Sizzling Hot Or Cheap And Nasty?

I’m taking a break from posting interviews to discuss feedback I’ve received from my novel Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series. Oh, I have plenty of authors, musicians, and filmmakers coming up…but if you’re following my blog, chances are you want to know more about ME and MY work. If not, humor me.

Yes, I knew writing about fetishes, using the *s* and *f* bombs unsparingly, and including supernatural creatures with a proclivity towards evil (ie. demons, ghosts, vampires) would attract some criticism. But I’m okay with some NOT loving the subject matter or my in-your-face writing style. I’m okay with folks, in many cases, choosing to opt-out of reading it altogether based on the synopsis or first chapter excerpt. In fact, that’s the reason chapter one is available AND why I have warnings about my book posted everywhere AND why I caution people repeatedly against reading it if they are easily offended or of the squeamish variety.

Side note: my husband often asks me why I try to talk people out of reading my book. I don’t. I just try to get it in the hands of my targeted readers and away from those who have hangups (or preferences against the aforementioned) that would prevent them from enjoying it.

Point is–1) I’m not changing the content. I write about things I like to read. 2) I’m not changing my writing style. I write the way I prefer to read–in the most basic way of saying the most convoluted things. Bare bones. Choppy. Straight to the point. And judging by all twenty of the 5 and 4-star reviews on Amazon, I don’t have to change a thing.

Oh, sure. I know the current reviews are not indicative of ALL reader opinions. I know doggone well everyone doesn’t and wouldn’t love my novel. Which is a good thing since I didn’t write it to please everybody…and would never be able to achieve that anyway. Some of my absolutely favorite books have lots of scathing reviews by people who hated them. I’m not above this sort of scrutiny.

In the words of Douglas Meeks, a well-respected editor, reviewer and avid reader: “The day you write something nobody can complain about is the day you probably wrote something not worth reading.”

Agreed. And thanks for the encouragement, Doug.

Currently, the reviews of my book reflect the opinions of those who enjoyed it and took the time to write a review. [THANK YOU! BTW :)] It shows that I did a fairly decent job of getting my novel to those most likely to enjoy it than those who aren’t. There are some hit and misses along the way though. Some who read the first few chapters and decided they couldn’t handle it, didn’t bother posting a one-star review with one of those “I just couldn’t get through it” remarks. They moved on to another book more suitable to their tastes. But I know about some of them because of random Facebook posts, emails, calls and texts. As far as I know, they lost nothing more than a few minutes of their time since I had given the copies for free.

Negative opinions and criticism can be hard to deal with about something we writers work so hard to create. But it comes with the territory. We lay our souls and hearts and feelings on the line for anyone with a platform to shout out how much they love or hate our work. It can be brutal. It can also be rewarding. I happen to value constructive criticism about how my story can improve because it makes me a better writer. Opinions based on taste don’t. Those will go in one ear, out the other.

For instance, readers of my targeted group have called my novel “hot” and “sizzling”. Pretty neat, huh? Well, the harshest comment I’ve received so far went something like: I couldn’t get past the first 15% of the book. I just couldn’t get into the writing style. There seems to be words missing that makes it weird. It’s cheap and nasty. I don’t mind sex scenes, but I couldn’t believe how gross it was right from page one. I found it offensive.

Ouch! But oddly…true.

I’ll write more about my bare bones writing style in a continuation of this post. Today, as the title indicates, I want to focus on the “cheap and nasty” part.

My initial reaction to it was “how dare she…”, but that only lasted a hot minute because I realized it wasn’t her fault. She happened to have gotten her hands on my book without proper warning. With my BEWARE notice, she could have decided if it was right for her long before digging in and being offended. I’d looked at her reviewer profile and taken it for granted that she would be comfortable with the content. Her interest, based on the synopsis, wasn’t enough of a sign that she would be my ideal reader or that my book would be ideal for her. She should have been warned.

My bad.

I responded with something to the order of: I’m so sorry you thought it was cheap and nasty. There are several other reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads who thought differently, but I respect your opinion. I usually warn people about the content of my story so that nothing comes across as too much of a shock. It’s a good thing you didn’t have to waste your own money on it. My story is riggidy raw. It is intentionally SEXY, WILD, DARING, and RISKY and not meant for everyone, only those who love paranormal romance and are looking for something VERY different. Then I proceeded to offer a copy to her co-reviewer, who read it, loved it, and wrote a glowing review. WINNING.

I had to keep in mind that if everyone loved my book and no one found it controversial or risqué, I wouldn’t have done my job as the author. How many times must I say I INTENTIONALLY wrote it this way? I did. So somebody better get offended every now and then or I can’t claim “it’s not for the easily offended”, can I?

Being the reasonable person I am, I realize reviews are subjective and a matter of taste. What is “cheap and nasty” for one, may not be for another. Same with “hot and sizzling”. Her description of my book is now something I find amusing. Not just amusing, but a compliment, really. “Why, thank you,” would be my current response.

But Dicey. Isn’t warning people away from your book counterproductive?

Maybe. Definitely, if being productive means I have to sell lots of books. Would I sell more if I didn’t warn people like crazy? You betcha. Would I have more 1-star reviews? Absolutely. Because my book is not for everyone. Isn’t it more important to sell as many books as possible even if you get a lot of people who hate it? NOPE. Not for me.

I love reading, watching movies, and writing. I’m passionate about each, and I love discussing these arts with anyone who shares that passion. Therefore, I’m more interested in sharing my art, my novel, with people who can appreciate it. I want to discuss it with them. To feel the love and passion for my art from them. I’m an author, not a book seller. I want readers, not merely buyers. I say “merely” because having buyers would be nice if they were also fans. If they were part of my targeted group.

With this in mind, my market is smaller. Sales are lower. My options lessened. But I’m okay with that. Why? Because my novel’s unique enough to have a niche following. By this I mean, I’m more likely to have a few readers who love reading SEXY, WILD, DARING, and RISKY books than a mass of readers who do nothing but criticize it to death. You get the message yet? I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to share my art (perversity, as some would call it) with those daring enough to enjoy it.

That’s my attitude right now. Who knows what the future will bring. If I get desperate enough one day, maybe I’ll write more mainstream, commercial-driven novels.

Don’t hold your breath. I’m having too much fun. 🙂

More criticism/feedback with author commentary to come…

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Cover For “Sleepy Willow’s Heartless Soul” Revealed.

Ta da! Sleepy Willow’s Heartless Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 2 is expected to be released June 1, 2012. Since I posted this cover to my Facebook page a few days ago, this is old news, but I wanted to share it here in case there is a reader or two who says to heck with FB. Big THANKS to model Jaies Baptiste and graphic designer Grafx Passion for making it happen.

If you haven’t read Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul, the first of the series, I hope you’ll do so before June. But only if you think you can handle a SEXY, WILD, DARING, and RISKY dark fantasy novel. Best to check out Chapter One first and see if it’s up your alley. There are several Amazon reviews that may give you an idea of whether this book is right for you too.

If you’ve read book one, I’m happy to inform you that I’m working hard to get the sequel ready. And it will be just as daring as numero uno…if not more so. 🙂

“Society’s View” According to Jazzy Singer Indi Tyton.

After interviewing several authors and filmmakers, it’s only fitting to add some musical talent to the mix. Today’s interview is with artist extraordinaire, Indi Tyton. We met during our first year of law school, but kept in touch even after she decided to leave school and go on to bigger and better things in the music industry. And after all this time, I have to tell you honestly–I LOVE her music.

1. Indi, I LOVE your jazzy tunes, soulful voice, and natural beauty. Who most influences your musical/ artistic style and why?

I come from a musical family, so I have always been surrounded by beautiful voices and music. 🙂 My grandmother sang Jazz for many years; I spent my early years driving from the Washington, DC area to Richmond, VA almost every weekend for my Dad’s band practice; one of my aunts is a renowned Opera singer. I actually enjoy listening to almost all music genres. If I like the song, it doesn’t matter.

2. As a songwriter and singer, which do you find most challenging, writing songs or performing them and why?

Definitely performing them! I am growing out of my shyness as far as singing. Sometimes I experience slight stage fright but it can be attributed to the fact that I am somewhat of a perfectionist, so if the first note that comes out of my mouth isn’t “perfect”, it makes me a bit nervous sometimes. 🙂 I know that over time, with more practice, I will get over it!

As far as songwriting, I am very melodic in my approach. My songs usually start with a melody that “comes to me” in my mind or if I write down some words to a new song, I work hard to establish the melody pronto. I also enjoy dancing very much, so for my next album, I plan to make more upbeat songs, where I can display some of my dancing abilities on my music videos. I feel like its going to help me get over the apprehension I have sometimes.

3. You and filmmaker, Deri Tyton, collaborate in music, film, and at home as parents. What is the best part of working side-by-side with your spouse on various projects? The most challenging?

The most exciting part about working with Deri on projects is seeing our ideas and hard work come into fruition. We both believe in each other’s abilities, which is a real blessing. Now let me tell you, it is a challenge sometimes because we are both artists, pursuing our individual and joint “dreams”, and since we are also parents, we often have scheduling conflicts yet we try really hard to not get in each other’s way and help out as much as we can.

4. With so many talents (ie. singing, fashion designing, writing, dancing…) which are you most passionate about and what drives that passion?

At the end of day, I can truly say that my passion for music outweighs the rest. I am very blessed with talents, so many that sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed (yet very thankful to God for them). It actually took quite some time to figure out that I wanted to be a performing artist. Honestly, it wasn’t until the summer before I got my first Master’s degree (in Psychology) that I realized that the entertainment business was for me. Even then, I was so worried about becoming a “starving artist”, and what my family and peers would say, and also not wanting to turn my back on my education, that it took me six years to really get serious about it.

What drives me now, is pleasing God by following the purpose that he has laid out for me. Also, having children really light a fire underneath me. I want my children to witness me really going after what I feel that I should be doing in my life, and I pray that they understand that true success is not in how much money you make but finding your true life’s work and having the motivation and focus to actually go after it! I also want to show people that may feel like they waited too long to pursue their “passion”, that its never too late, especially the parents out in the world. It’s all about balance (haven’t perfected it, but I’m taking steps towards it).

5. Where do you see yourself career-wise in ten years?

Ten years from now, I see myself still performing, ownership in a company that is a major player in the music and film industries, and also as a college professor, at least half time (maybe on-line if I have to travel a lot), teaching courses related to the entertainment industry. I love being an artist, and I also love being an academic person, and I want to be instrumental in grooming the next generation. 🙂

6. Which of your songs is your favorite and why? What do you want fans to feel most when they listen to it?

On my current album, Society’s View, I do not have a “favorite” song per se, because they all hold a special place in my heart. It was my first full recording experience, I learned so much, and I will never forget the process. “Different Places” is actually the first song I ever wrote, so it definitely is up at the top. My favorite songs to sing are “Whatever Comes Our Way” and “It Hurts When I Breathe”. I want my fans to get an introduction to an element of my singing style and I want them to really take the time to listen to messages in the songs on the album. I endured a lot to record “Society’s View”. Half of my album was recorded while being pregnant with my son, and the other half was recorded while I was pregnant with my daughter. I was very sick during the first four months of both pregnancies yet, I was to share a piece of myself with the world. I am very proud of the results!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Indi. I must say that “Different Places” is my favorite! I also think it’s phenomenal that you have Indi Tyton-branded merchandise on your website. Brilliant! I wish you and your family all the success life has to offer.

You can hear free samples of Indi’s music on her website. You can also watch this five minute video of “Society’s View”:

Director Nick Dalmacy Discusses SCORN.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some creative folks on my blog. In fact, I’ve probably done more interviews than informative posts because I’m inquisitive like that. An information junkie, I’ve been told. And if I don’t actually sell books while sharing these interviews, so be it. I have enjoyed each one. I hope at least one or two readers have too.

Well, Director Nick Dalmacy recently gave me the honor of an interview, where we discussed his movie SCORN. Since I’m a native North Carolinian, and that’s where he resides with his lovely wife and SIX children, I am tickled pink to share this with you.

IMDB Synopsis: Scorn takes a look into the trials and tribulations of a group of people dealing with relationships, love, pain and friendship during the course of one year.

Q. How did you come up with the title for the movie?

A. For some reason the title just came to me. I was lucky! I’m terrible when it comes to titles. I sometimes need my wife to help me with names and titles. I never really thought about the title while writing the script until I reading the newspaper about a woman getting back at her husband for beating her and they mentioned that famous quote “Hell hath no fury, than a woman scorned”. And the rest is history.

Q. Was it more difficult to write the script or direct the film and why?

A. Being an independent, I would say that both can be evenly a challenge. You’re really never done writing a script. You change numerous times while writing it. You rewrite it during production. And you rewrite during post production. If I was to go back and read the script and compare it to the finished film, it’s very different. Some scenes were cut out from the shooting phase. Dialogue was changed even during the post production sound phase. It was total madness! So doing the film in whole, from the moment you enter FADE IN on a blank page to the final picture lock, is difficult!!

Q. What is the main advice you would give an aspiring film director and/or script writer?

A. Learn the craft. Don’t go into this business seeking fame and fortune. The ones that get into this for all the wrong reasons tend to fall flat on their face before the cameras roll. Leave your ego aside. You have to be patient and collaborative. You’d be surprised how many times I had to look towards my team for advice if I wasn’t too sure of something. And the main thing, learn the craft!

For a screenwriter: This is simple. Just write! Write! Write! The more you write the better you will get at constructing your character, telling a cohesive story, building the plot. It’s good to read other scripts and books on screenwriting. A colleague of mine recommended this book “Story” by Robert McKee.

Q. Where did you learn how to direct films? Is going to film school essential?

A. Film school is not really essential. IT’s a good place to meet other filmmakers who you may eventually work with down the road. You’ll be able to use the equipment when you need. But don’t think that you’ll be able to get a job as a director or producer or editor right after graduation. You still have to struggle and network and ultimately raise the money to shoot your first film. Degree or no degree the struggle will always be there. But to each their own. I went to NYU film school and It still took me over 10 years to finally get my film done. I first learned how to direct when I did a music video for an independent music label. I don’t really count the class room sets because you have professors to help guide you and some people can get a little comfortable with that. Once I did my thing on my own, I felt liberated and wanted to do more. But you never stop learning, especially with today’s technology in filmmaking advancing every so often. Look at the masters like Scorsese and Spielberg. They created some of the most influential films of all time and yet they still had to learn the craft of 3D filmmaking. Bottom line is that you may get the knowledge from books or in a classroom or online on aesthetics but you will continue to learn on a film by film basis.

Q. Leading lady, Tawanda Auston, mentioned this was her first time acting. What was it like working with a new actor?

A. It was a challenge working with new actors for the simple fact that you have to rehearse countless times with them. Before and even during the shoot! It can get a little agitated at times because they are trying to get how you want them to convey the role. At times they can nail it during rehearsal but then when it comes to shooting, I would feel the same as I did when we first rehearsed it. I’m like, you had it some weeks ago and what’s the problem now? lol. Anyway, it did help me become a better communicator with actors. I worked with both seasoned actors who barely needed direction and novices and the one thing I learned is how to communicate and collaborate with talent. Once you can get those two factors down, then everything will be as less stressful as you may think.

Q. What is the next project you are or will be working on? What is the expected release date?

A. I am currently adapting a book called Respect The Jux for Frank Matthews with the hopes of also directing it. I recently completed a feature script called Sound Clash which I will hope to start raising the financing over the summer.

Q. Which director do you most admire and why?

A. Jean-Luc Goddard (Breathless, Alphaville) — An outlaw from the french new wave cinema. He was unconventional with his craft which I truly admired. I watched Breathless over and over while editing Scorn.

Thank you for the interview, Nick. I wish you, your family, and your career in the film industry MUCH successs!

For more information about SCORN, visit http://www.scornmovie.com and watch this INcite-tv interview, where Nick gives more incite into his characters, his writing process, and why people will benefit from watching his movie. You can also follow the movie on Facebook and Twitter.

The Wild World of Fetishism.

When you get around to reading my dark fantasy novel, Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book #1, in addition to discovering it’s pretty awesome, you’ll find that the setting is a fetish club. And since I don’t have any particular fetishes–that I’m going to discuss on this very public blog–I had to do a lot of research to adequately cover this part of the story. A lot of FUN research, I might add.

Yesterday, a fan of my novel asked this on my FB page: “i was wondering what research you did to find out about the intense fetishism”

Well, thanks for asking because I love talking about my book. I also have a twisted fascination with things that are outside-the-box. Controversial. Unusual. Oftentimes, offensive to mainstream folks. To those who believe in clearly-defined rights and wrongs, blacks and whites. I happen to see a very liberal middle-of-the-road and all shades of gray…and it’s so much more fun.

So let’s talk about fetishes. More specifically, where did I get all the fetish information to make my characters seem believable and real, even in a paranormal world?

This is my working fetish definition, taken from dictionary.com: any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.

After clearly defining what I was looking for, I went on a Google hunt for various fetishes and read up on waaaay more than I bargained for. Having heard of a few through the years, I was surprised to see the laundry list of things people are into. And whatever wasn’t on one list was on another. There were lists after lists of things people find erotic. Of things they NEED to actually enjoy a sexual encounter. I discovered one could have a fetish about ANYTHING. Fat, plants, toothpaste… Nothing is too bizarre…not, if you’re the one attracted and fixated on it.

After studying the definitions, classifications, and character traits for the nonexhaustive list of fetishes, I read online forum discussions, community websites, psychology reports, journal case studies, wikipedia pages, you name it.

Then I watched a bunch of fetish movies and porn. Yes, I said porn. Some seemed interesting enough to try (and wouldn’t you want to know what I tried, but I’m not telling 🙂 ). Some things looked out-of-this-world unbelievable. Some things made my eyes bleed, and I wish I could remove the images from my memories.

Some fetishes are mild, some extreme. Some hurt physically, even death can occur (ie. autoasphyxia). Some are not inherently harmful, but may cause psychological pain, especially if a person doesn’t feel normal, tries desperately to conform and can’t (ie. media fetish–rubber, latex, silk, vinyl, leather clothing). Some fetishes are comforting, rewarding (ie. a person who needs role-playing partnered with another who needs role-playing). Some interfere with a person’s relationships or lifestyle (in which case, professional help may be necessary). The one thing that seems consistent, is that most people like to keep their fetish a secret, unless they are around others with a similar fetish.

I do my best not to past judgment on others, so I read and watched with curiosity, and without the mindset of “these people are crazy” or “they must have been abused as children” or whatever morals people who don’t understand or even try to understand impose on people who are into something different. That’s not to say that some of these cliches are not true in some cases, but that’s not for me to decide. I only wanted to learn.

I feel like I’m rambling now…

What I mean to say, dearest fan, is that I studied and immersed myself in fetishes that seemed interesting (or odd) enough to write about. And I assure you there is more to come.

Bad v. Good Addiction.

When I opened my Facebook page up to questions today, I got a heavy-hitter right out the box: “i’m trying to stop smoking today……….finding it really hard……..my will power is zero so how do u suggest i succeed? :)” I knew it was important when a second person added, “I am quitting on Feb 15th so like [redacted for anonymity], any suggestions???”

So this is my TWO CENTS:

Smoking feels good, doesn’t it? Nicotine calms your nerves and helps you deal with stress and anxiety. So, why stop? Ohhhh—it’s bad for you. But knowing how bad it is, doesn’t stop your body from craving it. The benefits are immediate. The effects are distant. Total bummer…and may I add, totally unfair. Same with eating sweets, having unsafe promiscuous sex, cursing out your bitch of a boss. You get my point.

I won’t give you all the psychobabble about analyzing why you’re smoking. And looking deep within yourself to…blah, blah, blah. I won’t tell you what it’s doing to your lungs, your teeth, your skin, the scent of your clothes. You already know that.

I say trade the chemical dependency for something else. No, not chocolate cake or your best friend’s boyfriend. And certainly don’t curse out your boss (unless he or she really has it coming and you were going to quit anyway). I mean something healthy. Something good for you. Trade the bad addiction for a good one, like learning a new language that you’ve always wanted to learn. Like reading books that let you escape reality. Or collecting coins (who couldn’t use more money?) Or yoga.

Exercise would be at the top of my TWO CENTS list because it’s a benefit to your body and mind all the way around. If you don’t already workout, start with walking 30 minutes a day. Then increase the speed and length of time, if you can. If you do already workout, change it up a bit to something more strenuous. And do it when you feel most stressed. When you’re craving a smoke the most.

Get crunked. Get hyped. Get pumped up about it. Your body will release endorphins. You’ll have more energy. You’ll feel better in the short and long term. You’ll look better. You’ll handle stress and anxiety much better.

You feel stressed? Anxious? Feigning for a cig? Jog in place or do jumping jacks. It sounds foolish, but it works. I wasn’t a smoker, but eating sweets was becoming a comfort of mine that had to be put down. Sugar is a bad addiction as well. So, I took my own advice.

Set short term goals. If you’re able to resist the temptation to smoke for a day (or however long your goal is) reward yourself with something positive. If you happen to fall off the wagon into your old habit of coping, don’t beat yourself down. That will stress you even more. Realize it’s a daily challenge, as with most challenges that are worth overcoming. Just commit yourself to digging back in. Be committed to a good addiction.

And imagine how proud you will be of yourself for sticking to your goal and conquering your bad addiction. YOU CAN DO IT!