I’ve been working on a post inspired by the latest examples of Authors Behaving Badly, or at least Like Complete Idiots. But it’s a lovely Friday near the end of summer, my daughter and I just made the custard for tonight’s vanilla ice cream, and I don’t feel like writing about bad stuff. So I decided instead to launch a new feature I was joking about on Twitter: Authors Behaving Well.
Now, if you’re an author reading this, you’re probably wondering, “How do I get in on this? Imagine the sales boost from being identified as an ABW on a blog with, like, 10 readers!” Well, the good news is, I’ve set the bar for behaving well really low. It’s more like Authors Behaving Like Decent Human Beings. The vast majority do, of course, but no one bothers to comment on it.To qualify as an ABW, you don’t have to write a blog post supporting lending of e-books and explaining to your peers how it’s not piracy (thanks, Jackie Barbosa!); nor do you have to explicitly come out in support of readers who write critical reviews (so many authors, including Jill Sorenson) and their right not to have their personal information posted when they do (this is one of an excellent series by Stacia Kane on author behavior). Sonomalass posted on some other examples a while back. It’s great when authors publicly object to other authors who are Behaving Badly or Being Idiots, but I don’t think delivering a soundbite on every kerfuffle should be in the Official Author Job Description.
My plan is simply to mention when I bought a book mainly because I enjoyed the author’s social media presence. Why start pointing out ABW? Because behaving badly gets attention. It probably leads to sales, at least in some cases. And this seems wrong. Shouldn’t authors doing it right be the ones who get attention and sales? Authors who don’t spam readers or throw fits over negative reviews; authors who do talk about books and their genre in interesting ways, and who engage with readers as people. That’s all it takes for me. Not perfect professionalism. There are authors who’d make my ABW list with whom I’ve had occasional heated conversations. They’re human, so am I, and humans like us sometimes say ill-considered things, and Twitter isn’t the best for judging tone. In my view, the best way to use social media to build a fanbase or promote your work is to be yourself and let people who like that self find you. It worked in my case, at least.
My inaugural Author Behaving Well is Olivia Waite, simply because I read her story Damned If You Do a few days ago. The sequel novella, Hell and Hellion, was released today by Ellora’s Cave (link to publisher, the only place you can buy it right now).
I’m not sure how I started following Waite (@O_Waite) on Twitter. Maybe because she joined a conversation I was part of. Maybe because she followed me, though I hesitate to mention that possibility. I get followed by a lot of writers/hope-to-be writers I have never heard of. They don’t interact with me. They’re Author Spam-bots. I don’t block them because
it seems mean they might act like real people one day I’m too lazy, but I don’t usually follow them. I do look at their Twitter profiles, though, so I don’t miss someone real. Waite’s profile varies but is always funny and intriguing. She follows some of the same people I do, and they follow her. So … not an Author Spam-bot. I followed her. She tweets about her life, her writing, and books she likes. Funny and intriguing, like her profile.
And thus I found myself buying, reading and enjoying Damned If You Do, a short story in a genre I’d usually avoid: paranormal erotic Regency romance, in which the damned Lord Lambourne and Idared, the demoness tasked with punishing him, fall in love. Why did I like it?
- It doesn’t take its mythology too seriously (and I expected this from the way Waite tweets about having fun with her writing). I’m uncomfortable with paranormals that play with my (Christian) mythology (angels, demons, etc.). This one mixes Biblical and Classical myths. We’ve got both Lucifer and Cerberus, for instance. This deliberate, playful mixture meant I didn’t demand that the world make sense–or feel troubled by any theological implications–but just went along for the ride.
- There’s a hilarious parody of the Orpheus myth: Lambourne’s fiancée, Miss Greening, comes down to Hell to effect a most unwelcome rescue, protecting herself with appalling violin playing (she makes it “yell like a cat in love being pressed through a fine mesh screen”). This was my favorite part, and I’m delighted that the resourceful Miss Greening is the heroine of Hell and Hellion.
- Waite has a light hand with world-building. On the face of it, there are way too many elements to develop in one short story. So Waite doesn’t try. Regency? Vaguely alluded to (Lambourne’s rakish career, the clothes he wears back on earth). Romance readers can fill in the rest. Hell? We all have a mental picture of some kind, and know what it’s for, so lengthy descriptions and explanation aren’t needed. The focus is on the characters.
- Although it can’t be fully fleshed out in such a short story (it’s a “Quickie,” i.e. under 15,000 words) there is romance here, not just sex. The sex is not particularly exotic* by today’s erotic romance standards (setting aside the green demon who can pop out wings and a tail at will part) and it’s the emotion that makes it memorable. [*not a criticism. The pain Idared inflicts when she's doing her job is somewhat eroticized, but the sex isn't really kinky. And she has plenty of power. That was nice for a change.] Lambourne allows Idared to be “human,” to be vulnerable, to feel emotion. She allows him some kind of redemption.
This story was a delightful break from longer, more demanding books. It made me look forward to more by the author. Social media win!