The Authors Speak Merry May Giveaway (win a Kindle™ and a bunch of books)

Hello! Lou Sylvre, happy to be here for my monthly blog. In this post, I’m all about launching our biggest giveaway yet, and I’ll get to that in a flash. First though, I want to talk a little about Authors Speak, what we do, why we love having you be part of it, and opportunities for everyone—readers and writers—to be heard right here on this platform.

Authors Speak is designed to be a different kind of writers’ blog. Yes, we do talk about our books, our genre, writing tips, and the industry. Sometimes, we just have post something because it’s fun. But other times, we have something to say about the world in a broader sense. As authors, we live in the world like everyone else, and we respond to “big issues” like elections, laws, wars, poverty, corporate greed, and hate crimes. Our lives as humans isn’t separate from our lives as writers, and sometimes we blog here on Authors Speak about how it all ties in, and what we try to do about it. In other words, Authors Speak is a place for Authors to do just what our name says—speak our minds.

Of course, speaking out is pointless if nobody is listening, so thank you to everyone who’s visited the blog. And you know what? We realize readers sometimes want to speak out too, and you can! As you know, comments are welcome and appreciated, but here’s a new offer:

Authors Speak now has a Readers Say, page! Can’t find it? That’s because it’s blank. You might be our first reader guest. If you’re interested, comment below (which also counts as an entry for the giveaway drawing), or if you’d prefer, email me at lou.sylvre@gmail.com, and we’ll discuss particulars.

We’re know some who read our blog are fellow authors. If that’s you, we invite you onstage too! If you’d like a guest post in the spirit of Authors Speak, of if you have a cover reveal, new release, or other news announcement, please comment or email me. We’ll do our best to fit you in.

(Now for the really fun stuff)

Welcome to the Authors Speak Merry May Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Writer’s Police Academy Part 2: Death Scene Investigation by Sarah Madison

Last month, I wrote a general introductory post to Writer’s Police Academy and my experience there. For this month’s post, I’d like to go into more detail. As I mentioned in the previous post, attending WPA is a lot like going to any big continuing education meeting. A variety of seminars are listed simultaneously, and you must pick and choose which to attend. Also like a CE meeting, there were loosely defined tracks: several classes on arson, for example, or legal issues.

Because I already have somewhat of a medical background, I initially decided to forego the more medical seminars and attend courses where I thought my education was lacking. It didn’t take me long to change my mind, however.  In part because my background didn’t always lend itself to a direct translation into police/crime-based information, but also because this is where my interests obviously lie. To deny them would cut out an important–and authentic–voice in my writing.

This became apparent to me early on in the weekend because some of the very popular classes were limited as to the number of participants. As such, the organizers of WPA held a lottery for the courses and attendees were chosen at random. Some courses had to be limited for logistical reasons, such as the emergency driving course, or the live fire handgun class. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for both Death Scene Investigation and Ballistics.

Death Scene Investigation proved to be the first course of the day for me.

We were taken into a classroom and shown graphic images of actual death scenes, and then given the opportunity to say what we thought had occurred based on the blood spatter and evidence visible in the photographs. Before each set of photographs, the instructor gave us as attendees the option to leave the room before the next set of images were posted. Some people took the opportunity to do this. I confess, even though I have a pretty strong stomach, at times I felt a little queasy knowing I was viewing the scene of someone’s murder. That didn’t stop me from feeling a little spurt of pride, however, when after being shown photos of a brutal attack of a mother vacationing in a cabin with her two children, the instructor asked for speculation as to who the murderer was and I correctly guessed it was the estranged husband.

Now granted, the odds are high that a murdered woman is usually a victim of a domestic situation.  But when the instructor asked why I believed this was the case,  I pointed out that the woman was on vacation alone with her children, that the murderer had waited until the children had gone swimming, that the attack was brutally centered on her breasts and genitals, possibly signifying a strong personal hatred or previous sexual relationship, and that her left hand had been severed–the ‘ring’ hand.

The instructor was so pleased with my reasoning, he gave me a T-shirt!

After the initial instruction about basic procedures (more on that below), we then entered a room that had been staged with a fake death scene. We were given time to observe the evidence and then determine what took place. This was a little tricky since the room was small and there were a lot of us in it. Most of us could only clearly see a small portion of the scene. However, I won another T-shirt when asked for speculation as to what had happened and I said there had to be at least one shooter from outside, as the glass on the inside of the room indicated a bullet had been fired into the room. But I missed the bloody footprint, as well as the driver’s license (conveniently) abandoned in the trash basket.

My notes from the course are barely legible, as I wrote at top speed trying to keep up, but here are the highlights:

  1. Blood spatter goes in all directions–look for cast-off. In our arranged death scene, blood spatter had been placed on the ceiling and many of us neglected to look up. When a blade goes into a body, suction is formed around it, so if it is pulled out, the blade comes out with force and cast-off ends up behind the perpetrator.
  2. Passive blood drops don’t change size past four feet in height, therefore you can measure the size of the drop that falls from a height of under four feet to determine the height at which it fell (think of blood dripping off the tip of a knife point). There is a mathamatical formula for working this out, but don’t ask me to explain it! If a tear-shaped droplet forms as a result of cast-off, the fat end of the droplet will be closest to the source and the tip points in the direction of flow.
  3. Don’t assume all the blood is the victim’s. You may only get one chance to get a sample if it came from the murderer, so identification and preservation are critical. Knives become slippery with blood and it is easy for the perpetrator to get cut under those circumstances.
  4. A scene with a lot of evidence is frequently divided into grids (much like an archeological dig)
  5. Every death is treated as a homicide until proven otherwise.
  6. A void pattern can be as important as a spatter pattern (ie, what was in the way of the spray and where is it now?).

You can’t assume the perpetrator has left the scene–so you must complete a search/clear building first. Victims can only be assessed–not declared dead (coroner must declare death). A first responder can only say “pulse/no pulse.” The coroner is often an elected official with no real medical background. Larger counties will have both a coroner and a medical examiner, but it depends on the state.

The first responders will use codes when calling for backup because people listen to police scanners. An officer cannot assess/help/call for backup until the home is cleared.

One thing that came up again and again during the weekend is how often murderers confess to their crimes. It’s almost as if committing such a horrific act weighs on their conscience to the point they can’t help but confess given the slightest opportunity. Spontaneous utterance (confession) can be accepted, but an officer must Mirandize immediately afterward.

Officers on the scene can question anyone present to get background statements but there is a fine line between a witness and a suspect. When in doubt, read Miranda rights, but that may shut a witness/suspect down.

If a witness/suspect asks if he should get a lawyer, the correct response is to say, “It’s up to you. I’m not in a position to tell you your rights.”

If a suspect doesn’t call 9-1-1 immediately after a situation that ends in death, then self-defense credibility drops rapidly.

Once you’re assigned to a crime scene, it’s yours until the investigation is complete to avoid cross-contamination of a scene. If a crime scene occurs in a private home, the entire street will be closed off until secure.

That’s pretty much what I got out of the course–that and the realization I had halfway decent observation skills! I enjoyed the class so much I revised my planned schedule so that I could take more courses that were similar. I also learned there is too much to learn in a single course! I took notes, but quickly realized I’m going to have to invest in some more reading material if I want to be truly accurate describing crime scenes. I have a book on blood spatter on my Amazon wish list now. 🙂

And of course, I want to go back to WPA again!

Tune in next time when I will talk about K9 units and ballistics.

A Lou Sylvre post: The ideal reader-author relationship? A round dozen author replies

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hello readers and fellow writers. I’ve switched my monthly date here at Authors Speak to the first. This month I’m going to do something a little different, but first a word as to why. Lately, I’ve been all about the politics, and I feel that’s as it should be. The most inclusive definition of the word “politics” is well-stated in Merriam Websters free online dictionary as the last (5th) meaning:

the total complex of relations between people living in society

So, it’s not about votes and executive orders and petitions and protests. It’s about people. Persons. Individuals in relation to the world of individuals. What does this have to do with my blog post? Hang on, I’m getting there.

Not quite five years ago I had one of my big ideas. Ruh-roh, right? This particular idea was for a project on my author blog, sylvre.com. I decided to have a whole passel of M/M romance authors answer the same set of questions. One of my favorites was specifically about politics—in other words, human relations—from a writer’s perspective. Here’s the question followed by a dozen of the answers from authors. I’d absolutely welcome comments answering the same question from a reader’s viewpoint, or anything from the same authors if their thoughts on the subject has changed, or anything else you’ve got to say—anyone.

Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.

Andrea Speed: “Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.”

Ellen Holiday: “I don’t know that I can speak to an ideal, but I can certainly say that I’m so delighted when readers take the time to leave a review or a rating or drop me a line or a tweet (@ellen_holiday!). I’m always so glad to hear from folks and have had some wonderful conversations with readers. There was a gentleman from England who emailed me, saying he wished he could vote for a politician like Davis Hudson (the protagonist of “Inside the Beltway”) – that was a great compliment! So readers, if you like what an author has to say, don’t hesitate to drop them a line. They may not all respond — they might be too busy writing the next book you’ll love — but it will give them great validation and motivation to keep writing.”

Anne Barwell: “An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two-way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.”

Vastine Bondurant: “Oh, wow. What a cool question. I suppose the ideal is for the readers to feel as if they know the author. For them to be comfortable, to feel free to do as the question above stated—to feel free to suggest what they’d like to see in my stories. But, above all—respect, both ways.”

Chris T. Kat: “It should be based on mutual respect. I like to connect with the people who read my stories, to know what they liked and what not. As a reader I’m mostly shy but if I found an author whose books I like I’m very loyal.”

Cornelia Grey: “I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!”

Elizabeth Noble: “One of my favorite things to do has become the chats where I can interact in some way with readers. Some people seem to be intimidated and hesitant to email or participate in a chat and I wish they wouldn’t be. I may always be a writer, but I wouldn’t be an author without readers. I love the sorts of sites that allow and encourage interchanges between the authors and readers.”

Lisa Marie Davis: “Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.
Jacob Flores:“The ideal relationship would be that the readers loved everything the author wrote. LOL! But I know that’s not going to be the case. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that the readers would be invested enough in my book to understand the choices the characters made. On the same token, authors wouldn’t be successful without our wonderful readers. The relationship needs to be symbiotic, a successful joining of creative minds traveling together on a wonderful journey.”

Jamie Fessenden: “Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.”

J. L. O’Faolain: “An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.”

Kim Fielding: “Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.”

KZ Snow: “Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.”
Zahra Owens: “Very selfishly I’d like a reader to love or trust me enough to buy anything I bring out, even if, at first glance, it isn’t their cup of tea. As a reader, I have a few authors like that (not naming names, because these people know me!). Also, I’d like to get some feedback from them. Just honest, tactful, right off the cuff feedback.”

If perchance you’d like to see one or all of the complete interviews (which are all accompanied by bios, blurbs, covers, and excerpts), you can find them on sylvre.com by checking the list of archived months in the righthand side bar, and looking in October through December 2012. If one of the authors I’ve mentioned is new to you and you’d like to know more, as far as I’m aware they are all still in the M/M writing game and a Google search should yield results.

A tiny update about my current writerly antics: I’ve asked for the rights to A Shot of J&B in order to keep the series it truly belongs to together. They’re mine again as of April 10th. I admit to sadness, especially because I will no longer be able to use the absolutely beautiful cover by Reese Dante, pictured here. If you’d like a copy of the book with that cover now is the time, available at Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the usual places until that date. On a brighter note, I’m currently enjoying the rare chance to go back and make a story I loved writing, and which got some strong reviews, even better with a re-edit—a little new material, along with some refinement on the old. As an author, these two main characters are a joy to spend time with. Not quite as sassy, say, as a Luki Vasquez, but responsive, surprising, and pushy enough to keep me on my toes. Make it fun!

Finally, look for another Authors speak big giveaway coming up very soon! (Stay tuned. Really.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you around—the sooner the better!

Giving Back

 

Many years ago, when my children were little and my youngest son was in the fourth grade or so his class did a project for Thanksgiving about what they were grateful for. One of the things on his list was that we always had a phone and our utilities were never shut off.

That was a real WOW moment for me.

There was a time that broke was a step up in the world. However, there was never a time we didn’t have a home, or heat or food. Sometimes the home was a tiny apartment that we squeezed into and the food was hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly.

Things are a bit different now. My kids are a dog and cat. More months than not I rob Peter to pay Paul and something is always paid late. But, it all gets paid.

I still have a home–one I own now. I have a car, something I couldn’t always afford. The neighborhood I live in is much better, and I can buy groceries.

These changes are a result, in part, of the fact I now publish books. People pay for those books, which has added to my income. I’m extremely grateful for that extra income and it makes a huge difference in my life.

Along the way from published to royalty check there are a number of people who help authors out free of charge. They give their time and energy to creating blogs where books can be showcased, increasing exposure. They offer reviews, post interviews and run contests.

These blog owners and their reviewers help my career as an author a lot. So, when one of them asks for help raising money for a worthwhile charity there is no way I’d refuse.

See, there are an awful lot of people who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a home, or enough to eat. They might face bullying because they’re part of the LGBTQ+ population. Maybe there are health issues they face and don’t know where to go for treatment.

The point is for many young people times are bleak and they may feel suicide is their only option.

Which it’s not.

I have always liked to give back, be it with my time, my money or something else. I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of financial support, but I do have books to contribute.

When one of the blog owners I work with regularly put out a call for a fundraising project I jumped at the chance.

Kim from Kimmer’s Erotic Book Blog came up with the idea to sell bundles of books at a discount and donate the proceeds to the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in the United States.

I’m willing to bet everyone reading this post buys books. Here’s a great way to help someone less fortunate, get your book fix, and maybe try a new author. (ppsssttt…my book is the first one in the picture, Gone Away.)

It’s important to give back, even when you don’t feel very fortunate yourself. There is always someone worse off.

Oodles and goodles of book bundles be HERE!

Until next month,

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth

 

 

Tools of the Trade: What I Learned at Writer’s Police Academy Part 1 by Sarah Madison

Something I’m often asked is how much research I do for my stories.

It’s a good question. I adore research. I’ve been known to dive into the rabbit hole and not come up for air for months. I spent weeks researching The Battle Of Britain to write a simple dream sequence for The Boys of Summer, and what I learned made me determined to share some of the essence of what those young pilots experienced in defence of their country–far beyond the intended scene.

I used my own experiences as an event rider when writing Fool’s Gold, a story set in Olympic level sport horse competition. I once wrote a story about a main character who suffers a spinal cord injury, and immersed myself in both medical texts and the writings of survivors of such injuries.

When I decided to write a series of stories with FBI agents as characters, I knew I needed more than my love of shows such as Bones, NCIS, or The X-Files to give me a feel for how crimes are investigated (even if there is a paranormal element). Among other books, I read A Very Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI by Frank Buttino. I also read books on forensics, profiling, and true crime accounts of hunting serial killers. My wish list on Amazon has everything from bloodspatter analysis to books on training cadaver dogs.

So you can bet when I first heard fellow author Eden Winters speaking of her experiences at Writer’s Police Academy, I was all ears. Then I found out Jamie Lynn Miller had been going for years and had fantastic things to say about it. So when Shira Anthony asked if I’d like to share a room with her, I jumped at the chance.

I had a terrific time and I learned a lot. I would definitely go again, given the chance. Because the first thing you need to know about Writer’s Police Academy is that you simply can’t fit it all in on one trip. There are too many courses, there’s too much information and too little time. It was a jam-packed weekend, but that’s a good thing. Think of it like a continuing education seminar in which four different courses are offered at the same time and you have to choose which to attend. It means you have to come back!

The second takeaway lesson I got from WPA is that there’s a reason you’re drawn to certain things. Given I have more of a medical background than the average person, I decided to avoid much of the crime scene courses and concentrate instead in areas where I had little experience, such as ballistics or arson. But shortly into the first day, I realized that I had a natural affinity for some things, and that by avoiding them, I was actually turning my back on the kinds of things I was not only interested in, but most likely to include in a story. I rapidly reassessed my schedule and changed it accordingly. I also changed it when I heard a particular class was good or fun. The great thing about WPA is most courses were offered more than once, with a couple of exceptions. That meant you could pick up something the next day that conflicted with a different lecture before.

So while I took copious notes at the speed of light (just like being in school again), what I really got out of the lectures was a better sense of what I wanted to know more about (and where to find out more about these subjects) and potential contacts for questions among the speakers, many of whom were happy to give out their emails to answer any questions that might arise about procedure, etc.

WPA is held in Greenbay, WI. The venue was pretty amazing. The hotel was a stone’s throw from the airport, and the amenities pleasant. WPA works in conjunction with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to put on the Academy every year, drawing on the lecturers from the college and volunteers to put on a great program. They also get some pretty amazing authors as keynote speakers for the big dinner at the end of the weekend. Tami Hoag and Lee Goldberg were the 2016 speakers. Ms. Hoag in particular was delightful, but I regret to say I could barely keep my eyes open by the time Saturday night rolled around. The buses rolled out at 7 am, which meant you had to have grabbed breakfast and be ready to roll. Classes were scheduled tightly, and sometimes the logistics of choosing to attend two different lectures on opposites sides of campus left you running in August heat for a bus to take you to the next class–or just running, period.

Snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, and a jacket for when you’re in air conditioning were all essential, as were sensible shoes. And don’t forget your camera! For those who arrived early on Thursday afternoon, there was a prison tour, as well as a special ops demonstration of equipment and police dogs in the parking lot coinciding with registration. I confess, I found the heat debilitating after my long flight, so I probably didn’t take full advantage of the demonstrations.

Our first day started out with a bang–as we rolled into the campus parking lot, we were greeted with a major accident. Two cars were involved. There was at least one obvious fatality and several serious injuries. Some people were still trapped in one of the vehicles, and the driver of the van appeared to be under the influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we watched, police and rescue vehicles came roaring in and took over the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to see the ‘jaws of life’ in action, as well as watch as the police put the impaired driver through sobriety tests and then arrest her when she failed. The procedures were narrated throughout so we could hear as well as see what was going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then to our amazement, a helicopter arrived to airlift out the victims!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that was all in the first hour! You can see why it will take me several posts to go through my experiences at WPA. I want to give as much detail as I can, as it will help solidify the information learned for me as well.

In the meantime, the newly expanded version of Unspeakable Words (Sixth Sense Series Book One) was released on March 1o, 2017! You can check out the series and see while I thought Writer’s Police Academy was such a great idea.

Ch-ch-chaaanges!

Well, hello there again and thank you for stopping by my little corner of Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate!

Writing professionally requires certain things and not all of them pertain to the technicalities of putting words together to form a story. Sometimes writers have to make choices about what to write. There is the hard reality that we have to make a living as well as writing what we love.

There is absolutely no reason one can’t do both.

That choices can be difficult if one isn’t willing to expand horizons and change a bit. However, there are a lot of choices and with a bit of thought it’s easy to discover there are other stories that need writing.

I’ve always said I’m a serial offender. I write in series. Series have much to offer in the way of extended plots and character development. It’s my writing as well as reading preference.

However stand alone books have a great deal to offer as well. Some stories don’t need four or six books to complete. There are readers who’d prefer a story be told with the covers of one book.

I decided it’s time to switch gears and write more stand alone stories. Some discussion with Lynn West, Dreamspinner Press editor in chief, helped me decide on a good direction to pursue.

Romantic suspense will still be part of my line-up, though I think the Circles series has come to an end. The next mystery will be a full length novel with more development and probably a more complicated plot. However, my mysteries will be in the same high action/adventure (sometimes in the wilderness) style as the Circles mysteries. I’ll still be working on The Vampire Guard, however it’ll be my ‘written for me’ side pet project stories. Sentries has been completed, though I may offer free stories on my website from time to time.

This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve taken a new path. I’ve always tried to live by the adage “I’m nothing if not adaptable”. Honestly, every change of direction for me has always been a good one. I’m excited over this change.

Coming soon, awaiting contract decision and in the works are two Dreamspun Desires books, a BDSM featuring an ice dancer and a hockey player. Of course there is a murder mystery planned, it will take place in Wrigleyville. There may also be a scifi romance in the future.

I hope you’ll join me in my new writing adventure!

I’m always excited and happy to take requests from readers, so if anyone has a plot bunny bouncing around you’d like to share please let me know!

Elizabeth

PS…you can find all my books on my website, click on the banner below.

There is also a great new repository site for finding Quiltbag/LGBTQ+ books. Check out Queeromance Inc.

Relaunching a Series by Sarah Madison: Why do it?

Sorry, I’m a bit late getting here today. I’ve been working a number of things, not the least of which is trying to put some blog posts in the bag so I can get ahead of my commitments for a change. Among other things, I’m putting together a series of posts about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy last summer, which I plan to share here. As soon as I can decipher my notes, that is!

In the meantime, I’m delighted to share with you the brand new look for the Sixth Sense series!

You might be asking yourself why anyone would relaunch an old series wit a new look? I’m glad you did! On the surface of it, it probably doesn’t seem to make much sense. A little backstory is necessary.

Unspeakable Words was the very first major story I submitted for publication back in 2010. I did it on a whim, really. I had no expectations of it being accepted by Dreamspinner Press or winding up on their bestseller list for over a month! I’ll be honest, when I got the acceptance email I was flabbergasted–and came very close to snatching the story back from them. I was afraid if I did, however, I would blow my one chance to be a published author. I’ve always wished I’d trusted my instincts and held out for the opportunity to flesh the story out the way I saw it in my mind.

There was an unfortunate delay between Unspeakable Words and the next installment, Walk a Mile. Some of it was inexperience on my part,  some of it was as a result of life getting in the way. When I submitted Walk a Mile, I don’t think anyone realized that I’d jumped from a long novella into novel format. I didn’t think anything of it myself–not until I began running into people who didn’t want to buy the paperbacks because the first in the series was only available as an ebook. Truth and Consequences rolled on in the same novel format–it was only Unspeakable Words that didn’t fit the lineup.

So I went to Dreamspinner and asked if it would be possible to expand Unspeakable Words into the story I’d always meant for it to be. They said yes–and then suggested revamping the series look for the revised version. I’m delighted to announce that not only has L.C. Chase done a bang-up job of capturing the essence of these stories–which I was far more capable of conveying due to developing the skills I needed as an author–but you can now pre-order the expanded, revised version of Unspeakable Words! Release date March 10, 2017.

I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these guys as much as I have–I’m working on the fourth (and final) installment now, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil.

Lou Sylvre on Dickens, Fiction, and Politics (Or when is an author like a bird? Tweet-tweet.)

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hi, Lou Sylvre here, switching places with Lou Hoffmann for my February blog post on Authors Speak. I apologize to readers and fellow bloggers for being absent from this blog for a while. I’ve taken to combing the news and spreading the word via twitter and facebook about how the USA and the world are in acute danger, worsening every day. To do that, I’ve let the writing and promoting of books—including blog posts where I usually talk about books, either mine or someone else’s—fall woefully behind schedule.

The reason I’m doing this isn’t that I don’t think my books can make a political difference. They can, especially if someone reads them who is not already “on the same page” politically.

This is true even though I write genre fiction, not the “literary” stuff, as it’s generally classified. In a New York Times (NYT) “Bookends” discussion from February 17, 2015, Karen Prose quoted a 2013 NYT “study” as showing that “after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.” I didn’t read the NYT study conclusions or methodology and therefore can’t comment on it. However, Prose then goes on to opine that “Though the novels of Charles Dickens failed to radically improve the lot of poor children in Victorian England, they did raise public awareness of the Oliver Twists and Little Dorrits whom readers might otherwise have ignored.” Indeed, that seems accurate as far as it goes, though I believe there may be more to be said about the overall impact of Dickens on the world of his day, and it of course says almost nothing about his impact on readers ever since. My point, however, is that using Dickens to illustrate the difference of impact between so-called “literary” fiction as opposed to “popular” fiction is in itself questionable.


By all reports Dickens work was wildly popular during the nineteenth century. Many of his novels were serialized, which would suggest it was intended for the masses (at least those who could read and had sufficient leisure to purse the pastime), and he is said to be one of the earliest novelists to produce work with mass market appeal. Popular fiction? Now—now—his works are “classics of literature,” but they wouldn’t have seemed so then, I think. Of course, the pedantic distinction between popular and literary fiction is not about how many people want to read it. Research it a bit and you’ll find two ideas:

First: literary fiction focuses on reflecting society to itself, so that society can figure out the world, whereas popular fiction only seeks to entertain.

Second: literary fiction focuses on character and is character driven, while popular fiction hinges strongly on plot.

To the first, I say pshaw! Read quality genre fiction and you will come away with the feeling that you know yourself, your world, and humankind better. And guess what? Entertainment is engagement, and engagement improves learning.

To the second, because I already used “pshaw,” I’ll begin by raising the ghost of Aristotle, the creator of the seemingly sanctified arc in fiction. To the great Mr. A., fiction and its arc was about plot, though we have learned to apply it to various things like character and relationships as well. So, for starters, if Aristotle liked plot-driven fiction, who are you literary pundits to walk on his grave? Another thing, though certainly Dickens (our man of literary fiction) wrote character foremost and best, his plots were well-planned, twisty, purposeful, and very present. But more importantly perhaps, plenty genre fiction is character-driven, and the fact that genre writers are also good at giving those characters a compelling story, as well as the fact that genre readers prefer fabulous characters to do something, doesn’t mean the writer hasn’t succeeded in doing what all quality fiction does well—reflect society back upon itself!

So why, then, am I neglecting my books to promote awareness of the current political catastrophe? First, I write male/male romance, which means that my readers are by and large people who are already aware and in general agreement with my political outlook. Twitter ad Facebook provide the possibility of reaching outward from that base. Second, and more significant, the progression of political disaster in the Unites States is unfolding rapidly and accelerating every day. Yes, my books address (though I hope not in soapbox fashion because that’s boring) political realities. No, they can’t make people aware of what donald trump and his tribe of white supremacists, plutarchists, science-deniers, and people with poor grammar did an hour ago.

Writers have some skills that come in very handy when it comes to promoting awareness. The job of “Fiction Writer” in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles is rated as requiring an education and skill level of “8.” This is a high value—only advanced scientists, medical doctors, and similar have a higher rating. The level doesn’t mean writers have to all be super-smart, but it means they have to achieved proficiency in skills requiring education (self-education counts!) and lots of practice before they are perfected, and the skill set is broad. One such skill could be described as the ability to assess information, assimilate it, extract or synthesize underlying concepts, and express them in ways that are understandable, meaningful, and impactful.

That’s the skill I strive to use when I write that tweet or Facebook post. I don’t always get it right, but after many years, I still feel I’m learning my craft. If I come close—if I convey my outrage and urgency along with accurate fact, if something I write might make someone more aware of the thin ice they are perched upon, I feel I’ve done some small bit of good. Tweeting and Facebook posting certainly isn’t all I’m doing to resist the disaster that is a trump presidency, but I will keep doing it. I am also returning my attention to my fiction—what writer can keep from writing stories?

But if my time on social media is spent on politics rather than promotion, and if that means I sell fewer books… well, I hope that won’t happen. But if it does, so be it.

Those are my thoughts, for today. Thank you for reading them! Also thank you if you keep reading my books despite everything. My characters will get very lonely without you.

Changes, legacies and thinky thoughts

My basement flooded recently.

It’s a special sort of treat said no one EVER!

So what the heck does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, it turns out quite a bit.

When I moved to this house twelve-ish or so years ago I had visions of using my finished basement in all sorts of grand and glorious ways. I could have a whole other floor of living space. I thought creating a living room and dining room down there would be a great place during the hot summer months. It’s nice and cool, I’d save on my electric bill.

Then the darn thing flooded–every few years. Yeah, that’s soooo much fun I can’t even begin to describe it. My oldest son (thank heavens I had the foresight to give birth to a plumber!) suggested an indoor pool during the last flood. Excuse him, he’s convinced he’s funny.

After this last flood I realized I don’t even like it down there anymore. It was time for a change. I decided I needed to move some of the shelves and furniture and things down there up into my main living space.

One of those pieces of furniture was this cute little dresser.

Since it’d been previously sitting in my basement for a decade plus I decided to go through what was stored in those drawers. Discovered something interesting.

Writers keep A LOT of paper. Lined paper, blank paper, colored paper, no pens just paper–I don’t even write by hand anymore! Some of those papers (and notebooks) had things written on them.

Writerly things.

One of those drawers was filled with different stories I’d written or begun to write. Some were from long ago when I was in school. A few were finished, others were not. I’d venture to say I could look in any closet or filing cabinet I own and find such a stash. These little writing clippets range from not so bad to OMG I hope no one ever sees these!

For the better part of the last six or so years I’ve written almost exclusively on my computer. My research, notes, ideas, visual aids are all on there. I have a few friends who’ve I tasked with the duty that if I drop dead they MUST come wipe my hard drive. I’d die of embarrassment if some of those things were seen by others.

Which is silly, I’d be dead so what’s the difference?

My recent find in that little dresser made me think, what about all that stuff I have written on paper and squirrel away throughout my house?

From a writer standpoint this stuff is awful. Gimme a break some of it was written as early as grade school! That’s not to say the ideas are horrible, some I think I might revisit and use. But the writing–gah, blah!

But then I thought how my kids make comments about my writing. Not what I write, but that I DO write. It’s part of who and what I am. My youngest son has commented numerous times the thing he remembers most about me when he was small was I was always creating stories. Writing them down and later typing them out.

Even if I think these handwritten bits and pieces of stories are horrible is it possible they might become something treasured to my children or grandchildren someday? A memento of who Mom was?

Maybe. I won’t know because of that whole being dead thing.

The fact remains, useful or not, these early stories I created do represent me. I’ve decided I’ll collect them all from their hiding places in the back of closest and forgotten drawers and put them in one place for others to find someday. If my kids don’t want them, they can toss them, no hard feelings and I’ll understand. However, it’ll be their choice. I shouldn’t take the opportunity from them to save something they might find precious and meaningful.

Now, as for the raunchy pictures that are purely research on my hard drive–they gots to go!

Until next month,

Elizabeth

To read the better stuff that is eBook compatible and not handwritten visit my WEBSITE.

 

Defending Your Copyright: What You Need to Know

Recently, I found out the hard way what you can expect in a battle to defend your copyright.

First, let me put a disclaimer here: this information, to the best of my knowledge, only applies in the US. You should check into the regulations within your own country.

summer_fling-200x300I’ve posted extensively on my website about the conflict I got into with Amazon over my right to publish A Summer Fling, but I’ll share the highlights with you here: a short time ago, I updated some information in my bio on a long-standing free short story on Amazon.

The next day, I received an email from KDP saying that prior to my submission they’d received a complaint and takedown notice from a third party and they declined to re-publish the story. A story that had been available for the last three years. I was given four days to prove I was the author of the story in question or face a lifetime ban from publishing on Amazon.

I was aghast. My initial thought was I’d done something wrong with the file changes. I contacted friends, who assured me this wasn’t all that unusual, and that Amazon was getting tougher about establishing copyright due to copyright claim jumping as well as people stealing the pen names of established authors to publish their own stories. Self-published authors may be at greater risk.

This is a good time to state here that in the US, copyright is conferred at the time the work is created, and it is not necessary to register it with the copyright office to claim copyright or even defend that copyright in court. Is *is* necessary, however, if you intend to sue for damages due to copyright infringement. I have since learned that having your works registered will go a long way toward defending your copyright in many cases without going to court–something most of us would probably prefer. I also believe in this age where theft of digital products is on the rise (funny how everyone wants access to the end product but few want to pay the actual creator of these works…), it behooves us as authors to think proactively about our stories.

From the US copyright office:

1. Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship.
2. Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
3. Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
4. The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

Here is the link for the US copyright office.

That said, I was able to provide Amazon with ample proof that I was the copyright holder of the story. I sent in the original draft (written in 2011), as well as links to where it appeared as a free story online during a fest, and then the 2013 Smashwords creation. I also, for good measure, retroactively registered the copyright and provided Amazon with that case number. Satisfied there was no way anyone could contest I was the author of A Summer Fling, I sent the email and dismissed it from my mind.

Only the next communication changed everything. Amazon no longer disputed that I had written the story. The problem was some third party claimed I didn’t have a right to publish the story. WTH?

This was no longer a case of random copyright theft. The number of potential claimants in this case was quite small. Two as a matter of fact. The first party contacted Amazon on my behalf and received a generic email response that told her nothing.

A fourth refusal from Amazon to re-establish the story included a generous invitation to continue publishing with them in the future–and a suggestion to hire a copyright lawyer. In the meantime, I’d been on the phone with Author Central and KDP, and I’d forwarded Jeff Bezos all my communications with KDP–including a statement from a now-defunct ebook retailer (who happened to have closed doors 24 hours before this problem arose) showing they had no publishing rights to my story. Because now I’m suspicious. Highly suspicious.

And then suddenly, I receive an email from Amazon stating ‘on further review’ they’ve decided to reverse their position and put the story back up again. No explanation. I have no idea if it was my loud persistence, the intervention of one of the two possible claimants, or my contacting Jeff Bezos about the matter that resolved it.

I doubt that copyright registration would have made a difference in this case because this was about publishing rights, not copyrights. But I will definitely be registering my previous and future stories with the copyright office as an extra layer of protection.

I will also download copies of *every* agreement signed to allow distribution of my stories. I was fortunate to still have access to a copy of the ARe agreement, even though I don’t know if they were the source of the conflict.

The takehome message here is to be proactive in defending your works. I was facing hiring a copyright lawyer to determine if a free story was being blocked by accident or a malicious attempt to lay claim to all my self-published stories. You can see why I had to seriously consider hiring that lawyer.

 

Bio:

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.

Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series.

If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.

Website: http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com

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E-mail: akasarahmadison@gmail.com

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