sew buttons on the blouses her Momma insisted she wear ever Sunday for church and she could climb trees all by herself. She didn't need a baby sitter!

Her brother Efrain stopped to light a cigarette right under the tree she'd hidden in and the smoke was starting to make her eyes water but she wasn't going to move from her perch. She needed to hear their conversation and she knew her brother would start talking to her sisters about it soon. She'd heard him tell them they would "talk about it after school" while she was still in bed that morning. The elementary school she went to had cancelled classes when the American Navy how close to the shore the building was and how easy it would be to turn it into a makeshift bunker while they waited for their orders. Sarita knew there was a war, it was all anyone ever talked about, but she didn't understand why it had started in the first place and she really didn't care. If it meant she could stay home and play with her friends on the street, she'd welcome any other wars people wanted to start.

"How many were called up in your class?" she heard Efrain ask their sister Hedda.

"Ten. All of the boys." Hedda was clutching her books really tight to her chest. Her long fingers wrapped around them so tight, Sarita could see the white knuckles.

"Cheo? Quique? Baldo?" Dalila, their sister, asked. Her voice, usually loud and gruff, was soft and almost a whisper. The last boy was one of Efrain's best friends and Sarita knew Hedda had liked him even if she always denied it.

They were silent for a moment then Sarita saw it, the yellow piece of paper in her big brother's hand as he handed it over to her sisters.

"Make that eleven."