How we writers want you to read our books.

Today, I read a question on Quora that had me rolling my eyes.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of people will see the question as relevant, given the fact that the study of literature in English encourage people to think a certain way of stories.

The question:

"How do you read a book the way the author wants their readers to?
REPHRASE: Every author has it's purpose for the book, how to you read the book so the author feels respected/happy/satisfied etc?"

Like I said, valid. At the same time, I'm having trouble writing this because my eyeballs got stuck with my pupils aimed at my skull.

Here's why: I believe that the idea of an author's purpose in the context expounded by literature teachers the world over is a myth. 

Sure, some of us like to explore certain aspects of life in my writing. Like racism, or bullying or... spousal abuse. Name it and someone's probably written a book with it in the story already. 

But never (and I've interacted with and read about so many authors I've lost count) have I heard a published author say: "I've always wanted to write a comment on racism/bullying/insert-hot-topic-for-literary-debate-here." 

No! We all want to write about the bullied kid who stands up to the bullies. Or the battered wife who kills her husband with a leg of mutton, then proceeds to feed murder-weapon-stew to the detectives (Roald Dahl wrote that one, by the way). Or some other absolutely low-brow but completely delicious subject.

We fiction writers are weird weird people. We like writing weird and interesting stories. Things that excite us and draw us in. 

And comments on insert-topic-here are about as dry as King Tut's mummy. 

So here's how we writers want you to read our book, the don't-ever-write-this-in-a-literature-essay-or-you'll-be-failed version: 

1) With a suspension of disbelief.
2) With rapt attention.
3) With a sense that you the reader are living the story along with the characters.
4) With trust that the story will lead you the reader somewhere incredibly rewarding.

On top of that, some authors (those who want their books to be lessons) want their readers to think about what they've read. Things like:

1) Would you be able to follow the main characters' examples?
2) What would you do in the situation you've just read about?

All of us want you to remember our stories and characters. We all want you to think about our stories for years to come, and bring it up in dinner conversations so more people will want to read our books. 

Not because we think our comment on insert-topic-here is valid and deserves to be assimilated into many thinking minds. 

But because we put our hearts and souls into stories. We love them, and we want as many people as possible to love them too. 

Readers: Did this come as a surprise to you? 
Writers: Anyone out there who agrees/disagrees with me?


Encounters of the Ghostly Kind

Source: Wikimedia Commons
My upcoming novel The Ghosts of Aquinnah will be published in December, 2013 and, as you may have guessed from the title, the story includes ghosts. Both the literal and the metaphorical kind.

The possibility of the existence of ghosts is something that has always fascinated me. I've always loved ghost stories and I enjoy reading about haunted places and the strange tales that go along with them. But my interest in the possibility of spirits and ghosts went into overdrive after my experience working for hospice in the 1990s.

When working for hospice, the reality of death is obviously unavoidable. I was prepared for that, or at least I thought I was, but what I was totally unprepared for was the unexplained phenomena that sometimes accompany a death.

The majority of our patients were loving people who had lived full lives surrounded by family and friends. While their deaths were sad, they were also peaceful. I was fascinated by the frequency with which these patients told us about long-dead loved ones who came to visit them in their final days. It was as if these deceased family members were coming to comfort our patients and perhaps accompany them to some other plane.

Of course, the rational explanation was that these patients were having hallucinations which brought them comfort and peace.

By contrast, I remember one patient who was a bitter and hate-filled man and, for reasons unknown to me, his family wanted nothing to do with him. I visited him one day not long before he died and it was an experience I have never forgotten.

When I walked to the patient's bed, I found him anxious and downright terrified. He kept pointing at things I couldn't see and insisting that his bed was surrounded. He screamed in fright and grabbed my hand to keep me from leaving when I told him I needed to get back to the hospice office.  He kept asking me the same thing over and over again. "Can't you see them?"

I couldn't see anything, but I can't deny that I could feel something. And what I felt made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

I was certain I had gone completely insane, but one of the hospice nurses told me she had heard of this type of experience many times in her years working for the agency. And a chaplain friend of mine later reported a very similar encounter.

What was it that the man I visited could see but I could not? Again, the obvious answer is that he was simply experiencing a terrifying hallucination. But after being there, I will always believe it was something more, just as I felt certain that the patients who reported friendly visitors were experiencing something more than hallucinations.

I believe there are things that simply can't be explained, and it's not inconceivable to me that there is a spiritual plane that sometimes crosses over into our world. I don't know how or why, but I can't discount the possibilities.

Have you ever had any encounters with ghosts or spirits? Do you believe in the possibility of their existence?

I'm starting a new series on my blog with stories of ghosts, hauntings, and mysterious happenings. Click here to read about the Martha's Vineyard Ghost Ship, which was found in 1804 on the shores of Aquinnah.


Marketing Speculative Fiction

Marketing for any project can be difficult, but for speculative fiction, it's even trickier. You can jump, hop, dodge, swing, or charge at it head on. Everyone has a different strategy. The problem is there's no one way to do it, and this confuses and intimidates people.

Speculative fiction is a term for literature that covers genres such as fantasy, horror, science-fiction, mystery, paranormal, dystopian, romance, and alternate histories. Sometimes, a mixture of two or more of them. Why is it called speculative fiction? These are the "what if" stories. What if fairies were real? What if the monster under your bed could eat you? What if aliens came to earth? These tales propose possible answers to those questions.

You can't simply focus on a fantasy audience or horror fans. A good marketing strategy will want to draw from various audiences. Not all science-fiction fans will love it nor will all romance readers, but some will love the mixture of genres. But how to find them? And what sort of tactics will work with them?

Here are a few tips to finding your audience and marketing to them. Keep in mind that speculative fiction is such a broad genre, and what works for one author might not work for you. You have to find your own path.

Finding your audience:
- Identify the sub-genres of your book. Be very specific.
- What's your hook? Make sure it encompasses your sub-genres.
- Find books similar to yours and research what sort of people reader them. (Age group, where they live, what issues are important to them, interests.)
- Stay up to date on news and trends regarding your specific genres.
- Don't try to make readers with no interest like you. Focus on those that already like what you write.

Once you have a target audience, you can set your marketing goals.
- You know where to find your audience online. Go where they are and be seen. Author sites, forums, fan groups.
- Not only go to where they are online, but put yourself out there at conventions, charities, and other events where your audience flocks.
- Experiment with social media. You'll overwhelm yourself if you try to use all the different forms of social media out there. Perhaps Twitter and blogging will work best, or maybe Facebook and Pinterest. See where you get the most attention and focus your attention there.
- Market yourself. It's not all about your book. What makes you unique? You need to know what your hook is as well. If you're likable and interesting, more people will check out your book.
- Giveaways. People love free stuff.

What marketing strategies have you used? Any tips you're willing to share?

By Christine Rains


The Paranormal - To Believe Or Not To Believe...

What does paranormal mean to you? I am sure all of us have a different definition. To me, it means all things science can't explain. This is also close to the true definition of paranormal.

Paranormal: general experiences that lie outside the range of normal experiences or scientific explanation.

"General experiences."

Have you had one?

I write a lot of spec fic. Mostly, I love to write paranormal. I'm not sure why. I guess it's simply because I've always been fascinated with the darker side of our world. Spirits, demons, and magic all captivated me as a child. They still do. I can tell you this, growing up in a strict catholic home made my childish questions about unexplainable things very hard to answer. A majority of the time I was told to not think that way and go outside and play. Not having the answers to those questions only added fuel to the ever growing fire.

As I got older, I not only had more questions, I experienced more things that had no explanation. Now, I'm not saying that I saw ghosts and tapped into some magical power I didn't know existed within me. (I wish).  But, I did see and feel things other kids/teens my age didn't. 

For example…

Starting when I was in high school during the mid to late nineties every time I saw a picture of New York and the Twin Towers, I would get this odd feeling deep in my bones. I can't properly describe this feeling. All I know is that I'd shudder every time. Literally, I'd have the whole body covered in goose flesh and hard shivering experience. Then when tragedy struck on September 11th, 2001, I was rocked to my core with the rest of America and the world.  Afterwards, the feeling was gone. It's never returned. What was it? Why did I have it in the first place? I'm not someone that can tell the future. 


Since I've been writing paranormal novels I've often wondered if we can tap into some subconscious part in our minds. Half way through the second book in my Nether Trilogy, Nether Soul, I saw a ghost for the first time in my life. I'm not lying. I'd been rudely woken up by my allergies and after having a lovely allergy attack of wheezing, blowing my nose, and coughing I rolled over (fully awake) and saw a male apparition at the foot of my bed. I screamed like a little girl, grabbed my husband's arm, and pulled the covers up so far over my head that you could have considered me a snake tunneling underground. I was, quite literally, terrified. 

My husband said I must have still been half asleep. Well, anyone with asthma and bad allergies will tell you, when you have an allergy attack like that you are very wide awake afterwards. I know what I saw. It also made sense that several days before I'd get the odd sensation that someone was watching me. The feeling was so strong that I used to turn around half expecting my husband to be standing behind me even though he was supposed to be at work.  Each time I turned there was no one there. Not even my cats. The sensation went away after I had my ghost experience and I've never seen the ghost man again, thankfully, because I am a huge scaredy cat. I know and I write paranormal.

Do you believe in the paranormal? Do you think we can tap into that part of the world unknowingly? Have you had any unexplainable experiences? If so my UTR friends and I would love to know.
Bonnie Rae