Sunday, April 28, 2013

Action sample Sunday: The Avar horsemen

Image of Avar horsemen courtesy REH: Two-Gun Raconteur
This week, I am again presenting a fan favourite: an action excerpt from my first book, The Bones of the Earth.

This passage comes from Part 2: Tests. In this section, the hero, Javor — cast out of his own village because of his autism and tendency to attract trouble — and Photius, the mysterious traveller, have found refuge in another village. But it’s not long before the village is attacked by raiders, a group of the horsemen who swept across Europe during the Dark Age. Javor and Photius have tried to organize some defence of the village’s wooden stockade, to little effect.

The riders charged from all directions at once, standing on their saddles to vault the stockade. One landed behind Javor, whose sword seemed to find its own way to the raider’s head, biting through the mail and killing him on the spot. Javor wrenched the sword free of the falling body and ran toward another attacker. His sword led the way, piercing the man’s chest.

But there were too many of them. They killed villagers indiscriminately. Spears and swords bloodied tunics and skirts. Mstys wielded a scythe, cutting down the raiders until a blow to his head knocked him down. Photius had his sword out and Javor saw him dispatch two raiders before another blocked his view.

Javor swung his sword, but the raider was quick and skilled and engaged him in a terrifying bout. Time after time, Javor barely dodged swipes of the curved blade. He couldn’t connect and was conscious of his own lack of skill and experience.

The other man knew he had the advantage. He hit Javor on the arm, then on the head with the flat of his blade. He drew no blood, but the pain slowed Javor down. He swung his blade again and missed again. His opponent seemed to go for his chest, but suddenly swiped savagely at Javor’s legs, tripping him. Javor went down hard. The amulet fell out of his jerkin then, but its chain was still on his neck, and Javor grabbed it unconsciously. The curved sword struck his back, ringing on the armour, but it didn’t penetrate.

Javor rolled on top of his sword. He tried to get out his dagger, but the raider brought his down on Javor’s chest. The blow winded Javor, but the armour held, ringing.

I hope you liked that. Leave a Comment below, one way or the other!

And if you want to find out what happens next, you can get The Bones of the Earth on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and other e-tailers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Writing tips: Beware the comma splice

Comma butterfly image © Copyright Peter Trimming;
licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

Commas are probably the most abused punctuation mark in English today, and probably the most overused, too. Here are a few tips to make them easier to use correctly.
Commas separate parts of a sentence:

  • items in a list 
  • phrases
  • clauses.

Don’t leave out commas from your writing. They represent the pauses in speech, and give readers a chance to take a breath — important even if we’re not reading aloud.

However, don’t overuse them, either. I remember one educational film made in the UK in (judging from the awful clothing) the mid-70s, that said overusing commas made text seem like the writer had hiccups!

  • The carpet, when delivered, will be laid by our approved carpet layers, who are, in your area, Thomas and Jones, Inc.

Read that aloud with a pause at every comma, and you’ll hear what I mean.

Think of a comma as a brief pause to make it clear what ideas belong together.

  • Since this is a new responsibility for the agency, based on new legislation ...

Which is different from

  • Since this is a new responsibility, for the agency based on new legislation ...

Image source: Moblog, creative commons

Those splices won’t hold!

Commas are not strong enough to separate complete thoughts. For that, you need a period — or at least a semi-colon. Sometimes, even talented writers will use commas in situations that need periods. This is called the “comma splice.”
Here are some examples from a book I helped to edit a little while ago, doctored somewhat to protect the innocent. I mean, guilty.

  • The woman in the red dress was no common thief, she’d seen too much, taken too much.

That’s two complete thoughts, so it should be two complete sentences. Replace the comma with a period and capitalize “She’d,” and you have a grammatically correct sentence.

The next example has the same problem:

  • Raising the money took priority, nothing could get in the way of that.

  • Sometimes, though, we don’t want to use the full stop, as the Brits like to call the period. There are cases where the period does not express what we are trying to say.

    • Too bad if the marine lived, he had learned long ago that least dangerous soldier was a dead soldier.

    These are two separate thoughts, but in this case, they’re closely related. Replace the comma with a semi-colon. Same with the next example:

    • Not so long ago, he thought Karen would be the only one for him, now barely a thought of her came into his head.

    The simple way to remember it is this: if a group of words has a subject and a verb, it’s a sentence. That means it also needs to begin with a capital letter and end with a period. Even two words can be a complete sentence:

    • Johnny ran.

    An imperative (command) sentence can be one word:

    • Run!

    And that means, end it with a period. Most of the time. You can also use question marks for questions, and occasionally exclamation marks, too. But use those rarely.

    Link related sentences with a semi-colon, but again, go lightly with them. They’re like habanero peppers — terrific when they’re used sparingly.

    For more on sentences, check out my blog post from last November. And if you have a question, put it in the comments, or send me an email or a tweet.

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Guest post: How I landed publishers by choosing to self-publish

    By Kristen Elise, Ph.D.

    Here’s a secret: publishers love the self-publishing author.

    When Scott asked me to do a guest post about marketing for newbie novelists, my first reaction was, “I don’t know anything about marketing — I’m a newbie novelist myself.” Then I received two contract offers for my first novel without soliciting them. And it occurred to me that I do know how to market. Even without a book to sell, I have learned how to market my name, and publishers noticed.

    Four months ago, I finished The Vesuvius Isotope and began contemplating the next step. I had a choice: I could either learn how to self-publish, or I could learn how to query acquisitions editors and agents. I had no clue how to do either. For several reasons explained here, I decided to self-publish. And it occurred to me that I had just become my own marketing department.

    I already had my blog, author site, and other pages up and running. I guess I already had some semblance of a platform. But it was only when I decided to self-publish that it occurred to me just how critical the platform would become: It was now my only connection to readers.

    So as I created a self-publishing checklist and started checking its boxes, I simultaneously began boosting my platform. I thought about what I could offer readers that everyone else wasn’t offering. I thought about my target audience and how I could attract them to my site. I thought about how I could develop meaningful connections with people who might one day buy my book. For specific examples of platform-building techniques, click here.

    The effort worked: my sites began gaining more readers, members and page views. One of those readers was an acquisitions editor who began asking questions about why I wanted to self-publish. Then she asked for my manuscript and ultimately offered to publish it. Another new reader was an author crazy about his new publisher. He referred me to his acquisitions editor, who ultimately offered me a contract as well.

    So I’m now in the uniquely awesome position of choosing how to publish The Vesuvius Isotope. And I would like to reiterate: I did nothing spectacular to get this opportunity; all I did was build the very platform I would need anyway, in order to sell the book.

    I cringe when I hear authors say things to the effect that they expect a publisher to do their marketing for them. Reality check: this doesn’t happen anymore.

    If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, this means you will solicit agents, typically for more than a year, and if one takes you on, he or she will then solicit the Big Six publishing houses for God knows how long. If you are lucky enough to sign on with one, you are now in the unenviable position of competing with all best-selling authors and the occasional Newbie Novelist of the Year.

    If you are that breakout artist, you will have it made. The house will use its muscle to send you on book tours, mass distribute your novel across the globe, translate it into Swahili and connect you with their “people” in the movie business. My sincere congratulations. Please mention my name to your agent.

    But if you’re in the other 99 percent, guess what the Big Six will do for you. Nothing. Book tour? Please. They won’t even arrange a book-signing in your hometown. Then they’ll take almost all of your profit. Another reality check: most authors never get royalties, as the publishing house never recoups their expenses. And they need their money to fund marketing efforts for the best-selling authors and Newbie Novelist of the Year.

    This grim picture is reality. And that’s why small publishing houses have now popped up all over the place. As a newbie author, these might be your best bet. A small publishing house may take you, a total unknown, because they are also not very well known and they’d like to change that. So they’ll take a shot with you. They’ll sign you on and pay for the publication of your book. They might pay you a small advance. You might even see some royalties.

    But these smaller publishers come with a catch. Small houses don’t have the bandwidth to market their authors and titles extensively. They can’t afford to send you on those expensive book tours. They will expect you to do part of the legwork. A large part of it. So they look for authors that are already doing it. They look for authors that have already demonstrated that they're willing to get into the trenches. They look for authors who are already their own marketing teams.

    They look for self-publishers.

    Kristen Elise is the author of forthcoming novels The Vesuvius Isotope (fall, 2013) and The Death Row Complex (Fall, 2014). A long-time resident of San Diego, she lives in San Diego with her human family and three canine children. To contact Kristen Elise, visit her author site or blog or e-mail

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    How we respond to tragedy

    Image: Creative Commons
     My hopes and prayers go to the families of everyone killed, wounded and hurt, traumatized and terrified by the bombs in Boston on Monday. My sympathies go to everyone who is struggling through the clean-up, the aftermath and the traffic snarls as the city recovers from the cowardly sneak attack.
    And for whoever planted the bombs, whoever encouraged and enabled the attack, I have only contempt and condemnation.

    Every terrorist attack, every underhanded, gutless affront like this generates a hurricane of media. And when it happens in a major city in the biggest media source in the world, the US, we all know to expect a biblical flood of reportage. And we know that the media’s attention in general will be distracted from all sorts of other subjects, worthwhile of attention and less so, at least until the next shocking event diverts them again.

    It’s fitting; this is an event worth our attention. And it’s right that all of us pause, for at least some time, in our normal daily routines.

    But what should we put on hold? And for how long?

    Getting slagged

    Immediately following the bombing, I got a couple of messages from followers of this blog or my Twitter feed saying that I should hold off in my normal advertising because of the bombing and the innocent blood shed. I read that the Kardashians got scolded for continuing to Tweet about their vapid activities as the first news reports continued to trickle through the Web and the broadcast media.

    My first reaction was: “Oh, right. Sorry — I’ll get right to correcting my automatic Twitter feed.” Then I thought: “Wait a minute. Why?”

    I am not trying to capitalize on this tragedy. No one should ever even try to use it to promote himself or herself, or a product or service. It happened, and we have to acknowledge it, honour the memory of the innocents killed, hurt and scarred.

    It’s also right, though, to look at the coverage, to think about and analyze and discuss our reactions. There is a lot to be learned, a lot worth learning from the aftermath.

    My first impression of the news coverage of the terrible event was that it was better than what we got after earlier terror attacks on the US and elsewhere in the West. It seems to me that it’s been more rational and cautious with less jumping to conclusions about the perpetrators than after 9/11 or the foiled bombing in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 2010.


    Should all of us suspend everything else we’re doing in response to this event? Should we refrain from our usual tweeting? For how long?

    The Fox network has reportedly pulled an episode of Family Guy from broadcast and because it depicts Peter Griffin running down runners at the Boston Marathon with his car.

    I was chastised for tweeting a quote from a review of my novel, The Bones of the Earth, which mentions violence, gore, monsters and more.

    I think that’s fair in the immediate aftermath; it does seem insensitive to be promoting fictional gore when most people’s attention is caught by the real-world variety and people are suffering.

    On the other hand, that response gives the perpetrators of this crime exactly what they want.

    Many years ago, I read a story called “Very Proper Charlies,” about how journalists around the world decided to stop covering any terrorist attacks. No matter what the damage or how many the casualties, the news ignored it. The result was that the terrorists eventually gave up, because attention was the reason they did what they did.

    Sure, it was an exaggeration. But it still had a point: terrorism is a tactic to draw attention to a cause that has no other way of getting any. Whether it’s effective in the long term is a different discussion. But when the news media descend on a terrorist strike like crows on a corpse, the criminals are fulfilled.

    And the more that we turn away from what we normally do, from the activities that build the world up and make it a better place, the more we hurt ourselves.

    Let’s face it, terrorist acts happen all the time. People living in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan and many other places around the world deal with checkpoints and continuous threat of bombings every single day. No one bashes Kim Kardashian for tweeting about her new sweater when bombs go off elsewhere.

    We cannot stop our normal lives, working toward our goals, for every tragedy or crime that happens.

    Maybe we should try treating terrorists like very proper charlies. Of course, that would not acknowledge the suffering of the victims.

    It’s a difficult question. What do you think we should do? Leave your opinion in the Comments.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Sample Sunday: A treat for action lovers

    A number of the reviewers of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, mentioned how much they liked my fight scenes. So for your Sunday pleasure, here's a sample of the first fight scene, in Chapter 6.

    In this section, the hero, Javor — the misunderstood, ostracized young man — has followed the trail of his parents’ murderer to a cave high on a mountainside. Despite his disbelief, the murderer is a monster, just as everyone in his village and the mysterious stranger had told him.

    Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008, via Creative Commons

    Chapter 6: The Cave

    All this Javor took in within a second, for crouching in front of the chasm was the proof of the story: man-shaped, but far, far larger. It was hideous, covered in a dull grey, leathery hide. Its impossibly wide, pig-like mouth was chewing something. Glowing red eyes shadowed by a stony brow glared at him with an alien expression for less than a heartbeat, and then it was reaching for Javor, right in front of him, filling his field of vision, roaring so loudly that Javor’s ears hurt. Its claw slashed at his head. Without thinking, Javor lunged forward, between the monster’s legs. The monster hit the cave wall and bits of rock flew in all directions.

    Javor rolled and sprang up. If he had time to think, he would have been surprised to find his grandfather’s dagger was in his hand. The monster had Photius trapped against the wall. It seemed to be wary of his glowing staff, squinting against its light.

    Javor screamed as fearsomely as he could and sprang forward, slashing the knife downward. He aimed at the monster’s back, but with agility surprising in such a large creature it twisted out of the way, and the knife bit into its arm. The monster roared again, a sound that froze Javor’s heart, and then with awful strength flung Javor across the cave. He rolled to the edge of the chasm. For a second, he felt as if he was going to tip over and plunge in; below was only a dull red light in a deeper blackness and a foul odour. He knew there was no bottom, only an endless drop that called to him; something in Javor’s mind yearned to lean over and fly into the chasm, to give himself to the infinite fall.

    With a huge effort, Javor twisted away from the edge. He gripped his knife but the monster grabbed him in one huge claw and lifted him off the ground, pinning his right arm against his side. Its mouth opened, revealing row upon row of triangular teeth, and its hot breath stank.

    Then Javor looked down, and saw that in its other claw the monster was holding the amulet—his amulet, the one his mother had inherited from her grandfather. But the monster’s grip tightened and drove all thought out of his mind. Javor struggled to breathe and his right arm felt as if it would break. The claws started to dig into his skin.

    Javor’s focus narrowed to three brightly shining points: the monster holding him; the dagger clenched stubbornly in his trapped right hand; and the amulet in the monster’s left claw. Everything else faded, slipped back as if into a great distance.

    That claw rose to maul him to pieces. Something in Javor’s mind called out, and he saw the amulet rise from the monster’s grip, as if it had jumped, and sail into his outstretched left hand.

    The monster roared in anger and confusion. Javor felt a surge of strength from the amulet. The monster’s grip weakened and the claws no longer bit into him.

    I hope you liked that! If you want to find out more, check out a longer sample available through Amazon, Smashwords and other e-book retailers.

    The Bones of the Earth on   The Bones of the Earth on   The Bones of the Earth on   The Bones of the Earth on Smashwords   The Bones of the Earth on Barnes & Noble

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Progress report: One Shade of Red

    Image: Creative Commons
     I have learned a few things in the year since I published my first novel, The Bones of the Earth — even some things about publishing books. I tried to apply them when publishing my second book, One Shade of Red.

    I’ve known the importance of promotion and advertising any product for a long time. Even as a kid, I saw ads promoting the power of advertising. I knew that if I wanted my book to sell well, I’d have to figure out some way to promote it.

    The problem, however, is that advertising costs money. Money I don’t necessarily have, money that I need for my other indulgences, like food and heat and gas. And taxes.

    In the past year, though, I have also learned about some promotion and advertising I could afford.

    And I learned is that results of promotion are not always what you expect.

    What I did

    After I released The Bones of the Earth at the end of 2011, sales were not what I had hoped. So I read, I researched, I spoke and corresponded with a lot of people who know, or who said they knew, about how to promote a book. I listened and I planned to take as much of their advice as I could for the release of my second novel.

    I ramped up my participation on Twitter and joined some great, fun groups on Facebook. I was invited into the Guild of Dreams fantasy authors’ group and corresponded more frequently with other writers. And as you faithful readers have noticed (thanks, by the way, for coming back here every day!), I increased the amount of blogging I do, and wrote guest blog posts for others.

    Even before I was finished with the first draft of One Shade of Red, I started talking about the book in person and on the Net. I put little teasers on my blog and tweeted things like “Coming soon: a sexy spoof of 50 Shades of Grey.”

    I put samples on my blog for Six Sentence Sunday, too, until that fun site closed.

    I solicited and received some excellent and very encouraging advice from an excellent writer, one known for both erotica and other writing, too: Charity Parkerson. Thanks, Charity!

    One of my most important decisions was involving the amazing members of Independent Authors International. As I’ve blogged before, Gary Henry and Cinta Garcia de la Rosa were invaluable editors and reviewers. Ben Wretlind and Bruce Blake contributed excellent copy-editing and proofreading. Thanks, all — I really could not have produced as good a book without you.

    Another iAi member, David C. Cassidy, designed a fantastic cover. I can’t say how happy I am with it! Thank you again, David.

    Once I had a fully edited version, I sent advance review copies to some good friends who are known for good book reviews. Their response was very positive — and I made sure to tell them I wanted honest reviews, and not to spare my feelings. I am very gratified to read their responses, which you can find on Goodreads and Amazon.

    Blog tours

    By February, I knew I was getting close. I set a deadline of the end of March to launch One Shade of Red as an e-book. When I realized that was the Easter long weekend, and the April Fools Day followed immediately, I chose April 2 as the official publishing date.

    Taking a cue from Bruce Blake, I organized two blog tours. First was a cover reveal a couple of weeks before my launch day. Thanks to everyone who posted that stunning cover:

    - CR Hiatt

    - Rachel Thompson

    - Christine Nolfi

    - Bruce A. Blake

    - Wodke Hawkinson

    - Doug Dorow

    - Linze Brandon

    - Lisa Jey Davis

    - David C. Cassidy

    - Jesi Lea Ryan

    Next, I set up advertising on Wodke Hawkinson’s Find a Good Book to Read and on Rachel Thompson’s two book promotional sites, the Indie Book Promo and the related but more specific Romance Promo Central and the Erotic Promo. [

    The launch

    Launch day was April 2, as I said. For one week before and one week after, I organized a blog tour. (I did not realize until it started that the blog tour coincided with Passover.) Ten generous bloggers agreed to post an excerpt from the book; each person got a different excerpt. Thanks to everyone who participated:

    - Alan McDermott

    - Siggy Buckley

    - Charity Parkerson

    - CR Hiatt

    - Dawn Torrens

    - Bruce Blake

    - Cinta Garcia de la Rosa

    - Doug Dorow

    - Frederick Lee Brooke

    - and Shannon Mayer.

    Also, Joyce Strand agreed to feature the my guest post about why I wrote a book like One Shade of Red, which is such a departure from my earlier work.
    It’s amazing how many people will say “yes” when you ask a favour.

    For launch day, I set the price at 99 cents, and for my first book, too. Opening special!

    The results

    Sales that first day were gratifying — not huge, but it seemed that the market at least noticed that my new book was available.

    After that, sales dropped off.

    However, starting that day, sales of The Bones of the Earth started to surge on Amazon’s UK site. I don’t know why, but sales have been steady there ever since, and now the full edition and Part 1: Initiation Rites, a stand-alone novella which is also available as an e-book, are in the top 100 of the Historical Fantasy category — depending on the day, sometimes ahead of some major titles like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana.

    I had heard of this phenomenon before: the best way to sell more books is to publish more books. But this is the first time it has happened to me.

    It’s curious that this sales spike is restricted to the UK. Come on, Americans — are you going to let the Brits outdo you in buying The Bones of the Earth?

    You can still beat them in buying One Shade of Red!

    Friday, April 05, 2013

    Writing tips: Words to throw away

    “Edit” often is synonymous with “take out.” A lot of the work I do involves highlighting unnecessary text and pressing the Delete key.

    It’s a tough job.

    In order to make it easier (and you all want my work to be as easy as possible for me, don’t you?), I thought I would warn you against writing those words in the first place. If they aren’t there, I don’t have to cut them.

    I have two categories in this post: words and phrases you can just remove without replacing; and phrases you can easily replace with a single word.

    Terms to tank

    It’s time to ditch some catch-phrases. Maybe the first time you heard them, they sounded cool. But here is my list of words and phrases that no one should say, let alone write down, anymore:

    Push the envelope

    Outside the box

    Going forward, when it means “in the future”


    On the ground, unless you mean something that is actually on the ground

    At the end of the day

    In the field of

    It is to be noted that

    The information you requested is below

    This report/letter/email is in reference to

    In light of this

    The month of

    In a nutshell

    Obese text

    Working for a large organization, I read a lot of text written in what I call “corporatese” — a language that obscures and hinders communication of ideas more than facilitating it. Documents filled with extra words and phrases that don’t add information, but just bloat the word count.

    The next time you find that you’ve written any of these phrases, replace them with a single verb. Then re-read the text. You’ll be amazed at how much better it reads.

    Conduct the evaluation of — replace with “evaluate”

    During the period of — “between”

    Cognizant of/aware of — “know”

    At a later date — “later”

    First and foremost — “first”

    Due to the fact that — “because”

    In reference to — “about”

    There are a lot more, but you get the idea. When you see a noun phrase — a group of words that convey the same meaning as a single word — replace their lazy asses with that single hard-working word.

    Suggest more terms to tank in the Comments.

    Tuesday, April 02, 2013

    LIFT OFF! One Shade of Red available TODAY

    It's out! My second novel, One Shade of Red, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords!

    And to celebrate, I've put it on sale: just 99 cents TODAY ONLY!

    One Shade of Red is my parody of the biggest bestseller ever, Fifty Shades of Grey. Whether you liked or hated that book, you'll get a kick out of my spoof. And if you get it today, it'll only cost you a buck!

    Need more info to make up your mind? This is what it's about:

    Women want the perfect man, so they can change him. But when university student Damian Serr discovers a rich, beautiful woman who’s voracious about sex, he doesn’t try to improve on perfection. It’s all that he can do to hold on for the ride.

    Damian has always followed the rules, always tried to please others. At 20, he still dates the girl next door because his parents like her parents. When Nick, his university roommate, asks Damian to take over his pool-cleaning business so he can take an internship in London, Damian can’t say no — especially to Nick’s first and only client, a rich widow.

    But widow Alexis Rosse is far from helpless or lonely. This beautiful financial genius is busy turning the markets upside-down, and she revels in sex wherever, whenever and with whomever she wants.

    Over the summer, Alexis gives Damian an intense education. Day after day, she pushes him to his sexual limits. The only question he has is: will she break them?

    “So well-written that it flows easily, hooking the reader right from the beginning. I had real problems to stop reading it.” — Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, author of A Foreigner in London and reviewer of Indie Authors You Want to Read.

    “How nice it is to see a dude lit-style book! And well-written at that!” Lisa Jey Davis, “Ms. Cheevious”

    “So hot, you’ll want your own pool boy.” — Charity Parkerson, author of The Society of Sinners
    What's more, I've also set my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, on sale for just 99 cents today on Amazon and Smashwords.

    Get One Shade of Red for just 99 cents NOW on Amazon or Smashwords.

    Monday, April 01, 2013

    The countdown begins

    My second novel, One Shade of Red, launches TOMORROW, April 2, on Amazon, Smashwords and other e-book retailers.

    I’m very excited about this. As you can see in the previous posts, I have done much more publicity in advance this time around: I posted excerpts over the past few months on this blog; I’ve been interviewed on other sites; and over the past week and continuing for another week following the official release, I’ve posted excerpts from the final version on 12different blogs.

    I have to take another moment to thank the writing, blogging and reading community for all the enthusiastic support. And I have to say a special thank you to Independent Authors International for making the iAi cooperative publishing model work so well, especially Gary Henry, Roxanne Bury, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, Bruce Blake and Benjamin Wretlind. Also, a big shout-out to the inimitable David C. Cassidy for such a great cover!

    A different direction

    Some people who read my first novel, The Bones of the Earth,were surprised to learn that my second novel is a frankly sexual parody of a mildly erotic bestseller. I have to admit, One Shade of Red is pretty graphic.

    My readers know that description is my thing. I like to make a scene real, describing what things look, sound, feel and taste like. A number of the reviews of The Bones of the Earth mentioned the description and detail.

    What prompted this particular parody was that it was just irresistible.

    About a year ago, the only book you ever heard about was Fifty Shades of Grey. Serious radio stations had phone-in programs about it. Reviews were inescapable in newspapers, magazines and the Web.

    Only after I bought a copy as a gift for my wife did I start to notice how many reviews were negative. I am sure some of that reaction was sour grapes: Fifty Shades is not the only book about spanking and sex, but it is the best-selling book of the decade, if not longer. I heard once that it was outselling the Bible!

    Then I got the most important review: my wife did not like it. She had no patience with the emails or the long contracts. (How long would the book be without that filler?)

    She did not like the hero, Christian Grey. She found him completely unbelievable. “He’s a creep,” she says. “If he weren’t so rich and so good looking, everyone would think he’s just a pervert.”

    The heroine and narrator, Anastasia, is also unbelievable — as well as annoying, Roxanne says.

    I read the book last fall, and I decided to have some fun with the idea of a book that’s about nothing but sex.

    I turned Fifty Shades on its head. I decided to make the protagonist/narrator of One Shade of Red a young man; a virgin, like Anastasia Steel. Now, how could I explain a 20-year-old healthy virgin in North American society in the 21st century? Right — give him an uptight girlfriend, the girl next door. He faces the expectation from his family and hers to be her boyfriend, but she won’t have sex before marriage.

    The mentor figure: where Christian Grey is the ideal man — young, beautiful, rich and powerful with a deep flaw that only the heroine can fix — Alexis Rosse is the idea woman (to a 20-year-old man): beautiful (come on, I can get away with a beautiful female character in a novel and still make it believable!), independently wealthy, smart, vivacious and unabashedly horny. In fact, sexually voracious.

    Now, to make her believable: she’s rich because she’s the widow of a wealthy man. It doesn’t matter exactly how Charles Rosse made his money, but I decided it was the old-fashioned way: he inherited it.

    At 30, Alexis is young, but she’s now confident in her talents, her body, her beauty and her sexuality.

    She’s smart, because the sexiest part of any woman is her brain. I made her a bit of a financial prodigy, someone who excelled in business school and turned that talent into reality when she got her hands on some capital.

    In other words, she’s perfect — nothing to fix! I think that I’m like most men in that I have enough stuff to fix in my life without having to fix my partner. When you find perfection, why would you change it?

    It comes down to a story

    This is primarily a coming-of-age story, a rite of passage: learning how to make love to someone. Alexis teaches Damian the language of love. He matures a lot. His relationship with Alexis gives him the confidence to deal like an adult with his parents, his girlfriend, his friends, his work colleagues. Damian is not the same at the end as he was at the beginning of the story.

    In writing the story, though, I found it easy to get carried away. My first couple of drafts had much more graphic, detailed and long descriptions of the sex scenes. I did some research into erotic writing (boy, research can be tough) by “serious” writers. Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, EL Doctorow, John Updike, Pearl Buck and many others have written about sex and not been lumped into the “porn” category.

    And then I thought about all the action books I’ve read. In the past year, I’ve read at least three descriptions by three different authors about what a bullet does after it enters a human brain. Why is that considered appropriate for serious literature, but not descriptions of what people have always done and always will as soon as they can?

    Okay, enough ranting. Enough rationalizing. The only legitimate judges are you, dear readers.

    Did I succeed? Crash and burn? Let me know. You can read excerpts for free on the blogs that are participating in the blog tour. Or you can go to Amazon or Smashwords tomorrow and read the whole book.

    Let me know what you think.

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