A Checklist Before Entering the Imaginarium

imaginarium

I’m a crazy person today.  And it’s not likely to get any better.  Those of you that read the Belle regularly know that this isn’t significantly different than how I normally am.  But today there IS in fact a reason.  In a day and a half, I’ll be heading to Louisville, KY for this year’s Imaginarium Convention.   Most of my author friends attend conventions throughout the year: Dragon*Con, MystiCon, ConCarolinas… VaginaCon… just kidding about that last one.  Conventions are hard work, but they’re probably the most fun promotional event I do as an author.  I get to meet people, network and get together with friends I never get to see.  What is the Imaginarium Convention, you ask?  Only the most awesome concept for a Con I’ve ever heard of.  The whole thing started as an innocent conversation between brainchild Stephen Zimmer and some other authors. What if we could take the fun concept of the sci-fi convention and roll it into those expensive writer/ reader cons like RT Con or Romanticon or Book Expo?  Imagine it– an AFFORDABLE convention where writers in ALL GENRES could get together and do panels, readings and signings AND sell their books AND participate in cosplay AND gather with other fanpeople (because we know that most artists are geeks– after all, let us not forget that all fandoms originate with some sort of writer).  Crazy thought isn’t it?  Not so, says Stephen Zimmer! And thus, The Imaginarium Convention was born.

So back to why I’m a crazy person.  Because, like most Cons I participate in, I’m so not ready.  To the untrained eye, when I do panels, I usually look pretty put together.  I have books and cards and my tablet with a scroll of my book covers and I’m wearing lipstick– the whole shootin’ match.  THIS IS ALL A FACADE!  I have a million things to do between now and Friday at 5am when I leave to go up.

Lexxx’s To Do List: 

*  laundry

*  cheap ass beauty maintenance:  self-serv mani-pedi, eyebrow plucking, moisturizing, trimming the verge…

*  robbing Peter to pay Paul

*  packing

*  cutting up the wiener dog’s epilepsy pills so her poor father doesn’t have to do it

*  update all links for flyers

*  create flyers for the #TeamErotica panel

Ask me how much of this has been done.  You guessed it.  None.  So I suppose I’ll get started on that tonight.  In the meantime, if you’re in the Louisville area this weekend, I’d love to see you!  Admission is $35 for the weekend, but I think you can buy day passes.  It’s a steal for anyone who aspires to write, loves to read and discover new authors or just have a fantastic time.  If you’re there, come on over and look for me.  I’ll be the one in the tiara!

For more information about Imaginarium, click the graphic above OR find us on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/imaginariumconvention

Sharp Decline in Ellora’s Cave Sales… DUH!

me and amy (2)Well, I’ve kept my mouth shut for months now.  People have gone so far as to ask me point blank about the upset going on with Ellora’s Cave and I’ve politely changed the subject.  Or maybe given some cryptic comments like “don’t get me started.”  But I’m not going to hold my tongue any longer because well… what have I got to lose at this point?  I’m also sick of seeing people who have NO idea what they’re talking about making judgments for the sake of pointing and laughter.

Now, you’re probably thinking that this is going to be the start of a rant where I trash Ellora’s Cave and just generally commit career suicide.  Well the joke’s on you, because I’m not going to do that.  I’ve been with EC for over a year now and in that time I can say nothing but nice things about how I’ve been treated as an author.  My editor, Rebecca Hill, is an absolute delight– top of the line (but more about that later).  My royalties were paid out monthly and for the most part on time, despite any glitchy computer issues.  My thoughts and concerns about my books have always been addressed and dealt with.  Ms. Gorlinsky and Mrs. Marks have always been attentive to any communications and very forthright in their answers to concerns.  All this being said, I have to tell you, kittens, that I’m pretty heartbroken over some of the things that have gone down in the last several months.

Let me start by saying that I LOVED EC books.  They’re part of what shaped me as the writer I am today.  They inspired me to believe that I could write the romances that I wanted to read.  That romance wasn’t just for sweet little librarian types (no offense to any librarians) who loved those sweeping bodice rippers where everyone was named Tarquin St. James.  They could be gritty, explicit stories with Alpha heroes that were as smart as they were dangerous.  My very first EC book was Bitten by Sherri L. King.  I read the whole thing sitting on the beach and nearly burned myself to a crisp.  After I turned the last page, I said to myself, “You can do this, Lexxx.  You can write a romance novel for women like you.”  I started writing with every intention of one day becoming an Ellora’s Cave author.  Which I did when I published “One Hundred Strokes” last year.  Since then, I’ve put out three more books with them with one more on the way.  My royalty checks haven’t been horrible, but let’s just say I haven’t quit my day job.  I’d be happy as a clam to continue handing them quality erotic fiction to satisfy their readers as long as they’d have me.  But after the last few months, I’ve started to question my position a bit.

The first blow came in the form of the big announcement that the savior of the press was going to be a book series by Farrah Abraham.  I have not read her book.  I have no plans to read her book.  I only know the image that Ms. Abraham has put forth on the internet and on television.  And this is not an image that I would want people to associate with me or my work.  What I’m selling are story driven books with an erotic edge.  All indications point to Ms. Abraham selling pornography.  Not that there’s a thing wrong with that.  That’s just not me and I can’t say I was happy to see that her books were going to be sitting beside mine on the virtual shelf.  It’s a bit like serving a porterhouse steak on a trash can lid (to borrow from Bill Cosby).  But that wasn’t even what bothered me.  Not really.  What bothered me the most was the way in which it was presented to me.  Ms. Abraham’s series was announced to me in an email that basically painted her like the Jesus Christ of erotic fiction and wasn’t I just pleased as a parsnip to have her on board?  There was this notion that her readers would flock to the press and find the rest of us hacks, so we should do our best to get the word out about her books.  It was insulting, despite how it was intended.  1.)  No one announced my coming to EC like Moses to the Hebrews.  2.)  No one pushed my book out in a couple of months (ebook and print simultaneously).  3.) No one offered me national promotional opportunities (i.e.– Cosmopolitan, syndicated radio, etc.) I shudder to imagine how much money the press has spent on promotion for this ONE AUTHOR when they have scads of really good writers who have been faithful to them for years.

The next blow came weeks later with the now infamous letter about the decline in sales on Amazon that is requiring Ellora’s Cave to cut back on staff.  There are many theories as to why this is happening.  Some theories are painting EC as just another media conglomerate that’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The bottom line is this:  of COURSE EC sales are declining.  Once upon a time EC was the only game in town.  They were the only place to buy quality erotic fiction that was written with the woman in mind.  There was no such thing as small press or indie authors (well, there may have been, but nobody was really talking about those).  Self-publishing was still a dirty word.  And then the eBook boom came.  Finally we got the hang of those handy little devices and the big giant head at Amazon proclaimed, “bring me your tired, your trashy, your shower nozzle masturbation material.”  Suddenly the market was FLOODED with “Taken by the T-Rex” for JUST 99 CENTS! and Come read my 1st book in the “Ridin’ Stepdaddy’s Pole Series” for FREE!  You can get your rocks off for free now, isn’t that great!?  It’s tough to compete with 10 book bundles for 99 cents. Especially when Ellora’s Cave is still offering their books for the same prices they always have been.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we start giving books away.  The people screaming “I’m not paying 7 bucks for 150 page book” make me just as angry because it lends credence to the notion that writing a book isn’t hard work and it isn’t worth paying for.  I mean, come on– you pay almost 7 bucks for a cup of coffee from Starbucks.  Daily.  And making coffee is far less miraculous.  In the words of Harlan Ellison, “Pay the writer!”

The cutbacks have affected me personally by thrusting me into this horrible state of “wait and see.”  I have books almost ready to go, but now, I’m seriously questioning if I want to give them over to a publisher that has, as of late, acted irresponsibly.  It’s a bit like a working mom who needs to work, but doesn’t want to send her child to the daycare down the street with the rusty playground equipment.  My editor, the brilliant Rebecca Hill (who is a freelance editor– shoot me a message if you need one) was one of the victims of the cutbacks.  Which means that I have no editor and therefore no idea what’s going to happen to any future submissions.  Of course, given the article I read over the weekend and the email threads I’ve been a part of— that might not be such a bad thing.  The most recent stink has been the rumor that EC will be copyediting books ONLY (this means just giving it a once over for punctuation, etc.) with no input from the author and releasing it without author approval.  EC of course says this is ludicrous, but there’s a multitude of evidence to the contrary.  Including common sense.  How are 3 or 4 people going to thoroughly edit THOUSANDS of manuscripts?  Simple answer:  they aren’t.  Just out of curiosity– doesn’t that void the contract?  Releasing a book without edits seems to be a violation of rights.

And I’m not going to mention the nonpayment of royalties because that hasn’t happened to me.  Yet.  Again, wait and see.  Do I believe it’s happening to others?  Hells yeah.  Am I pissed off on their behalf?  Of course I am.

I’m not going to rehash what others have done.  Dear Author and other outlets have done that pretty efficiently.  I’m not going to commit career suicide by posting a misspelled and grammatically incorrect rant that makes me look like a crazy person.  The whole thing is turning ugly and starting to look like a bunch of trashy women shouting at one another across the parking lot of the trailer park.  “You better stop talkin’ ’bout me or I’ma come over there and bust you in your eye and turn you over to the secret police!” You know, that sort of thing.  Others want authors to rise up and have some kind of 60s style sit in with signs and chanting.  I’m not sure that’s not a publicity stunt in and of itself.  Personally, I’m going to take care of me and mine.  I’m not going to be silent, but I’m also not going to be hothead.  Voices are powerful, so my advice to my fellow authors is to watch what’s coming out of your face and in the words of Christian Bale:  Be a fucking professional!

internal screaming

 

How to Sell Your Book by Way of a Great Cover, or Cover Lovin’ by David Blalock

TrilogyTourBadge

Once more I’ve decided to welcome another author over to the Belle to do my dirty work.  Today, author and cover art critic David Blalock has come over to talk about his Angelkiller Triad and how a really great cover artist can give your book the boost it needs to excel.  Because, as we all know, your book might be the best thing ever, but no one will know if they don’t pick it up.  And if you’re like me, you often choose a book initially because it has an interesting cover.  Seventh Star Press is well known throughout the industry for having the very best in cover and interior artwork and David’s trilogy is a perfect example.  But I’ll let him tell you…

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What can I say about Matt Perry’s artwork that can do it justice? His covers have drawn some significant attention to the series, attention it probably would not otherwise have had. As an artist, Matt has the ability to take an idea and imbue his own personal interpretation into the image without losing the original theme. It is a tricky balancing act, one he has mastered admirably.

 

Click me to buy!

Click me to buy!

 

The cover of Angelkiller is a striking image, unlike anything I’ve seen. His use of atmospheric imagery on that cover gave it that disturbing, unreal feeling that conveys the essence of the Great Conflict. The books are about a war between entities more than human and that cover shows just enough humanity to connect with the reader while retaining that otherworldly quality. The interior images in Angelkiller faithfully reproduce the scenes from the text in an exciting and provocative manner. They more closely connect the reader to the text, inserting more humanity into the art while retaining just enough emotional impact.

 

 

CLICK ME to buy!

CLICK ME to buy!

 

For Traitor Angel, Matt reached into the idea of virtual reality crossing over into mundane reality by presenting the combat between good and evil, represented by the knight and the dragon, against a background of circuitry. As a lot of the book contained just this combat, it was again faithful to the ideas embodied in the text while making a broader statement about the story arc in general. The interior art continues this theme, reaching toward the humanity without letting us forget how different the virtual reality conflict can be.

 

 

CLICK ME to buy!

CLICK ME to buy!

 

Finally, in Doom Angel’s cover, Matt states the Great Conflict in an iconic image that sums up the series marvelously. The feedback about this art has been unanimously positive. Again, he took the road of impression instead of strict interpretation, resulting in a stunningly beautiful, yet slightly troubling, image. The Great Conflict could not have been better presented in a single piece of art. The interior artwork only reinforces and strengthens the conviction that what is happening has a deeper meaning than simply a war between human factions.

 

 

Having Matt Perry as my artist for the series was a struck of incredible luck. I am very fortunate to have such a talented and perceptive individual on my team. And Seventh Star Press has a gem of an artist in their employ.

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Now you all know that while I’m a romantic at heart, I really love a dark urban fantasy.  I’ve just started reading Angelkiller but I’m already in love.  Read this description.  I dare you not to be desperate to read it…

Why do bad things happen to good people? Simple. In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as The Army to rectify that.

Using every tool available, The Army has worked to liberate our world from The Enemy for thousands of years, slowly and painfully lifting Mankind out of the dark. On the front of the great Conflict are the Angelkillers, veterans of the
fight with centuries of experience.

Jonah Mason is an Angelkiller, and his cell is targeted as part of plot to unseat a very powerful Minion of The Enemy. Mason and his troop are drawn into a battle that stretches from real-time to virtual reality and back. The Conflict is about to expand into cyberspace, and if Mason is unable to stop it, The Enemy will have gained dominion over yet another realm.

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  Okay, kids.  That’s it for me today.  I’ve got a dragon by the fireplace waiting.  He seems pretty tame but he keeps shouting, “Bored!” and breathing fire. If I don’t act quickly, my house may burn down.  See ya, kids!