Of late I've been following some of Konrath's advice - well, I didn't know it was Konrath's advice, actually, until I read a great writing blog in my Twitter stream.  Konrath says more writing and less of everything else.  Unfortunately, that has led to......  less blogging as well.  However, the recent piece by William Giraldi for New Republic has been stewing around in my unstable brain recently, demanding a response.  I've dusted off my soapbox for the occasion.

Have you read Giraldi's piece?  It is absolute proof that judgmental ignorance still flourishes amongst those who consider themselves 'better than the masses.'  What masses?  Well, their readers, their fellow writers, pretty much everyone with any other opinion.  Yes, those people.  I'd bet Giraldi is a card-carrying member of the P.C. Police and anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of those specimens.

Giraldi's piece is part book-review (read book hatred) for a book by a woman, Eva Illouz, discussing and analyzing the "Fifty Shade of Grey" affect on culture and society.  From the perspective of the New Republic article, I expect that one of the biggest of Illouz's problems is biology - she's a WOMAN. And Giraldi doesn't think much of women, especially women like Illouz and the amazing author of "Fifty Shades", Erika Leonard a/k/a "E.L. James.  Illouz, Leonard and even, yours truly, the insane Duck Lady, have a big problem - we don't know our place.  Rather, we don't know that our place isn't at a keyboard.

How does Giraldi feel about "Fifty Shades," its author and its fans?

A great many women indeed have been living it up while dumbing it down, titillated by a charlatan amorist who goes by the nom de plume of E.L. James. I'm made distinctly queasy by uttering that sacral American surname when referring to this empress of inanity, so let’s use her real name, Erika Leonard. She who has done so much to help debase our culture should stand revealed.

To be able to pontificate so profoundly, Giraldi must have made a close study, a dissection even, of the Fifty Shades trilogy, right?  Well - not so much.

This is probably the spot to say that for the sake of this assignment I made a good faith effort to read these books at my city library, but I wasn't self-punishing enough actually to finish them and had to stop the agony halfway into the second volume.

If you haven't read it, from cover to cover, you are NOT in the least qualified to discuss it. The same goes for romance novels.  What is Giraldi's opinion of the genre?

The trilogy’s assembly-line asininity is really a fomentation of the worst that can be believed about both sexes. Romance novelsparochial by definition, ecumenical in ambitionteach a scurvy lesson: enslavement to the passions is a ticket to happiness.

Sorry, no - actually, that's the BEST thing Giraldi says about the romance genre. IMHO, the worst is this:

Dreck of this stupendous caliber has a particular advantage over literature in that one doesn't have to read all of it to surmise, accurately and eternally, that it is all uniformly awful and awfully uniformromance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn. It's pointless to spend much time impugning these books as writing because they really aren't meant to be considered as actual writing, the same way a Twinkie wasn't meant to be considered as actual food. Books ejaculated this easily have the inverse effect of being extremely difficult to read. Leonard’s creations are the cartoonishly erotic suppurations of a hamstrung, not terribly bright adult trying to navigate a midlife crisis, and you get the feeling that the sentences arrived on the page as if by osmosis, unaided by even a sub-literate serf.

So, Giraldi thinks that romance novels aren't literature and they aren't writing any more than a Twinkie is food. The New Republic writer finds that romance novels are cartoonishly written and are to the literate world what racists are to society.  You know what I find?  I find that Mr. Giraldi's opinions of the romance genre are every bit as well-informed as his opinions of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy.  It is so much easier to spout generalities meant to sound superior when you are not troubled by having any knowledge of your subject.

Giraldi says that just as Twinkies aren't meant to be "actual food", romances aren't meant to be actual writing. I agree that Twinkies aren't meant to appease physical hunger.  A hungry person is more apt to reach for a hamburger than a Twinkie. A Twinkie is meant to appease a craving for something else, something more than physical hunger.  A person might eat a Twinkie when she needs her mood lifted or wants to reward herself. In the same way, romance novels - like "Fifty Shades of Grey", like my/ Mary Anne Graham "Forever Series"/ like my Olivia Outlaw "Sultan's Toy Series" - romance novels feed the soul and elevate the spirit.  Like a Twinkie, a romance novel sometimes just helps you go on believing, hoping, existing.

If you want to read something that makes you feel like eating a bowl of prunes, wearing a monacle and sneering at the world,  then perhaps you should pick up something by Mr. Giraldi.  If you want to read something that makes you feel like eating a Twinkie, wearing a smile and cheering for the human experience,  then perhaps you should pick up a romance novel.

Most women - and some very special men - are smart enough to know that sometimes you have to feed your heart, your soul and your spirit.  If we don't do that often enough we risk becoming a prune-eating, monacle-wearing nation.  A romance novel, anyone?

I've heard a bunch of scuttlebutt from writers who claim that the best sales strategy at the Zon is to select keywords that are in Amazon subcategory list for romance.  As writers know, for certain categories - Romance and Erotica among them - Amazon has a list of words that describe certain subcategories of romance; i.e. - for books about Kings, and Princes if you use those terms as keywords they'll appear in a "royalty" subcategory.

I've been putting up keywords that are most specific to my books.  If someone is over the top enough to hunt for something the crazy duck lady has written as Mary Anne Graham or Olivia Outlaw, then by the quack - I wanted them to find my stuff.  But given the scuttlebutt, I went in and changed all the keywords for several books - including my entire Sultan's Toy series - to fit in the generic mold that should have gotten them listed in several subcategories of romance and erotica.

Did I get listed in those subcategories?  I don't know, but if I did, it surely didn't help sales, which have been down in April.  So you know what I did today?  Can you guess?

Yep.  I went back to my me-words - my crazy duck lady terms that describe my stories.  I've just changed them, but sales have already started trending back up.

That can only mean one thing ---  there are more crazy duck lads and ladies out there than I ever suspected. Maybe one day we crazy duck people will take over and turn the world into a much more interesting place.

In the meantime, the results of my little experiment make me feel a little bit warm and cozy and a lot less lonely.  I'm hoping that all my fellow quackers keep on finding my books. We'll let the rest of the world worry about where we're holding our secret meetings.......


This is a quick post - and I'm stealing time from my muse to blog.  Snatching it from her greedy, absorbed, self-involved genius.  Because muse is absorbing me so, what else could I write about but her? (Are you happy now, Ms. Muse? Will you give me a sec to do this?)

As my "nom de plume" Olivia Outlaw, Ms. Muse has been working my imagination like a Sports Reporter on Super Bowl Sunday.  We're still working on the story of Ring and Ali - my Sultan's Toy series. As you can tell, it's going like gangbusters. Musey really adores the 20-30k format of erotic romance and she's having a mighty fine time with her first male/male romance. I'll definitely have to do another sometime soon.......

But for now, we're busy with Ring and Ali who are still in Turkey, in the Sultan's Palace.  (For now....)

And sometimes, my dearest darling Hubby will summon me, or the kids will pop up, wide-eyed by my monitor, or life, generally will require me to stop writing to sleep, eat, clean, work or get kids ready for school.  Lately, I've often looked up with that lost, strained expression at whoever or whatever is calling me away.

My Darlin' Mr. Duck could describe the expression for you - because it has annoyed him often enough - but you've probably never seen it unless you're the poor unfortunate family member of a writer.

And remember, sometimes we're writing when we're NOT at the keyboard. Muse may be whispering in my ear while we're driving somewhere or right in the middle of dinner.  When that happens, Mr. Duck will often break off in the middle of what he's saying to grouch something like:  "Are you listening to me?  Are you paying attention?"

I'll respond, "Yes. Of course," or something like that because - I'm really, really trying to listen and pay attention. It's just that muse is really tough to ignore. It's like trying to ignore a neon sign 5-feet in front of your face flashing thoughts in red and purple to the beat of the best song of all time. (Bob Seegar's Night Moves). It's really, really HARD.

It may be difficult to convince most non-writers that the world of a Grand Sultan's Palace in long-ago, far-away Turkey is more real than the world outside the window or inside your house -- but it's true. It's really, really true.

That is, it's true when I'm very lucky and my Muse is sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. With my Olivia Outlaw cap on, and my fingers typing away at Part 3 of "The Sultan's Toy", Muse has been doing that a lot lately. Just now, Muse is occasionally distracting me from Part 3 with thoughts of -- what should I title this one?

I'm doing the "C" thing for all the stories - and I'm considering:  Captivated, Coupled and Consumed. What to do, what to do.....

I can't even be distracted from my distraction for long because Muse is back, whispering in my ear and tapping her high-heeled shoes on my chest.  After a while, that really hurts, you know?

So, send some good wishes to Mr. Duck and the Duck Clan as they try NOT to kill me for being even MORE distracted than usual - which is really saying something.  But all this distraction means something I'm hoping that Olivia Outlaw's readers will find mighty interesting........

Whatever it ends up being titled - Part 3 of "The Sultan's Toy" will be winding its way to your favorite online retailer very, very soon.

And - thank you Muse! I'm living for the day when I have no day job to distract me from my shoulder sessions with my very own, beloved, well-Mused one.......


Last night in boogling around the vast expanse of offerings by Time Warner Cable, I ran across a channel running "Brokeback Mountain." As y'all know, as 'Olivia Outlaw' I've ventured into the world of erotic romance with my ongoing series:  Sultan's Toy - Book One (Captured) and Book Two (Claimed) are available on Amazon now. (Grab 'em before you read the rest of this.  I'll wait....)

And yes, I'm hard at work on Book Three as we speak. It'll be out soon - and I'll surely announce here when it's available.

Anyway, Sultan's is my first adventure into male/male romance, so I thought the time might be right to watch "Brokeback Mountain." I started watching it, but then, I had that thought, you know, THE thought.  I've never heard how it ended.  Oh, I recall people raving about it, but none of those raves  mentioned feeling all happy,  squishy and warm at the ending.  And that sounded an alarm bell in my head, a loud one, like the annoying Emergency Warning System. A local TV station runs the "test" before 6:30 am when I'm trying to chug my first cup of caffeine and wondering when I'll be able to write full time and arise at a decent hour. You really can't ignore that alarm.

I paused the beginning of "Brokeback" and went to the Great Googled One to do a search.  I typed in, "Does Brokeback Mountain Have a Happy Ending?' I no sooner hit enter than the first item on the list said - "one of them is beaten to death at the end."  Well, great quacking ducks!  Thank God for warning bells. You know what I did, don't you?  Yep.  I flipped back, turned off "Brokeback," kicked on "Amazon Prime" and watched an episode of BBC's Sherlock Holmes.

See, I don't "do" unhappy endings in entertainment.  Never. Ever.  I'm serious about that - so serious that I refuse to watch "Titanic."  I hear the ship sinks.

By trade, I am a lawyer. I'm toiling away at that until I can earn enough money at my writing to allow me to do it full time.  Don't get me wrong - I'm a "scrivener" which means I do legal research and writing for a living. So I write at work too. (It's the only thing I'm anywhere near good at, after all.) But none of the writing is happy. People involved in lawsuits rarely are joyous about it, of course, but so often the weight of the tragedy is nearly overwhelming - the destruction, the injuries, the sorrow.

And when I leave work and come home, to update myself, I'll flick on some news.  In today's 24-hour-everything world, it's not hard to find.  And I hear about school shootings and monsters planning to attack Olympic athletes who've dedicated their lives to become the best of the best and are willing to use their skills in their country's honor.

Enough. It's enough.

If I want sadness and tragedy, I'll go to work or watch the news. When I want to entertain myself, I EXPECT authors, actors, movie producers, TV showrunners, directors and all the others providing possible entertainment choices to have enough common sense to know they have one goal - Give it to me with a happy ending.

It's the one promise I make to all my readers whether I'm writing as "Mary Anne Graham" or "Olivia Outlaw" - at the end of my story, the characters will have a happy ending. Y'all can take that to the bank.

As readers or viewers, we can choose whether we want to end feeling all hopeless and despondent or uplifted and encouraged - why would we ever pick misery? Aren't all of our daily lives full of enough of that already? I'm up for almost any journey that a talented creator contrives, as long as it arrives at an ending that makes me happy.

Misery may love company but Happy Endings make you feel at home.


There has been a spate of abusive, bullying tactics at Goodreads, about which I blogged very recently HERE. This has been spawned by bad behavior by authors and reviewers/GR users.  As to the authors, they have erred mainly by entering discussions to randomly toss up marketing for their books - something which (justifiably) annoys readers no end and by wading, uninvited, into discussions about their books.  As to the reviewers/GR users, the bad acts go from small - labeling their shelves in a manner designed to insult authors personally -  to large - ganging up to harass and threaten authors on GR and by leaving bad reviews on Amazon.

Frankly, I suspect that my prior blog post led to my receiving a dose of the bad Amazon reviews.  It may or may not have led to bad reviews or insulting shelves on Goodreads.  Like most writers, while the readers have been in a "posse" or "follow the bully" mentality, I've stayed off GR.  Now, thanks to a move by GR owner Amazon, I may return - along with many other writers who love reading and discussing books as readers.

Sheriff Amazon finally waded into the fray, enforcing a couple of important, basic rules and announcing them at the same time.  What are they?   (1)  Reviews must be about the book; and (2) Members can't harass or threaten others.  They're such basic rules, one wonders how they weren't always the standard at the site.  However, Amazon's announcement led to a mass backlash at GR, with users crying the expected charge of "censorship."

...continue reading Amazon Shifts Goodreads Focus Back to Books

Yet another writer has penned an anti-"Fifty Shades of Grey" rant.  This one is in Pajiba and is entitled:  "Women Who Have Never Had Decent Sex Outraged By Warped Fantasy Movie Casting."

Like most such rants, it says more about the writer than the subject.  This piece makes the writer appear to be bitter and brittle, too snobbish to appreciate the appeal of a good romance novel.  It paints a portrait of someone too insecure to consider that the books' readers could simply be smarter, more emotionally grounded, and far more secure in their acceptance of humanity's infinite variations than the writer could ever understand.   You know what?  That makes this writer, again, like most of them.

Them?  Yes, them - meaning, those who consider themselves superior to others.  Such superior beings imagine that they are very open-minded when in reality their view of the world is so narrow that it cannot encompass the possibility that they are wrong.  This particular writer, Courtney Enlow, a/k/a Courtney Enlow Hall, has the egotism to imagine herself as far more gifted, even, than the author of "Fifty Shades of Grey", Erika Leonard, a/k/a E.L. James.  Of Ms. James, and all of her readers, Ms. Enlow says:

" ...some simp of a drooling moron with her hand firmly clenched between her thighs as though she can will Edward into being through masturbatory efforts alone but cannot say the proper names of the body parts because that would be naughty WOULD go on to write the most popular book among fellow drooling morons, no longer satisfied by rubbing against their sparkly body pillows until the funny feelings go boom."

...continue reading Fifty Shades Fans Don’t Have Good Sex? Yes, It’s Yet Another Anti-Fifty Shades Rant

One of the present trends is to scoff at books that don't portray people, places, things or eras "realistically."  I get those reviews for my historicals all the time - "this isn't how things went during the Regency" or "this behavior would never have been tolerated during the Regency."  That really disturbs my ducks.

Whether it's Regency England, the American West, Highland Scotland, Myrtle Beach, SC - or some imaginary modern day town (coming soon, perhaps) - I DON'T WANT TO PORTRAY IT REALISTICALLY.  You know what?  Reality really sucks.

If readers were overjoyed with their reality, they'd have no reason to ever pick up a book.  If television viewers were tickled twitless with their lives and their worlds, TV would no longer exist.  YouTube would go away and there would be no gaming industry because people would have every bit of the fun and danger they could ever want in their everyday lives.  In the real world, people aren't going to balls every night, surgeons find their jobs more tedious than titillating and people don't get paid to travel to exotic locales to spy or kill people.   All of that - every last bit of it - is not realistic.   Yet people spend beaucoup bucks on books, movies, and games and then they spend hours reading, watching or playing.

Why?  Why do that if what they are seeking in their entertainment is a "realistic" experience? Do people have so much money that we need to toss it away for something we'll despise experiencing?

We - unfortunately - presently live in a world where too many talented, hardworking people are unemployed or underemployed.  Simply to survive, to hold on a little longer, more people have to lower themselves and destroy their souls daily by taking welfare and food stamps from the government.  People still lose their homes in droves and bankruptcy and judgments are facts of life most of us never wanted to face.  That's reality and - like I said - it sucks.

Let's have LESS reality.

People who spend money they really need for food, bills or utility payments on books are -  for the love of all ducks - not looking to get more reality in their lives.  They're looking to escape from whatever wolf is presently lurking just outside their door.  If people want more reality, they can turn on a 24-hour news channel and be depressed and enraged constantly and it's probably part of their basic cable package.   People buying books or spending entertainment dollars are looking to bring fun and excitement into their lives.  They desperately need some time away in order to give them fuel to work at surviving for a few more days.

The LAST thing writers, artists, actors, producers or directors owe people is "a slice of life."  Real life slices people into slivers of themselves just fine in today's world without their paying to get sliced and diced a little faster.  We owe people something more, something different, something BETTER.

Don't buy my books if you're looking for a realistic portrayal of anything.  I'd never shortchange my readers by giving them reality.  If you're looking for reality -- open a window, answer your creditors' calls, and turn on a 24-hour news channel.  If you're looking to escape to a place that looks and feels nothing like your everyday world - pick up a Quacking Alone romance where a happy ending is guaranteed.


Authors expect bad reviews after a book is published.   Great Ducks Of The Universe - how authors should expect bad reviews.  Good reviews come as well, of course, and they make a writer's world a better place but the bad ones can really play some mind tricks on a writer who actually reads reviews.  I've learned to screen them - one quick glance through and then no more.  No hair shirts will be employed.  There will be no weeping or gnashing of teeth.

Opinions are like personality quirks and pet peeves - everyone has them, they are often vastly different, and the only opinion you should follow is your own.  Often people will play follow-the-leader with opinions, snap judgments or bad behavior.  I don't do that because I think PC stands for Petty Crap and that followers will NEVER arrive at any destination of their choosing.  I have my own opinions.  You're not required to like them, agree with them or follow them.  You're only required to respect my right to have them.  For example,  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE me some old school romance - yes, bodice ripping and all.  I'm actually bright enough to separate what I read from what I believe or how I'll act in real life.  I read to get away from real life.

In real life, I wouldn't put up with a bodice-ripping guy no matter how hunky he appeared.  I'd also NOT leave a shoe and wait for a handsome Prince to show up and rescue me - but I still love Cinderella.

Yes, we expect bad reviews AFTER a book is published, but no one expects to be tormented, bullied or threatened over a book, specially not BEFORE it's published.  Yet that's what occurred this week and it has caused one author to pull a book she was about to publish and to give up on writing altogether.  That's sad and it's sadder still that it occurred on Amazon's Goodreads community.  It was - or was intended to be - a site where readers discovered books and sometimes had a chance to interact with other readers who were also authors.  (Every writer is a reader.)

Lauren Howard, a/k/a Lauren Pippa, fell victim to a campaign of abuse and bullying on Goodreads and cancelled the release of her debut novel, "Learning To Love."  Here's how Lauren described events:

...continue reading Bullying on Goodreads Leads to User Exodus

My last post mentioned romance author Marie Force's killer survey in the context of my deciding that I needed to do more marketing through Facebook.  I haven't yet changed the format of QA's Facebook page (click the link and like it -- I'll wait).  However, thanks to Marie's saavy tips, I have started doing more linking of my books complete with hashtags.  And it has helped so Marie was right about that - people do find books through Facebook.  This post is because I promised a follow up to delve into more of Marie's marvy info.

Now, my question is about the survey's finding that contemporary romance has become more popular than historical romance - 27.55% of responding readers preferred contemporary to 23.15% preferring historical.  Why do I find that interesting?  Because my numbers don't bear that out at all.  My historicals sell far, far better than my contemporaries although I think the contemporaries are great books.  My personal sales ratio is about 85% to 15% in favor of the historicals.

I'd LOVE, LOVE, LOVE for the contemporaries to catch up to the historicals in sales.  Heck, I'd cheer if they passed the historicals.  My historicals are composed entirely of my wicked, wacky and way warped imagination.  They're over the top tales where the heroes tend to be bad boys who fall in love as hard as they fell into risky, risque behavior.  My contemporary heroes share the over-the-top personna to a point, but those books also call upon knowledge I've gleaned from my "day job" - as a lawyer. My contemporaries all take place at that precarious point where love and the law meet.  It's a dangerous spot, which is why those books are my "Dangerous Relations" series.

None of my contemporaries takes the reader inside the courtroom as much as Dangerous Relations:  Seducing the Billionaire. That book starts in the Family Courtroom where the hero is divorcing his "belle bitch" wife.  It's a tricky endeavor because he doesn't want a separation from his soon-to-be ex's half sister, Rachel.  She's only 17, but the hero fell in love with her about a year earlier, when he rescued her from an abusive foster home.  She's been too young to allow her any idea of his real feelings, even if he hadn't been too married to show her.  But, at the beginning of the book, everything is about to change.  When it does, the hero finds himself in a Courtroom, where his only defense against felony charges is to show the jury his helpless adoration for the girl who vanished just when she could have saved him.  If you like love stories, trial stories or romantic suspense, you'll love Dangerous Relations:  Seducing The Billionaire.  Pick it up and give it a read today - you'll be glad you did!

My other two (2) contemporaries are also at the juncture of love and the law - at different stages. Dangerous Relations: Griffin's Law is about a law student who commits the serious offense of falling in love with one of her professors.  And the professor?  He's hiding more than she could've ever imagined.   Dangerous Relations:  The Office Ink is about a young associate targeted by the law firm partner who hired her.  Too bad for her that she was also targeted by the partners brother.  And when Cupid's passing out flaming arrows, someone could die.  Did the young associate's boss kill the competition, brother or not?

This post is my test marketing of my contemporaries.  Marie Force's survey says contemporaries are outselling historicals.  Like I said earlier, my experience has been the opposite.  Will my numbers from this test prove Marie right or wrong?

Via a piece in Forbes, I ran across some fascinating survey numbers from bestselling author Marie Force.   In case you've spent the last few years imprisoned in the Big Brother House and aren't familiar with her work, I can tell you one thing that will tell you that she's a great author.  Ready?  Her current book, "Lethal Attraction:  Against The Rules\Fatal Affair" is a collaboration with LINDA HOWARD, no less, put together by Harlequin's HQN.  If your writing can keep up in that company, then it's pretty danged fabulous.  Marie's most recent solo effort is "Time for Love" and since that one's self-pubbed - (all Marie and nothing but Marie/ like mine are all Mary Anne and nothing but Mary Anne), I bet she'd appreciate your checking it out as well.

But I digressed - as usual.  Okay, I'm boogling back to the point now.  The point is an oh-so-interesting survey that Marie conducted recently via Survey Monkey with about 2,951 people replying to questions put together by Marie and "about a dozen other authors." The questions covered a number of areas, including preferred genre, preferred reading format, shopping preferences, and discovery tools.   The Forbes article is  "Reader Surveys Provide Insight, But How Much?" The title tells us that Forbes is going to disagree with Marie's numbers - and it does.  It compares and contrasts them with a 2012 survey done by RWA (Romance Writers of America).

The first thing that caught my eye was the big ole' important place where the two survey numbers agree - although Forbes wishes to quibble.  Both surveys agree that romance is the "King of Kings" - it dominates other genres in terms of sales.  In Marie's poll, 81% of readers listed romance as their favorite genre with mystery coming in second, with only 5%of reader preferences.  That jives with the RWA numbers which showed that romance was the best-performing genre on bestseller lists in 2012 and generated $1.438 billion in sales in 2012 alone.   To me, those numbers mean that far more people prefer to read about love and desire than fear and pain.  It also proves that readers want more from a book's ending than a "resolution" or a "solution" - they want a happy ending.

...continue reading Force of Course: What Do Marie’s Numbers Mean?