But Am I Newsworthy?

newsletter subscribe buttonI love getting newsletters from writers.

Why? I’m not absolutely sure. Maybe it’s because newsletters give, instead of asking or taking: they come with content just for me (well, not just for me, but for the mailing list members), and I’m not expected to share or retweet or comment or vote or click “like” — these social media engagements aren’t bad things, of course, but there’s an expectation of visible support, and it’s obvious when not given. While I like to show as much enthusiastic public support as I can to authors I admire, there’s something nice and pressure-free about just opening an email and reading it without having to respond. Yes, a newsletter is technically a marketing tool, but it’s also a gift from author to readers, and the best ones don’t feel like self-promotion.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to have a newsletter of my own; however, one big thing was holding me back. I kept asking myself, “But am I newsworthy?”

candy heartHere I am, thinking that I would like to give the gift of a private, special newsletter to anyone who is interested in my stories — and I’m wondering whether I’m good enough to do that.

Since when did giving a gift depend on the giver being worthy?

I woke up to this thought at the beginning of the week, and realized that now is the time to go ahead and create a mailing list, with a goal of sending out a monthly newsletter. We hear all the time that smart writers establish mailing lists well in advance of any book release; there’s no way to do that and also achieve some kind of invisible goal of becoming Important Enough For A Newsletter before starting one.

No one is being forced to sign up. If I end up sending out, say, a flash fiction story or an excerpt from something I’m working on, and it only goes to a handful of people, so what? Those people get something no one else does. No one is imposed on by the mere existence of a newsletter, right? I keep telling myself this.

candy heartBut this is exciting: I’ve realized I can do something with a newsletter that I can’t do on a blog or Facebook page or anywhere else — I can customize it to the preferences of those who sign up. One of the questions on my sign-up form is about comfort level: Sweet (prefer no explicit sex or swearing) or candy heartTart (okay with sexy description and gritty language)? That way, I can send my Sweets an excerpt that won’t make them blush, and my Tarts can get something a little dirtier.

I still feel strangely guilty, greedy, and not newsworthy enough to have my own newsletter. But it’s time to stop validating those feelings and go forward.

Be a sweetheart; sign up!
(But only if you want to. No pressure.)

Writers, have you hesitated to start a newsletter because of doubts about being worthy? Did you end up doing it?

And readers, what do you love best about newsletters? What makes the great ones so awesome?

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Let’s Get Edgy (or, How Far Is Too Far?)

So, maybe you’ve noticed that I describe my writing as “edgy romance and speculative fiction”. Maybe you’ve wondered… why?

Well.

It’s not about being explicit/graphic (though sometimes, sure, I’ll consider going there); that’s just called erotic romance, or “hot” or “spicy”. And naughty books are so popular right now, even mainstream — moms outside the preschool chat about their favourites and check out each other’s Kindles and Kobos — that there’s no edge in it, not even with a little bit of kink thrown in for titillation (this isn’t the 1950s: we’ve all heard of bondage and threesomes by now, no one is shocked).

It’s not about profanity, though my voice goes where the characters want it to go, and sometimes that includes teh swearz. Lots of books have swearwords and gritty language of varying forms; that’s nothing edgy, and nothing to do with romance. Obviously, there are some places readers don’t expect to find, well, words a kindergarten teacher wouldn’t use in class (e.g., sweet romances, particularly faith-oriented romances where a wedding is de rigueur before the happy couple gets even an off-screen naked snuggle), but I don’t think most people classify a few $h!ts and f^*ks as particularly edgy these days.

Walking on the edge, for me, is going as far as I myself feel comfortable, and then taking a step or two further. Pushing myself into uncomfortable territory. Going into mindspaces where I don’t have the answers, and seeing what my characters will do.

So I take the classic “nice girl meets a rock star”, and she’s a virgin and he’s a stud, and she’s grown up with the white-picket-fence life while he’s been on the road… and I say to myself, let’s make him a heroin addict. Let’s get onto Erowid and learn everything we can about what that looks and feels like, and think about the risks and damage he’d be carrying. Where does that put the girl? Can she take that on?

I take the classic “just dumped and vulnerable” situation, and put my protagonist/heroine in the path of a delicious rebound dude… and then I say, let’s make him polyamorous. Yes, as in, he already has a girlfriend, and she’s all fine with him having a new lover alongside her. Let’s check out Polyamory.com and find out what that really means for real people living it, and think about how a traditionally-brought-up woman might react to what her new temptation is offering.

Now, I’m pretty sure many — most? — readers aren’t going to be into addicts and polyamorists. But I don’t want to write about just another red herring obstacle, and I actively look for challenges that make me think, damn, I don’t know if I could handle that. So for me, it’s more about the emotional/psychological edge than anything sexual or verbal, exploring the shadowy area just outside of the furthest edge of my own comfort level.

I know that’s how/what/where I want to write, to explore. But… how far is too far? At what point do I cross from just being edgy to going over the cliff and splatting onto readers’ repulsion? Where is the hard line between raised eyebrows and disgust? I really do worry about this — how much is too much? — but I just can’t seem to dig into novel ideas where the problems could all be solved with an hour or two of honesty and good communication and some sensible decision-making.

I don’t know. I suppose at some point I’ll find out. I hope I haven’t put everyone off already…

But “edgy” is my warning label. Not for language, not for spice, but for “don’t expect normal and don’t expect nice”.