be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website:

be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vampires At The Beach

Before I settled on Klara, I had asked a few other attractive young women to help me with the book. My routine generally consisted of approaching members of the target audience--as Carolyn is 24 and single with no boyfriend when the book starts out--to ask them what they're reading. To answer, most would show me the cover of the book. Then I would either guess what the book was about from the title or ask them to describe it. This in and of itself helped me a couple of ways. One pretty young lady, who seemed a little too eager, was reading a book titled Love the One You're With. I remarked to her, "Now we know what that's about, right?" Another desirable young woman's book was titled Flawless. My guess that it was about the fashion industry or models turned out to be wrong, but the reticent soft-spoken brunette I questioned did allow it was about some girl, presumably without imperfections of any kind. The working title of my book at that time was The Secondary Refraction. Based on these experiences, the more I thought about it, the more that seemed too cryptic, so I changed it to Paradise Regained, because that's what happens at the end of the book--Carolyn and John along with Brandy and the gang get to their South Pacific island before the U.S. military does, deploy the bubble machine from the aliens' specs and bingo--instant impregnable island fortress. I did a search on it and was surprised to learn that no one since John Milton had used that title in the 1600s, so I thought, Why not--it's shorter and more positive, implying the requisite happy ending, in addition to being truth in advertising.
Another more intelligent college-aged young blonde honey coolly and tersely advised me that her book was about vampires. This became a recurring theme. I remember when I was working at the call center up in Juno Beach, across the street from the turtle place, ten years ago when I was getting the first draft of my book together. The general manager kept asking me why I hadn't come up with the books on the magician's assistant as he called it, referring to the Harry Potter series. The answer to that question which I never gave him is that you have to be into something like that to be able to write convincingly, persuasively and passionately about it--and I'm just not into witchcraft and spells and warlocks and all that, the same way I'm not into vampires. But I am into science fiction.
What I think has happened in the last fifty years is that science fiction has gotten way too technical for the average person to understand it. My first book was a spy novel with a romance subplot set in real time--1994. The second was a young adult coming of age story set mostly in 2012. The third book takes place in 2042, but I have taken pains to make it as accessible as possible, more back to basics. Whether this was a mistake, whether I have outsmarted myself, we shall see.
Allow me by digression to explain. Yes, fiction is a brand-name business. The same way most people would patronize a McDonald's rather than an independent restaurant in an unfamiliar locale simply because as bad as McDonald's is, it's nevertheless a known quantity, so also have publishers realized that they can make more money from one million Stephen King books than from ten thousand titles of ten thousand lesser-known writers. The flip side of that, however, is that publishers always need genre books, because some people go through these things--romances being the obvious example--as if they were going out of style. My general impression of all the people that I've polled and those that I haven't is that people are desperate for something--anything--to read that is well-written, so much so that they're willing to read what they consider mediocre until the proverbial good stuff comes along again. So many girls' judgment of what they were reading was, in dreary tones of world-weary resignation, "It's O.K." And when I followed up with why they were reading it to begin with, the answer was always that a friend or close relative, i.e. their mother, had recommended it.
Everyone always thinks his or her book is different. The market's never been worse for first-timers. Even if the book does get published, I am going to have to work full time or more at making it sell. I was invited to join Toastmasters a few years ago by one of their members but since I didn't have a salable book at the time, I thought I'd hold off until I did. That's my ace in the hole--that and the book fair in Miami in November. If I could just get one person to write me back, to ask to read the book, then I would have more confidence about this whole thing. I remember this is what drove me crazy last time--the waiting.
It's mostly cloudy outside now but there's no way to know how it is at the beach except by being there, as where I live is six miles inland and as previously stipulated the weather in Florida is very strange. My expensive mixed nuts--toasted but not salted--from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia arrived a little while ago via UPS. I can keep this routine up for about six more months before money is going to be a problem. I should know whether the book is a go or not a long time before then. I know rationally that one way or another, I'll do the right thing, but knowing it emotionally is something else. The future remains a scary place but it is the only place I want to live.

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