Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blasting My Cozy Label

Cozy, yes
A lot of authors who write traditional softer mysteries don't mind being labeled a "cozy" author. Others dislike the label intensely.  I've always said I didn't care what people called me as long as they bought my books. Worked for me.

Now, more than a dozen years into my writing career, I'm finding I dislike the cozy label. Not because I have a dislike for the word (which I don't), but because it fits like a pair of size 6 shoes on size 9 feet.

In other words, it's cramping my style!

Let's review the evidence, shall we?

Out November 2016!
A cozy novel is one in which the violence and sex are not displayed on the page. There is no gore, profanity, or highly charged adult themes. Most take place in a small geographic area with an amateur sleuth playing the lead. Often they are humorous.  My Ghost of Granny Apples series fits this bill perfectly, except for maybe the geographic thing.

My Odelia Grey books are more "soft boiled," meaning that they often do contain violence, some profanity, and adult themes on the page, but not very often graphically described.

Definitely Not!
The Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries are more "medium boiled" maybe even leaning a bit beyond that. There is quite a bit of profanity, sex and violence on the page, and the books are very dark in feel and setting. Far from cozy, as this review of MURDER IN VEIN on Amazon will assure you:

I have enjoyed Jaffarian's other books and thought I'd give it a try. Mistake. Please don't think you're going to get anything like what you have gotten from her other series. Bloody, nasty, and totally unlikeable. I only gave the one star because there isn't apparently a way to give a book ZERO stars.

 Frankly, I don't understand why the cover of this book or the back copy didn't give this reader a clue. It is about VAMPIRES after all!  Even though it had my name on the cover, she should have been smart enough to see that it was not a cozy.  Although I beg to differ about the "totally unlikeable" comment. Other folks have loved this book, and even several years later, I continue almost daily to get requests  to continue the series. (BTW, expect to see the 3rd book in the series, BETRAYED BY BLOOD, in the next 12-18 months.)

Warning: BETRAYED BY BLOOD will NOT be a cozy or even soft-boiled. Trust me on this!

Cozy? Duh, what do you think?
My new Winnie Wilde series, written under the pen name of Meg Chambers, is definitely not cozy. It's a steamy, often erotic romance series.  In fact, one of the covers recently got me bumped from being included in an interview!   (BTW, I've recently moved the release of the 2nd book in this series, WILDE WOMEN, to early 2016, since I have a couple of other books coming out between now and the end of 2015.)

My short stories are a mixed bag, both in genre and level of adult themes. Although not hard-core, they run the gamut of mild to thrilling, often with sex, profanity and even some drug use.

Now here's a twist. As I've said above, my Ghost of Granny Apples books are cozy, BUT in December Penguin is releasing THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, a novella that is definitely not a cozy, unless hookers and the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles are you definition of "cozy." It's not full of profanity, but there's definitely violence and very tough topics on the page. Not to mention, the protagonist is a professional P.I., not an amateur sleuth.
Out December 2016, but
not a cozy Christmas story

And wait until you see the new projects I have planned for the future!

I never set out to be a "cozy" author. I didn't even know what the term meant when I first became published, and was rather surprised to see it stick to me like a gummy booger to an index finger.

I write.


I write the stories and characters that present themselves to the writing side of my brain. Sometimes they are soft in nature. Sometimes not. If there is a common thread running through any of these books and stories, I'd like to think it's good character development, a well-thought out plot, and humor ranging from mild to bust-a-gut. I can't seem to write a book without including humor of some sort, but a lot of writers write humor and are NOT labeled cozy. (Oh, but those are mostly men ... just saying. )

While I won't assault anyone who calls me a "cozy author," based on the above evidence, I'd like to be referred to in the future simply as "Sue Ann Jaffarian, author." I am not only a cozy author. I also don't write only mysteries. I'm an author who writes many things, including some cozies, so it's not fair to me, or to readers, to stick me in a small box and stick a label on that box.

You're not mailing me. You're reading me.

My favorite professional review ever came from Kirkus and referred to MURDER IN VEIN, but more importantly, I feel the reviewer got me and my writing:

 Like Stuart Kaminsky, 
Jaffarian juggles her franchises deftly, 
giving each a unique voice and appeal. – Kirkus 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cracked Me Up!

Last Saturday I did a phone interview as part of an article being written about pursing dreams while holding down an office job.  The interview went great and it was fun.

So this past week, the interviewer informed me that the company behind the article is cutting me from the piece, even though they told her they "LOVED" my part in it.


I'm glad you asked.

[Drum roll please]

Because one of my book covers shows the top of a woman's butt crack.

Yep, that's the reason. If I'm lying, I'm dying.

I'm was cut from the piece because the cover of RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in my Winnie Wilde romance series published under the pen name of Meg Chambers, shows the top of a woman's butt crack. (BTW, it's available now on Amazon. Sorry, couldn't resist the shameless plug.)

And guess what? RUNNING WILDE wasn't even mentioned in the article. Apparently their legal team, in vetting the article, looked up my books and took issue with this one cover.

Kim Kardashian shows her ass crack EVERYWHERE and makes millions. I have one on a book cover and get censored from a small article. What a world!

Or, more to the point, what is wrong with this world?

You can't walk down the street without seeing butt cracks on teens with sagging pants. You can't hire a plumber without being in danger of being flashed. Some are prettier than others. Some are funny. Some ridiculous. A slight butt crack is innocent and anyone thinking otherwise is really uptight. I don't think this cover is any more scandalous than a Victoria Secret commercial, or the nudity you see on TV.  If I had written a romance book with a half naked man in a dangerously low-slung kilt on the cover,would they have also taken issue?

On my next Winnie Wilde novella, WILDE WOMEN, which will be released this fall, there is a pair of nude legs. No butt crack, but the cover is still sexually provocative. It's supposed to be. It's an adult steamy romance novella. And I stand by both covers 150%.

Am I angry over being cut from this piece? No, not at all. Really. I'm just shocked and a bit surprised, especially since the article had nothing to do with that book and I have over 20 other covers displaying not a single butt crack. If that company found  my innocent cover as crossing the line, then I'm not for them or them for me. Not because of this cover, but because I prefer being associated with more open-minded people.

Ass cracks, we all have them. And, sigh, sometimes they're not even on our bottom but in the middle of our face.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hard Decisions, New Challenges

Sometimes an author has to make difficult decisions to further his or her career. Sometimes they have to make those decisions to keep themselves sane. This past week I made a decision for both reasons. And now that I've told my publisher about my decision, I can share it here.

THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW, the ninth book in my very popular Ghost of Granny Apples series, will be my last for a while. This full-length novel will be released by Penguin/Berkeley in summer of 2016 in both print and e-book formats.

I know I'm going to get a load of flack for this decision, but it was one that had to be made.

Over the next few years I have obligated myself to some heavy commitments in the writing community that will take up a lot of my time, so I needed to remove the stress of hard deadlines.

Since moving Granny from its original publisher to Penguin three years ago, I have written 3 novels and 3 novellas for them. That's a lot of writing, and they were very understanding about my decision.

I still have two more Odelia Grey novels to deliver to Midnight Ink, one in progress and due in a few months, and one next year, for a full dozen books contracted in that series.

If you're doing the math, consider this:  In the past 11 years, I've penned 11 Odelia Grey books, 9 Granny Apples books, and 2 Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. That's 22 novels/novellas, all under contract deadlines. And that doesn't include the first Winnie Wilde romance novella and assorted short stories that I've done on my own.

And remember, I still work a full time day job, and I'm not a youngster.

Frankly, I'm pooped.

I'm also very humbled and grateful that during all this time publishers and readers alike have wanted those books. I have been very fortunate in my writing career. I know it and don't take it for granted.

I don't know at this point if Granny Apples is done or merely going on hiatus. I won't make that decision for about two years. As for Odelia Grey, I have made the decision not to contract for any more books. Odelia books that come out after #12 will probably be released as independents and with a little different focus.

Over the next few years, I will be doing more independent projects, like expanding the Winnie Wilde series, and focusing on some half completed novels that I've been biting at the bit to finish but didn't have the time. I will also be writing and releasing BETRAYED BY BLOOD, the 3rd book in my Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries.

In other words, all of my writing in the next few years will be done on my schedule without contractual deadlines, so that I can juggle my other obligations with my writing with less stress.

For those of you who love Granny, Emma and Phil, I know you'll be disappointed with this news, but I trust you to understand.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Blatant Self Poisoning - Revisited

Four years ago I wrote a blog for Inkspot called Blatant Self Poisoning. It was a commentary on BSP, which in the writing world stands for blatant self promotion.

As authors we all need to do our share of BSP. It's a necessary evil. Without BSP readers would not know about our books. Some authors hate doing it, others love tooting their own horns. Personally, I fall somewhere in between.

In the past year I've noticed BSP running rampant on social media, much more so than when I wrote that blog in 2011. Twitter is horribly filled with it, and I've unfollowed a lot of authors on Twitter because my feed was filled with their constant shouting about their books.

Here is the beginning of my previous blog on the subject. I feel it bears repeating:

Recently I was having a meal with a friend – another author. As always, our conversation turned to discussing books we’d read, those we were reading and those added to our To Be Read Pile. When I mentioned a book I’d recently picked up, she groaned. “I wanted to read that book,” she said, “but if I see one more word about it or even the cover again, I’ll vomit.”

Yeah, isn't turning people's stomachs the goal of every author when they're pushing a new book?

Yet, it continues. And continues. And continues. More so than ever.

Listen, I well understand that with the thousands of books out there you need to be heard above the shouting. Really, I do. I have books I need to promote too.

Be nice, no matter what. Hostility and general ass-holiness will result in lost sales and your name put on a shit list.

This past week an author sent me a promo bomb via a Facebook private message. I didn't know this author personally. He was one of the nearly 3,000 friends I have on my personal page. I unfriended him and then posted something to my page about how I hate it when authors do that. A discussion, as always, ensued, and even spilled onto another author's FB page since it seemed a lot of us received the same PR bomb.

One author posted a comment about how maybe that author was a newbie and we should gently advise him how not to do BSP.  Okay, I agree. In fact, over the years I would take the time to nicely tell an author who employed such annoying habits that it wasn't a good practice and would end up with them losing support instead of gaining it.  My niceness was met with mixed results. Some thanked me, saying they were new to the process and were just learning. But many countered with hostility and a smugness that made me want to smack them into next week.  The negative reactions ranged from them calling me a bitch, to claiming I was jealous of their books, to telling me to fuck off. (Yeah, one guy did say that.)

Hijacking other people's pages will only get you unfriended and your name put on a shit list.

Another DO NOT DO THIS approach is posting your PR to another author's Facebook page. Some blatantly do this. Others think they are being coy by tagging a list of authors in the post, thereby spamming many pages in one blow.

And please do not friend another author and when they say thank you, counter by placing a link to your webpage or author page on their FB page. Really???!!!  Quit being so lazy by piggybacking onto another author's friends lists. Build your own.

Again, as with the PR bombs, I started out by speaking to the offenders, saying this was a no-no. Again, I was met with some nice responses, but the majority were ugly or argumentative.

Now when someone PR bombs me, I simply unfriend with no further interaction. If they tag me unnecessarily, the tag is immediately removed and the post deleted. If it continues, that author is unfriended.

I love helping other authors promote their books, and do it often by posting PR for other authors on my FB page, but I do it. That's the key. It's my page. I place the PR I want on it. Sometimes I do it on my own. Sometimes an author will write and ask if I will help them promote their new book. Whether I do or not depends on my relationship with that author and if I think my followers will enjoy their book.

BSP Tip:
From the mouths of readers. Remember them?
(aka I couldn't say it any better myself)

When I wrote that first blog about Blatant Self Poisoning a lot of great comments and opinions were posted by readers. Readers, remember, that's who you're trying to reach. You can't reach them by hitting them with a stick. Here are just a few of the comments from readers re BSP:

For me, the promotion becomes off-putting when an author is on every list, every day, sometimes more than once.

If you're on social networks be there consistently and interact with people whether you have a book coming out or now. And when I say interact, I mean interact, not shove your writing at everyone constantly. Care about what your followers are saying, respond when they ask you a question, be involved in fun conversations.

...when your book comes out, mention it is out. You can mention it multiple times, you can link and show where others have talked about it - miminally. Don't link to every review and don't let your conversations ONLY be about your books.

 If the only time I hear from a writer "friend" is when s/he is self-promoting -- no good.

The author who turns every single topic into a reference to his/her book...SO offputting!

There are authors whose future books I have little or no interest in because they pounded their followers on Twitter and Blogger so hard the first time around.

BSP is over the line, for me, when that author gives nothing back to the community of writers that supported and nurtured them. There are authors who never comment on other's blogs, or talk about others books, or respond to a post unless they can give BSP about their own blog, book, website etc. Very noticeable and off-putting.

BSP Tip:
Remember, a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. If you burn your bridges early on, how are you going to get across the river and build a solid, long-lasting readership