Why, Mark? Why?

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

A couple of years back when you decided to go public with Facebook, you made drastic changes to pages set up by authors to promote themselves to the public. You eliminated the newsfeed. You curtailed distribution of posts. You started cluttering up the page.

You evidently think that your average run-of-the-mill author has buckets of cash sitting around just waiting to spend on Facebook promotions.

I have nearly a thousand followers for my author page. Previous to your money grab, virtually all my followers saw my posts. Now, the average distribution on my posts is 7-10 viewers. SEVEN TO TEN! If I want to go past a dozen viewers, I have to spend money. For me, that’s not an option.

Aside from this craven manipulation of data flow to choke free interchange of ideas, you’ve also mucked up the intercommunication between authors and followers by eliminating page newsfeeds. The newsfeed on my author page used to be a way to communicate not only with my followers but also with other authors. I enjoyed seeing other authors’ posts. We had a community. Now that’s gone. If I want to other author pages, I have to visit them singly. No room for dialogue, no community.

So much for your touted goal of “giving people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.” What you mean is giving people with money power to whatever.

Yes, in theory I could ‘friend’ other authors from my personal page—which I have done. But that’s my personal page. It connects with member’s newsfeeds. There, the dialogue isn’t just professional talk. It’s mixed in with mostly personal stuff like kids, food, sickness, politics, and much more that has nothing to do with writing. What’s the point of any page if we can’t function through Facebook in a particular professional role?

Then there’s the mess you’ve made of the page itself. In order to actually see the content of my page, I have to scroll past over-sized boxes giving me choices of what I want to post—create an event, create an offer, advertise my business, start a live video, public a job post, and more. What’s wrong with regular-sized choice boxes like on my personal page? Or a freaking list? At any rate, all these choices are available on the sidebar. WHY cram up the timeline?

Once I scroll past this mess, then I’ve got another big section showing stats for this week and, once again, offers in big button boxes for “more page likes,” promote your website,” “boost a post,” “continually reach more people,” “get more page likes,” and “promote ‘shop now’.” None of this is necessary. It’s easy to accomplish any of these promotional tasks by heading to the left menu or the options across the top of the page. These obstructions are here strictly to get in my way, force me to slow down and stumble around the Facebook obsession with money money money.

Still scrolling down, trying to see actual feedback on my latest post, I’m confronted with a huge blog of photos. Photos I have posted. Why do I need to see this on my page? There’s a photo section I can pull up if I want to see photos I’ve posted. This is more bullshit in my way to functioning efficiently in my goal to communicate with people about my writing. I don’t have time for this!

Then finally we get to my posts. But WAIT! Only a couple, because this is yet another teaser. Once I see the latest two posts, then there’s another big box for events. As in, a chance for me to create an event. And SPEND MONEY!

You know, if I wanted to know about events, I could visit the left side of my screen and click on ‘Events.’ If I want to schedule an event. Or see what’s already scheduled. This is just one more barrier to efficient use of my page. One more in-your-face, poke-in-the-chest assault by Facebook.

Then, FINALLY, I can scroll down through my posts. Sadly, this is no longer the community I once knew but rather dismal evidence that five or seven or ten people saw the post. No dialogue. No fun. Nothing of the promise of what a page is supposed to offer.

So, hey, why not just kill author pages entirely? Why pretend Facebook offers anything more to struggling writers than a way to spend money? Because that’s what you’ve done. Aside from a very few more successful authors who can afford to drops hundreds of dollars to blast their latest post out to thousands of Facebook members day after day, none of the rest of us starving artists get a damn thing from having a page.

Would it kill you to distribute my posts to my followers without squeezing me for money? When and if some of us scrape together enough money to boost a post, we’d still boost. We do want to grow our audience and spending money on Facebook is a good way to do that.

But since your policy changes, we face a situation where we can’t afford to promote our work, meaning we’re selling less than ever, and you’ve thereby decreased our chance to ever have the money to pay for a boost.

Maybe other Facebook member pages aren’t like those of authors. I don’t know all the options for members who set up pages. I just know that you’ve hurt us, taken away one key resource that gave us a chance, and that impact is rippling through the entire indie-author community.

It’s cold. It’s mean. And it’s not making you or your stockholders any richer.

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Writing is Growth

When I started writing erotic romance, sex was the focus. Glorious uninhibited sex scenes with all the descriptive words that made the action come alive. (Heh–no pun intended) For a person like me emerging from a very conservative, religious family, this was a breakout moment.

Now, looking back, I’m not completely thrilled with the result. Oh, don’t get me wrong—the sex scenes are smokin’. But that’s simply not enough.

Stories of any kind are about people. And people are more than sex. While I managed to create compelling sex scenes, I didn’t manage to create compelling life scenes.

So I’ve decided to dive into revising a couple of my early novels with a greater focus on the personal struggle facing the characters. I’m adding scenes that show how they deal with adversity. I’m showing how they grow in the process of facing difficulties, how they develop more self-confidence or come to grips with challenges both internal and external.

This is a thrilling process, delving into the character with greater willingness to sit at my desk and think about them to let their personalities take full form. Before, although there were strong storylines and situational drama, there wasn’t as much depth to the characters as they needed. I’m letting myself feel them now, where they came from, what they worry about, care about, more than the person with whom they’re having sex.

My previous mindset about all this was that sex was the key motivating element. Sex was the transformative event that broke the character from his/her previous point of view and propelled them into a new paradigm. Yes, this is important.

But it’s not enough to be the main thing. I admit it kind of breaks my heart to say that because I’ve always seen sex as having the potential to do exactly that. It still does have that potential, but it’s like a really lovely slab of chocolate cake. It doesn’t make a meal.

It’s exciting to dig deeper and important enough that I can justify taking the time to go the next mile with revision rather than plunging into yet another new story. This learning process about creating stories with rich character and complex plot lines is an important one for any author.

Writing is a multi-phase, multi-layered endeavor. Creating something meaningful out of thin air isn’t an easy pursuit, and it is as much about looking deeper into oneself as it is about thinking up story details. After all, inside our minds and our life experience is where our stories come from. I’m happy to see where I stand on the long road toward ‘great.’

And yes, ‘great’ is my goal!

Happy writing in the new year, everyone.

The Hell of Romance Book Covers

The right stuff

Another holiday season has come and gone. It’s back to the writing desk. And now here’s a fervent plea to photographers hoping to sell stock photos to self-published authors who desperately need images for book covers.

I know it must be difficult to find attractive men with sexy bodies. And you’re doing a semi-okay job with dark-headed men. But please try really hard to produce some decent stock images of blonde men. They surely exist—Brad Pitt comes to mind.

Currently, searches for ‘sexy blond men’ through Dreamstime, iStockphoto, and Shutterstock yield images like these—not a bicep in sight.

Excuse me while I puke.

If I’m looking for a grown-up blonde man with dom tendencies, there is Nothing Out There.

This is heartbreaking because this guy in my story is deeply blonde and this is one alpha male that I refuse to change over to dark hair. I’ve done that before, you know, in desperation for a suitable male cover image.

Now as far as stock photos of men in general, what’s missing are images of men in poses that might actually work on a book cover. Authors don’t need men grinning inanely toward the camera. We need men with attitude, moody and boiling with pent up emotion. We need men standing at a door waiting to knock, men looking away from the camera absorbed in thought, men turning in surprise. Well, I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. Real life stuff.

Currently, what does a search for “sexy man” yield? This guy, for God’s sake. In what universe is this sexy? Or this one?

Okay, maybe for a story featuring a young guy who doesn’t know he’s gay and the breaking in, so to speak, by an older man. That might be sexy.

But the guy on the bed? Clearly he has no idea where to find his own ass. Who figured out that sexy pose? Give me a break.

Then there’s the inane batch of men with super-developed musculature, veins popping as they pose in front of gym equipment. I get that they’re proud of all the time they’ve dedicated to body building, and I get that photographers may feel so desperate to capture images of ‘muscular’ men that they resort to this bizarre subgroup, but I guarantee you that putting an image like this on the cover of a romance novel is a sure-fire route to zero sales. Gak!

Keep in mind, photographers, that virtually all romance for women readers is written by female authors. We are the ones looking at these images for something that triggers a faintly hot response. Muscle bound males grinning like idiots or, worse, looking at their triceps in adoration takes the female libido in the opposite direction. Read: self-absorbed, dude.

What’s wrong with men in sports jackets? Men sitting at a desk in a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up? How about carpenters, electricians, and auto mechanics who epitomize the allure of blue collar men? Cowboys actually on horses?

Oh, and another thing. Please try to tag your images with appropriate descriptions. There’s no reason for this image to show up in a search for “sexy men.” I agree that platforms for stock photo retailers should offer more discriminating search options. Like if I want to search for images of a threesome, why does a photo of a three women show up?

Why can’t I designate that I want to see two males and one female in the image? As it stands now, such a search might yield three women, but more often what shows up is two women with one man. I get that a lot of men have that fantasy, but we’re talking about women’s romance, you know, that market that sells more books than any other genre? Two men!

I appreciate that many photographers and male models may be gay, and maybe it’s that point of view that causes them to label images like this guy as “sexy man.” But in whose feeble imagination, even among gay men, is this ‘sexy’? This is simply embarrassing.

And a turn-off. This and so many other images that turn up in a “sexy man” search feature men who would never garner the description of “sexy” even in the wildest stretch of their own personal fantasies. Elfin, maybe. Jail bait perhaps. Creepy? Goofy?

Why do I have to look through over 170,000 images of idiots like these to find a handful that actually show a truly sexy man with personality, like this one?

Or this one?

The problem with useable images like these is that none of them are blonde, and, more importantly, they’ve been used over and over again by authors desperate for anything that shows a hint of male sexuality. Is it that photographers have no idea what they’re producing photos for?

Yes, I understand that there may be a few uses for sexy male images that are not for romance book covers. What those might be escapes me at the moment, but with romance authors publishing new books at a pace that far exceeds any other genre in the market, and with many of those authors minus the funds required to hire custom images, that leaves a huge opening for photographers/male models to give us what we want!

I think websites like Dreamstime and Shutterstock should set up a ‘want list’ among subscribers  so that there is clear information for photographers on what buyers want. Many photographers obviously go to a lot of trouble trying to meet demand but they’re working in the dark. Why not establish a workable dialogue between the producers and the customers that allows for a better match-up between the two parties?

This is the service retailers should offer instead of just raking in the bucks with a mute line-up of images, poorly sorted by description, and sadly lacking the aspects that made for a salable cover.

And please, for God’s sake, no more crass attempts at humor like this guy in a search for “blonde sexy man”!

FREE READ — Smutty Novella

FREE NOVELLA — A Gift for Jarrod. Not like anything you’ve read before.
Warning: Not for the fainthearted or easily offended. Includes scenes of extreme sexual kink.
It started innocently enough. A rich young man in search of adventure in sadistic humiliation. An older woman intent on her profession as dominatrix. Their crossed paths should have been six weeks of a purely business relationship.
But things never go as planned.
Check in at Instafreebie for your copy: https://instafreebie.com/free/Bdchg

Christmas Special!

Cara Carson only wants one thing, and it isn’t a man. Her new business, Cara’s Kitchen, is all she cares about. Her recipes are perfected and the old house remodel is underway. But on this raw March morning, the contractor isn’t returning her calls, there’s a bulldozer mired in mud on the side lot, and the man operating it has managed to destroy the old willow tree she wanted saved. Furious, she charges across the mire to demand answers and finds her feet stuck and then her heart flailing after the bulldozer operator has to come carry her out.

Morgan Woods never believed in love. Until now, it’s been easy to take and leave women. This woman shouldn’t be any different, except something about her pouty pink lips and her blazing hazel eyes sails past all his defenses. His business-partner dad is sick and his businesses are struggling, but he never wants to let this woman out of his arms.

Can two broken people love again?

5 day special — only 99¢ (Discount ends December 19)

Amazon

Smashwords (all formats)

December Specials!

Heads up, dearies — my monthly FREE newsletter, Liz’s Hot News, will feature coupon deals on novels and short stories plus special treats. Sign up before the December issue release date, Dec 1 to get in on the fun.

Psst! You can unsubscribe at any time! 

Now, for a taste of the holidays, a recipe for my favorite cake and to-die-for icing:

Applesauce Cake

2 ½ cups flour

1 ¾ cups sugar, or 1 cup sugar and ¾ cup honey

1 ½ teaspoon soda

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce

½ cup hot water (⅓ c if using honey)

½ cup shortening

2 eggs at room temperature

Optional: 1 cup raisins and ½ cup chopped English walnuts

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour baking pan, either 13x9x2 or 2 round layers 8 or 9×1½ inches.

Measure wet ingredients into bowl and mix thoroughly. If eggs or water are cold, the shortening won’t blend well.  Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until well blended, then increase mixer speed and beat three minutes. Pour into pans.

Bake oblong 60-65 minutes, layers 50-55 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

When cake has cooled, frost with Penuche Icing.

 

Penuche Icing (Yumm!)

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup milk

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir over low heat 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, then remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.

Stir in confectioners’ sugar then beat with mixer until fully smooth and of spreading consistency. If frosting becomes too stiff, heat slightly while stirring.

FREE NOVELLA

With everything she cared about gone, Dominatrix Macie Fitzgerald has built a new life in service to those seeking pain and submission. She takes pride in her success. So when she accepts Jarrod Bancroft’s application to her next training session, she acknowledges the risk. The ten years that have passed since he was her high school history student have only made him more magnificent in every way.

Life has been too easy for Jarrod Bancroft—rich parents, football star, law degree, high powered job, women by the score. Something is missing. He wants whatever Stonybrook Academy can dish out, much as it scares the hell out of him. And he was right to be afraid. He never imagined this. And the voice behind Madam’s mask sounds familiar, but after days of torture and deprivation, Jarrod’s only thought is to obey.

Macie faces her biggest challenge as she struggles to fulfill her professional obligation to give Jarrod what he wants. What he needs.

Will Santa leave anything under the tree for her? And if he does, can she bear to open it?

~~~

Warning: This novella includes scenes of extreme BDSM as well as a few pages of same sex activity and group sex. For adults only.

~~~

Buy link: Smashwords offers all formats to suit your electronic reading device. I’d love to also make it free on Amazon, but they only allow five days free. So it remains 99 cents on Amazon.

Also, check back here or subscribe to my newsletter, Liz’s Hot News, for announcement of other FREE READS during the coming holiday season. It’s a once-monthly newsletter with excerpts, freebies, pre-release deals, and much more. Sign up at http://eepurl.com/bHOyS9