Absolutely

Today I’m discussing the absolutes of art.

Absolute number 1: artists must sell.  So toward that end, please consider purchasing my latest book! It’s a five-star, “highly-satisfying, high-speed thriller” that readers are calling “hard to put down.”

Shark’s Instinct: Fresh out of prison and fresh out of luck, twenty-something Shark wants back into The Organization. But when Geier, the mob boss with a cruel sense of humor, sends Shark to the suburbs to find out who’s been skimming his take, Shark realizes he’s going to need more than his gun and an attitude to succeed. With the clock ticking, Shark accepts the help of the mysterious teenage fixer, Peregrine Hays, and embarks on a scheme that could line his pockets, land him the girl and cement his reputation with the gang—if he makes it out alive.


$2.99 on sale today! BUY NOW!



Absolute number 2:  Nothing is absolute and artists spend a lot of time thinking about that.

In our current climate of politics, disasters, and protest, I’ve been listening to what a lot of artists are feeling. And by artists I mean everyone from fellow writers and graphic designers, to fine artists and poets. I know from the outside that most people think of the creative set as a homogeneous mass of weirdos. Which, weird, I’ll grant you, but homogeneous is not, in any way, accurate.

Like any family there are fractured in-fights, cultural differences between the “cousins” of fine art and design (or poets and novelists), there are fights over pecking order and definitions and what it all really means. But most artists when pressed will say that although they have their preferences, their set rules that they use, that most of the time, there is no absolute. Don’t ever pair two serif fonts, don’t ever write a novel in the first person, don’t use Papyrus for a logo (ever, no seriously)… Unless it works, in which case, you should absolutely do that. Absolutes in art and artists are few and far behind.

Which is why I think our current political climate is striking artists particularly hard. It’s as though we’ve all been toddling along enjoying the gray areas and we’ve run smack into the thirty percent of our population that only believes in black and white. Not that they live in black and white (because no one can). But they only believe in black and white and they want everyone else to bow before the almighty absolute and give them the peace of mind of being right. Arguing with someone who refuses to see the gray is pointless. Showing art full of color to someone who doesn’t see the subtle shades of the rainbow only makes them turn away. Many of the artist’s I listen to feel despair. They feel like their art has become frivolous when they see the colors being eradicated around them, but they can’t seem to make the leap to protest art. Nine months into a presidency that does not see the value in anyone who isn’t male, straight, or white, I would like to say that all art is protest art. To create joy, beauty, and harmony, to paint with many colors instead of the ones that have been chosen for us is protest art. I encourage my artist friends to follow their passion, take action, make art, refuse to go away or step back. Use every damn crayon in the box.


Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. —Oscar Wilde

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. —Oscar Wilde

Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity. —Oscar Wilde

A New Series with Bite!

I’ve been working very hard this year on multiple projects and I’m finally beginning to be able to share some of them with you.  I’m excited to announce that October will see the release of Book 1 of my new Shark Santoyo Crime Series.  Launching a new series is incredibly difficult and one of the hardest things to garner are reviews on reputable sites like Amazon and Goodreads.  So toward that end I’m giving all of you the opportunity to become a part of my Advance Reader Team.  Sign up using the form below and you’ll be taken to the down load page to get a free digital copy of Shark’s Instinct and in a few weeks I’ll send you a reminder email to leave a review.  That’s it. No strings, just a free book.  I hope you’ll join me as I venture into this new series!

 

Shark’s Instinct: Fresh out of prison and fresh out of luck, twenty-something Shark wants back into The Organization. But when Geier, the mob boss with a cruel sense of humor, sends Shark to the suburbs to find out who’s been skimming his take, Shark realizes he’s going to need more than his gun and an attitude to succeed. With the clock ticking, Shark accepts the help of the mysterious teenage fixer, Peregrine Hays, and embarks on a scheme that could line his pockets, land him the girl and cement his reputation with the gang—if he makes it out alive.

PRE-ORDER HERE or join the Advanced Reader Team using the form below!






 
 
 

Food for Thought

By Bethany Maines
 
 
Last weekend, I participated in a local author program called Food for Thought.  Put on by the local business district in partnership with a local literary group, CreativeColloquy, the program hosts different authors each week at a farmer’s market for a minimal fee ($5).  These type of events are great ways to connect with readers, brush up on my “elevator pitch” for books, and see what’s resonating with the public.  The elevator pitch is essentially a one to two sentence synopsis of a book.  And with that many people visiting the booth, I can try out different versions and wording to see what pitch makes people look interested in a book.  For my Carrie Mae Mysteries, slightly older ladies resonate with “It’s the story of what would happen if Mary Kay ran an international espionage organization.”  But the younger women and men do better with “If James Bond was a woman.”  Even if I didn’t end up selling a good amount of books, that kind of market research is pretty invaluable.  But, of course, being out in the public is also a way to connect with the… um… unique individuals that walk among us.
 
My favorite unique person this last weekend was the gentlemen who told us a series of stories about his experiences with ghosts including some “Indians” because he had been staying at a house built on an “Indian Burial Ground.”  The problem was that as he meandered on about his experiences, the Native Americans he described
sounded straight on out of the movies, and lacked any resemblance to the actual tribes that populate the area.  Not all tribes wear “leathers” crazy face.  Our tribes used capes woven from cedar bark and a type of fabric woven from the hair of a now extinct type of dog.  <LEARN MORE HERE>  So… try being more educated before doing drugs. Also, and not for nothing, if a housing developer were to find human remains, archaeologists and police would have to be called and the local tribes would claim the bodies.  Nobody wants to build on top of human remains – they disintegrate, leaving cavities in the ground and make foundations unstable.  It’s unsound construction, OK, nut job?  And also, also, you’re scaring people away from my booth.
 
But he’s just the tiny fly in the ointment. The majority of people at such events are at minimum polite and usually excited about talking to an actual author.  And in the end, talking to such enthusiastic readers and writers are what keep me coming back to these type of events.  So if you see me out and about, stop by to say hi.  Just
don’t tell me about your ghost experience… unless it’s historically accurate. 
 
 

Clues

Recently, I’ve been working on the sequel to my murder mystery An Unseen Current.  While thematically not that different from my other books (a young person struggles with unusual circumstances while navigating the choppy waters of family, love, and friends), mysteries bring a special level of challenge to the mix.  For one thing, people expect clues.  Oh, there’s a dead body?  Well, writer, where are the clues?  Chop, chop! Produce the clues!

However, it’s not just about clues; it’s about when to reveal those clues.  Too early and readers are bored because they already solved it.  Too late and it seems like the author is cheating and wedging information to justify who the killer is at the last second.  Then, even if the writer does pop a clue in the right place, she can’t be too precious about it.  The author can’t present it on a silver platter with a neon arrow stating: Clue Here!!  To accomplish the correct where and when of clue placement requires a stronger outline than other genres.  And that means that I must do what every writer hates doing—not writing.

Outlining and the synopsis are vital to a successful book.  But they aren’t the FUN part of writing.  The fun part is churning out scenes and spending time with the made up people who populate my brain.  Outlining requires problem solving and all the leg work of deciding back stories and motivations and the literal who, what, when, where and why of who was murdered. (It was Professor Plumb in the Library with the Candlestick, in case you were wondering.)  But mostly it leaves me thinking: Are we there yet? What about now?  Can I start writing now?

So wish me luck as I work out the kinks of how the dead body ended up behind a bar in Anacortes.

You never know what’s beneath the surface.
When Seattle native Tish Yearly finds herself fired and evicted all in one afternoon, she knows she’s in deep water. Unemployed and desperate, the 26 year old ex-actress heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of her cantankerous ex-CIA agent grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands. And when she discovers the strangled corpse of Tobias’s best friend, she knows she’s in over her head. Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her against a handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy, a group of eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far better than she does. Now Tish must swim against the current, depending on her nearly forgotten acting skills and her grandfather’s spy craft, to con a killer and keep them both alive.

Virtually IRL

I laughed when I read AB Plum’s recent post about unhooking from the virtual world.  It has been a long time since I didn’t enhance my RL (real life) experience with some sort of virtual interaction.  Photos on Facebook, the occasional witty comment on twitter, blogs and websites, they are all part of my life. Partially this is simply a function of my life and jobs.  As a graphic designer and a writer, social networking is part of the must do list. As a designer, it’s important that I be able to design ads for Facebook and other social media platforms and understand how the platforms function.  As a writer, it’s important that I use those platforms to reach an audience.

Which is not to say that I’m an expert.  As a designer, I get to create content and simply walk away.  The writer half of me definitely has it harder.  I have to remember to post (you wouldn’t think this was hard, but…), to come up with valuable and interesting content, and then not waste all of my writing time on marketing and social media.  On the other hand, for the last six months I’ve been swinging very much the other way.  I have not been doing a lot of marketing.  I have in fact been writing.  A lot.  A ton.  Lots of tons.  So much so that I’ve planned out my releases for 2018 and 2019. 

So, stay tuned for tons of updates later this summer.  Crime, sci-fi, a touch of fairy tales, and of course more than a little bit of romance are heading your way.  And strangely, I can’t wait to start marketing ALL of it.  If you want to get in on early give-aways (print and digital!) and announcements, join my mailing list at: bethanymaines.com/contact

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE STILETTO GANG 6.14.17

Resolution Failure

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions always seem to be negative statements.  They pit the resolver against something.  I resolve to lose weight, spend less, give up every fun thing ever, etc.

I much prefer to make goals. Goals take aim and move toward a change. I want to write more, be more healthy, learn French, wake up later.  I don’t think that last one’s going to happen, but it’s more of a lifelong goal.

And then there’s the artificial time construct of the New Year’s that tricks people into waiting to start a change until January first actually rolls on the calendar.  Of course, if I were resolving to do something horrible, I’d put it off as long as possible too.  But if I want to change my life for the better, then why would I wait? Now is always the perfect time to start.

Which is not to say that the turn of the year doesn’t cause me to reflect and take stock of how things are and how I would like them to go. Like a lot of people, I like to assess, predict, and then I make goals.  At the end of December, I jotted down some notes, made some plans and felt good about myself.  I’m usually pretty good at sticking to my plans and I didn’t expect this year to be any different.  But then I didn’t expect to be struck by inspiration that would send me furiously typing down the rabbit hole of a new story.

And now here it is the end of January and I feel like one of those people who’ve managed to blow up their diet and their resolution two weeks after starting.  I mean, I feel guilty about not sticking to the plan, but not really that bad as a shove another chapter in.  In fact, that chapter was delicious and really would it really hurt if I had another?

I can always get back on the plan later, right?

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Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang Blog 01.25.17

I Swear…

The title of today’s blog is not facetious.  I do swear.  Kind of a lot.

fbombI try not to in public.  Much like public displays of affection, I find it inelegant to be assaulted by profanity that I’m not participating in.  I think keeping a lid on my foul mouthed habit is only polite and try to reserve it for private situations and friends who have known me long enough to not take offense.  As a result, a few of my acquaintances have been surprised to find themselves on the receiving end of a periodic f-bomb.  (Yes, I’m the person who should receive this paperweight as a gift.) In the past curbing my tongue has not particularly onerous, but since my child has moved into speaking and comprehending, you know, actual words, life as a purveyor of profanity has become more difficult.  Now I can’t even swear in my own home?!  Word swaps and humming the Star Spangled Banner do not really help.  (Son of a goat monkey, keeping my swearing on the inside is hard!)

In most of my books, I’ve minimized the swearing to a solid “hell” or “damn” because well, my grandmother likes to read my books.   But recently, I’ve begun working on a story that moves my swearing habit to the forefront.  Rather than really “messing some stuff up”, I am straight  “f***ing some s*** up” for a change.  And ooooh, does it feel good.  Ah profanity, how dost though trip lightly off my off my keyboard and onto the page?  Very lightly indeed.

fuckingladyMany comments on profanity seem to insist that profanity is the crutch of mind unable to think of something else to say.  I completely disagree.  To correctly use profanity one must have an understanding of language that allows you to use the f-word as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. (Yes, it really can – see examples here).

Will my completed manuscript stay chock full of profane goodness?  I don’t know, but I’m sure as **** interested to find out.

Dystopian Games

You’re stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 8 strangers and no food or water, who do you eat first?

Dystopian novels have held a prominent place on our national reading lists for the last few years and while I occasionally enjoy a jaunt into the horrific futures that we could create for ourselves they don’t really speak to me.  To me they frequently seem like the ultimate lifeboat game. While occasionally it’s fun to work through the logic of how to survive in a treacherous situation, the real answer to any lifeboat game is to not get stuck in the lifeboat in the first place.

zombie-id

I was reminded of this principle recently when I visited a conference for my day job (graphic design). The conference was for public works personnel (AKA everyone who keeps your city functioning) and their lunch speaker spoke on how their department had handled an earthquake.  From personnel rotation, calling in reinforcements, clearing roadways, reviewing housing safety, clean up – this department moved swiftly with the goal of maintaining safety and returning their town to normal in the shortest amount of time possible (and they did a great job).  But having just read a dystopian novel I was struck by the realization that not one person in the room was thinking… “Bob, I’d eat Bob.”  They weren’t playing the game – they were strategizing about how to not get stuck on the lifeboat.

All of this led to four thoughts.  One – I’m incredibly grateful for our public works personnel.  From sewer maintenance, to bridge engineers, to water management, they deserve more recognition than they get.  Two – All of you great public employees are screwing up a perfectly good dystopian plot line RIGHT NOW.   We’re not supposed to be coming together to overcome a natural disaster and working for the common good!  Come on, people.  Where is the divisive hatred and the reaching for the shotguns? That’s it; I’m breaking out the zombies.  Bob is going to be dinner if I have to have three plot contrivances before breakfast.  Three – We as society need to invest more in infrastructure.  And four – Because we don’t invest more in infrastructure we all need to have 3 days to 2 weeks of supplies on hand depending on where you live.  Be prepared. Don’t let a dystopian novel happen to you.

zombie-e1305310249480

Market Research

As I have been exploring the question “Who are you like?” this month, I’ve also been exploring what other books in my genres look like.  This is sometimes gratifying on the base level of my fonts are so much better than yours and also sometimes mystifying on the level 51rIIiVsAeLof why are there so many bared midriffs in contemporary fantasy?  On the topic of midriffs, and purely for example’s sake, I’ll put the cover of Shifting Jock in Love here.  The cover is obviously… uh… fully functional, because I can’t stop staring at the uh… weight lifting bar.  Now that we’ve covered that topic (no, we haven’t covered anything?), let me move on to my point.

Market research, which is what I call shopping and (gently) making fun of book covers over a glass of wine, is important.  It’s hard to review my own book cover submissions if I don’t know what the trends are.  Not that trends should inform every decision, but I like to know how far out of the current I’m swimming. In addition to finding the occasional good idea that I could be copying, I also find really interesting authors.  Research shows that most people buy books based on word of mouth, but in this online age, that can’t ALWAYS be true.  From Facebook to google ads, to the wonders of Amazon, we get a lot of recommendations about authors and books online.  And without a person to ask, readers are stuck trying to answer “so who are they like” question based on the marketing surrounding the book.  But as we all learned in grade school, you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

One great resource I’ve found in my wading around the internet is a great website – www.literature-map.com  Simply type in an author you like and it will produce of an animated cloud of similar authors aka a handy new To Be Read list.  And you can click on the question mark in the corner if you want to add authors to the database to improve results.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go enjoy a little more market research and a Riesling.

 

Originally published on 8/24/16 at the Stiletto Gang

Who are you like?

One of the most common questions a writer hears is: Who are you like?  In other words, what (famous, more talented, richer, that I would have heard of) author are you like?  Of course, as authors we would always like to respond – I am like no one! I am a unique snowflake of infinite genius!  Bow down before my staggering work of novelistic achievement!  Possibly at this point is where we also start investing in a parrot, flowing robes, and a pencil thin moustache to twirl.  I’m not saying all authors would go full Disney villain. Clearly, the eyebrows and make-up require a more high-maintenance lifestyle than most of us are cut out for.  I’m just saying, nobody likes to think of themselves, as “just like” somebody else.

However, temper-tantrums and eyeliner aside, it is a useful question.  It does let people know where they should look for you in the library and where you fall on their reader spectrum.  For the record, I usually answer this question with – Janet Evanovich.  My series Carrie Mae Mysteries is female centered spy series, with plenty of hunks, humor, and huge action scenes.  However, I also write in another genre – contemporary fantasy.  I write modern day fairy tales about fairies, vampires, and what happens when a mermaid meets a SEAL.

Writing in multiple genres used to be very “not done” because the publishing houses found it hard to market.  The prevailing wisdom was that readers don’t read multiple genres (uh… say what?), Self-publishing has opened the door for authors to write whatever their unique snowflake heart’s desire, but it’s still a risk, and a challenge for those doing the marketing, to figure out what to say to the question – who do you write like?

I guess for now, I’ll have to go with this answer – I write like my fingers are fire with sheer greatness and my mascara is totally, totally on point.

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Originally posted on 8.10.16 at The Stilettog Gang