Skip to content

I was in Kindle Unlimited (KU), for one stint - 90 days, the required term. I really enjoyed the program and the features.  More importantly, Amazon's customers enjoyed my participation -- my eBooks were downloaded a lot.  I left after that single stint for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a guaranteed payment (at least, a guaranteed minimum payment) scaled to the price of participating books. However, Amazon's demand for exclusivity was my most compelling reason for departing the program. It's the largest reason that most authors leave KU.

Amazon requires that in exchange for enrolling an eBook in Kindle Unlimited, that an author grant Amazon the exclusive right to sell that eBook.  That means that readers who use Nooks, iPads, or any other device, could not buy my books.  It meant that the price of participating in KU is telling a whole group of my readers that they are not important, that they don't matter.  I just couldn't do that after my sole stint in the program.  It hurt me to do that because ALL my readers matter.

Making my books exclusive to Amazon would also mean that all my eggs are in the Zon's basket.  It means that at the roulette wheel of life, I've bet all my hopes and dreams on the Zon's number.  I didn't spread them out among several numbers to give myself a cushion; I bet them all on a single number.  That's as poor a strategy in life as it is at the casino.  Yes, it will pay more if that single number hits, but it will cost me everything if any other number hits. The Zon's basket is large and from the outside looking in, it appears sturdy and stable, but I have no inside info.  Amazon could fold tomorrow - or it could cancel its KU program tomorrow.  That would leave me trying to convince readers that I tossed aside like yesterday's leftovers that they are still the main course.  My readers would never buy that - they're an eclectic, imaginative, smart bunch.  They're a tolerant group, but they won't tolerate disloyalty.

Although a few, select "big time" indie writers were offered participation in the program without exclusivity,  some of those have now left the fold, despite still offering their books elsewhere.  They felt that KU was cannibalizing sales on Amazon, prompting potential buyers to "borrow" instead. And borrows are not paid as sales, they are paid much less - an unknown rate set monthly by Amazon lately averaging $1.38 to $1.40 as compared to $2.05 for a sale on a $2.99 eBook.  The "big time" indies lost too much money.  The money and the lack of guaranteed pay out rates also explains traditional publishers staying away from the program.  Amazon surely doesn't require exclusivity from them but the trads had enough business savvy to know that borrows would reduce sales. So, there are issues other than exclusivity, but for the average indie author, exclusivity ranks at the top.

Not only does making something exclusive to one store hurt the author, it also hurts the customers. The market not only functions best when it's competitive,  it also grows more when it's competitive and innovation flourishes as competition does.  Exclusivity is a big scary concept to indie authors.  It makes us slaves on the Amazon plantation, totally dependent on "Master" Amazon. Given a choice between keeping our freedom and signing on for Amazon servitude, many of us are too damned independent, too damned AMERICAN to take whatever Amazon doles out. Perhaps Amazon should take a closer look at what's happened to America in the era of Big Government and reconsider.  Amazon should remove the exclusivity requirement from KU and it should adopt a guaranteed minimum pay scale based on factors including the price of the work, the length of the work, and the sales price for similar books.  All those factors are required because too many game the system - it's a lesson they've learned in the Big Government era.

If Amazon would make both changes, then KU customers would have a much, much - (Did I say much?) - larger and ever-growing variety of books to borrow.  The two policies hurt customers most of all because their selection is limited, severely, by the pay-scale-to-authors and exclusivity issues. If Amazon removed both issues, and made the recommended changes, publishers would likely enroll some items like backlist books, especially of mid-list authors, occasionally high ranking first-in-a-series books of top authors (at least for a limited period) when the top authors had new series books coming out. If Amazon removed only the exclusivity requirement, even keeping the present uncertain and unfair pay scale in place, many indie authors, myself included, would enroll at least some books -- and that would be enough to provide a sizable increase in books available to customers for borrow.

In the long run, Mr. Bezos' refusal to make the necessary changes to fix the KU program will have the opposite effect from the one intended -- it will not only drive away KU customers, it will anger them and make them less likely to buy anything from Amazon.  While Amazon doesn't worry so much about how exclusivity negatively impacts authors, it does, should, and must worry about how it negatively impacts consumers.  Those promised "all you want to read" value by KU who have to hit the buy button to get the books they actually want will, more and more, feel they're spending money for nothing.

Right now KU is like one of those bargain shops.  A customer walks in to buy a nice black dress.  She sees one for $9.99. But wait - there, just beside it, is a bin full of huge sealed bags.  There's a sign over it that says - "Buy a whole bag of dresses for $9.99." The value scale seems obvious.  Why spend $9.99 for one dress when you could get 10 or 15 for the same price?  But when the customer buys the bag, gets home and opens it, she finds that none of the dresses is black or they're all the wrong style. How will the customer feel about that store now?  She'll feel like the KU subscriber promised all the books she wants to read for $9.99 a month who discovers that none of the books she wants to read are in the program.  That customer will feel angry, misled, cheated and lied to - and that will be her feeling every time she sees that store's sign, so she'll go to another one.  How easy is it is, after all, to go elsewhere in the virtual world.

Sometimes Karma works. The Karma of Amazon turning a crop of indie authors into indentured servants will filter down to the customers.  More and more authors will flee the exclusivity noose because writers are, by nature, the most free-spirited and independent people on the planet. That means that Amazon won't be able to deliver on its promise to customers, because that promise depends on motivating writers to continually put more work into the program. Amazon's failure to deliver on its content promise will then begin to drive customers away from Amazon entirely.

Karma's a bitch and that's why Mr. Bezos should change KU.

A Christian couple with good motives and the best intentions in the world wrote an app to "clean" dirty words in ebooks by replacing them with "clean" alternatives.  They named it "Clean Reader" and they made it available for free for iOS and Android devices.  They created a book catalog for the device from work supplied by @Inktera and Smashwords.  It sounds like a feel-good kind of story, right?  Wrong. The clean device did a dirty deed - it rewrote authors' words without obtaining permission from the authors.

The app had three settings that downloaders could select from to decide how "clean" they wanted their books.  Depending on the setting,the app picked out words and changed them.  The "Daily Mail" article by Jenny Stanton  gives an example of how this process worked with passages from some well known books:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Before: ‘I don’t want to f*** you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

After: ‘I don’t want to [freak] you at all. My heart’s as cold as cold potatoes just now.’

Before: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of sex.’

After: ‘It was not woman’s fault, nor even love’s fault, nor the fault of [love].’

Before: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his penis.

’After: ‘She threaded two pink campions in the bush of red-gold hair above his [groin].’

The first problem with the app is that it changed the words of authors without their permission. That is always, always, always wrong. The second problem is more basic - who decides what is clean and what is dirty and who picks what words get substituted for the dirty ones?  It's like walking into a neighbor's house - you might walk in and think "This place is filthy. Jane is a lazy bitch."  I might walk into the same house and think, "I wonder how Jane keeps this place so clean and still keeps her daily word count so high." Dirt is in the eye of the beholder.

A reader is always free to skip a passage he or she finds offensive or to imagine a different word in the place of one that bothers her. It might be that the reader is mortally offended by any reference to sex or the human body.  It might be that the reader was once hit by a black car and can't bear to read about black cars.  Perhaps the reader was bitten by a dog and prefers the pets in her stories to be cats.  We are all the product of our own experience.  Mr. Duck is a computer programmer, so he'd be one of the people making those decisions about which words to replace.  Mr. Duck has a wicked sense of humor, a sharp intellect and is married to an insane duck lady. His choices for those words would likely NOT be the ones made by the great bulk of humanity.  Lord knows, my choices would likely not be made by even the smallest sliver of humanity.  The choice of what to read and what to replace and what to skip - those are decisions by the reader who always has the option to close a book he finds offensive.

Authors outraged by Clean Reader's mutilation of their work took to blogs and Twitter,  and created such a backlash that their book suppliers pulled out and "Clean Reader" folded.   The couple claims they intend to rework the app and will release it again.  I hope they don't because no matter what they do, the couple can not create an app to replace each individual reader's sensibilities.  Books are as individual as art.  A painting or statue that could make me marvel for hours might make you sniff and move along in an instant.  But we both have the right to look at the same painting and stare or sniff.

I suspect that devoted readers would never download an app designed to keep them from reading a book the way it was written. People who love words will be just as upset as authors at the notion that some programmer's judgment should ever be allowed to re-write a book.  "Clean Reader" is a digital bonfire and it is every bit as dangerous as the vigilantes who remove physical books from a library's shelves and feed them to the flames.

If programs like this one are allowed to exist,  museums must change their rules, and allow offended patrons to bring in spray paint and chisels.  So the world would lose a few Titian's, Cezanne's and Ruben's and Michelangelo's David might lose something even more personal - but the offended would be appeased.  That's what matters, right?  Of course not.

Yet, that is exactly what programs/apps like "Clean Reader" are - they're chisels and spray paint inside your phone, iPad or digital device.  They've done their work before your eyes arrive and have removed any risk that you might be moved by a love story with a sex scene or that curse words in the right place might make you share a character's anger.  What hands do you trust to hold the paint and chisels?

Buy or don't buy.  Read or skip. But never put the spray paint and chisels into the hands of someone who hasn't lived your life or walked in your shoes.

Dear readers and authors everywhere - Shall we break out the champagne? The royals have thrown open the castle gates to admit within the sacred walls the indie authors who dared to take their work directly to the people. Post Indie Revolution the eyes of at least some of the royals are opening to realize that in depriving writers of a chance, the gatekeepers also deprived the royals of a choice. It's a new day, and in the dawn of the light of freedom and possibility, the crown lies where it has always belonged -- upon the head of the reader whose finger hovers over the buy button.

Yes, publishers are blinking and as their eyes adjust to the blinding light of the new dawn, they are seizing some of the control they formerly ceded to literary agents.  Check this out:

Publishers are playing literary agents at their own game, seeking out new talent for themselves and cutting out the industry’s powerful middlemen.

Executives within HarperCollins, Jonathan Cape, Little, Brown, and Tinder Press are inviting “un-agented submissions”, marking a dramatic cultural shift for an industry having to readjust to developments such as self-publishing, as well as the often huge advances demanded by agents for coveted titles.

"Publishers Bypass Literary Agents To Discover New Talent", The Guardian, Dalya Alberge.

I'm not a'tall surprised to find that one of the leaders of the new movement in publishing shares the name of a certain duck lady.  Mary Anne Harrington of Tinder Press, Headline publishing's literary imprint noted that in relying upon gatekeeping literary agents, perhaps publishers have been "drowning out other, fresher voices."   You think?  It figures that one of the first publishers to get a clue would be blessed with a duckly moniker.  Quack back at'cha Mary Anne Harrington.

Another 'got a clue' lady has a different name - but hey, we can't ALL be named Mary Anne, can we?  Katie Espiner, a publisher at HarperCollins imprint, Borough Press, awoke in the bright sunlight to an epiphany - she was allowing other people to make her decisions. She promptly held an open submission that discovered a promising new author because:  she wouldn't allow other people to make her choices for her in any other area of her life.

The gate-opening trend among publishers has prompted some literary agencies to cast a wider net - but at least one is doing it with a Jekyll and Hyde mentality.  Agency Curtis Brown is holding a writing course that has discovered 15 debut novelists over the last 2.5 years.  Yet the chairman of that very same agency, Jonathan Lloyd, retains enough of the royal mentality he acquired working at HarperCollins during the Castle era to remain skeptical of publishers actually making their own choices.  Lloyd said, publishers “don’t have the resources, time and energy to deal with the flood of manuscripts that they’re going to get. And they won’t be filtered.”

I'm happy that publishers are finally descending from their ivory towers to seize their companies' destinies in their own hands. And I'm delighted that literary agencies are awakening to discover that they have to get out and find the talent because writers no longer crawl to their doors in such great numbers.  But I'm still one of those writers who left the beggars' line at the dawn of the indie revolution.  I don't even own a hat and groveling on bended knees gives me leg cramps.

If a literary agent, publisher or big shot movie producer is insane enough to take a flier on romance or erotic romance by a crazy duck lady who publishes as Mary Anne Graham and Olivia Outlaw -- I'm easy enough to contact. This blog has a "contact me" link in the upper right corner and I bet Amazon or D2D would be glad to steer any legitimate inquiries my way. Otherwise, I'll continue to write my stories where lovers get the happy ending that reality too often denies.

Y'all keep reading and I'll keep writing.

For the last 3 months or so, my books have been enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program, and have only been available on Amazon. That changes this week, starting tomorrow. My books will "roll out" of KU this month, and by the end of January all of my books will be available on other forums again, this time through Draft2Digital.

I get the concept of Kindle Unlimited. I get the benefits for readers and the benefits for the forum offering the subscription. Under the model, readers can budget X dollars per month, read all they want, and never risk going over budget. Having the readers subscribe keeps them on Amazon, which benefits to some degree from the subscription, but benefits to a larger degree on Kindle Fire purchases and on everything else readers buy from the Zon, which wants to be everyone's one-stop shop. But none of the services can survive unless the benefits flow to the author and that is the fatal flaw with the program.

KU requires that authors offer their books exclusively on Amazon. There is a large "pool" of money from the subscription fees, and authors earn a borrow/sale each time a reader. Amazon pays each author the same percentage of that money, regardless of the sales price of their book. In exchange for participation, authors also receive a bump in ranking because borrows are rated as sales, and the right to run a limited number of promos every 90 days per book by either discounting the price for a few days (a countdown deal) or by giving the book away for a few days.

While the promo opportunities and the rankings boost are of some benefit, borrows tend to "eat" sales, so even those benefits are blades on a double-edged sword. Plus, there appears to be reader backlash, meaning that readers feel that if they have to pay for a book and others are getting it "free", that is unfair or they feel that the book must not be worth their money if it is enrolled in KU. It doesn't matter how high a book is rated if real sales dollars are not flowing into the author's pocket.

The largest problems with KU are the exclusivity requirement and the payment structure. Without exclusivity, many authors might enroll series leaders in the program, use the promo opportunity, and gain sales at full value for the rest of the books in each series. With exclusivity, authors will not even do that, because it means that the series leaders couldn't be sold on other forums, and if a whole series isn't available, readers will often buy none of it. The payment structure means that authors who should earn $2.05 on a $2.99 book are making as little as $1.33 - and lack a guarantee of making even that. It also means that authors with a .99 cent book are making way more in KU than they make in sales. The unfairness of that structure has led to a bunch of scammers who post very short pamphlets on KU - some of them are only 10 pages in length. That means that if a reader opens the pamphlet, the author earns a sale because the reader has read a tenth of the book. And that author makes as much as a real, hardworking writer who has his or her work enrolled in the program.

I don't see how Kindle Unlimited can continue to exist under the current arrangements. If Amazon wants the program to survive, it will need to make some real changes. Particularly, it must do away with the exclusivity requirement but it must also pay out in percentages, based on a book's standard royalty rate. For example, Amazon might pay 80% of a standard royalty rate to books enrolled in the program. That would guarantee an author of a $2.99 book a royalty of 80% of $2.05 ($1.64) and an author of a .99 cent book with a royalty of .35 cents would make 80% of that (.28 cents).

Additionally, rolling out of the program makes my books available to all readers again, and that is a good thing. Authors far and wide are leaving KU, including many who are much less insane than a crazy duck lady - writers like HM Ward and JA Konrath.

So, starting tomorrow, my books will begin appearing on other venues via Draft2Digital's distribution service. I'm choosing to experiment with D2D because there are less technical challenges in uploading books, so they get out faster, the service shows near real-time sales numbers, and it pays out monthly. Smashwords still has challenges in some of those areas. Additionally, D2D offers some nifty features I'll be able to take full advantage of when all my books are out of the program - like an "Also by" page and a "teaser" for a different book of my choosing.

Kindle Unlimited and other subscription programs can not exist without content - a lot of books, offering a wide and growing variety in every genre. Without content, the service isn't worth the subscription fee. Through the current structure of the program, Amazon is guilty of some of the same sins as were traditional publishers before the indie revolution. And traditional publishers nearly went under because of their unfair treatment of authors - those who survived learned the virtue of flexibility and made significant changes. Now, if Amazon wants Kindle Unlimited to survive, it must do the same.

I'm looking forward to welcoming a legion of new readers who enjoy highly sensual novels which will have a happy ending. The third part of my "Devil" series written as Olivia Outlaw - "Devil's Delight" - is already available through D2D because I didn't enroll it in KU and you can pick it up today at many of your favorite retailers. By tomorrow, my "Dangerous Relations" series will be available everywhere - By this Friday, 1/9/15, my "Sultan's Toy" and "Carnal Collateral" series and boxed sets or bundles will be out and about as will Part 1 of my Devil's series "Devil's Deal"- By this Saturday, 1/10/15, my "Mary Anne Graham" books will be out and about - the "Forever" series, "Romancing the Rose," "The Duke of Eden," and "Brotherly Love" will be available, and on January 25th, the middle book in the Devil series, "Devi's Demand" rolls out, meaning the whole Devil's series will be available.

So, by the end of January, the entirety of my insanely romantic and delightfully sensual books written as Mary Anne Graham and as Olivia Outlaw will be available for your reading pleasure at retailers all over the web. Do the crazy duck lady a favor and pick up one or two and find out why love is better over the top!!

Sales at other sites were dismal, so decided to try Kindle Unlimited aka KOLL for the required 90 days to see how it would go. Payouts had been at $1.53 per book. Amazon dropped it to $1.33 for the month just reported - October. The result? I unchecked my auto renew boxes but I'm in until early January. Most other indie authors are doing the same and some have books due for renewal in the next few weeks.

I may try D2D in January. Smashwords has never gotten its act together with payments and D2D pays monthly. People already complained that KU lacked books and it's about to lack a lot more books - - likely, reducing available reads to the point that the program can't survive.

The solution? Amazon needs to stop the "contest" where they pay millions to a few authors as a reward for the best sales & put all $$ in the KU payout pot. It needs to guarantee authors between $1.50 and $1.80 per book - OR pay a monthly per book fee ($25 or so per month). If Amazon wants to keep KU going and GROW it, then it should do both - at least for some books. The bottom line is that there is no "one size fits all" solution. Amazon needs to set criteria - if your book is a 99 cent title then your max borrow rate is 75 cents. If your book is fewer than 50 pages, then you will get 99 cents per month and if you "stuff" a book with material that is not real, genuine, writing in order to meet the page requirement, then you are banned from Amazon. If your book is a $2.99 title or more with over 50 pages of original, author-generated writing, then you get the higher payout and/or monthly bonus.

If Amazon wants to grow Kindle Unlimited, then it needs to give authors incentives to put their books in. If Amazon wants Kindle Unlimited to survive, then it at least needs to be fair with authors - below the $1.50 mark is a virtual no-writer's land.

Readers - if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited- you should email or call Amazon and find out why Amazon is not putting the money into the program to give you a reading experience that earns your $9.99 per month. Authors, please let me know your thoughts about the future of Kindle Unlimited and whether you'll keep your books in the program after this month's $1.33 payout.

And Amazon - I'd love you to comment on this post and to explain why you're not being fair to your authors which would in turn provide Amazon KU subscribers with the most reading choices possible. Right now, it looks like Amazon is pushing a dwindling supply of "all you can read" books on unsuspecting customers with one hand, and working covertly to kill Kindle Unlimited with the other.

Hey babies, it's the Angry Old Fat Man again, touching base with all of Mary Anne's/Olivia Outlaw's readers.


News item #1: Olivia Outlaw has completed Book Two of the Carnal Collateral series: Devil's Demand. It's currently out on the Amazon Kindle. Which leads me to...

News item #2: The buttons that allow you to buy Mary Anne's/Olivia's books from other vendors besides Amazon may be dead for awhile. You see, Amazon has some new ways of distributing e-books, especially if you're a voracious reader (like many of you aficionados of romance novels), and we are now participating in these new methods of distribution.

One is called Kindle Unlimited, and it's a lot like Netflix for e-books, except better. You pay a monthly fee to enjoy access to over half-a-million titles on your Kindle or any other device that can use the Kindle store.

The other one is only for Kindle owners with Amazon Prime, and it's called Kindle Owner's Lending Library. You can "borrow" books FOR NO ADDITIONAL COST other than your Amazon Prime account, and that's in addition to all of the other benefits you get from that service.

There's only one bit of bad news. For authors to participate in these Amazon programs, they must publish exclusively via Amazon for at least a few months. No Barnes and Noble, no Smashwords, no other vendors for those months - just Amazon.

News item #3: I fixed the links to Olivia's book covers that were not correct. They look OK now, but if you find one that isn't, please contact me or Mary Anne and I'll get it working right.

Thanks, sweeties, and remember, don't get angry. THAT'S MY JOB!

A fun new MTV article talks about Fifty Shades of Grey fans who want to pay PERMANENT homage to the books.  Yes,  there are people who have various Fifty-related images and sayings tattooed on their persons -- in various and sundry locations.

Don't get me wrong, I like "Laters, Baby" as much as the next Christian Grey fan, but I don't want it emblazoned on my chest, neck, fingers or toes. And I really don't want Christian's tie tattooed on my ankle.  (Why would you have a tie tattooed on your ankle?)

IMHO, the most devoted of the tattooed fans in the MTV piece is the one with quotes from the book inked on her body.  Yes, that's right.  Check it out for yourself.  By all the ducks in the pond, I don't even want quotes from my books tattooed on my skin.

Someday these ladies are going to have children and they will have to explain that key to the "red room of pain tattoo" not to mention all the sex toys.  Good luck with that.....



I just read a very interesting piece on Yahoo Finance (of all places) about successful indie romance authors. It's titled:  "These romance writers ditched their publishers for ebooks and made millions."  The piece focuses on a number of now indie authors who were first published traditionally: Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy and Courtney Milan.  They are the indie answer to publishing's "Big 5" - Andre, Freethy and Milan are the indie "Big 3."

I wonder if they'd mind adding a member?

The piece points out the speed at which all three ladies turn out new books, which is something I truly, truly envy.  They're able to do it, of course, because writing is their life and their livelihood.  I'd devote myself to writing full time, gladly, and I've been hoping to do that for some time.  But until my writing income outpaces my legal loot, I'll keep trudging to my office where I'm thankful my boss can tolerate having an insane duck lady churning out pleadings, memoranda, briefs, opinion letters and all sorts of other legal scribbling.

The income numbers for all three ladies are very impressive.  You go, lady love-scribes.  I hope to join you soon.

...continue reading "Indie Romance Authors Flourish"

Unfortunately, this week I had a close encounter with a dentist. I say unfortunately, not because this dentist and his team aren't amazing (He's even smart enough to have an office manager named Mary Anne) - I say it because I have a deep and profound terror of dentists.  I have the same feeling about ophthalmologists.  I know I fail in both areas so I feel like I'm taking a test I know in advance I will fail.  But some encounters can't be avoided, and thanks to a riled and rowdy tooth, this was one of them.

It turned out that the tooth and I had to part ways, so I saw the dentist twice this week.  At one point, we discussed my romance writing and the dentist mentioned how much his Grandmother loved reading Harlequins. I enjoy reading those too, but they're not my first love.  My first love is reading historical romance. My dentist's comment made me think back to the beginning, the first time I encountered the genre.  I picked up a book at the public library and started a love affair that still burns strong today. Yes, the book I found was the one that started it all.  It created a genre and blazed a trail for future authors to follow, including a certain crazy duck lady.

The late Kathleen Woodiwiss had a 600 page MS titled "The Flame and the Flower" and she believed in the book.  It was rejected across the board by agents and publishers of hardcovers, so she submitted it to paperback publishers directly.  The first on her list was Avon, and it snapped the book right up.   From an initial 500,000 run for its first publication in 1972, the book sold over 2.3 million copies in its first 4 years -- and it created an industry.

Woodiwiss wrote historical romance.  I suppose the term was invented to describe her work.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips - a NY Times Bestseller and absolute genius at her craft -  says that "We all owe our careers to her. She opened the world of romance to us as readers. She created a career for us to go into."  Another of my favorite authors, Julia Quinn, says "Woodiwiss made women want to read. She gave them an alternative to Westerns and hard-boiled police procedurals. When I was growing up, I saw my mother and grandmother reading and enjoying romances, and when I was old enough to read them myself, I felt as if I had been admitted into a special sisterhood of reading women."

You know what Woodiwiss brought to the literary world?  Passion.  She created heroines readers adored from the first page and paired them with deeply flawed heroes. Her work, like most of the early historicals, have been criticized by the PC Police as "glamorizing" or "advocating" rape. Today people call her books and the early historicals "bodice rippers."  I find all of that to be hogwash.  I'd agree with a review on the "Amazon" site by "A customer" who says that perhaps the heroes in Ms. Woodiwisses' work should have been redeemed earlier.  Or, if not redeemed, that readers should be given more reason to like and understand them a bit earlier.

But it's hard to criticize Woodiwiss too much because the passion in her stories is as contagious today as it was back, lo, many years ago when I first found "The Flame and The Flower" in the library as a young teen.  The characters carry her story and they carry the readers right along for the journey.  I think readers today wince too quickly and put stories down too fast. If they read a little further, they would experience more than a bodice being ripped. Maybe, they'd ignore the opinions of others and realize for themselves that in a Woodiwiss book, the hero dominates physically, but the heroine dominates emotionally.  In the end, it is the heroine's love that saves the hero.

Ms. Woodiwiss is no longer with us, but her work lives on and today, it is available at Amazon for your Kindle.  If you're an independent free thinker who doesn't follow the herd (like a certain duck lady), then I suggest you boogle on over to Amazon and pick up the book that started it all.  Give "The Flame and The Flower" a read for yourself and see if you can find in the book the seeds of brilliance that started a genre.

The lesson I take from it all is that if a writer creates strong characters, puts them in an interesting situation and listens very hard - they will tell her their story. And if it's done right, the passion in the tale will continue to burn bright enough to illuminate readers for generations to come.  That's my hope, every time I sit down at a keyboard.

Oh, and BTW, if you pick up "The Flame and The Flower" and read it for the first time, you might boogle back by and leave a comment sharing your thoughts.  I'd love to discuss!

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?