Thursday, January 31, 2008


Whew. The day job turned my brains to mush, and I left a few things hanging. For instance, the Create a Contest Contest. Isabelle Santiago is the winner, and her "What Kind of Thief are You" contest will run on February 12 with my guest post at Beyond the Veil. (Isabelle, if you've purchased Like a Thief, I'll send you a MB&M gift certificate. Sorry about the delay.)

Also, last week, Jane at Dear Author wondered whether the ePublishing's reputation for erotic fare was driving away potential readers. She used Like a Thief in the Night as an example, since neither the interest Ember might have garnered from The Serial, nor Sherry Thomas 's public french-kiss--er, enthusiastic review of Ember and Like a Thief last week generated enough purchases at MBAM to put Like a Thief on their top ten bestseller list.

An interesting discussion of the perception of ePublishing resulted. Mrs Giggles blogged her thoughts. Nice Mommy/Evil Editor Angie started a weekly series at her blog highlighting Samhain's non-erotic romances.

Another interesting result? It's over there on the left.

What do I think of the whole thing? Aside from being thrilled to see Like a Thief in such great company (Hi Shiloh! Hi Bonnie!) I commented briefly on Dear Author, and in more detail at Mrs. Giggles's blog. In an overlarge and overlong nutshell, my thoughts are these:

The thing I like about ePublishers is that they seem a little more willing to take risks and break genre rules. Like a Thief has plenty of sex and even more violence, but those aren't the tough selling points. Like a Thief features a heroine who is, by her own admission, heartless, and the story crosses several genre lines--I call it an a sci-fi paranormal action-adventure erotic romance. Bit of a mouthful, eh? And its only 28,000 words long--roughly a third the length of the average single-title romance.

Writers writing for New York know what New York wants. Just as writers writing for ePubs know what sells. I knew going in that M/M and menage were hot categories. I knew Like a Thief's violence and the heroine might be a turn-off for some readers. But I wrote the story I wanted to write, and Samhain published it, and I'll always be happy about that.

I didn't expect to see Like a Thief on that list. It's my first novella. Ever. And the first thing I ever submitted anywhere. I expected a polite rejection from Samhain. Everything since then has been an awesome surprise. I did rather expect to see The Valentine Effect and Erotics Anonymous on the list on day 1. Both Bonnie Dee and Veronica Wilde have written some excellent and very well-reviewed stories. They have fans (I'm one).

The Strangers in the Night stories came out on the same day as the three stories from Samhain's Court Appointed M/M anthology. All three stories from the M/M anthology are on the list, along with two menage stories. At the time of this writing, the top 5 books are M/M or menage.

What does that mean for new authors? Or for authors that don't write erotic, much less M/M or menage? It means we are being subsidized by the more popular categories. The success of those subgenres is what allows ePubs to take chances on the next hot-selling subgenre.

So, while I think it's a shame some readers are put off by the more exotic and/or sex-centered offerings, I'm won't complain if my books' sales numbers get trumped by shapeshifting threesomes or hawt gay lawyers. Popular erotic subgenres fund the risk-taking I admire in ePubs.

I'd like it if more people appreciated the diverse offerings available from ePublishers.
And, like Jane, I'm going to do my best to remind people who think ePubbed books are all erotic romance and/or pr0n that ePublishing offers a diverse array of genres and content.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Game Theories

Christmas at our house was like the "Gift of the Magi," except, not stupid. Hubby and I, we bought each other video games. Two sets of video games, and only one PS3. ::sigh:: Anyway, We've finally managed to play through our respective sets of games, and I thought I'd write some reviews. Maybe one a week. Here's the first and the best.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
If you have a PS3, you need to own this game. You need this game like you need air, food and water, because this is the game your PS3 was made for.

For a long time, video game makers have been touting the cinematic qualities of their games. But in the video game world, "Cinematic Qualities" usually add up to long, talky cut scenes and movies with awkward dialog, and Parappa-style button-pushing sequences that get annoying real fast. But watching someone play Uncharted is like watching an Indiana Jones style adventure where the main character sometimes dies, and restarts the action sequence.

Aside from a tendency to push you into shoot-outs after cut scenes, Uncharted offers a great blend of platforming elements and third-person shooting (which I much prefer to 1st person shooters). The graphics are realistic, yet painterly, the animation is superb, and the dialog and story are better than half the action movies that came through the theaters last year. Nicholas Cage and National Treasure, Eat your heart out.

There are a hundred things I want to say about this game, but time and space are limited today, so I'll wrap up with the following

  • Game Play: It's a baby bear game--everything is just right.
  • Character design--superb! The main character, Drake, is easy on the eyes, and the female character, Elena is strong, capable and so realistic looking. Don't let the tank-top and shorts fool you, she's like the anti-Lara Croft.
  • Voice acting--awesome. Really. Nicholas Cage should watch and take notes.
  • Environment--beautiful. The texture artists deserve a raise and a trip to an island as beautiful as the one they created in the game. And the programmers who did the water need some sort of medal proclaiming that they have designed the Best Water Effects in the History of Video Games. Evah! I got shot a couple of times because I was distracted by the ocean, or the pretty, pretty waterfalls.
  • Chutzpah: This game is a platform shooter about lost treasure, Spanish gold, Nazi experiments, curses, zombies, modern-day pirates and germ warfare. It really has something for everyone, and it juggles every aspect in a most entertaining manner. I can't recommend it enough.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


Here's something I just don't get: RWA Contests. I've heard they're a good way to get your novel noticed--especially when the prize is prime placement on an editor's reading list. But, specifically, the judging seems counterintuitive.

I've heard several stories of writers who entered contests--agented writers, writers who have been published, and writers who IMHO turn out high-quality writing no matter what--and were given good marks overall, but received exceptionally low marks and persnickety, nitpicky comments from one or two judges. And, usually, the judges getting their hate on are unpublished, or have only a couple of publishing credits to their name.

Maybe it's because I'm new to all this organized writing business, but right here is where I start not getting it. The judges mark all these categories and are supposed to judge the readability and saleability of the submission--but how can they do that if they haven't sold much, themselves?

And if the writers doing the critiquing don't have a solid string of sales under their belt, what is their opinion but the opinion of a reader who may or may not like the type or style of story the contest entrant writes? What special insight do they have into the industry that can benefit the contest entrant? Now, if Nora Roberts or some other luminary of the genre were judging the contest, the whole setup would make sense: Experienced, successful expert offers learned opinion and judgment. But otherwise?

If I were judging a contest, my opinion would and should be worth exactly as much as the average reader's. Sure, I'm a writer, but I don't have any great string of credits under my belt. I don't have any experience, except my love of the genre as a reader, that makes me qualified to judge the saleability of a story. And as a reader, I've never quit reading a book over minor details, plot points I think should have been included, or the occasional punctuation error.

If anyone reading this has entered a contest, I ask, honestly, earnestly, humbly, "Why?"

  1. Are contests helpful?
  2. Do you feel like the critiques of the judges are useful?
  3. What usually prompts you to enter a contest?


Monday, January 21, 2008

Giggled: A Survivor's Tale

First, a confession which may make me unpopular in certain authorial circles: I like Mrs. Giggles reviews. I've read them for quite a while, I've enjoyed almost every book I've read from her "keeper" list and I have, I'll admit, giggled on more than one occasion at her jaded take on certain books.

I can't help it. She's like that older friend you had in high school--you know, the one who seemed so sophisticated because she'd been to Paris, and dated college guys and smoked and drank and done it. It took a lot to impress her, so you were always kinda flattered that she found you interesting enough to hang around with, even if she did keep borrowing money for sodas without ever paying you back--not that I'm saying Mrs. G is a welcher. I'm talking about that high school friend. That completely hypothetical, for-purposes-of-example-only cooler than cool, jaded friend whom you haven't seen since graduation except once in the background of a photo of a party in Rolling Stone Magazine...but I digress.

So anyway, I've been kinda nervous about how she'd review Like a Thief... And how I'd take it. She posted the review today, giving it an 85. She used the phrases "It kicks ass - big ass." and, "these characters are really cool." which makes me feel both happy and a bit like I've dodged a bullet. Not that I'm gonna relax because, hey, there's always next time.

And though there were things I disagreed with (like why she didn't give it a score of 112--and yes, I know the scale only goes up to 100, but my baby is perfect--perfect, I tell you ;o) I have to admit, I giggled at her description of the setting:

...Set about 200 years in the future when everyone acts and dresses like they have watched The Matrix one time too many...
See, I thought it was kinda Kill Bill when I read it through after I finished writing, but I can see where all that black clothing might cloud the issue. And as to the aspects of the story Mrs. G didn't like--the novella-length and characterization? Hey, there's always next time.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Ember" at Teach Me Tonight

Teach Me Tonight is a blog that looks at the romance genre from an academic perspective. I've enjoyed many of their posts and am just tickled that Laura Vivanco chose to mention Ember in todays post, Beyond the Fairytale which discusses the Cinderella motif in romance novels.

On the subject of re-imagining and retelling fairytales, Eloisa James wrote an article called "My Fairy Godmother, Myself" in which she argues that
Cinderella was never about the prince. It was about the wonders of a magical transformation. [...] That turns out to be the key to rewritten Cinderellas: the heroine learns to honor and appreciate her pre-transformation self, forcing the prince to do so as well.
I'm not really sure if that would be true of Embers, but maybe we can discuss that in the comments.
My first instinct was to post and say that of course it isn't true of Ember. The second paragraph of the story is:
This is no fairytale. The real story doesn’t even start with me; it starts with the Prince.
I would also have added that one of the reasons I wrote Ember was to write a Cinderella story that was not about the cosmetic transformation or the ball or the competition between Cinderella and her stepsisters for the prince, but to explore the line that fairy tales so often draw between good girls and bad women, between virtuous princesses and wicked queens.

But here's my question and the real point of my post: Do I have any right to comment? Would it stifle discussion?

I've talked before about learning to let go of my stories once they're written. And I've talked about how it's important for me that Ember be a free story, since I would not have written it if I hadn't needed some content for my website. But now it seems to me that the biggest part of letting go, and of making Ember free, is letting other people make what they will of it without my input or explanations of what I meant.

And yes, I am aware that this post adds another layer of the very sort of explanation I just decided I shouldn't do. But letting go is a process, people--a journey. I'm working on it. :o)


Seven Random Facts About Me

Ann Aguirre tagged me to blog 7 random facts about myself on Thursday. I'm just getting around to it now. Better late than never, right?

  1. I know the place of purchase and price of every article of clothing I own, no matter how long ago I got it. If I bought it on sale, I can also tell you the original price and how much I saved.

  2. I love fabric. I am, in fact, a fabric whore, known to wander the aisles of fabric stores across Los Angeles admiring the color and weave of wares I rarely purchase. Bonus: every story I've ever written contains at least one fairly detailed description of fabric--the material, the color, the weave, the pattern or the dye-process.

  3. I am just under six feet tall.

  4. The reason I use a lot of exclamation points in my blog posts and comments? I really talk that way. Really!

  5. I love false/created spaces. Las Vegas, Disneyland, miniature golf courses, malls built to look like 19th century European or American towns, odd little houses around LA that look like hobbit houses or castles or pagodas.

  6. I'm fascinated with trains. From 19th Century steam engines, to 20th century trollies, to Angel's Flight (Los Angeles's late, and much missed funicular rail line) to subways to light rail. Trains are cool.

  7. I am almost unbeatable at "Connect 4"
Okay, now I have to tag 7 people. I tag Sarai, Isabelle Santiago, Carolyn Jean, Grammar Geek Laurie, Kate Rothwell, Sherry Thomas and December Quinn


Friday, January 18, 2008

Like a Kid on Christmas

That's how I felt when I hopped on the Internets this morning to read Sherry Thomas's combined review of Ember and Like a Thief in the Night at Dear Author.


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Heather of Errant Dreams Reviews posted reviews of Ember and Like a Thief in the Night. I think I will take up embroidery so I can stitch quotes* from those reviews onto a warm, fuzzy quilt. When the weather turns cold, I can curl up on the couch with the quilt around my shoulders and a hot cup of tea in my hands, and I'll feel just the way I did when I read the reviews. ::sigh::

Ann Aguirre--talented author; email correspondent of La Nora; and recipient of a kickass cool cover blurb for her forthcoming novel, Grimspace, from none other than the awesome Sharon Shinn--also wrote a review of Like a Thief in the Night. Which I also love. That one, I think I will stitch into a warm scarf to wear outside when it's cold like it is tonight--terribly windy and barely 40 degrees. Brrrr!

I will keep those reviews close when someone inevitably finds my characters too unlikable to bear, or gets annoyed by my "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to genre, or notices that place on page 73 where I used the same adjective twice in two paragraphs.

Now, I'll go to sleep. It's a quarter to two, and the work-week from hell hasn't yet let go of me. Good night.

* All quotes will be properly noted and attributed--perhaps on a matching pair of socks. As footnotes. Foot notes. Ugh! I think I really need sleep. I always get punny when I'm tired.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Like a Thief in the Night

Today's the day! Like a Thief in the Night is out at Samhain Publishing. Go buy it.

I'd like to write more, but I guess it figures that the day I've been looking forward to for 6 months would fall in the week the day the day job decides to get insanely busy. Wah.

I think my brain is melting from stress. Contests, regular posts and such will resume when the contents of my cranium have returned to at least a semisolid state.

If you want blogging, go check out my post on Bam's blog. Because I have to go to work.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

The "Create a Contest" Contest

A little bird reminded me I should be promoting Like a Thief in the Night and letting people know that this red hot futuristic tale of sex, murder, magic and mayhem will be available for sale at Samhain Publishing on January 15, 2008 for the low, low price of $3.50.

But how should I promote the novella? Maybe a contest? I wracked my brain, which took all of 2 seconds, and came up with these ideas:

  • The "Guess Bettie's Favorite Color Contest"
  • The "Tell Bettie Why You Deserve a Free Book" Contest
  • The "Guess How Many Fingers Bettie is Holding Up Behind her Back" Contest.
Maybe I'm not so good at this contest thing. Maybe I used up my one good idea on the Hard Boiled contest. No, wait, I have one more idea: I'll let potential contest entrants make up their own contest.

So, here's the deal. Post your single best idea for a contest in the comments of this post. If I pick that idea, you'll win a free copy of Like a Thief in the Night and I'll hold the contest in February, with a second copy of Like a Thief... as the prize. Entries must be submitted by 6 P.M. Pacific on Monday, January 14, 2008.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Going Green Has Made Me a Treekiller!

It's true. I thought I was being all noble taking the bus home from work every day when I've a perfectly decent little gas guzzler sitting in the garage. It's work, taking the bus in LA. Eight miles requires two buses and almost an hour of travel time, not including the walk to and from the stops.

But the transfer point between my two buses is right in front of a bookstore. And the wait time allows me just enough spare time to go in and check out the new book table. And buy a few books. Sure, bus fare is cheaper than gas, but the resultant book buying is killing me. And, I'm a tree killer. :o(


Monday, January 7, 2008

Bettie's Hard Boiled Contest

Hard Boiled. It's not just the name of one of my favorite movies, it's one of my favorite subgenres of mystery, too. While Like a Thief in the Night isn't a mystery or a detective story, I did sprinkle in references titles by two of the subgenre's most famous authors. Why? Because I could.

Weird, right? But my thematic non sequitur can add up to cold, hard, Amazon gift certificates for one lucky reader.

Email me (bettiesharpe at gmail dot com) or leave a comment on this post (or any other posts advertising this contest)* identifying Like a Thief in the Night's references to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet titles by February 1, 2008 and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

* Update: I just realized, if you post the answer to the comments, the answer won't be a secret (duh). So, scratch that part about comments. Email me at [bettiesharpe at gmail dot com] or [bettie at bettiesharpe dot com]. I'll make sure to check my spam folder so no mail gets lost, and I'll post a list of entries I've received the day before the drawing so people can notify me if their name isn't there.


Bettie's Top Ten

The many, many authors at Fangs, Fur & Fey, are posting the top ten hallmarks of their writing. So, even though they are print-published authors, and I've only got two novellas out--one of which is free and the other of which won't be released for another week--I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

  1. Moral ambiguity
    I've said it before, I'll say it again: I like villains. My protagonists aren't all bad people, but they sometimes do bad things. My goal at the outset of any story is to write it in such a way that if it was told by a different character, the hero would be the villain.
  2. Secondary characters with lives
    Another storytelling goal of mine is to write secondary characters with lives and secrets. There are things you don't know about your friends. There are times when you are just a support character in their story--and if there aren't those times, you don't have friends, honey, you've got back up singers.
  3. Fairy tales
    I love the gory ones. No surprise here, but almost every story I write references fairytales or folktales as a general idea, or a specific comparison.
  4. Romance
    But it ain't all hearts and flowers. Love is a battlefield -- violent and explosive. Or an ice-skating rink -- cold and treacherous. Or a race track -- fast and competitive. Or a waltz -- dreamy and whirling in perfect accord. Love is different things for different people. Why should my characters all have the same version of it? Though, to be honest, I really like the battlefield.
  5. Multi-racial and international characters
    Why? Because when I was a kid, there were so few nonwhite characters in books that weren't about race that I used to randomly pretend heroines in my favorite adventure stories were brown girls. Because as a reader I am damned tired of seeing the word "white" used as a description of the heroine's beautiful skin. Because I want my characters to look like me and my friends. Because I think authors who refuse to write about characters who aren't their own skin color or ethnic background are wusses.
  6. Violence
    Most of it movie-like and stylized. Some of it not. Fact is, I like adventure stories. When it comes to movies, I like car chases and sword fights and Hong Kong style fight scenes. And sometimes I use physical violence as a symbol of emotional turmoil.
  7. Strong female protagonist
    Do I even need to say this? I can't imagine writing a weak female protagonist--leastwise, not one who didn't end up strong by the end. Those martyriffic heroines who let everyone shit on them for an entire book before the hero realizes that they are pure and virtuous and wonderful are not my heroines. No way, no how.
  8. Virtue is NOT its own reward.
    See above. I hate the idea of noble suffering. Usually, characters who spend a whole book suffering nobly could have ended it all by telling a few people off. I also am not down with selfless heroines who will always, always, always sacrifice themselves to help or save people they love--Self-sacrifice like that isn't noble, it's co-dependent.
  9. A is for "Alpha" and "Asshole"
    I admit it, my heroes are kind of assholish. But all they need as motivation to end their asshole ways is the no-nonsense love of a strong female protagonist (see # 7, above). Just like in real life, right? ;o)
  10. Dark
    This isn't part of my manifesto, it's just something people keep saying about my stories. Even the sweet ones. I don't set out to write "dark" they just end up that way.
  11. Bonus Feature: References to classic/hard boiled mysteries.
    Not in every story, but in a few. Email me or leave a comment on this post* identifying Like a Thief in the Night's references to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet titles by February 1, 2008 and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

* Update: I just realized, if you post the answer to the comments, the answer won't be a secret (duh). So, scratch that part about comments. Email me at [bettiesharpe at gmail dot com] or [bettie at bettiesharpe dot com]. I'll make sure to check my spam folder so no mail gets lost, and I'll post a list of entries I've received the day before the drawing so people can notify me if their name isn't there.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Carolyn Pays it Forward & Hey Sarai!

Carolyn Jean won a new header for her blog in my Pay it Forward contest, and now she is holding her own contest. Go forth and enter!

And speaking of the Pay it Forward Contest,Sarai, you won my Pay it Forward Contest. I.O.U. some kinda graphic. But I don't have your email address. I've just discovered that some email from respectable ISPs has been shunted to my Spam file, so if you mailed me before, I might have missed it. To be on the safe side, copy me at bettie at bettiesharpe dot com when you write to let me know what you want.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Yeah, What She Said! Part 1

No secret here, I'm not a very good blogger. I'd love to be fascinating and insightful, but, honestly, I have way more fun reading other people's blogs than I do writing my own. For instance: Tumperkin.

You may have read her book reviews on I Swear it's Not Chick Porn, or her short story in "The Serial" but if you haven't read her blog, you are missing out. Her blog posts totally rock. They're insightful, interesting, and thought-provoking. They are, in short, the kind of blog posts I would want to write if a magical fairy one day floated down from the heavens and blessed me with the gift of Good Bloggery.

She has a marvelous ongoing series of posts on classifications of Romance novels. Her posts on fairytales are tons of fun. And she dares to ask the question, "What in the bloody hell is up with the anatomically misplaced hymens in so many Romance novel love scenes." Okay, maybe she didn't say "what in the bloody hell" because as she has wisely pointed out, "why in the bloody hell" is not terribly British.

Anyway, point is, this is a blog that always gets me thinking, and if you haven't read it, you should give it a try.

Yeah, What She Said is an ongoing series in which Bettie will discuss the blogs she reads instead of writing her own blog.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year, New Look

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I'm not so keen on my new hair color, but I love the look of my new webpage.

Jane was brave enough to ask folks what they thought of Dear Author's new look. She made the change so Dear Author would load faster. I just wanted my site to look prettier.

Though I know it's going to be a bit of slow load for folks on dial-up, I'm still going to follow Jane's shining example, and do likewise.

What do you think?