Friday, January 11, 2008

Great Expectations, or, the Holiday from Hell

posted by Christine Wells
Hallooo everyone!!! I'm SO glad to be back in the lair, you have NO idea!

I missed all the banditas and honorary banditas like crazy, but that's not the only reason I'm glad to be back. Sorry to say that the last few weeks have been the holiday from hell. And no, it's not just because I was forced to leave my laptop behind.

Despite the week at the beach when it rained non-stop and the proposed holiday to an island off the coast of Australia (above, left) where our flight was delayed 6 times over 4 days due to gale force winds, my husband and I were moderately optimistic when we flew down to Victoria (a southern state of Australia), to travel the Great Ocean Road (right).

The sunshine was a good start, as was the lovely country town of Port Fairy (below left and right) and the wineries at Coonawarra (right).

A few dozen bottles of wine later...

We thought we'd left our troubles behind us, but the straw that broke the camel's back was yet to come. We'd booked (as we thought) a charming cottage in a semi-rural setting, where the boys could play outside and see cows and sheep and we could fossick around wineries and olive groves and sight-see at will. When we called the owner to ask about checking in, she said we had to stay at a different property from the one we'd booked.

It was after 7pm, we'd been on the road for around 9 hours and our boys were screaming tired. We thought it a bit strange to be told to go to a different location when we'd spoken to the owner only days before and confirmed the booking, but when she said someone else was already staying in the charming cottage, we had no choice but to drive to the address we'd been given.

Nothing rural or charming about this place. It was a suburban house near a bay but with no view of the water and the only garden it had was a gravel yard with a tin shed out the back.

When we complained, we were told the property had been given the same starred rating as the rural cottage we'd expected, so we shouldn't be upset about the change. But we were upset, and when we tried to explain why, we realized it was because we'd been expecting one thing--looking forward to it very much, in fact--and received something altogether different. Item for item, the facilities in these two places were the same, but the experience each would give us would be poles apart.
And it occurred to me today how similar our disappointment was to the disappointment some readers express about romance novels when an established author tries something different. Readers come to expect a particular experience from a particular author. If that author fails to deliver that experience each time, devoted fans might well end up feeling cheated, even if, judged objectively, the book is just as good as other books by that author. It's not that readers want the same story over and over, it's the similar feeling of triumph over adversity, or light, flippant entertainment or dark, angsty emotion that you want each time you pick up that author's books.

So what do we, the writers, do about that? In some ways, there's no escaping your own voice. If it's a strong one, it shows through no matter what you write and your readers might well follow you up hill and down dale just to get more of your unique voice. Jenny Crusie could probably write a computer manual and I'd read it. But on the whole, I'd say that kind of following is pretty rare. As authors, do we have a duty to write the same but different every time, or should we be free to wander where the muse (or the girls in the basement) takes us?

I'm not sure I know the answer to this question, but after our holiday, I can certainly see both points of view.
What do you think? If you're a reader, do you want your favorite authors to write similar (but different) books each time? If you're a writer, do you feel constrained by this perceived expectation? And anyone else, what's your worst holiday story? One reader will win a copy of SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER and a postcard from my ill-fated holiday!


Deb Marlowe said...


Deb Marlowe said...

OMG--I feel like I won a Rita! I promise not to let my kids pull too many feathers from the Golden Rooster! It's been pretty balmy in NC, so I think he'll do fine, as long as I keep the cat away from him.

Poor Christine! I'm sorry to hear about your bust of a holiday!

Actually I'm one who enjoys when an author takes a new direction. I really like it when they manage to write a couple of genres, although it sounds incredibly daunting. Suzanne Enoch comes to mind--I recently read her first contemp and I really enjoyed it.

Cock a doodle doo!

Christine Wells said...

Woohoo, Deb! Congrats on nabbing the GR!!

Actually, the holiday could have been a LOT worse, but we were so tired and cranky by the end of it, we need a holiday to recover from our holiday.*g*

And yes, like you, I'm always interested when an author takes a new direction. Far more than when they rewrite the same book 20 times. I loved Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked, but many of her fans were affronted because it was a little more angsty than her other books. I thought it was fabulous--unexpected in a good way.

Thanks for the comment!

Amy Andrews said...

Hi Christine. Sorry to hear about your less than expected holiday. Victoria's been really hot too, hasn't it?

I think those expectations can feel terribly constraining especially as us creative types by our very nature dont have limitations or even a say on what comes to us in those strange almost out of body flashes. But I think publishing houses should stop treating their readers with kids gloves. Readers aren't stupid. They're intelligent and inquisitive. I know this cause I'm one as well(when I get time). Readers can make their own minds up if an author they love moves too far of the center line for them. But please lets not constrain our authors to narrow parameters lest it crushes their creativity altogether. Then where would we be? No books to read :-(

brownone said...

Congrats Deb!!

Christine, I hear ya about the horrible trip! I've had too many to count. My dad was a fan of "the road trip vacation". We lived in California and he LOVED to drive to Texas, Florida, and New York. UGH! Do you know how horrible that is for a kid? It is a three day drive from California to Florida and most of the time my dad was too cheap to put on the air conditioning. My sister and I fall into hysterics whenever we talk about those wonderful road trips.

As for authors taking a new direction by writing in a different genre, I don't really mind. I'd check it out. I think what bothers me is when a writer's tone changes within the same genre.

Gannon Carr said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Deb!

I'm so sorry that your holiday didn't go as planned, Christine. The pictures are lovely, though. Australia is on my list of must see places!

Years ago, I went on what I lovingly refer to as "the trip from hell." Before my husband and I had children, we drove from Florida to Maine with his parents right after Christmas. This ordinarily wouldn't have been so bad, since I loved my in-laws (they are both deceased now). But my father-in-law was manic/depressive and was in a manic phase--not pretty. It took 3 days to reach Maine, but we made it back to FL in 2!! That should tell you the state of affairs. It's something we laughed about after the fact, but not at the time.

I don't mind when an author changes directions, as long the voice stays true. I was a little skeptical when Lisa Kleypas switched to contemporaries, since I adored her historicals. But SUGAR DADDY was fabulous! Lisa can write both contemps and historicals so well--gives me more to read, too. :)

Gillian Layne said...

Oh, I'm so sorry Christine. Our motto is, if the kids aren't happy (within reason, of course) then nobody's happy! And since our vacations can be few and far between, I always have high expectations!

Sanibel Island and Colorado Springs were both way better than my expectations--loved them!

Two years ago we were visiting Maine for the first time on my youngest daughter's 6th birthday--and she was really, really carsick. Laid out flat on a bench while the other two girls were enjoying their first lobster rolls. But the wonderful inn keeper in Rockport--a true Irishman, and a true gentleman as well-- brought her a leprechaun doll. He made her day.

I'm grateful for one good book at a time, and don't care if writers switch "moods" or genre's, as long as they keep writing! :)

Ann M. said...

Must be something about the Great Ocean Road. Our horror story was when we went down on Australia Day Weekend. We left early and enjoyed the drive. Got to our hotel only to find out the person with whom I spoke with on the phone never wrote it down. No room available at the hotel. They were nice and called around until they found a room for us. Dh was ready to drive back to Melbourne instead of spending the night.

I believe that some authors could write a grocery list and I'd read it because it will be interesting. I have followed authors into other genres - some successfully and others not.

Beth said...

Congrats on snatching the GR, Deb!

Great post, Christine, though I am sorry about your unexpected holiday from hell. Reminds me of the Berenstain Bears book, Too Much Vacation, a great storybook *g*

Unfortunately, we haven't been on many vacations but it seems like every time we head up to the lake, we get rotten weather :-) Must check and double check the Weather Channel before leaving the house *g*

Anonymous said...

Christine, I can't believe they tried to pass off some lousy suburban home as the same thing as a storybook cottage! The nerve!

Our vacation from hell was a couple of years ago when we flew from Oregon to Pennsylvania for Christmas with our 2 and 4 year olds. We only had four days in PA to visit (plus two full days of traveling), and my brother was only there for the first day and a half. So the first disaster was the second leg of our flight was repeatedly delayed and finally cancelled, so we got stuck in a cruddy hotel in Washington overnight, lost one full day of our trip and missed most of the chance to visit with my brother.

Then the 4 year old started throwing up in the hotel.

Then we finally got there, and found the rest of the family had a flu.

Then the 2 year old got the croup and we spent another of our remaining days at the doctor.

Yeah, it was FUN!! :-)

As for the author's responsibility, I'm going to duck the question because I'm not sure an author can really do anything other than write the story that's inside them. If an author is trying to write a certain way and it's not true to the story they want to tell, I think it's going to sound like crap. So it defeats the purpose. Crappy writing doesn't satisfy readers or authors.

There is a huge responsibility that rests with the publisher to accurately package the book so readers know what they're getting. I hate hate hate when they sell you a "funny, heart-warming story" that's really about how everyone the heroine loves dies. Know what I mean? If it's dark, they should sell it as dark. If it's light, they should sell it as light.

I think this is the real problem when an author tries to tell a different type of story than they've told before. The publisher tries to market it as the same type of story, so the fans get misled. They might have been happy with the different type of story, if they knew what was coming.

Glad to have you back, dear! No more vacations for you for a long time!!

M. said...

my wishy-washy view - whether it not something new from a familiar author would fly would depend mostly, i think, on how well it were executed.
not very helpful perspective, i know, but i'm comparing it to other kinds of entertainment - how many times has an actor decided that because they were good at acting, it meant that they were a good singer as well? or models turned actors? or interior designers suddenly deciding they should give fashion or food advice as well? when someone is very good at one thing, i think it carries them a long way in a new type of activity even if they might not have the talent to back it up.

jo robertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jo robertson said...

Wonderful topic, Christine. In my book club yesterday, we discussed the brilliant THE PALE BLUE EYE by Louis Bayard. Well, I thought it was brilliant; some of my compatriots nit-picked LOL.

One person mentioned John Grisham's latest book and that reminded me of his first lawyer-ish thriller A TIME TO KILL, which was wonderful. As I've watched his career, I see he's tried to break away from that genre and written books about baseball and pizza and STUFF.

I feel nothing's come close to the lawyer books and I've been disappointed with every one. I think he started in the niche in which he's great, got bored with it and tried other kinds of writing.

Writers often want to try another venue for writing and I understand that. I certainly do! But the readers are the judges of whether it works or not. If you care enough about the writer you'll let him/her meander around a bit, follow the muse, but return, hopefully to the genre in which he "made his bones."

Christie Kelley said...

Christine! What a story! I hope your next holiday is much nicer.

Sorry I haven't been around much this week. I've been hiding in the cave trying to get this second book finished.

And this was an interesting post for me to read because as I'm writing this second book, I'm seeing similarities to the first book and I'm not sure I like that. Dealing with the regency time period and men who aren't true rakes is making my life miserable. A true gentlemen should ask his lady to marry him after they do the mattress dance, shouldn't he? That happens in the first book but what about book 2?

And I can't believe I missed the GR this morning. I checked the blog at 7:11 and Deb and beaten me to it by one minute.

Donna MacMeans said...

Christine - Glad to have you back in one piece. Did the inn make some sort of restitution for the switch? Yes, the amenitites might be the same, but you're correct about expectations and they should understand that.

Wonderful post, BTW, and lovely segue into writing. I think an author needs to expand their horizons periodically or they'll go insane *g*. I think Kirsten is right when she says it's the publisher's responsiblity to market the book so the reader knows that the author is trying a new road. Sometimes that means a psuedonym (J.D. Robb comes to mind), sometimes just a different feel to the cover. I don't think bait and switch is a good idea (which is what that inn did to you). That's bound to leave some readers disappointed.

Deb Marlowe said...

Sorry Christie!

Actually I was convinced that I would NEVER get the GR, because I am so not a night owl.

I could hardly believe my luck this morning! I'm going to enjoy it because it will be a long time coming again!

BTW--The rooster had a lovely lunch with the kiddies and I at Schlotskey's Deli. He's into the sourdough.

Christie Kelley said...

Deb,I hear you about the night owl thing. And being on the east coast means we only stand a chance when a bandit posts in the morning.

petite said...

What a nightmare. Sorry about your experience. I guess life has those surprises for everyone. We had booked a cottage and it was a disaster so we spent the entire time out at the beach. It is comfortable when an author stays to the tried and true but a change sometimes works well and is worth the experimenting.

flchen1 said...

Oh, big hugs, Christine! I'm so sorry that you had such a disappointing experience with your vacation! I do hate not getting what you expect, especially when it's such a big thing for your whole family!

And thanks for transforming that into a great post today! I usually don't mind when an author tries something new--I think Kirsten made some excellent points about being true to one's story and voice, and about the publisher's responsibility to make sure that the book's marketed and presented properly. I would hate to not learn of a different direction and feel misled.

I guess that's the bottom line--I don't like to expect one thing and get another. So authors should feel free to explore new arenas, but I shouldn't be told that it's the same one as before if it isn't :)

Sorry if that doesn't make much sense--clearly not a writer! ;)

Oh, and congrats on the GR, Deb!

Jane said...

I think I would be excited if my favorite authors decided to try new genres even though I might have a preference for one over the other. I love all of Julie Garwood's books, but I prefer her historicals over her contemporaries. On the other hand, I like Heather Graham's paranormals and suspenses equally. Another favorite author, Lisa Kleypas, recently released her first contemporary. I think I would be more excited if she released a historical, but I will still give her contemporary a try.

Maureen said...

It's too bad about your vacation. It's those darn expectations we all have about our vacations. When writers go in a different direction sometimes I enjoy their work even more and sometimes I don't like the new work as much but I don't get upset about it.

CrystalGB said...

Sorry to hear your vacation didn't live up to expectations.
I find that as long as the story is good that it is ok for authors to spread their wings and try new things.

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Deb, did you say you were BARMY in NC? Hmm, that I can believe! ;-) Congratulations on the GR!!! He hasn't been to your house before, has he?

Christine, your holiday story makes me believe in astrology. You know, every planet in the universe was lined up to put you and your family through their paces! Just to play Devil's Advocate on your question, sometimes when author's change genre or tone, the new format doesn't suit their voice as well as the old one.

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Christine, an example of when it's worked for me when a beloved author changed genre was when Connie Brockway who wrote the most wonderful historicals wrote a contemporary, and closer to women's fiction than romance (although there's a lovely romance in it). But the book Hot Dish was fantastic! One of my best reads of last year. And you could tell she knew those people and those places in Minnesota like the back of her hand and that familiarity added this wonderful depth to the story.

Anna Campbell said...

Christie, I think the proposal after the mattres dance (what a lovely phrase) is just a staple of the genre. If it's right, use it, in my opinion! In my first two books, I had two heroines who refuse the hero for his own sake. Is it repeating myself? Please don't answer that. Or is it just that that's the sort of story I tell? By the way, I went really wild in book three and that's not the plot! Snork!

Loving these stories of disastrous holidays. They weren't fun at the time, I'm sure, but they're fun to read about!

Helen said...

Welcome back Christine sorry your holiday didn't turn out as expected is that first picture of Norfolk Island not that I have been there but I would love to go there.

Congrats Deb on the GR the two of you should have a fun day.

We have had some rough holidays over the years when the kids were young never had much money but we still made the best of what we had but we haven't had a holdiay for a while hopefully this year sometime.

If I have found an author I like I will read their work but I must be honest I am pretty much a historical reader comtempories just don't draw me in although I have read some very good ones that I truly have enjoyed and if I have read their work in another genre I am very willing to read anything they write each author has there own style and voice and once I have found someone I love I go all out to find their backlist and make sure I have their newest releases.
Have Fun

Joan said...

OMG--I feel like I won a Rita!

LOL, Deb! You know I think you could pose him like a RITA!

Christine. So sorry you had such a rough holiday. It really stinks to look forward to something and then not have it turn out the way you wanted.

Several years ago, my BFF, her daughter and I were going to Disneyworld. We were suppose to leave Louisville at 1pm. Plane problems enused.

There were multiple delays and we ended up not leaving until 11pm. The flight crew had been "forced" to fly back to Orlando and the attendants were NOT happy. As we got settled the head attendant made an announcement "We should be in our hotels in bed!"

To a person, the plane load of people said "So should we!"

My BFF had dozed off and when they came through offering drinks they THREW the bag of peanuts on top of her! We got vouchers for that service.

Get to our Disneyworld resort at 1 am and as we're being taken to our room I was looking to see where the waterview I'd paid extra for was the POOL!

Then when we finally all got to sleep were awaken at 8am by a heavily accented maid asking about our check out time!

As to favorite authors writing in different genres. You know some can and some can't I am really disappointed in the publishing decisions to take advantage of a trend (i.e.paranormal) with their name recognized authors...and it is a disaster. Not good for the author IMHO

Cassondra said...

Congrats Deb on the GR! That's how I felt when he came to my house. Sounds like you're treating him as royalty with the yummy bread. I wouldn't worry too much about the cat. Our rooster has survived a lot in his travels. And they're tough birds after all (more to say about THAT exact point when I blog next week).

Oh, Christine, that's so ROTTEN. Awful to look so forward to something--all the buildup--then have it crash and go up in hellish flames.

Like Donna, I'd say you're entitled to restitution--even a cheaper rate--for the disappointment. That's not what you were sold, regardless of the inside amenitities. At least you'd be entitled here in the states. I forget that you're NOT here in the states sometimes--and things are not always the same in other countries. (If I come to Australia, you must remind me not to tip or I'll be considered rude, right?)

And as to that, I think it sounds as though your vacation was a throw-the-book-against-the-wall moment. And I would have--thrown the book, that is.

It's not when an author changes sub-genres or story types that bothers me--and yes, I agree that it's up to the house to market it as what it is--BUT muse notwithstanding, I think the thing that separates the professional writer from the hobbyist is the ability to not only put butt in chair and produce, but to produce what is expected.

Not the same story over and over. NEVER that. In fact, the opposite. But a good read. A read that has the same level of emotional honesty or "oh no they'll never make it"---the same INTENSITY I suppose. The expected "experience."

If an author decides she's going to write a book in which the heroine dies at the end, it bloody well better not have romance on the spine or I'll go homicidal.

If a Blaze author like Tawny decides she's going to switch and do dark angst like Anna Campbell, well, the cover better reflect that--and maybe she needs a pseudonym. As a READER I think I need that. As a WRITER, I have to think about those things--as much as I want to follow my muse, I think as a professional, I also have to think about my readers and their expectations. It's been a long time, but a wise mentor sometime in my past said "think long and hard about what you sell, cuz the house is going to expect MORE OF IT."

Nevertheless, it's clear that we get burnout, so I guess it's all in how we market the change.

Christine Wells said...

I agree, Amy, you really can't let yourself think about others' expectations too much in the writing process. By the same token, my publisher is sinking money into producing my books and promoting them. I can understand they want to play it safe by going with what has worked before. It's a balancing act, really. And there's always the option of taking another pen name:)

Christine Wells said...

Ack! Brownone, I still don't much care for road trips and as a kid I got car-sick, so no one was terribly keen to take me on one, thank goodness.

Interesting about changing tone with the same genre or subgenre bugging you. I think you're probably not alone there.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Gannon! My commiserations over that terrible road trip! WHy are the worst holidays always road trips?

I've only recently 'discovered' Lisa Kleypas's historicals and I'll probably read all of them before I try her contemporaries. But I think she's a fantastic writer and I'm very prepared to like whatever she writes, too. Glad to hear Sugar Daddy lived up to your expectations!

Christine Wells said...

Gillian wrote:
I'm grateful for one good book at a time, and don't care if writers switch "moods" or genre's, as long as they keep writing! :)

Hey, Gillian, that's an attitude writers like to hear! And I so agree with you about children's happiness being the key to a good holiday. We've vowed to go to the beach every year until they're old enough to enjoy more 'exotic' things.

Christine Wells said...

Ann m, I'm told accommodation managers often double-book people along the Great Ocean Road because very often their guests don't turn up. But we'd already paid!!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Beth, yes I loved the Berenstain Bears when I was a child and I know the book you're talking about!

Weather can be a great enemy on holidays, can't it? It was certainly against us this time, but that's what you get for booking in cyclone season:)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Kirsten! Oh, that holiday story certainly tops (or bottoms) mine! Nothing is worse than kids getting sick.

I agree about writing the story that's inside you. My editor gives me a lot of freedom in that respect. I'm at the start of my career so I suppose I'm not as constrained as someone like Julia Quinn might be. My second book, The Dangerous Duke, is much sexier than Scandal's Daughter and there's a suspense plot as well. The book I'm writing now, Indecent Proposal is sexier again (hmm, what might this be saying about me?) and more intense. I thought I might be told to stick with the same style of story as Scandal's Daughter but that hasn't been the case at all. So, it can be flexible.

On the other hand, I don't think Anna Campbell will be allowed to write romantic comedy historicals any time soon:) It's a bit of a shame because she's great at those, too.

catslady said...

As to authors writing the same thing - as long as it's a good book they can write anything they want.

So sorry about your holiday. My worst experience happened a long time ago. My husband got R&R from Vietnam and I was to fly from PA to Hawaii to meet him. I was 19 and knew nothing about traveling. I was able to get a nonstop flight. As it happened his father was stationed there at the time. The person I sat next to asked what island I was flying into which put me in a panic for the whole flight. I didn't know there was more than one. And then I was meeting my father-in-law for the first time. But the bad part of the trip was getting home. My husband had a 4AM flight out and leaving him was bad enough, I had the last flight out that night and since FIL worked I went out to an isolated beach to cry my eyes out and got the one and only horrible sunburn of my life. Then we took off in a horrible thunderstorm. I don't think I've ever felt so horrible in my life. They served mushroom omelettes for breakfast and to this day I can't even look at one. I was so sure I was going to be sick all over the priest I was sitting next too. I had to switch flights and almost missed the connecting flight and of course my luggage got lost. Luckily I've never had such a bad experience again.

Christine Wells said...

m, you're not wishy-washy, I think you're essentially saying you're open to new directions and that's all an author can ask. You can't make yourself like something when you don't, that's half the fun and pain about this business, it's so unpredictable! In fact, it's great that you can't dictate taste, because otherwise we'd all be told what we had to write. Thanks for commenting!

Christine Wells said...

Jo, interesting that you don't like Grisham's non-lawyerly works. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if authors couldn't leap into other genres and trade on the name they made in the first one they broke into the market with. If they had to compete on equal footing with all the other unpubbeds and they still get published, then that's a different story. Is that too harsh? But sometimes the market knows what you're good at better than you do. If you're looking for personal fulfilment by taking a new direction, you shouldn't trade on the name you made AND be at liberty to whine because the audience you built doesn't like the new stuff, IMO. Is that harsh?

MsHellion said...

Hmmm, I don't mind if my authors, if I love their voice enough, switch back and forth between genres. I hate it when they leave it altogether. For instance, I cut my romance teeth on Julie Garwood historicals, and although her romantic suspenses are as good, in her voice--they don't hold the same charm for me as her scottish historicals. They just don't.

I'm forgiving if you want to bounce between genres...that I understand...but I'm not forgiving when you set up my expectations in other books (since frequently authors will use secondary characters from other novels to move into H/H roles in future books) and then not following through. One favorite author of mine, wrote the next book in the series, spent an extraordinary amount of time leading us to think the H/H were going to be Thus and So...but when I bought the book, I found out I had Thus...but she hooked her up with That instead of So. After all the leads and promises. After that, it didn't matter if it was a good book. It didn't matter it was in her voice. It didn't matter that the book that featured So showed he was better off with his new heroine...

I hold a grudge. Hocked all her books. Went to authors who didn't give me leads they didn't follow through with.

Cassondra said...

Wow, Hellion.

I think you and I are the same type of reader. Don't take me part way down a path to the country, then build a subdivision around me.

Interesting. And you hocked the books, eh? Now that's a grudge! (grin)

I'll, uh, have to remember that since I do lots of secondary characters who happen to be headed certain directions....

Christine Wells said...

Hi Christie, great to see you. Don't worry about taking cave time. The book has to come first! Hope it's going well.

A true gentlemen should ask his lady to marry him after they do the mattress dance, shouldn't he?

This is a problem I had with a lot of Regency historicals when I first started reading them. Probably a gentleman wouldn't do the mattress dance in the first place! But there are all sorts of reasons why the hero can't or won't offer marriage, or perhaps he does and the heroine can't or won't marry him. Or perhaps they do marry and that complicates things even further? Actually, to be honest, I don't think readers mind too much. They're far more likely to criticize for not enough sex than think the hero a cad for not offering marriage, IMO.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Donna, you're right, no one likes a bait and switch! No, we're not getting restitution. The owner saw nothing at all wrong with what she'd done. We ended up deciding that the money wasn't worth the angst of suing, which is what we'd have had to do, I think. However, the owner's name is mud with a very large travel agency here, so she'll lose a lot of business as a result of this debacle. We'll have to be satisfied with that.

Christine Wells said...

Deb and Christie, the late post was my fault because I only got back late yesterday and it took me until about 8pm just to write it and get all the pics where I wanted them! Darn blogger!

Glad my tardiness gave you a crack at the rooster, Deb:) Sourdough, huh? That GR certainly has champagne tastes!

Christine Wells said...

Hi petite! Thanks for commenting. Yes, the answer to dreck accommodation is to go out, but we'd been driving and driving for days and we wanted to stay IN! We were so tired and this place really deflated us. I was so glad to get home.

Amy Andrews said...

Okay Kirsten said it more eloquently than I. It is the publishers responsibility to package the book correctly so readers know exactly what they're getting.

Cassondra - how true is that? Think long and hard about the genre you want to write because you'll be stuck with it. Publishers are VERY resistant to change. I understand its such a cut thrat industry but I still think they need a little courage and belief in their authors. As long as the new direction is still a good book. I guess everyones right - it alwasy gets back to is this a gooid book or not?

James Patterson is a good example. I love his murder mystery books. But he wrote a completely different one a few years back, a love story where the husband dies and leaves a letter or a diary or something for his wife - can't think of the name - and it was so tender and beautiful and poignant. This from a man who usually writes serial killers. I would buy anything he published because whatever the genre he writes a damn good book.

Great topic Christine!!

Christine Wells said...

flchen1, you sounded very much like a writer, actually, and made a lot of sense! I think it's all horses for courses. If you only write one book a year, then IMO you probably owe your publisher a bit of consistency. They've not only bought one book, they've invested in your career and if you start writing fluffy bunny stories when they bought gritty angst, I'm not so sure they'll be happy.

But if you can write 4 books a year, then you can probably publish under different pen names and genres and still keep everyone happy.

I know I can't dictate how a story plays out when I'm writing it, but I can select and discard ideas and premises I come up with when I'm brainstorming, based on what I know my readers might expect. If I lost the thrill of writing the kind of book my readers expect I think I'd look at writing under another pen name, rather than passing off a new style under the old banner.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Jane, thanks for commenting! Interesting what you say about trying new things but maybe preferring one genre to another. That's my most common experience, too.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Maureen! A very sensible attitude.*g*

Christine Wells said...

Crystalgb, I'm finding it very encouraging that we have so many responses in favour of authors trying new things. I plan to be in this business a long time and I'm in no hurry to change direction but I might want to one day. THanks for commenting!

Christine Wells said...

Anna C wrote:
Just to play Devil's Advocate on your question, sometimes when author's change genre or tone, the new format doesn't suit their voice as well as the old one.

Actually, you're not playing devil's advocate, Foanna, I agree with you on this. Lisa Kleypas said that the historical voice comes a lot more easily to her than the contemporary (which is no reflection on how good the books are, btw) but it's true that an author often is suited to one style and not another. I haven't read Hot Dish but I'll put it on my TBR pile stat!

Christine Wells said...

Anna C wrote:
Loving these stories of disastrous holidays. They weren't fun at the time, I'm sure, but they're fun to read about!

Actually, even at the time, we were wishing Ben and Vikki, the friends we've shared many bad holiday experiences with, were there to enjoy the moment. We will definitely laugh about this! Especially the hank of mousy hair in the shower dh found. Ewww!

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, thanks for those lovely words about the comedies. And as I've said here before, it's ironic I've ended up doing angst and drama because I think my natural voice is a comedic one. But I can also see why Avon don't want to set me up as a leading denizen of Regency Noir Land and then find out I've moved into Fluffy Bunny Territory. I think I owe it to them to at least try and establish a career in dark and dangerous and then move onto silly and charming!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Helen! Yes it is Norfolk. SOrry, I should have said. Somehow, after that experience I don't think I'll want to go there again, unless it's to do some duty free shopping.*g* I was looking forward to a new designer handbag, I must say:)

I tend to prefer historicals, too, actually, but I'm discovering great authors in other subgenres all the time. Just wish I had more time to read!

Christine Wells said...

Thanks, Joan. Sorry to hear about that dreadful flight. I'm starting to think I should aim to get to National early just in case...

I wonder whether it really is publisher driven when authors take advantage of new trends. I've seen so many authors say they'd always wanted to write paranormal/vampire/whatever and finally are at liberty to try when the market is there because the publishers agree to take that particular risk when the market's hot. I agree, you can't fake it and take advantage of a trend. Thank goodness historicals are back! I don't think I could write a vampire book to save my life.

Christine Wells said...

Hey Cassondra, it's never considered rude to tip here! Just a little unnecessary in some cases because employers tend to pay their people decent wages. I tip bell boys, pizza deliverers and I also add a tip when I eat at a restaurant and the service has been great, but that's it. It's certainly not a crime if you don't tip. I'll be terrified when I come to the US that I'll forget and really offend someone or not get the amount right, so you'll have to help me out with that!

As for restitution, my husband is a lawyer and we are very reluctant to sue anyone because we know the headaches and costs far outweigh any benefit you get out of it. DH has enough of all that in his day job and all it would have done was extend the bad experience. I think we probably would have had to sue in this case because the woman just didn't get our point of view at all. Not worth it. We'll just write it down to experience.

And I agree that writers should be professional but there's also that element of creativity that you can't quite ignore. You need the fire in your belly to write good books. If the fire has gone out, for whatever reason, can readers really blame you for trying something that does get you excited again? Not many of us are in this for the money, so I think maybe there should be a little give and take here. As I said, I'm not sure I have the answer, I'm just sayin' *g*

Christine Wells said...

Oh, Catslady, not the mushroom omelette!! You poor thing, that must have been awful. It's amazing how trials pile on top of one another and losing your luggage as well as your lunch would have been the last straw.

Christine Wells said...

Mshellion, you really got mad, didn't you?LOL But I agree that authors need to fulfil certain expectations, particularly genre authors. Every book holds a promise and if you break it, you can bank on a very angry reader!

That's why I think the 2 heroes thing is always risky. A skilful writer can steer the reader towards the 'right' man but I'm sure there are always readers who wanted it to be the other one and throw book at wall.

Christine Wells said...

Cassondra wrote:
Don't take me part way down a path to the country, then build a subdivision around me.

Snork! Love it. Cassondra, anyone tell you you should be a writer?:)

Christine Wells said...

Amy Andrews said:
Think long and hard about the genre you want to write because you'll be stuck with it.

Yes, that's another reason not to follow trends, I think. You'll kick yourself when the market turns. Although we do know some authors who write in multiple genres, don't we, Trish Milburn? Kirsten?

Christie Kelley said...

Christine and Anna,

Thanks for the advice! I guess this is different because in my first book, she rejects him because she does't want marriage. In the second book, if he does propose, she would reject him for his sake.

Christine said, "Actually, to be honest, I don't think readers mind too much. They're far more likely to criticize for not enough sex than think the hero a cad for not offering marriage, IMO."

That's really not a problem in either story! LOL!

Cassondra said...

Christine wrote:

Hey Cassondra, it's never considered rude to tip here! Just a little unnecessary in some cases because employers tend to pay their people decent wages. I tip bell boys, pizza deliverers and I also add a tip when I eat at a restaurant and the service has been great, but that's it. It's certainly not a crime if you don't tip. I'll be terrified when I come to the US that I'll forget and really offend someone or not get the amount right, so you'll have to help me out with that!

Of course you'll have loads of help with's not like any of us are going to let you aussie girls out of our sights--we don't get to see you but once a year at best! And you know, it was a young woman from Australia who told me (but this was a long time ago) that I shouldn't tip over there...she said something like "we're such a democratic society that they'd be offended and think you considered them lower than yourself...." Scared me to death. HERE, servers and bartenders make their living from tips. It's a way of making certain that the good ones hold onto the jobs. If you're a lousy server or are rude to the customer, you lose most of your money! I'll definitely need help if I ever make it down under.

And I agree that writers should be professional but there's also that element of creativity that you can't quite ignore. You need the fire in your belly to write good books.

That's what scares me most Christine. I have several genres I'd like to write in. I probably fell into romantic suspense because I sleep with my reference (former special forces husband) and my plots seem to naturally end up with a lot of bodies strewn about...

I've watched a lot of writers who, though they would not admit it in public, I believe felt really "stuck". You know your books must lose their spark when that happens.

p226 said...

There is no parallel to the "change of style" you speak of as there is in music. When Motley Crue released "Home Sweet Home" millions of die-hard Crue fans vowed to never buy another song from them. Of course, Crue also GAINED about ten million fans by softening up. Metallica, with the Black album completely changed their style. They'd hired Bob Rock (Producer for such bleeding edge hard-shredding death metal bands as .... Poison....) to help them produce the album. What happened was an irreversible slide towards radio rock. Yes, Metallica picked up millions of fans when they did this. But they lost their die-hard fan base that would've continued to buy albums long after Billboard has forgotten about them. And Billboard has definitely forgotten them. I was a Metallica fan going back as far as their first commercial album. I felt betrayed. I now have trouble listening to their old stuff (which rocked) because I'm now aware of how poseur-ish they wound up. I still play a lot of their old stuff on my guitar though. Mainly because it's *fun* to play.

Sometimes though, the exact opposite happens. A metal band named Pantera had been around for a LOT longer than most people realize. Pantera is known as one of the hardest rocking metal bands ever. But no one remembers when they were a glam-rock hairband that looked like a bunch of cross dressers. They made a major change, and it paid off HUGE for them.

Sometimes, changes happen from outside influences in music. Somehow, Ozzy kept his fan base after Randy Rhoads (one of the best rock guitarists ever) was killed in a plane crash with the tour bus. But ozzy kept the musical format the same. He kept the same edgy melodies. He hired a guitarist that was sorely under-rated solely because he was attempting to fill the shoes of one of the most innovative and talented rock guitarists to ever string an axe. But consistency got him through the decade. Ozzy (now with his third guitarist) is still a Rock/Metal icon. I honestly credit Sharon Osborne's business sense.

The thing is, I can't remember an author that I've ever followed that changed his voice or his subject matter. The only fiction writer from whom I can recall reading multiple books is Steven King. And he's been very consistent with his voice, though his subject matter has varied broadly. I don't think I read enough fiction to even recognize such a thing. But I have to question if I'd ever buy a romance novel by Tom Clancy. (Keep in mind that I don't read romance) Just because he's Clancy doesn't mean I'd be interested in his genre hopping.

I mean, just how drastic of a direction change are we talking about?

Christine Wells said...

Hi p226, that's a great parallel, using the music industry, I think. And as you say, there are all kinds of degrees of change. Seems like the bigger the change, the readier readers are to accept it, because it's not a bait and switch. You know you're getting something completely different, even if you sort of wish the author would stick to what you love.

It's funny that bands often 'sell out' by changing and making their style more commercial, whereas authors are more often seen to 'sell out' when they stay the same. How many times have we heard a reviewer or writer scoff at a writer for writing the same book over and over, but the readers keep coming back for more? It's when we change to stretch ourselves creatively that the readers tend to feel cheated. Maybe it's because you can't actually get published without a certain mass appeal, whereas you can start playing in a band anywhere and build your audience first without necessarily getting a record deal straight away. I see a lot more room for 'niche' acts in music than I do in NY print commercial fiction, but what would I know.

Not sure if I'm making sense! I'm a bit out of it at the moment:) Still getting over my holiday.

p226 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassondra said...

P226 wrote:

I mean, just how drastic of a direction change are we talking about?

It's not actually about Clancy writing romance. It's about Clancy changing what he writes WITHIN his genre.

No publishing house would try to market, Say, Christine's work as romance if she decided to write a thriller and have the heroine and hero die in the last chapter.

But, let's say, since you've read some Clancy and are familiar with his heavy-on-the-technical style/voice, that he wrote a book in a far more literary voice, included the action and suspense, but NONE of his signature technical jargon?

And what if Stephen King wrote a book, but there was no suspense in was a work of literary fiction--all internal and "head" angst? Nothing every really happens, it's just a bunch of internal dialogue...

Those are the best examples I can think of with the authors you've mentioned. Romance readers tend to want certain particular things from their entertainment.

Like, when Sandra Bullock tried to step out of her typecast roles and made the movie 28 days, for instance. It sort of just didn't work as well as the typical stuff you're used to watching Sandra Bullock do. Whether that was bad writing, bad directing, a bad choice of role????? It's difficult to say (though critics don't mind saying plenty, for good or for ill).

I didn't enjoy that film. But as a rule I like Sandra Bullock films.

So unless you follow particular authors enough to get used to their voices and understand that they "do" a certain thing, it's difficult to describe the shift of which we speak.

p226 said...

Oh... worst holiday story...

Got this one in the bag.

My first year inside the beltway my wife and I worked for a couple. A very interesting couple. Doing very interesting things I can never ever talk about. My wife and I had moved down that year. She had NEVER been more than 60 miles from home.

Well, it's Christmas eve. The husband in this "couple," we'll call them the Smiths... well... he was a bit of a... um... player. Mrs. Smith found some pants in Mr. Smith's laundry with some very interesting stains. Mrs. Smith was a very powerful woman with very powerful connections. Very powerful. Mrs. Smith somehow gets her husband's pants in front of the line at a very well respected forensics lab. They returned four hours later via courier with a report stating that the "interesting stain" on Mr. Smith's pants was lipstick and um... some other bodily fluids.

Picture a mushroom cloud. Like Hiroshima. Bikini Atoll. Yeah. It was kind of like that.

So, Mrs. Smith promptly jumps in her brand new Jag to head to the office. Fortunately, she saved a little gas, because Mr. Smith's brand new S series Benz was parked outside the Starbucks near the office. Mr. Smith is standing behind it talking over the fence to someone in the little outside patio of the Starbucks when he looks up to see a Jaguar bearing down on him with the throttle WIDE OPEN. He dives out of the way with milliseconds to spare as she proceeds to do thousands of dollars in damage to both cars. She jumps out of the Jag after and starts chasing him with *MY* $75.00 four D-Cell Maglite flashlight. Ever seen one of those? It's quite a club. Mr. Smith jumps inside the wrecked Benz to get away. She manages to shatter the driver's side window of the Benz before the cops get there. Ever seen the window on an S series Benz? It's about three inches thick. That woman was *angry*.

Well, Mr. Smith, feeling a *tad* guilty manages to talk the cops OUT of attempted murder charges by explaining "dude, I just got COLD BUSTED. What would YOUR wife do?" They all agreed they'd be looking up at their respective wives and bleeding out from all the gunshot wounds, and decided to cut the poor woman a break.

Now? How does this affect my holiday? I get drafted to both "babysit" and "protect" Mrs. Smith. We didn't just have to worry about Mrs. Smith doing something stupid, but we had to worry about some of Mr. Smith's powerful and connected "associates" finding out about the lil... "attempted murder" thing, and looking to protect the bossman... pro-actively.

So, it's Christmas. I'm armed security for a complete basket case who honestly at that point was a danger to herself and others. Every car driving up the street is a potential threat. My wife is sitting alone in a one bedroom apartment far from any family. And get this... what does Mrs. Smith want to do Christmas Day? Visit the national Holocaust Museum. And I have to dutifully tag along. That's a REAL CHEERY PLACE, lemme tell ya.


So, my vacation was not a vacation at all. Definitely un-fun.

Cassondra said...

Though this is not my blog, in my book, P226 wins for worst vacation. Though at least he was getting paid....


p226 said...

No overtime though. No holiday pay.

Straight salary.


p226 said...

Oh, and AFAIK, the police still have my freakin' flashlight.

Cassondra said...

_226 Said:

Oh, and AFAIK, the police still have my freakin' flashlight.

Oh, man, that is SO not fair. Those maglites are expensive. And you know some deputy has that at his house or in his personal vehicle. That walked out of the evidence room when it was all done.

Anna Campbell said...

Yep, I think P226 wins hands down! Especially seeing he never got his flashlight back ;-) Did the Smiths stay married?

p226 said...

For a couple of years, yeah. But it was always a soap opera.

Christine Wells said...

Oh, p226, that certainly DOES take the prize! Only, you probably don't want a copy of Scandal's Daughter, do you? I'll think of something else to send you. Thanks! I shouldn't laugh but that was hilarious.

p226 said...

My wife would probably kill me if I passed up any book from any of you guys. I was unaware that she read romance until I started hangin' out here. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was NOT to pass up bandita prizes. She had her "bad things will happen to you in your sleep" face on. I think she meant it.

Joan said...

She had her "bad things will happen to you in your sleep" face on.

LOL, p226! She wasn't holding a Maglite was she?

p226 said...

That woman has access to, and skill with much more serious things than flashlights.

doglady said...

Late to the party! Congrats my buddy Deb on the GR!!!! Can't wait to get my hands on your book, by the way! Christine you have to save poor p226's life and send him the copy of your wonderful book. His wife will LOVE it and she won't go MRS. SMITH on him! I know I should not be laughing, but these are some funny stories. They are always funny when they happen to someone else. Christine I would definitely ask for compensation for the old bait and switch cottage vacation. Of course IF I ever get to Oz, I would be perfectly happy to sleep in a doghouse just to see the land Downunder and visit my Bandita buddies! My vacation horror stories? Let me see. How about the trip to Wales (the land of my ancestors) in March when I had to sleep in a little travel caravan with no heat in the middle of a sheep pasture. It was so cold I was wearing everything in my suitcase, brought both of the sheepdogs into the bed with me and thought about bringing in the sheep! How about my trip to Amsterdam when I almost got arrested for being an American. I was at the national museum and admiring Rembrandt's The Night Watch (awe inspiring) when a group of American college kids tried to duck under the ropes and take pictures of it. The guards came running and the Americans got ugly. I put my 2 cents worth in by telling the Americans to shut up, get out of the museum and stop embarrassing the entire United States. Apparently the guards thought I was with the college kids and were going to arrest me until I started speaking French and explained what I was doing. I have never been so embarrassed to be an American. Then our little road trip to Romania / Transylvania in which we kept running out of coins to feed the hot water heater and had to take cold showers in Northern Europe in February. One hotel had such abysmal heat that we all ended up sleeping together in one bed (2 sopranos, 2 mezzos, 3 tenors and one smokin' hot baritone!) (SNORK to my friend, Anna C on the baritone!)

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, sigh, cuddled up to a nice hot barritone! I take your snork and raise it three, Pam!

doglady said...

Trust me, Anna, the man was definitely cuddleworthy and better than any electric blanket! The mezzos did snore, however!

Anonymous said...

Christine, I'm with you over the holiday, it's not possible to relax when closed in and not able to see out. Still it makes the homecoming all the nicer. --- I'm not sure Author's are type cast by voice or genre, it's just easier for a publisher to find the readers and that's a comfortable feeling for the Author. Readers will still decide if the writing are entertaining and value for money. --- Eric

Christine Wells said...

OK, P226, the prize is definitely yours!

Pam, what a wonderfully interesting life you must have led. I bet you have some amazing stories to go with the not so pleasant (although the baritone sounds yum! Always thought baritones have sexier voices than tenors, anyway.*g*)

Eric, thanks for commenting! The holiday wasn't so bad. I'm glad to hear everyone else's tales of woe. They do make me feel better!

Caren Crane said...

Congrats, Deb! I can't believe you snagged the GR and I totally missed it. You were partying with him at your house and you didn't even call me?! There is something very, very wrong with that. If I ever get him again, I will call you. Really! Though I may have to wait until after I polish his pointy little nails...