Monday, November 16, 2015
When I wrote Erased, I had originally planned to submit (and hopefully publish) the book traditionally. Because of that, I tried to stay within the expected confines of the genre. What that means is that I wrote the book to stay within certain parameters that would make it acceptable to traditional publishers. The original draft was about 90,000 words. I specifically edited it to make sure this was the case, because traditional publishers like a thriller to come in between 90k and 100k words. They have similar expectations for pretty much every genre.
Of course, writing a thriller also requires a thrilling story. There must be a sense of danger and anticipation. It should be fast-paced, practically forcing readers to turn pages just as fast as they can. The characters should be realistic, but edgy: dangerous. That's why so many thrillers are filled with sociopaths who drink and swear, who have promiscuous sex, and kill their fellow human beings without so much as blinking an eye. And those are the good guys. (James Bond, anyone?)
For what I was trying to do, I think I succeeded for the most part. Unfortunately, even when I was writing the story I was aware of the fact that the profanity was going to turn off certain readers. Big publishers don't have to worry about this, because they market a book like Erased to a very specific audience. They know who that audience is and what they like. Sex and profanity are just part of what makes a good thriller thrilling. Plus, they have the ability to put a well-known name on the cover, virtually guaranteeing a certain amount of sales, regardless of what's actually between the covers.
The thing is that most of my books are pretty clean that way. My characters may make vague sexual references or jokes, but they never engage in graphic acts of sexuality, and only rarely do they curse. In my books, profanity is minimal and usually pretty inoffensive. Which is why, looking back now, I realize that Erased is sort of a black sheep among my books. I worry that some people who like my other mysteries, or even my fantasy and sci-fi stories, might end up reading Erased and being offended by it. I hope this hasn't happened -I haven't had any complaints- but I've decided that it's probably best to be proactive about the whole thing.
It's ironic I suppose, because I tend to be amused by people's reactions to certain words. After all, they're just words. And no matter how much PC propaganda you see on TV or hear on the radio, deep down inside you know that words don't actually hurt. Sticks and stones hurt. .45 caliber hollow-points and frag grenades hurt. Words may irritate, offend, and even blaspheme, but in the end they're just words.Yet if you use one of these words in the wrong company, you might find yourself ostracized or even worse. It can affect your social life, your family, even your job. Yet we use other words that mean the exact same thing, and we consider them harmless. I don't need to provide examples, do I?
So how did some of these words end up being profanity, while others are perfectly acceptable? Who made these decisions?
Well, it's a social thing, and it goes back to old English society, when people were divided up into classes, or castes. In those days you had a large population of peasants. These were farmers, mostly. Skilled laborers ranked slightly higher, and then came the merchant class, the nobles, royalty, and so forth. But despite this huge population, there wasn't really any middle class. You had two groups of people living at the extremes: extreme poverty on one side, and extreme wealth on the other.
Education wasn't free in those days. Since there weren't any public schools or programs for the poor, they remained ignorant, and their language was simple and often crude. Naturally, wealthy nobles could afford a good education, and they enjoyed a great many advantages because of this. This language barrier made it easy to differentiate which extreme you were on. The wealthy looked down on the poor as filthy and ignorant. The poor berated the wealthy for their arrogance and superiority. But over time, this system began to fall apart, and a middle class began to emerge. Soon, the nobles all but disappeared and the poor became educated.
Despite all these changes, one thing that stuck with us was the language. The words we consider profane -or acceptable- are based not on their meanings (after all, other acceptable words have the same meanings, right?) but on the fact that people who used them were either wealthy (and therefore superior) or poor (and therefore "low-class"). Naturally, the profanity in use today has nothing to do with education or even the meaning of the word, but rather a social stigma. People don't swear today because they're ignorant and can't find a better word. They swear because it's fun; because they know somebody will be offended by it, and that is thrilling.
As for me, I'm a writer. Every time I form a sentence or a paragraph, I have to think about different ways to write it. I explore different words and phrases, different rhythms, and so forth. I find a word's ability to offend, anger, or inspire to be amusing. But for the sake of my readers who do get offended by certain words, I try to minimize their use. And that's why I've spent several weeks this fall revising Erased to make it a little more socially acceptable, and a little more consistent with the rest of my body of work. I want to point out that I wasn't coerced into doing this. I didn't receive a bunch of complaints or threats. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I hope you guys agree.
So, if you already own Erased, you can download the newest edition. Simply log in to your Amazon account, and under your account, scroll down to digital content. Select "manage content and devices" and then go to "settings." On this page you'll find the option called "Automatic Book Update." Turn it on, and then your books should automatically download the latest version (assuming you are connected to the internet at the time). It's also worth noting that on this page, you will find the email address assigned to each of your Kindle devices and apps. Using this address, an author or friend can email a document or book directly to your Kindle. Then, depending on which device you're using, the document will show up in your library automatically, or under "documents."
I will also be contacting Amazon to make them aware of the changes. In some cases, they will actually "push" the update directly to your Kindle without any additional effort.
In this new revision of Erased, you will also find some minor editing changes and corrections, as well as updated links, with the exception of my newest book Should be Dead. I don't have a link for that one yet because it's not live, but it will be any second....
I hope the changes have been worth it, and I really hope you like what I've done with the book. As I've said before, I've lost interest in pursuing this title as a series, but you never know. Brandy Jackson just may show up again, in one of my other books, so keep an eye out.
Oh, and if you don't have it yet, you can grab Erased at amazon for just $0.99!