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I'm from South Carolina and it's a football rivalry state.  Here, you're either a Gamecock or a Tiger.  You may not have attended either school, but you're still one or the other. (I attended law school at the University of South Carolina, so it's a legit alma mater for me. And BTW, like Darius Rucker says, our USC was a school before California was a state.) In SC, team loyalty is a matter of tradition, heritage and culture.  Both teams have had good years and bad years, but fans stay loyal.  Clemson has had many more good years and by far holds the edge in the rivalry football game - especially lately - but forget that whole National Championship thing.  You know what matters?  It matters who wins the Carolina-Clemson game.

The Gamecocks have been in a rebuilding period since Steve Spurrier walked away from the team mid-season several years ago.  But they hired Coach Will Muschamp and he's done an amazing job.  It's Year 2 of the Muschamp era and the Gamecocks are #2 in the SEC East - instead of dead last as was predicted pre-season, and they'll end with a winning record and go bowling.  They're 7-3 now, Wofford is ahead which will have the Cocks 8-3 going into the last game of the season -- the "Palmetto Bowl" - the BIG one - the Carolina-Clemson game.  No one outside of the state thinks we can beat Clemson this year, but Gamecock fans believe.  And win or lose, the Gamecocks will proceed with the motto that Muschamp brought -- "So what?  Now what?"

I read a blog  from "The State" newspaper, and it's the first time I'd heard of the motto.  It seems the team has adopted it and the players live it now.  I've just decided to adopt it too.  What better saying to guide your life?  Whether you won or lost, yesterday is in the past. We can't change yesterday.  We can relive it, and allow the mistakes of the past to define the future or we can say, "so what."  If it was, then it was and no amount of self-torture will change it.  It happened.  So what?

The thing we can change is what we'll do today, and how we'll approach tomorrow.  We can choose to recognize that today is ours to conquer and tomorrow is ours to prepare for.  We can wake up saying, "now what?"

On a writing level, this means that I can look at Amazon and see that my books haven't taken off yet.  Kindle Unlimited folks - love y'all - have been reading, but not enough customers have been buying.  I could wallow in that, and cry over that.  I could toss up my hands and stop writing altogether, or I can say, "So What? Now What?" I chose the latter.  I've dropped the price of a few of my books to .99 cents, hoping that it will spur some folks to join a duck lady in the journey over the top of forever.  The books that are currently .99 cents are:  Brotherly Love, Seducing The Billionaire, and Tempting Duty.

Maybe you haven't read one of my books before.  So What?  Now what - you can do is pick up one of my .99 cent specials and give crazy love a try.  And here in Casa de Duck my youngest son and I (the football fans in the family) will await the Carolina-Clemson game, saying So What if Carolina lost last year. It's Now What time!

Entertainment Weekly says that the "happily ever after" genre is taking on Trump by joining the resistance.  I'm distressed to learn that some of my colleagues are repeating the mistake made by the entertainment industry. Like actors, actresses and comedians, writers are free to have political opinions.  Among friends and family, or at a political gathering held by folks of a particular leaning, expressing political opinion is perfectly acceptable.  Conning your audience into buying one thing and selling them another is a lie and liars deserve to lose.

The article notes that Lauren Billings, who writes with Christina Hobbs as Christina Lauren, responded to readers who reject mixing romance with politics by saying, "we share our opinions in our books in every word we write."  If that's true, before you ever buy one of their books, you should consider that these writers aren't channeling their characters, they're not telling you the story you bought, they're feeding you their personal beliefs and ideology.  Is that what they marketed?  Is that what readers bought?  No, it's not.  With all due respect to Ms. Billings, Ms. Hobbs and every other romance author on the planet, readers don't give a darling damn about what you think or feel or believe.

Readers buy romance to crawl inside the heads and hearts and souls of the hero and heroine.  A good writer often pens thoughts she'd never have and describes acts she'd never perform.  How does the writer do that if "every word she writes" contains her opinions?  She can't.  An author feeding her opinions through the mouths of her characters is telling her story - not the tale the readers bought.  A writer who gives in to ego to that extent echos the errors of entertainers.  There is a reason that movie theaters are empty.  Romance writers who feed readers stories with political overtones are herding romance to a place where shelves stay full.

The EW piece commits the same mistake made by reporters, prognosticators, actors and entertainers.  It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of why Americans back President Trump.  The President is neither anti-gay nor anti-woman and neither are the hordes of Americans who voted for him.  Many Trump supporters aren't particularly conservative.  What unites ALL Trump supporters is not a political party.  In fact, it is the exact opposite of a political anything.  Trump supporters are tired of politicians, labels and political correctness.  America voted Trump into office to elect a businessman who would run the government like a company.  Some businessmen want to make and sell a better car or a better thermostat.  Trump wants to make and sell a better America - not better for Democrats or Republicans, or for liberals or conservatives - but better for the vast majority whose lives and beliefs mix a little from all of those things to create the most unique thing on Earth:  an American.

Writers should disclaim and denounce the EW article and everything it contains and advocates.   I disclaim it and I surely denounce it. Romance writers should write  because they want to tell stories where people face obstacles, triumph over tragedy and end up happily ever after.  Those stories should be the character's stories, told through the eyes and the hearts and the minds of the characters, not the authors.  A writer who sells a love story but delivers something else has betrayed her readers. That writer will not inspire that reader to do anything but avoid her work in the future.

Life is full of problems and despair and the Great Duck knows - it's far too full of politics these days.  Anyone who wants to experience any of those things can turn on a number of 24-hour news channels.  People don't go to a movie to hear an actor mouth lines filled with political drivel.  People don't turn on a comic's special or late night program to hear him talk abut how much he hates Trump.  And people don't read a romance novel to RESIST anything.  Romance is about indulging senses and emotions. It's about love and triumph and living through a roller coaster ride that ends at a happy forever.

People don't read romance to get some writer's take on politics or her opinion on the President.   So, the EW piece has it wrong  - it's not the romance authors who should join the resistance movement.  Romance readers should RESIST any writer whose product description or blurb describes a love story but tells a thinly-veiled political allegory.   So, how to RESIST being deceived by a writer, especially one you enjoyed before?  Here's how - RCW - return, complain and warn.

Whether you bought it in Kindle or in Paper, return any book you were conned into buying.  Complain to the seller.  Email Amazon or Apple or Barnes and Noble or your neighborhood bookstore.  Email the big publisher.  Explain that you were the victim of a bait and switch that you feel was a deceptive act by the writer, the publisher and the seller.  Explain that you expect a clear warning about any romance novel containing political opinion, references or overtones. And warn your fellow readers by posting a review on the seller's website, but don't stop there.  Follow up by tweeting and posting on any board or forum where you interact with other readers.

Are authors, actors, comedians, singers or athletes allowed to be political?  Absolutely.  They can write a political book, give a speech at a rally or appear on an opinion talk show.  But they must learn to separate their politics from their work because the audience is not paying to support their politics.

Politics is politics and romance is romance. Any author's effort to combine the two should be met with reader resistance. Resist with your purse, your email, your reviews, your boards or forums, and your Facebook and Twitter. Unless there is a clear posted warning that the books contains a political point of view, all readers should be able to buy and enjoy romance novels by all writers.  Any writer who believes otherwise can be taught that they are wrong and it is the readers' job to administer the lesson.  Money talks and reviews and social media make fine megaphones.

Somehow, somewhere SOMETHING gave birth to the myth that the far left of the political spectrum is the cool place. If you’re in the middle or on the right, then you’re either stupid or evil. It’s a nonsensical, vapid myth, but the far left has preached it so long that many are as indoctrinated as Scientologists. They don’t associate with or listen to non-lefties. If you’re caught being reasonable, you’ll be disconnected. And that’s the true evil.

Hollywood has long disconnected moderates and conservatives. Actors who dare hold views similar to most Americans hide them to blend in so that they can continue to work. It’s a whopper-sized hypocrisy to profess to be open and giving and yet be closed to listening, sharing or considering other opinions. The rabid left exists in a hyperbaric echo-chamber. Thank God, I thought, that writers are stronger and freer than the actors imprisoned in their own make-believe world.

At least, I believed that until recently. I saw General John Kelly’s amazingly brave appearance at yesterday’s press conference.  A father whose career was sending other young people into harm’s way, who saw too many of them return in caskets, watched his own son choose that path.  Then he got the sad news he’d had to deliver to other parents. Yet, he was courageous enough to speak about his experience to explain why a soldier’s comfort, like a soldier’s world, is very different from the lives and realities of those of us who have never served.  I cried a little as I watched, and listened and I saw how much respect General Kelly has earned on so many levels.

I logged onto Twitter (@quackingalone) and saw that #JohnKelly was trending.  I wandered over and was shocked to see the rabid left there having a contest to see who could do the best job at denigrating a man brave enough to share his personal tragedy, and courageous enough to admit that he’d had to personally lead other American heroes to their deaths. Who could watch and not be moved as he shared his own tragedy to explain a soldier’s comfort to America?  I posted this Tweet:  “#GeneralJohnKelly – today you proved that patriot doesn’t mean pushover and that courage takes many forms. #JohnKelly”

Yesterday I logged onto my Twitter account to see that I’d been unfollowed by a huge number of OTHER AUTHORS.  So, I learned that I was, sadly, wrong. Like actors, those authors take the money of mainstream America, but they disconnect anyone who has another view, who sees another reality. These writers want you to enter the worlds they create, to fall in love or laugh or cry while their characters do – but they don’t want mainstreamers to know that secretly, they’re laughing at us and looking down at us. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be secret any longer. Anyone can check out an author on Twitter BEFORE clicking the buy button.

If you’re a reader who is tired of being shown that you matter less and are less deserving of respect because you don’t drink the left-handed Kool-Aid, then maybe you should vote with your wallet.  Before you buy a book, log onto the writer’s Twitter account and see who he or she follows. Does it include people with views similar to yours? A writer should be following a wide, expansive and diverse community of folks.  It should include people across the political spectrum. The group should be defined by who is interesting, not by who is a rabid leftie. If you don’t see people in that group who believe like you do, then you should reconsider that purchase.

Those who believe that everyone is entitled to respect shouldn’t tolerate disrespect and condescension from people we give our money to. Don’t support anyone who wants to sell you something but would never listen to you or consider your thoughts.  If we don’t use the power of the purse to insist that freedom is as grounded in listening and sharing as it is in talking and pontificating, we’ll lose it forever. Our soldiers, sailors and marines and especially our Gold Star families who’ve paid the ultimate price deserve better. Freedom isn’t free and respect is a two-way street.  Check before you buy.

I've been AWOL here, and apologize for that. I've been given the glorious freedom to work from home for my law practice, and I find that I work a lot more hours. That's good for the office bottom line, but bad for my non-legal scribbling. Did anyone miss me? (Don't answer that.) When I've found time to write, I've been plugging away at Vlad's story, from my Forever Series that starts with "A Faerie Fated Forever." It's meant that the blog has been neglected though -- which isn't good. Can someone add a couple more hours in a day?

Because I do try to keep up with literary happenings, a recent piece in the Guardian caught my eye. It's writing tips from acclaimed novelist/creative writing instructor, Colum McCann, titled, "So You Want To Be A Writer? Essential Tips for Aspiring Novelists. Likely, it caught my attention because one of his first tips is that "there are no rules. Or, if there are any rules, they are only there to be broken. Embrace these contradictions."  I'm a rule-breaker from way back, so I settled in for a read.

McCann says "to hell" with grammar, formality, plot and structure - but only after you've learned them so well that you can walk through your work "with your eyes closed."  He points out that the great ones will make their own rules, only to break them  and unmake them.

He says that a writer's first line should "reach in and twist your heart backward," and it should be active, "plunging your reader into something urgent."  And what should that first line be about?  What kind of book should you write?   ...continue reading "Writing Rules Are Made To Be Broken"

CBS News posted a piece discussing why romance generates derision along with sales. Romance is 30% of the overall literary market and is a Billion - with a "B"- dollar a year industry, largely created by women for women. And the women in this piece do a great job of explaining why. CBS talked with all these folks: Professor by day/ Romance writer by night Mary Bly (Eloisa James), Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches) and Romance best-seller Beverly Jenkins. Their comments are experienced and astute.

My favorite is Mary Bly's note at the end - I've long maintained that the whole portrayal of "ripped bodices" and romance novels as demeaning women is wrong. They're all about female empowerment. In every romance, by the time the HEA arrives, the woman is in charge.

Check out this video as it's well worth your time.

Romance - the "Rodney Dangerfield" of Genres

A Publishers Weekly article today focused on how indie authors need to learn about "positioning." The piece says it's "imperative that indie authors do their research and spend time learning how to think like an industry insider, or hire outside people who have industry experience to maximize their chances for success."  Traditional publishing, says the story, is delighted with the surge of new voices (**cough, cough**) but indies can only fit in by acting like industry insiders. Oh, and indies should also throw money at the poor, downtrodden insiders who've been trampled by the indie revolt.

According to PW,  to properly position their work, indies should "angle" their work to readers, using genre, subgenre, the title, subtitle, the blurb and keywords. Indies must position their titles to ensure their "commercial viability in an overcrowded market." The article also recommends the following:

Positioning decisions can also downplay a certain theme by highlighting another that’s more saleable. For instance, addiction sells better than sexual abuse, so a memoir that has both might be highlight the addiction—in its title, subtitle, descriptive copy, and blurbs—and underplay or not even mention the abuse narrative, even though it’s there.

Funny, I've always believed that if I write the book I want to write, and give it a title, cover, subtitle, blurb and keywords that honestly describe the work, then readers will angle themselves in my direction, if my work is their "cuppa."  And it may not be because different strokes stoke different folks.  Nothing's wrong with that a'tall.  But if you're not naturally inclined towards the oddities of a duck lady who writes love over-the top for m/w and m/m, then I'd prefer you didn't spend your hard earned money for my work.  I gather that traditional publishing feels differently, and if they can angle their high-priced stuff into your wallet, they'd like to do it.

Traditional publishing still considers the sale the thing and the only thing.  Most indies, including this one, want their work to be read and appreciated, and sharing that experience with readers is more important than the bottom line.  That, I think, more than anything accounts for the indie revolution. We respect our readers too much to lure them into reading something they'd never choose to buy.

I haven't gambled in quite a while because too often the "new economy" doesn't cover all the basics, let alone the luxuries.  But back in the day, when the dollars flowed, Mr. Duck and I would take an occasional trip to a casino.  I stuck to the slots but Mr. Duck liked the tables.  Blackjack was one of his favorites.  Blackjack players hate to see a newbie sit down at the table.  Why?  Because a newbie doesn't know or follow the traditional rules about when to hit or stay or when to double down. The unpredictable play throws off the table and takes dollars from the experienced folks.

Indies are the newbies at the publishing table.  We haven't been following the rules so the traditional insiders can't predict our play.  Our daring honesty and respect for readers is taking a lot of dollars out of the formerly well-lined insider pockets. Now, traditional publishing pros are trying to "counsel" indies to learn the rules. What rules?  The ones set by traditional publishers to benefit traditional publishing, of course.

Sorry publishing pros, but I'm not interested in "positioning" readers because, unlike you, I think they're much more savvy than sheep who can be herded.  I'll keep angling with honesty and hoping readers enjoy my work. It all boils down to the difference in goals - publishing pros are in it for the money and indies are in it for love of the written word.  Maybe that's the biggest reason more and more readers opt to go indie.  Readers can spot a fraud at less than a hundred words. You might angle them once, but next time, they'll go indie.

And a crazy duck lady will welcome them with honesty and respect. Those are the values that create repeat business, whether we're talking about publishing, an insurance agency,  a car dealership, a restaurant, a big chain store or the corner market.

My original Facebook page will be fading away soon.... and I have a brand new Facebook page to share.  But first, of course, I have a story. (Otherwise, this would be a really short blog post!) My story begins a couple of months ago, when I decided to do a "boost" or Facebook ad campaign to promote one of my Olivia Outlaw Books.  I did the post, clicked to boost it, it started boosting and then - the boost was rejected.

A few days ago, I decided to try again, because I've run FB ads before and found them a great way to promote books for a reasonable cost.  Again, it got rejected and this time I got messages about "explicit content" and violating FB ad policies.

Seriously?

Well, okay, perhaps Facebook has hangups about Male/Male Romance and I was trying to publicize one of my Olivia Outlaw books.  So, I tried again, with three - count 'em THREE- of the books from my Mary Anne Graham "Forever" series.  Nada. The same result.  I beat my head against the brick wall, and grabbed my computer guy hubby and slammed his face against it for a while.  More nada and managed to royally perturb computer guy hubby who recalled anew his wife's technical stupidity.

While hubby cooked breakfast - yum- I had a "light bulb" moment.  Maybe I needed to do a full reboot.  After all, my original Facebook was created before FB had some of the tools to help authors create pages.  So, I slogged off to create an AUTHOR page.  Added each book series to PHOTOS and plan to give each book/series its own FB page.  (It'll take a while, people, I'm on the last book in my Seducing the Guardian Series and hope to publish soon).

For now, though, I have a brand new author page and am running a promo of my "shop now" button which connects to my list of books on this blog.  If you've wandered over here from that shop now button/promo - HI!  *waves*

Be sure to check out the new FB page and give it a like while you're there!!

 

 

I write contemporary and historical romance as myself, "Mary Anne Graham" and I write erotic romance as "Olivia Outlaw." I don't write erotica, although some people make a bundle of cash writing that genre. Why don't I write it? Isn't it essentially the same as erotic romance? I don't write erotica because it is not romance and if it's not romance, then I don't write it.

Both erotic romance and erotica include explicit sex. Neither genre will attract the shy and retiring. The difference lies in what role sex plays in the story. In erotic romance, sex moves the story. Sex between the lead characters changes them and changes the course of their lives in some fundamental fashion. Erotica, however, is all about the sex. Erotica requires no relationship and no happy ending. It requires only hot sex.

Don't get me wrong, writing hot sex is fun, and I write it in romance and erotic romance, but I write it to tell the character's stories. I can only read and write romance where character is king. Whenever my bank account motivates me to consider writing sex for the sake of sex (erotica), something - thankfully - stops me. This time it was a story about making money writing erotica for Kindle.

Perhaps the Broadly story was intended to have the opposite result, and for some folks, it might.  Read it for yourself and decide.  This is the paragraph that stopped me cold:

So much volume requires variety. Johnson is a gay man, but like Sethline, he writes stories with all kinds of gender configurations. "It's not really that different," he said. "The niche matters more than the gender. I find it hard to write ABDL [adult baby diaper love] erotica, whether gay or straight, because it seems so silly and pointless—I can't even pretend to think diapers are sexy. But most other hetero erotica is easy as pie, even if I have to pretend I have a vagina."

The stop sign for me: "Adult baby diaper love?"  That is a thing?  For a crazy duck lady who pens erotic love scenes in all of her writing, I am, perhaps, a bit TOO sheltered.  I blame that on my writing.  It's kept me from all of the meandering around the internet that would inform me of such fetishes.  I consider that a good thing. There are fetishes I'm happy to never discover.  "Adult baby diaper love" would have been one of them, but sadly, I've now seen those words.  Writing in a genre that people will read because of "diaper love" is not ever going to be something I can do.

I find it sad that men and women feel financially obligated to write under a pen name that disguises their genre.  Unfortunately, I know that sometimes occurs in romance, where men say they can't sell unless they write under female pen names. To all quacking readers, I say - buy a book because of the story, not because of the author's gender.  In time, I hope, that readers won't spend a second considering whether they want to read a romance or erotic romance written by a man instead of a woman.  It should be a non-issue.

So, we've established that my writing road map will not include a stop at erotica.  Where does my map take me next?  I'm presently writing the last in my Olivia Outlaw  "duty" series.  I hope to have it finished and published within the next couple of months, and hopefully sooner.  Once it's done, I'm definitely going back to do a "Mary Anne Graham" romance.  It'll either be Vlad's story from my Forever Series, or a "the rest of the story" contemporary romance.  I started Vlad's tale and am debating my direction.

As many of you know, "A Fairy Fated Forever"- the first in that series, is a "the rest of the story" book which tells my version of what happens after the events in the famous Fairy Flag of the Clan MacLeod legend.  I have another one of those things doing a duck dance around my brain.  Duck Dancing is damned tough to ignore.

Still, Vlad may be able to overcome the dancing duck.  We'll see where that goes after I finish the last Olivia Outlaw "duty" book.  I'd welcome any of your thoughts, of course.  The one thing I can say with absolute confidence is that I will NOT be writing in any genre where diapered adults inspire readers to say anything other than_ "ICK!!"