Back in the fall of 2018, bestselling author Russ Towne (for whom I edit) and I collaborated on a collection of short stories. I hopped into his genre and we produced a book of 12 short stories titled Six Shots Each Gun. I designed the cover and assisted with writing the cover blurb. Russ took care of the audio book and I took care of formatting. He sent the files to his publicist for publication and a bit of promotion. The book was released in February 2019.
Russ and I can probably count everyone who read the collection on two hands. Every single one of those people declared they really enjoyed the stories, but no one left reviews. We can't sell the book. Perhaps it was inadequate or ineffective marketing. Perhaps the cover design wasn't quite suitable for the genre. Perhaps ... well, the upshot is we don't really know why the book isn't selling.
But the stories are good, damned good.
Despite the failure of our experiment, Russ and I decided to try again, sticking to the main genre of westerns and veering into the romantic side: western romances. We couldn't align our schedules, which resulted in separate publication of our stories in separate collections. Mine, titled Satin Boots, came out in October 2019. It received a couple of lovely reviews, but again sales proved lackluster.
According to those who have read it, the stories are good, damned good.
So, I decided to try again. With Russ' gracious permission, I consolidated my stories from Six Shots Each Gun and the six stories in Satin Boots into a single volume titled Shot from the Hip. The cover and title font, I hope, imbue the drama and flavor of the genre. This collection went live (e-book and paperback) on January 2, 2020. How's that for a project to start off the new year?
I enjoyed writing those stories. Constraints upon the romantic heat proved a welcome challenge, as I usually write more explicit stuff. But I managed to get the point across without wallowing in the purple prose of euphemisms or pretending that romantic relationships never go beyond a chaste kiss. I enjoyed writing about strong, resourceful heroines and heroes who could be alpha males without being womanizing jerks, all operating within the societal restrictions of the latter half of the 1800s ... you know, when women were chattel.
But a writer is only as good as the next book. Therefore, I've scheduled my next release--all new content--for February 14. Yes, that's Valentine's Day. This new book can best be described as: "Cowgirl meets biker. What could go wrong?" In short, Murphy's Law applies to this couple: if it can go wrong, it will. Of course, problems arise due to the heroine's fiery temper, the company kept by the hero, and other bad decisions made with the right intentions. At about 60,000 words, Hogtied will span sub-genres: western, military, new adult, MC (motorcycle club).
Spanning sub-genres comes naturally, because few people live and love within the confines of a single narrow niche.
Cover design is underway and the final result will be revealed soon. In the meantime, explore what westerns have to offer, because there's a lot more to the genre than cattle drives and gunslingers. This romanticized period in American history merely serves as the setting for a full array of personalities, emotions, motivations, and ambitions. Just like today.
In 1497, Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola inspired the populace of Florence, Italy to burn their vanities. He was not the first to attempt to impose his ideas of what was right and good upon the people. Since history began, regimes and religions have sought to direct and restrain ideas and thinking by controlling what people read and see. Many classic books schools now often require students to read include formerly banned books.
Digging a little more deeply into Monday's LinkedIn post on this subject, I repeat the opinion that censorship is alive and well, even in the USA today. The general concept of censorship hinges upon the idea of access to words and ideas being restricted by an outside authority or force. With the capabilities afforded by social media, people today exercise even more thorough censorship upon themselves.
We use social media to filter the news we receive so that contradictory ideas and controversial concepts might disturb us. We're happy in our little ruts of thought; change and expansion hurt. Echoes of our own opinions and convictions validate them and comfort us. I'm guilty of that and so are you.
One easy and frequent method by which we exercise self-censorship is through the DNF ("did not finish") of the books downloaded to our e-readers. We justify deleting unfinished books from our e-readers because of poor writing, poor storytelling, disjointed or nonsensical plots, factual errors, displeasing protagonists, or abhorrent themes. Some readers cannot and do not tolerate explicitly sexual material. Others clutch their pearls when faced with profanity. Disappointed or appalled readers self-censor their reading by removing offending material from their e-readers and then attempt to dissuade others from those same books by leaving reviews warning potential readers of the objectionable or lackluster material. I'm guilty of that and so are you.
In short, we hope to influence others to our ways of thinking even as we protect our own fragile minds from the material that disturbs, disgusts, or offends us.
That said, I do not consider every book I download and open to be worth my time. My time is valuable and my limited leisure time even more so. It's mine to do with as I wish, just as yours is. We exercise choice which lends itself to self-censorship.
To make self-censorship palatable and at least rational, one must engage in critical thinking to evaluate the verbiage dumped into our minds. A former coworker once accused me of being close-minded. An open mind is like a ditch, it accepts everything that falls into it, I rebutted. I have filters. I judge the ideas and words flung at me and then decide whether they're worth keeping. Not ever idea has worth. Not every concept withstands critical evaluation. Some we accept anyway, because they entertain us or make us feel good or for whatever other reason. As long as we know why we accept such things, we understand the influence they may (or may not) have upon our thoughts and actions. Those we determine as unworthy and unacceptable, we toss, but it's important that we know why we discard them.
Humans mostly make decisions with their emotions or gut feelings. We are not always, mostly, or even necessarily rational creatures. Like our pets, we prefer comfort and toss into the bonfires of our vanities that which discomforts us.
What are we discarding that, perhaps, we ought to reconsider keeping?
MFRW 52-week Blog Challenge Participants #MFRWAuthor
As stated in previous blog posts, I don't make New Year's resolutions. There's something inherently wrong about revolving to do something in the dead of winter when all I want to do is hibernate. I'm certainly not in any mood to promise to do something (or not do something).
For those who don't know, January is derived from Janus, the Roman god of entrances and exits. He's considered a two-faced god. In fact, it was Julius Caesar--yes, that Roman emperor--who decreed January 1 as the start of the new calendar year. Of course, January 1 in central and southern Italy isn't quite as dismal as it is in snow country. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day combine to bid goodbye to (exit) the old year and welcome (enter) the new one. We look both forward and backward, toward future and past, in our own version of being two-faced.
Perhaps the two-faced nature of making New Year's resolutions translates into promising oneself to do (or not do) something and then breaking those promises. New Year's resolutions highlight one of the more common and less attractive aspects of humanity.
I don't make New Year's resolutions. Some years I make "spring resolutions." Spring makes more sense to me, because lengthening days and warming weather transform a dismal, brown and gray landscape into one growing green with life and promise.
Happy New Year!