Hi, y’all. My short story “The Interview” has been free on a bunch of e-book sites for a little while now, finally turning free on Amazon.uk just today, and my publisher and I have been blushing furiously over the typos that made it through the editing process without being flagged. Nice thing about offering a work for free, though – someone will always point out the mistakes! Even nicer, with an electronic book you can get in there quickly and make fixes.
Can’t fix the 5000-some copies of the story people have already downloaded, and that stings a bit. If you’re one of the people who downloaded one of those and were bugged by the errors, I apologize to you. I try to write cleanly. Doesn’t always work.
And a second shout-out to any of you who are returning readers. You might notice this story’s a bit different from many of my Terri Darling shorts. Less simple and heartfelt; more quirky and glib. We tried to signal that a little by changing its original cover to one that matches my other quirky short story, “The Accident.” These two stories contain a little more language fun, a little more humor, a little more ironic detachment. In “The Accident” we’ve got two people who meet each other in the hospital emergency room after a car accident. Kind of Crash without the creepiness. Also some digs at lawyers and the whole automobile accident litigation industry. In “The Interview” we’ve got a woman who’s essentially been dumped by her husband and is having to fend for herself by going out to get a job even though she’s never held a regular job before. A little social commentary here about who’s really got the job skills in the country, and which skills are important. A little bit of romantic sparring that’s less about a knight in shining armor rescuing a damsel in distress, and more about the knight saying, “Whoah! You don’t even know how competent you are, do you?”
It’s a different kind of Terri Darling story that’s gotten a few of my readers scratching their heads, wondering where the heartfelt went. Just letting you know it’s still here, even in this story, but hey, romance comes in many guises. This one rides on a quick tongue. Is what it is. Hope it’s fun for some. More traditional stuff to follow.
Okay, so you have this female friend who’s having an extramarital affair. The thing is, it’s not just a lust thing. And she’s isn’t having some kind of crazy mid-life crisis. In fact, she has a decent marriage. She just seem to need…something more. And maybe that “something more” gives their life just enough spice and meaning to keep her marriage intact. Rather than driving her crazy, the affair makes her a nicer, calmer, more patient person.
Unlikely? It’s apparently happening all over. So says Iris Krasnow in her book The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married. As reported in Maclean’s Magazine, women do all sorts of things to stay happily married. Having long-term, secret affairs is one of a number of popular techniques that help a woman create an identity for herself that’s not totally wrapped up in her husband’s.
Well…yeah. So would taking a job as a foreign war correspondent, or camping out in a protest to occupy Wall Street (Yeah!), or starting a stamp collection, for Pete’s sake. Why stick a knife straight into the heart of your marriage by cheating on your husband, whether he quickly notices that knife is in there or not?
I have another explanation: Love (and lust) happen at inappropriate times and places. Think about it. Have you ever in your life been attracted to someone you know it could simply never work with? Maybe they were unrealistically too old, too young, too different, living too far away, living a life too out-of-synch with your own.
Usually when that happens, we shrug and dream about it, or maybe pursue it a little, accepting it as a short-term fling, but we don’t usually let ourselves get wrapped up in knots of fantasy and regret. Unless we’re…oh, I don’t know…seventeen? Then that Faerie prince looks pretty hot. Who cares that he regularly kills people as part of his position? Better than that vampire dude from last night who was about two hundred years old and sucking out the blood of deer and rabbits so that he didn’t suck mine.
Or maybe when we’re a stuck in a marriage that’s gone a little flat, just needs a little danger to juice it up?
Come on! Get real, girls! Attraction happens. Whether you let it go beyond attraction to become something more is never forced on you. This is why God gave us brains, not just hormones. We can look at the guy who’s zinging our pleasure receptors and ask a few pertinent questions like: Is he worth it? Is the downside something I can handle? Do I really want to wake up beside this guy in the morning if it goes that far?
And you know what? Sometimes the answer is yes, yes, oh my good lord, YES! Most of my stories are about exactly that. (The Interview, pictured above and left is actually about finding that possibility while you’re trying to get a job.)
But not when you’re married, please. In my books that’s not inappropriate, it’s inconsiderate, often cruel, usually shortsighted, and usually just plain dumb. Even Ms. Krasnow, for all her reporting of modern women’s extramarital hijinks, would seem to agree, advocating you “ride that hormonal surge straight to your own bedroom and initiate great sex with your spouse.” And she goes on at length about the advantages of marriages that last, pointing out that even if a marriage has even just a spark of love left in it, it can often be saved.
So if you’re not married yet, girls, follow your heart, but let your brain hang around to help you know whether to move from lust to love.
And if you’re married already, read lots of romances and let your fantasies soar, then direct them to that real-life vampire/faerie prince/firefighter/alpha male you married in whatever guise he may be wearing now. Who knows, maybe he’ll become more than you ever dreamed was possible.
Fascinating discussion with my daughter yesterday that finally made me understand what I’ve always disliked about Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. (If you’ve never read this classic children’s tale, buy a copy and do so now. Or at least watch Shel’s somewhat abridged reading of it on Youtube here.) It’s not that the boy in the story gets more and more selfish and mean and defeated as the story progresses, or even that the tree seems to give and give without ever getting anything back other than hugs when the boy is small, and a bony-rear-end companionship when the boy’s an old man. That used to bother me a lot, that one-way relationship. Oh yeah.
But as my kids are almost old enough to leave home and my daughter is asking me just what she is expected to give back for all the things she has received from her parents, I realize with a jerk that what her parents want, more than anything else, is her health and happiness. Yes, her love, expressed in word and gesture, means worlds. Yes, her contribution to the smooth running of the home while she lives here is also valued. And her laughter, her insights, all the wonderful things a loved one can share. And if she couldn’t give any of that, we’d still want (I hope) for her to have a healthy, fulfilled life. We’ll give her apples and branches, we’ll even endure getting carved up a bit in the process and count that a small price to pay. Shel got that so right.
But the trunk? And staying in one spot, cut down to an unmoving, abandoned stump while your kid goes off to have a life? What’s a matter wit’ you? Get yer own life too! You think you stops livin’ just cause you’re a parent now? Come annnn!
Of course we all eventually get old and give up pieces of ourselves bit by bit. And will we still love our kids even as we’re on our last gasp, just withered old stumps? I hope so.
So maybe Shel got that part right too.
Jeez, you think there’s a reason his story has lasted?
This was actually sparked by yet another go-round with Amy Chua’s parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A disclaimer up front: I haven’t read the book myself; only read reviews of it. And the mixed nature of those reviews suggest it’s probably wonderfully written and thought-provoking. Heck, it’s thought provoking just reading the reviews and torrent of responses from everyone who agrees or disagrees with the parenting style discussed.
But what really turns my crank is the greater issue of controlling someone out of love. When a child or a husband/boyfriend/significant other cries on your shoulder, do you give them comfort or demand they buck up and jump back into the fight to deal with whatever’s upset them? Do you just listen and affirm or do you problem solve? Do you tell them you love them and you’ll do whatever you can to help them through, or do you actually do something to help them through?
Fact is, I bet we’ve all done all these things at one time or another, because when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. It’s just so often hard to 1) know what that thing is, and 2) know how best to help them get it.
And then there are our own needs. If our loved one is truly hurting and we can’t help, it’s awfully hard to listen and affirm. Maybe instead we crawl away into our own feelings of inadequacy. Maybe we lash out, ironically hurting the thing we treasure most.
Lord, if there was one kind of wisdom I wish I had, it would be to know the best way to respond when your loved one needs help. Until that wisdom (or delusion) settles on me like a great gift from above, I guess I’ll just muddle along, loving the best I can, using what knowledge I have, and always learning – about my love ones, about myself, about psychology and values, about ways to help and love better.
While I’m thinking and trying to get another romance novel finished and up, I just had to respond to a number of readers of “The Swimsuit Shop” who liked it but wished there was more. My response is in the form of…more. Namely, “The Swimsuit Shop 2,” which follows Kate and Benjamin as they actually take the vacation they talked about in the first story and deal with a very real issue standing between them and their happily ever after.
For readers of this blog, this week you can download a free copy of both “The Swimsuit Shop” and “The Swimsuit Shop 2″ from Smashwords, using the following coupons:
The Swimsuit Shop – XF67Z
The Swimsuit Shop 2 – DC66F
Enjoy! (And if you do, please leave a review. : ) )
But in the meantime, I just wanted to thank the 6500+ readers who have downloaded “The Swimsuit Shop” so far, both for free and for 99 cents (since Amazon.com never recognized the drop to free). It’s put the story near the top of the free e-books in Amazon.uk, rising as high as number four, and at the very top of the free romances on Amazon.com. (I know, it’s not free on that site, but such are the mysterious ways of Amazon.)
It’s a very short story but it’s got lots of heart…and legs! Thanks again, all. I’m working hard to get another novel up for those who like to have something they can really sink into for a spell.
I’m in the middle of rethinking what I focus on in this blog, but thought I’d do a quick update on this experiment in free. I checked my sales figures for “The Swimsuit Shop” on Amazon.com this morning and found they were climbing respectably for a 99-cent short story. Then I clicked to Amazon.uk, where sales are usually about a fifth of my US sales. Sales were over 100 and rising literally by the minute! And the book had leapt into 18th place on Amazon.uk’s free contemporary romance books.
Yep. Amazon.uk’s bots had finally discovered “The Swimsuit Shop” was being offered for free somewhere in the world and taken action.
Note that Amazon.com still has “The Swimsuit Shop” priced at 99 cents and it hasn’t even appeared yet at Barnes & Noble and some other outlets. (Though Apple and Diesel eBooks already have it for free.)
So…18 days from first posting of free book on Smashwords to first pricing of free at other ebook stores, with a number yet to come.
We’ll see how this goes for another week or so, analyze whether there’s any spillover effect to other Terri Darling titles (in particular, those that are hyperlinked at the end of “The Swimsuit Shop”), then I may have Fiero Publishing kick the price of “The Swimsuit Shop” back up to 99 cents and see what effect that has. Or I may offer a new story for free. Or try something else.
You know, the writing process for each of my stories is always about the characters and the feelings, sometimes the tickle of the situations, but the selling process is a whole separate world. And electronic books have made it one whose rules and formulae are all up for grabs. Feel like I’m riding a bucking bronco bareback and having a heck of a good time.
Quick update on “The Swimsuit Shop” – it’s currently been downloaded over 200 times from Smashwords and bought with real money by seven people through Amazon, which hasn’t yet marked it down to free. It also doesn’t seem to have shown up yet at the various distribution channels that Smashwords distributes to – Sony, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc. It will be interesting to see the “sales” figures when it’s free in all those markets. And whether it bumps the sales of the novels hyperlinked at the end of it.
The second item is a quick plug for a program developed by a guy named Marcel Popescu, in answer to a blog post by Dean Wesley Smith about how difficult it is to keep track of online sales because of all the different distribution channels and the ways they report their figures. Marcel’s a programmer and took up the challenge. He designed a nifty little program that my publisher and I use called Indietracking, from www.indietracking.com. Still being developed, but if you or someone you know is publishing stuff online and can download the various sales reports from Amazon, Smashwords, etc., you might want to download this and give it a try. Pretty darn slick.
Now if you’re like most people, that FREE got your attention, didn’t it? Our psyches just lunge for that something-for-nothing thing, even if the something is never really free. It costs us our time, at least. Sometimes it makes us jump through all sorts of hoops to get it. But still we do the jumping because, hey, it’s FREE!!!!
So my dip-a-toe-in experiment, which I was goaded into by a bunch of friends who are into e-publishing in a big way, is to have Fiero Publishing do a Smashwords release of my e-short story, “The Swimsuit Shop,” for FREE. (Don’t you feel yourself getting excited every time you see that word?) At the end of the story are links to my anthologies, novels, and short stories, and a sample from What a Man Wants, the whole idea being that at least some of the people who grab the free story will be introduced to the rest of my oeuvre. Of course, some of my friends and many of the big publishing houses are doing this regularly – offering a free takeaway in the hopes you’ll want to sample the rest of the goods. They swear it works. To me it seems a little redundant in an e-book world that already gives away free samples of virtually every book on offer, but I guess anything that grabs a few more eyeballs can’t hurt.
So I hereby forcibly rip my head out of the sand and give it a shot.
What’s happened so far? Fiero put up my story on Smashwords for free and on Amazon for 99 cents on Monday. It went live on Smashwords almost immediately and has become the fastest “selling” e-story of mine to date, averaging 60+ downloads/day. It increased the views of the hyperlinked e-books to about 15 or 20 per day. The numbers fell off drastically on day 4, as the story’s position on Smashwords’ New Free Releases was now back to page 8 behind all the other new free releases coming out.
Meanwhile, it took three days for “The Swimsuit Shop” to actually go live on Amazon. As soon as it did (actually before it officially did), it sold a copy at 99 cents. The e-book sampled in the back of that story sold a copy the same day, at $4.99. Eventually Amazon’s web-crawling robots will discover that “The Swimsuit Shop” is offered for free elsewhere and knock down the Amazon price to free, Smashwords will also get a copy of “The Swimsuit Shop” shipped to its extended distribution channel, “The Swimsuit Shop” will be hyperlinked and flaunting itself for free everywhere, and the e-book economic model as we know it will come crashing down around us.
Will its “sales” reach the extraordinary best-”selling” heights of the other free e-books out there? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I have to get writing so that if it does I have more to offer a ravenous readership of romance readers. (Say that five times quickly.)
A study out today from the University of British Columbia showed over 1000 men and women photographs of members of the opposite sex and asked them to rate the sexual attractiveness of the person in the photo. Findings? Men rated women who smile more positively than those who don’t. But women, foolish creatures, rated the men who looked gloomy or proud or even ashamed more positively than those who were smiling.
The researchers suggest it’s a power thing. Women are more attracted to displays that suggest confidence and power, which smiling does not, while men are more attracted to sexual availability, which you get with the smile.
All I can say is that I get it, the whole brooding bad boy thing, but it does make me wave my hands up in the air in alarm and disgust. My experience says that men who look proud or gloomy tend to be…proud or gloomy.
Unsmiling proud tends to translate to self-centered, or at least work-centered, with a low ability to read the needs and emotions of others. Great if all you’re looking for is a breadwinner. Not so great if you actually want a lover and life partner.
Gloomy tends to be…well, someone who’s down a lot. You really want to hang around someone who’s down all the time.
My goodness, girlfriend. This kind of evolutionary claptrap is about as useful as the one that draws us all towards those silent, brooding protector types. You want to tame a Special Forces Operative, wounded soldier, cop, fireman? Really? Welcome to men who’ve been trained to shut down their emotions so they can get the job done, but rarely are able to open them up again when they’re off the job. Just saying. Not even going to get into the randy habits of most of the firefighters I’ve known. There are an awful lot of failed marriages among the protector groups. Just saying.
So I guess we can all enjoy the fantasy of snagging and taming the strong and silent type. And of course sometimes these guys are just as perfect as the fantasy. But I hope y’all keep your heads above the evolutionary muck we’re stuck with when it comes to actually choosing a mate. Confident, competent men smile too!