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Is It Okay for Authors to Respond to Positive Reviews?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This is a continuation of yesterday’s discussion about authors responding (sometimes in spectacularly horrible ways) to reviews/reviewers. As I’ve replied to your comments, and as I’ve taken part in discussions on other blogs about this situation, I’ve had a chance to think through additional scenarios and ideas generated by this that I hadn’t quite gotten to yet yesterday.

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Why Authors Should Seriously Consider NOT Replying to Positive Reviews

A lot of people around the blogosphere have said they don’t have a problem with authors responding to positive reviews (even with something as simple as a “thanks”). Here’s some of what I shared in the comments on yesterday’s post, along with additional thoughts an comments I’ve made elsewhere:

Even commenting on positive reviews is something that should be carefully considered and, if it seems like the right thing to do, done privately. Responding at all, whether to positive or negative reviews, sets up a false sense of expectation.

If you feel compelled to respond privately to a well-written review, then, yes, you can do that. Just be aware that it could set up an awkward situation in the future if the reviewer comes to expect something in return (to automatically receive free “review” copies of all of your future books, to be able to send you her own manuscript for you to critique, etc.) or then doesn’t feel like she can be honest in reviews of your future work because now there’s a personal relationship and she’s into that “genetic criticism” mode—not being able to separate you and your reaction to her first review from her reaction to the next thing of yours she reads. She may feel constrained from being able to post reviews about your future book(s) if she doesn’t like them (at all or as much) because she doesn’t want to offend or hurt you. And that may lead to her stopping reading your books altogether.

If an author responds to one or two positive reviews publicly, others will see that and may want in on the attention from the author and post reviews that may not actually be honest, they’re just trying to get the author’s attention and show that they have a “personal connection” with the author—after all, the author reads and comments on their reviews. Which, from an author’s perspective seems like a good thing—more positive reviews!

However, remember, Goodreads (or Amazon, or anywhere else that’s a public place to post reviews—like blogs) isn’t a place for authors’ egos to be stroked. It’s a place where real readers are supposed to post honest reviews of books for the sake of potential readers without the interference of the author. And if authors respond to one or two positive reviews—even just a “thanks”—but don’t respond to ALL positive reviews, those whom they don’t respond to are going to be disgruntled.

You may think that it’s okay, you don’t mind taking the time to respond to all of the positive reviews. But think about it logically—if you get 20 four- and five-star reviews on Amazon, 40 on Goodreads, a dozen or so on Barnes & Noble, several on other bookseller sites . . . when does it end? Sure, a lot of them are going to have been posted by the same people across several platforms. But that means that you’re not only going to have to post the same comment on the same user’s review across several sites (after all, you wouldn’t want someone else seeing that you haven’t responded to every positive review on whatever site it’s on) but it means you’re going to have to set aside several hours on a regular schedule to go to each of those sites individually and check for new reviews. Because once you start doing that, you really should continue it for the lifetime of that book (I still get new reviews occasionally of Stand-In Groom, my first book, which came out six and a half years ago).

Same goes with an author posting links to positive reviews (from sources other than professional review sites like Romantic Times or Publisher’s Weekly) that were not done as part of a previously agreed-upon promotional push (e.g., a scheduled blog tour). The author sets up the expectation that they’ll publicize ALL positive reviews and if they leave anyone out, the bloggers wonder, If they posted this person’s or that person’s blog review of their book, why didn’t they post mine? And then they accuse the author of favoritism or ignoring them, or whatever. This is one that I learned from personal experience when Stand-In Groom came out.

Conversely, if authors do what that Dylan guy did and blow up/attack a negative review, it will do what we’ve seen happen to him: a book that had an average rating of over 4 stars with a few dozen reviews now has a 1-star average because of all the negative attention his responses brought about. So then reviewers will leave incendiary reviews on ALL of the author’s books, whether they’ve read them or not, either because of the first reaction or to see if they can get another reaction like that.

Your Negative Reviews Are Ruining My Business!!!

It seems to me like a lot of authors (especially indie/self-published, but a few traditionally published authors do it, too) have lost sight of whom Goodreads and other review sites are actually for (readers) and have come to see it as their own personal storefront/marketplace. So they see any 1- and 2-star (i.e., negative) reviews in the same light as a store owner showing up to open the doors first thing in the morning and seeing profanities and slurs spray painted all over the front of their building. So, yes, it’s understandable why so many authors (both trad and self/indie) get so upset over negative reviews on GR. But that still doesn’t make the explosions appropriate. Just entertaining for the rest of us.

When a restaurant does a substandard job with their food, there are several different places diners can go to post reviews. If the restaurateur is professional and wants to grow her business, she will see the feedback as a way to make improvements—whether it’s that her wait-staff needs to be retrained or the cooks need to lay off the salt or garlic (or add more) or that food needs to be hotter, colder, more seasonal or whatever. For them, the best way they can respond to these negative reviews is to grow from them—to rise above and do better and better and generate a whole bunch of positive reviews by giving the diners what they want—delicious food that fulfills the promise of the restaurant.

After all, you don’t want to be like these people, who couldn’t take advice from their patrons OR from professional chef/restaurateur Gordon Ramsay:

If you can’t take criticism, don’t put your product (whether a book or food) out for public consumption.

One of the problems that was revealed with the restaurant in the video above is that anytime anyone sent food back to the kitchen because it was under/overcooked, gross, not seasoned right, or not what was ordered, the food was just thrown away and the cook was never told anything was wrong—because if she did hear anything bad about her food, she instantly and publicly exploded at the customer for saying her food/cooking is bad. If she’d listened to the feedback, taken the criticism as a challenge to improve her cooking, and put out better product, this restaurant never would have been on Kitchen Nightmares.

While authors aren’t going to get the same type of instant feedback that a restaurant will (food being sent back to the kitchen and/or complaints about the server vs. compliments to the chef and a big tip), sites like Goodreads are where we get that feedback. Many people will tell you to never even read reviews. I think in the first few months after a book releases, you have to. You can’t write in a vacuum. And even if you work with critique partners in addition to your editor(s), you still need outside feedback. So read the reviews. Make notes on areas where the reviewers say you can improve. No, you can’t improve it in that particular book—that horse is already out of the barn and in the next county.

The best way to show gratitude to those people who post positive reviews (and to those who post constructively critical reviews), and to grow your business as an author, is to keep improving in your craft and keep writing great stories.

Why Authors Should NEVER Respond to Reviewers

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Once again, there’s been an “author behaving badly” issue that’s gone viral. A self-published author took exception with a one-star review of his self-proclaimed “magnum opus” (a 100-page YA fantasy novel, from what I can tell)—and why he chose this particular one-star reviewer to take issue with, I’m not sure (maybe it was her use of the adjective pretentious when describing his prose?) since there were a few other one-star reviews that predated hers.

You can read the archived version of the exchange here—the reviewer is “Cait” and the author is “Dylan.” (You may have to scroll up to read her original review at the top of the page.)

I use Goodreads as a reader. I am a published author. There is a page that shows all of my books and each book has a page that displays all of the reviews people have been generous enough to post—and I mean that. As a reader/reviewer, I know just how time consuming writing even a short review can be. I don’t know how many reviews each book has or what the average star ratings are, nor do I know what the reviews say. And, really, I don’t care. I wrote the books because I loved the stories. I’ve heard personally from people who enjoyed them. I’ve connected with fans through other social media sites. Goodreads is not the place for that. Goodreads is the place for me, author nor not, to get to be just another reader. To curate my “library.” To be able to honestly and freely share my thoughts on the books I’ve read.

One thing that strikes me very clearly about “Dylan” in the linked exchange is that he has no concept of the one irrefutable, immutable fact about publishing anything: once you put it out there, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to everyone who chooses to read it. And, thus, they are free to love it, hate it, or feel indifferent about it—and post whatever feelings they have publicly in whatever manner they see fit. As American poet Anne Bradstreet put it (in the 1650s!):

The Author to her Book

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge). . . .

Almost 400 years ago, long before the days of Goodreads or Amazon reviews or even electricity, Bradstreet knew that by venturing into publishing, her work would be “expos’d to public view” and that “all may judge” the quality of her writing despite the fact that she sees her writing as children she loves and wants to protect. But even then, she knew she couldn’t protect her “babies” from the opinion of others. It’s the non-verbal contract we make between ourselves and the world when we choose to publish.

As Stephen King put it:

Gould said something. . .interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right—as right as you can, anyway—it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it. If you’re very lucky (this is my idea, not John Gould’s, but I believe he would have subscribed to the notion), more will want to do the former than the latter.

(quoted from pg. 47)

Have I ever been tempted to respond to negative reviews? Yes, in the beginning of my career. But (a) as a woman, (b) who writes romance, (c) who writes CLEAN romance, I had already been through the ringer of trying to major in Creative Writing in a traditional academic (read: LITERARY) program at a major state university. I dropped out in my third year after taking only two creative writing classes. There is nothing any reviewer on GR can say about my books that’s as horrible or undermining or belittling as what was said to me face-to-face in those classes.

I eventually went back and finished my college degrees (going on to get a master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University with a romance novel as my thesis). I joined a national writing organization (and after a few years was elected Vice President). I worked with a succession of about 6-7 critique partners over the course of three or four years. I pursued traditional publication, and had my manuscripts rejected time and time again, sometimes in writing, sometimes through my agent, and sometimes face-to-face in pitch sessions at conferences. Eventually, though, my books found homes with publishers. And I’m so thankful I had that full education before becoming a published author.

But that’s a process that many authors now have never been through. They’ve eschewed pursuing traditional publishing, working with critique partners, or even hiring a professional to edit their books, because they feel like they know everything and there’s nothing anyone can teach them about their story or their writing. (I’d love to see how people like “Dylan” would have reacted in one of those Creative Writing classes that made me walk away thinking I’d never write again. Well, actually, he probably would have fit right in—as I recall, most of the students in those classes who were the “best” at attacking me and my writing wrote what I considered some of the worst drivel I’d ever read, but would defend it to the death because they were the worst at being able to accept constructive criticism and always took it as a personal attack/affront—and it sounds to me from the comments/reviews that what he’s written is very much like what they wrote.)

But then, I read something else interesting in a conversation on the page for the book that created this latest viral feeding frenzy. Someone asked if it was ethical for so many people to pile on and post one-star reviews of this book because of the author’s tantrum rather than solely on the content of the book. Goodreads user Andrew Lawston posted (in part) the following response:

The idea that you can divorce the artist from their art is a convenient lie that we tend to use to cling on to works we’ve enjoyed, even after discovering the creator had very whiffy feet of clay. . . . The book and the writer are one, like the land and the king in Excalibur. And when a writer goes so spectacularly (and indeed entertainingly) off course, that has a very real effect on how their work is perceived. It’s absolutely ethical to take those incredible outbursts into account when reviewing the work, because Dylan made the comments in the public domain. . . .

(read the whole answer here)

While I agree with Andrew from a reader’s perspective (this is what’s called Genetic Criticism in the Literary Criticism sphere—not separating the author from the work when considering it critically, which is one of the reasons that I choose not to learn too much about the authors whose work I read and enjoy), there’s a built-in contradiction here that’s something all authors must learn to deal with.

The reader, consciously or unconsciously, combines what is known about the author into the reader’s view and critical analysis of the story. For readers who know me well, they’ve been able to pick up on somewhat autobiographical traits in several of my characters (Zarah and Caylor, especially), and and how they feel about me colored how they viewed those and other characters as well as the novels in whole, even if they didn’t know they were reading/filtering it that way. (Taking this out into the broader world of entertainment, this is why I can no longer watch movies with Tom Cruise in them. All I can think about is how off-the-rails he is in real life and I cannot suspend disbelief.) This is why reviewers who take a genetic approach can come across as critical of the author in addition to the work—because they cannot separate the two in their mind*.

However, the author must work at separating herself from her work once it’s completed and submitted for publication. While we like to talk about our books as our “babies,” we cannot actually treat them that way once they’re out in the world. We can (and should) do all we can to promote them, to get them into readers’ hands. But then once the readers have them, that’s when we have to separate ourselves. We have to walk away, turn off the subjectivity and learn to filter all feedback through an objective filter with two settings: (1) Will it make me a better writer? (2) Will it just make me mad? If (1), glean from it what we can and incorporate that into our future writing. If (2), walk away; it isn’t helpful and could, if responded to, become extremely harmful.

*I, personally, am more of a reader-response critic—which is the approach Cait took in her review that started the brouhaha. When she posted the review, she knew nothing about the author—the review was a statement of her personal response to reading a story. When I read something, what is my response? Not the author’s intention, the cultural context of when/by whom it was written, or the theme or “take-away”—but my emotional, visceral/gut reaction. This is one of the reasons why it’s easier for me to DNF books and give them a one-star review. Because I’ve separated the book from the person who wrote it—just like I’ve tried to separate myself from the books I’ve written and allowed them to go out in the world to evoke responses, hopefully positive, from readers. It’s much easier for me to write genetic-criticism reviews of classic/older books, knowing the authors aren’t around any longer to take offense.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this—and on the author-reviewer relationship in general!

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Work Cited:

Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book.” The Tenth Muse (1650). Gainesville, Florida: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1965. Retried from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/bradstreet/bradstreet.html 9 June 2015.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2000. Print.

Reading Challenge Updates?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Challenge

According to Goodreads, at halfway through the year, I’m 57% finished with my 2015 Reading Challenge of 53 books—or 7 books ahead of schedule. Now that I’m working from home and won’t have as long of a “get ready” and commute time in the mornings, this will probably slow down, as I won’t be getting through the audiobooks quite as fast as before.

You can see all of the books I’ve completed so far this year by clicking on the image above or the link in the reading challenge widget over on the right-hand side of this page.

Did you set a challenge for yourself this year? How are you progressing?

Why You Shouldn’t Ask Authors for Free Copies of Their Books

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fishing 2It’s unfortunate that I get asked this so often that I actually have a “canned” response now.

Even though I haven’t had a new book come out since 2013, several times a month, I am contacted by people either through the Contact form on this blog or through my Facebook Page asking for a copy of any of my books so they can “review” them. They never provide links to previous reviews they’ve posted, nor do they provide their blog/website address with stats on how many viewers they have, how many comments they receive, or what other sites they review on (Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc.).

Serious reviewers typically know that to get a review copy of a book, they either need to follow authors and respond to calls for influencers from the authors, publishers, and/or publicists; or they’re signed up with services like Net Galley that work with publishers to get ARCs (advanced reading copies) out to established reviewers.

But for every two established, reputable reviewers who do actually have influence with readers to hopefully encourage book sales, there are fifteen or twenty, um, “fishers” like this:

Fishing

This is the fisher who prompted me to write what has become my standard response that I now send out whenever I receive requests like this. Her last response, posted after I screen-captured the exchange above, was, “Well, thanks anyway.” And after much thought, writing, editing, rewriting, and consideration, I responded with this:

You know, the best way to support authors is to buy their books instead of asking for them for free. Most authors do not make a living with their writing, mainly because so many people now ask (and expect) to receive books for free instead of respecting and honoring the amount of work that authors put into writing the books—months, and sometimes years of work for a return that can net them less than a dollar per hour, if that much. If you truly want to help out authors, and you’re not just fishing for free books, consider buying books to review, not hitting up the people who can least afford to provide their work for free.

You wouldn’t walk into a spa and ask for a free manicure in exchange for a review, would you? You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and expect them to give you a free meal because you’ve promised to post a review. So why expect professional writers to provide you with their work for free on the promise of a review that will be one of dozens (or more, hopefully) from people who did pay for the book?

One of the main reasons I’m no longer writing is because after four years of writing “full-time” (with the majority of my income coming from editing other people’s books for a few publishing houses) and eleven published novels, I almost had to declare bankruptcy and move in with my elderly parents at the age of 40 because I couldn’t make a living as a professional, published author. I now have a full-time career in higher education which, after three years, has helped me start digging myself out of the financial hole of taxes and medical expenses that came from being self-employed as an author brought about. But the truth of the matter is that if all of my books that were sent out or given away for free had actually been purchased by the readers, I might have been able to make a modest living and might still be writing.

I’m sure you mean well, but I just wanted to make sure you’re really thinking about and understanding what you’re doing when you go around asking authors for free copies of their books.

And, no, I don’t usually get a heartfelt, abject apology from these fishers, promising they’ll change their ways and never ask for free books again. I usually get a response along the lines of, “Well, if I could afford to buy books, I would.” or “Thanks, anyway.”

Yes, it’s nice to get free stuff. And yes, I do understand that people who want to read books can’t afford to buy all the books they want to read. I’m one of those people. But that’s why I check them out from the library (libraries purchase the books they lend). But I do purchase as many books as I can afford. And I do try to post reviews of them publicly (on Goodreads and occasionally here on the blog—although I’m way behind with that this year).

Maybe it’s just the kind of person I am, but I guess fishing requests like this really annoy me not just because of the reasons detailed above, but because I cannot fathom the thought-process that would go into someone thinking that this is something that’s okay to do. It’s a word that’s used a lot these days, but this sense of entitlement is just beyond my understanding.

What Are You Reading? (June 2015)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Happy First Monday of June, everyone.
It’s Reading Report time!

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

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Tell us what you’ve finished over the last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!

To format your text, click here for an HTML cheat-sheet. If you want to embed your links in your text (like my “click here” links) instead of just pasting the link into your comment, click here.
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  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since the last update?

  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

Fun Friday – A Sneak Peek at my Story in Progress

Friday, May 29, 2015

I promised that if y’all were good chickens, I’d share a little bit of my work in progress. I posted on my Facebook Page earlier this week that this is the first time in years that, instead of reaching for my Kindle to read in bed at night, I’m equally as likely to reach for my tablet or laptop and write before going to sleep.

So here’s the scene I wrote after posting that on Monday.

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If anyone noticed the big black SUV circling the lot of the gated condo complex, no one seemed to mind. In fact, Stone had seen a couple other cars do the same thing—though they appeared to have given up much more easily.

Bobby Patterson had warned him that the main parking lot at The Enclave at Hillsboro Village filled up pretty quickly in the evenings. Stone assumed he’d meant on weeknights when everyone got home from work. He’d assumed that, unlike DC, people in Nashville would actually drive their cars to go out on a Saturday night.

Ah, finally—someone pulled out of a visitor spot. He hated to crowd, but he wasn’t about to let the little roller-skate car that just pulled in the gate slip into the spot after he’d been waiting nearly twenty minutes.

Heart hammering in his chest, he leaned his head against the steering wheel. He couldn’t believe he was actually here. And not just for an interview or a visit. He was about to walk through those doors into the fancy lobby of this fancy condo complex and become a resident of Nashville, Tennessee.

He climbed out of the truck and stretched. On the busy road beyond the gates—Hillsboro Road—a low-slung coupe rattled past with the bump-and-thump of its music loud enough to reverberate in Stone’s chest. He really hoped the condo would be one of those on the backside of the building, away from the street, if it stayed this busy on the weekends. He’d lived in a nightlife-heavy zone far too long and, at thirty-seven, considered himself old enough to be allowed to admit to enjoying a quiet night in over partying on King Street—or Hillsboro Road—anytime.

Entering the travertine-tiled lobby, he glanced around. Bobby said he’d meet him here. But when he didn’t see his FBI Academy roommate anywhere, he figured he’d check in at the concierge desk, just in case Patterson was upstairs in the apartment waiting for a call instead of hanging out down here.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Sto—Preston Marshall. I’m supposed to be meeting Bobby Patterson here to get the keys to . . .” He fished his notepad out of his back pocket. “Apartment 459.”

“Ah, yes.” The concierge leaned over and pulled out a small lockbox from the locking file drawer under his desk. “Mr. Patterson sends his regrets. He is unable to meet you tonight, but asked me to give you the key. He said everything else you’d need would be waiting for you in the”—he arched a brow—“apartment.”

Before Stone could ask, the concierge volunteered directions to the apartment—which apparently was on the street-side of the complex.

Rather than take the elevator, Stone went around the corner and found the stairs. After ten hours of driving—made into an almost thirteen-hour trip since he couldn’t drive past Lexington, Virginia, without stopping to see his parents—he needed the physical exertion of four flights of stairs.

He was winded and every muscle in his body felt fatigued by the third-floor landing, but he pushed on, stopping at the fire door to the fourth floor to catch his breath.

The carpeted hallway muffled almost all sound as he stepped out from the stairwell. The lighting was sufficient, but dim, and, over by the elevator, a brass plate showed him the direction to apartment 459.

The door opened into a hallway, but he could see all the way through to the back wall of the place—a back wall made completely of windows that gave him a spectacular view of the Nashville skyline.

His go-bag fell to the wood floor with a soft thump, and he pushed the door closed without turning from the view. He’d seen downtown during the day, when the head of the College of Social and Natural Sciences took him for a driving tour of the city. That was the day he’d agreed to come and take the lead on the Forensic Linguistic degree program at James Robertson University.

But seeing it like this—the lights of the various, uniquely shaped skyscrapers twinkling in the twilight—pretty much freaked him out.

How had he gotten here? How had he ended up in Nashville, Tennessee, of all places?

A knock broke him out of his anxiety, and, frowning, he turned to open the door, pushing his bag out of the way with his foot.

Surprise replaced the anxiety—well, displaced it, really—at the sight of a voluptuous blonde standing in the hallway, a pizza box labeled Michaelangelo’s balanced on her non-knocking hand.

“Preston?” At his nod, she beamed a mega-watt smile at him. “Welcome to Nashville, and to The Enclave. Bobby and Zarah were delayed coming back from . . . somewhere and missed a flight, so they won’t be back until really late tonight. That’s why they couldn’t meet you.”

As if familiar with this place, the woman let herself in past him and went straight into the kitchen, where she turned the oven on, then opened a couple of cabinets until she found a cookie sheet.

“I imagine you haven’t had supper yet, and I know that leftover pizza probably isn’t exactly your idea of what you want after a full day on the road—believe me, I know it’s never my first choice—but it’s better than nothing, right?” She put the pizza in the oven, rinsed her hands at the sink, and dried them on a paper towel before re-joining him at the entrance to the kitchen.

She extended her right hand. “I guess I should have introduced myself. I’m Alex. I live in the condo directly below you.”

He shook her hand, but couldn’t erase the frown he knew he was giving her. “I’m Stone. It’s nice to meet you. You know Bobby Patterson?”

“Through a mutual friend. I mean, I guess we’re all friends now. I’ve been friends with Caylor for years, and I got to know and become friends with Zarah through Caylor, and then Bobby and Zarah started dating . . .” Her voice trailed off and her head cocked to the right. “I’ve completely taken you by surprise, haven’t I? I have a way of coming in and just taking over. Sorry for that.”

“Do I make you nervous?” He looked down and realized he was still holding her hand.

“Nervous?”

“Do you usually talk that fast and that much without breathing? And, also, you’ve barely looked me in the eye since you walked in.”

Rather than look embarrassed, Alex No-last-name-given seemed pleased by his socially awkward and instantly regretted remarks. “You’re better than I expected.” Now she blushed. “I mean . . . I knew you worked on a BAU team with the FBI, but I figured that instant analysis was just something they took creative license with on Criminal Minds.”

Oh no, not another one of those kinds of women. Someone who expected him to be just like her favorite character on the long-running TV series based on what the Behavioral Analysis Units did. And if she said she was a writer—

“I don’t want to be a nuisance, but I’d love to pick your brain sometime for the book I’m writing.”

He must have flinched because she had the grace to look abashed. “Sorry. I guess I should have waited to pull that one out. Never mind. Pretend I didn’t say anything about it. And please don’t tell Caylor I mentioned it within the first ten minutes.”

“Caylor?”

“Dr. Caylor Evans-Bradley. She’s the friend I know Bobby through. Anyway . . .” She glanced around the kitchen—anywhere but directly into his eyes. Then she did the oddest thing. She pulled a Post-it Note pad out of her pocket and a pen out from her hair (he guessed it had been stuck behind her ear) and started writing. “So . . . um, the pizza should be ready to eat in a couple of minutes. And here’s my cell phone number, in case you have any questions or need to borrow a cup of sugar or something.”

She looked up at him again when he hesitated before taking the sticky note from her. She had amazing blue eyes.

“Thanks.” He slid the slip of paper into the chest pocket of his T-shirt. When she tried to ease past him through the opening between kitchen and hallway, he blocked her path for a moment, just to get her to meet his gaze one last time. “I’ll call if I need anything.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll be right downstairs, then.” She backed toward the door. “If you need anything. Downstairs. One floor.”

He leaned casually against the archway frame. “It was good to meet you Alex. Thanks for the pizza.”

“You’re welcome.” The door closed before it could get even more awkward.

Alex No-last-name-given had to be one of the strangest women he’d ever met. Beautiful, despite being on the heavy side—plus-sized he believed it was called—but the rolled-up jeans and T-shirt she’d worn showed that all of her curves, exaggerated though they were, were in the right places. If he’d had to give a general description: heavy set, chin-length blond hair, blue eyes, mid-thirties, about five-foot-eight. And, he just realized, she’d been barefoot. Obviously very comfortable with just making herself at home.

He hoped she’d try it again.

No New Ideas Under the Sun

Monday, May 18, 2015

Model Nicole Simone as AlexSo, in working on my new story idea, I came up with what I thought was a unique thing for my heroine to be doing in order to research the villain for the new mystery/thriller novel she’s writing. This was so good—and would give me something that could create conflict between her and the hero.

And then I picked up a contemporary romance to read, published in 2006 . . . and the heroine is doing the exact same thing that I had come up with for my heroine to do!

As a writer, have you ever found yourself reading a book that uses the same or a similar idea as the one you’re currently writing? What did you do?

As a reader, how often do you find certain themes, plot lines, or ideas repeating themselves in the books you read? Do you like/dislike it when that happens?

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