Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Guest Post with Kendall McKenna and a Giveaway

Size DOES Matter, If You Like Them Long

Do I have your attention now? Yeah, I thought so!
So, do you like your books long or short? Do you prefer completing a journey in a matter of hours? Or do you like when reading a story takes days and days?
What do you mean, that’s not what you thought I was going to talk about? Of course I was referring to story length, what else could it have been?
While I am an author of M/M erotic romance, this is a subject that is relevant to anyone who enjoys indie published e-books. I’ve explored this topic before when I’ve guest blogged, and it has always resulted in some lively discussion. It’s something that writers, readers and editors can all weigh in on, so it’s very inclusive. I’m bringing it up again because there have been some changes in the publishing landscape recently, and the upheaval continues. I wondered if opinions had changed, or if anyone was suddenly seeing a greater number of long stories available for purchase at reasonable prices.
Previously, when I’ve discussed this topic, there were actually some commonalities, and those most likely haven’t changed. First, even those of us who prefer long, complex books agree that there are times a short, quick read is the way to go. Most everyone agrees that having both novels and novellas and even short stories is a good thing. Second, finding the longer stories isn’t all that easy. There appears (or appeared) to be a glut of shorter stories on the market. Third, price is an issue. We all seem to have thresholds for what we are willing to pay for e-books of certain lengths, and the presses tend to over-charge for the longer stories. And finally, quality. No one wants to read a long story that goes nowhere and has weak characters. Just because an author can write a lot of words, doesn’t necessarily mean the author should write a lot of words.
And just to establish a frame of reference, let’s say that when we talk about shorts, we’re talking 0-20,000 words. Novellas are roughly 20,000 – 50,000 words. Novels are 50,000 – 80,000 words and super novels are 80,000+.
So, here’s the thing: I prefer super novels that take me days to read. Yes, that’s right; I like ‘em big!
As an author, I can write a story at any length necessary, but again, I prefer to write novel or super novel length. I’m also capable of writing the longer stories and maintaining character and story arcs. I didn’t wake up one morning with the ability, though. I went out and learned the craft of writing. As a reader, I have difficulty finding stories longer than say, 20-30 thousand words. Those I find are often outrageously priced.
The question I keep coming back to, and keep asking over and over is, who is most responsible for the lack of quality novels and super novels at reasonable prices? Yes, publishers set the cover price for books. But why do some of them consistently over-price the longer stories? Are authors writing 20,000 words in a matter of weeks, having it proof read (sometimes not even that), and then submitting them, giving the publishers no other choice, if they want to have anything to publish? Or are the presses demanding the shorter, slap-dash stories? Would some authors be capable of producing longer, better stories if the presses provided better editing? And when I say editing, I don’t mean proofreading/line editing, I mean assisting with the development of character and plot. Are readers demanding quantity over quality? Or are they having to settle for that because it’s all that  publishers are offering?
What about self-publishing? I personally haven’t had any good luck finding quality self-published books of any length. Has anyone else had better luck? If the publishers are all demanding shorter stories and an author has a longer novel he or she wants to share, I would think self-publishing would be a great thing. Then again, an acquaintance of mine finished a 25,000 word story on a Sunday and had it available for purchase on Amazon the following Friday.
I always end up feeling like this is a chicken vs. egg question. I’m feeling dizzy. Have I talked myself in circles again? You all look really familiar…I feel like I’ve been here before…
So, what about pricing? My personal threshold is $9.99. That’s the most I’ll pay for a super novel (e-book or paperback). Even if it’s a mainstream, New York published book, that’s my cap. I’ll pay up to $7.99 for a novel; $4.99 for a novella. Does anybody else feel differently?
I mentioned earlier that the landscape of indie e-book publishing has changed in past months. Noble went through a reorganization; Samhain went from submission by invite only to open submissions, and Silver is in breach with its authors and losing authors and submissions. As a reader, I haven’t seen a shift toward easy availability of novels or super novels. As an author, I’ve experienced enthusiastic interest in my long manuscripts from the publishers. Readers have provided feedback that indicates their desire and appreciation for novels and super novels. I’m only one person, though. I’m interested in the perspective of other readers, writers and even editors.
Now, because I’m a tease, I’m giving away a novella this week! 20,000 words of M/M erotic romance goodness.

Waves Break My Fall
Kage is a Marine, newly returned from Afghanistan and having difficulty adjusting to being home. He tries to decompress with a quiet trip to Puerto Vallarta. Zach is a new college graduate and facing the realities of adulthood. Will their hot summer fling grow into something more?

Now for the obligatory advertising!
I recently pulled my rights to certain of my titles from the e-press that was in breach of contract. This means I’m doing a series of re-releases of my earlier, shorter novellas. Next up on the calendar, releasing with 

MLR on December 14th, is Brothers In Arms.

Jonah Carver is a Marine and combat veteran. He and his former Captain, Kellan Reynolds, once shared a scorching night, but then lost touch; something Jonah has long regretted.
When an investigation into government corruption, and the murder of U.S. troops, ends in the killing of a V.I.P. on Jonah's watch, the FBI arrives. With them is Kellan Reynolds.
Together once more, Jonah begins to believe in second chances and sparks fly. Nothing is that easy, though, as the suspects will stop at nothing to bring the investigation to an end. Jonah must keep everyone in his charge alive while helping the FBI and Kellan find the proof they need.
When Kellan is kidnapped, Jonah has to find and rescue him. If he doesn't, not only will the investigation unravel, but he'll lose Kellan for a second time--for good.

"Excellent. We're done here then." Jonah crossed the room and managed not to take the door off its hinges. He headed right for the front door of the manor house.
Anger seared Jonah's insides. He wanted to run the perimeter of the firmbase, but he knew it wasn't safe. His fury nipped at his heels, driving him away from the manor house and toward—he didn't know what. Jonah needed to pace, to use up the energy of his rage. He kept running into cammie nets, Humvees, ammo cans, and trash. He balled his fist to punch something, and then stopped himself. He was right-handed and he needed that hand to pull the trigger. Jonah's wrath tangled with frustration and he kicked viciously at rocks in the dirt.
"I thought I'd find you here." Kellan's words carried to Jonah, even before he stepped around a Humvee and into view.
Jonah's temper dissipated slightly at the sound of Kellan's voice, even as desire edged up his spine and settled in his belly. He damn well needed to get that reaction under control. The rapid ricochet of Jonah's emotions threw him off and fucked with his equilibrium. He jammed his curled fists onto his hips. "You knew this was going to happen, Kellan?" Jonah winced at the accusation in his own voice.
Kellan drew a deep breath and seemed to weigh his words carefully. "I wrote an opinion for my consulting firm that dealt with the Big Three getting so many no-bid government contracts," he said as he slowly approached Jonah. "I concluded they have strategically placed allies in the government to ensure they continue to make billions of dollars off of America's armed conflicts."
"You wrote the synopsis for a Tom Clancy novel and the President decided to send you to Iraq?" Jonah wanted Kellan to tell him he was right and it was all fiction.
Kellan came to stand directly in front of Jonah. He chuffed a laugh. "The President was dubious too when he read it. Still, he thought my arguments were sound enough to warrant a cursory investigation."
Jonah took in Kellan's familiar features: his lashes, the small mole beneath his left eye, and finally his mouth. "Obviously, the investigation turned up something."
Kellan wet his bottom lip before he spoke. "The Attorney General has built a fairly strong case for corruption. She just can't go before Congress and the President and say she thinks American weapons and munitions are being provided to the enemy for use against our own military personnel. So, she reached out to the State Department to find evidence of the supply chain here in Iraq."
"They sent Grizzly?"
"Correct. And when they did, I issued another opinion that postulated he would be killed, using American-supplied weapons, in order to halt the investigation."
"Hell," Jonah sighed, tilting his head back to look blindly at the sky. He remembered all the friends he'd lost since this conflict had begun. His earlier rage flared again.
"I intended that first opinion to be a neutral stand for my consulting agency. We've received substantial funding from the Big Three, and I wanted it clear their money couldn't influence us."
"And then Grizzly was killed, making the investigation FBI jurisdiction, and since you've accurately predicted how things so far would go down, the President decided you should come provide guidance," Jonah concluded with a harsh laugh.
"Which I could easily have done from DC, but I thought it would be fun to drop in and say 'hi'."
"There are these amazing devices called e-mail and cell phones, you know." Jonah's rage melted farther away as he smiled. "You didn't have to get yourself airlifted to Iraq."
"Well, the opportunity just presented itself." Kellan grinned.
Jonah was pretty glad he hadn't resorted to e-mail.
"You know, sir, I read that book of yours about the invasion" Jonah poked Kellan square in the chest with one finger. "When you run for President, I'm not voting for you if you run as a Democrat."
Kellan's laugh sent a shockwave rolling through Jonah.
"I have no intention of running for President," he said.
"Well, maybe not right away. You'll do some time in Congress or the Senate. Then you'll become the Governor of New York. Maybe Massachusetts. Then you'll make your run at the White House."
"Actually, I'm more a 'power behind the throne' kind of guy." Jonah felt a sort of perverse fascination as Kellan reached out and hooked two fingers into the waist of Jonah's trousers.
"Is that a fact?" Jonah searched Kellan's face.
"More to the point, some of the most powerful positions in DC are not elected but appointed." Kellan leaned in, voice conspiratorial.
"You're not an attorney, so you can't be a judge," Jonah mused. Kellan was standing so close; Jonah caught the scent of him and lost his train of thought.
"No, but there are cabinet positions. Say, Secretary of the Navy. Secretary of Defense." Kellan paused. "Secretary of State."
"Well then, Mr Secretary," Jonah said solemnly. He believed Kellan would someday achieve that very thing. He wondered in passing what Kellan would do if Jonah leaned in and kissed him.
"Stop teasing me," Kellan said, his expression serious.
Jonah became acutely aware of Kellan's hand touching him. It was only teasing if Jonah didn't mean it. He wasn't teasing. He didn't think Kellan was, either.
"When we're both Stateside again, I'll show you I'm not teasing." The words were spoken before Jonah could stop them. He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly tight. This was the part where Kellan would tell him how much he'd enjoy a passing friendship with a former Team Leader; as if he was unaware this was exactly how things had started between them before.
Instead, Kellan looked pleased, and Jonah realized, with deep satisfaction, that was the reaction he'd been hoping for.
"I'm holding you to that."
"I'm counting on it. For now, though, why don't you head back inside and I'll be in shortly."
One corner of Kellan's mouth lifted in a brief smile. "Good night, Jonah," he said quietly, before he turned and climbed the steps into the firmbase.
"Good night, Kellan."
Jonah took a cleansing breath and released it slowly. He rolled his head, stretching out the once tense muscles that had relaxed sometime during the last few minutes.
With a final upward glance, this time seeing the sky, Jonah followed Kellan inside, realizing he would finally be able to sleep.

Brothers In Arms re-releasing with MLR Press on December 14th
Author Bio:
Kendall McKenna is an author of M/M erotic romance novels.
Kendall McKenna’s first work of fiction was written at the worldly age of nine, and was a transformative work that expanded on the story told in a popular song of the time.
She tried her hand at vampire and cowboy fiction, winning high school poetry and short story contests along the way. It wasn’t until she discovered the world of m/m erotic fiction and found her stride with cops, Marines and muscle cars, that she felt inspired to share her stories with readers who enjoy the same things.
Putting herself through college by working in a newly-created HIV testing clinic in her local Department of Health, introduced Kendall to the gay and lesbian community. Understanding and empathy has made her a lifetime advocate of GLBT issues.
A brief bout of unemployment gave Kendall the time and focus she needed to finally produce a novel worth submitting for publication. Her first novel, Brothers In Arms, introduced the world to her authentic military stories and characters.
Kendall was born and raised in Southern California, where she still lives and works. A non-conventional relationship has kept her happy for the last decade. Her four dogs enjoy it when she writes, as she sits still long enough for them to curl up around her.


  1. Loved the excerpt! Usually I like a long book, but sometimes I really need a quick great read when I don't have the time to commit to the long novel!

    1. Most of us DO feel that way. Some of my all time fav's to re-read are short and quick stories. But I seem to have trouble finding a long, meaty story when I want one.

  2. I love a novella when I need something in between series, or I just want something that I can sink my teeth into and finish in one sitting! The Blurb sounds awesome, thanks for sharing with us!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Glad you like the blurb! Happy reading!

  3. I love longer novels but there are times when the shorter novellas are the perfect read. The books sound good! Thanks for the excerpt!

    1. Thank YOU for stopping by to read and comment!

      Happy reading!

  4. I love books of all lengths! I agree with the price limits that you have for each kind of story. Excellent excerpt and blog! ;)


    1. Ultimately, a good story is a good story, no matter the length.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Size does matter, especially for price and my mood.

    1. Yes! Exactly! Mood has much to do with it, but no matter what, if the price is out of whack, I won't make the purchase.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. My first published novel was HUGE 219,000 words. While I got great reviews for the overall story, several said it was too long. You can't please everyone, but the second book turned out 1/4th the size. We'll see how that goes. I love the epic novels that take me days to read but I also enjoy the fast reads when they are part of a series or collection. I look at them as teasers and hope the authors will someday take those stories to another level and tell me more about the characters.

    1. I'm the first one to admit that a story that is looong just for the sake of being long, as if scenes are added to reach a certain word count, is a bad thing. Pacing is so important, whether the story is long or short. I haven't read your 219,000 word story, but maybe it wasn't that it was too long, but perhaps it could have used some good editing to tighten the pacing? I don't know, I'm guessing. But a short story that does a lot of telling instead of showing, or that fails to develop characters, or resolves the plot so quickly it's too abrupt, is just as bad as a story that's too long.

      I don't know if you saw my FB post where I said that I'd spent the weekend re-reading The Final Line so I could pick up the writing where I'd left off. I said that it was getting long, already at 72K words, but as I'd read it, I couldn't find anything to cut. It all had a purpose to either move a character or the plot forward. Still, you're right, you can please everyone, and SOMEBODY is going to complain that it's too long. Some with even say it's too short! I think it all comes down to the fact that we all have to do the work to write the best stories we can, have them edited by good editors, and then be proud of the result, no matter what others think. Otherwise, we'll go nuts!!!!!

      Oh, you know what I like? A series of shorter stories that are really one long story, but they're broken up into smaller those old Saturday matinee serials. Those are the best of both worlds, cause you're right, each one is like a teaser, but you also gave a story line that takes some time to make it all the way through.

  7. Sometimes a novella is just what you need. I also love huge epics & everything in between.


    1. I freely admit, a good story is a good story, whether it's short or epic! I'd just really like to be able to find more really good epics!

  8. Nice post and excerpt.


  9. I like all size books. And you are right about the pricing. I have read some really good excerpts before buying a book but because of the prices I don't buy them. Which sucks but I did get to read your Brothers In Arms book before you pulled it. And I loved it very much. I cannot wait for the rest of the books to this series to come. Thank you for your wonderful writing.

  10. SOunds like a good red... count me in.