I’m running late this week, something unusual for me but then, it’s been an unusual month altogether. I had planned on having a guest author, but two were not available and time got away to check with others. It really has been an unusually busy month for me.
I visit writers’ blogs, a few of them quite regularly. It is amazing to me that often even the world-famous, NYT best-selling authors get few comments, whereas there can be many comments on some food blogs,(sadly, not mine). And I am not talking about those of famous TV chefs. Nevertheless, a few of the writers interview others and being among the few commentors, I subsequently win a number of books. So many so that I sometimes feel guilty and remove myself from the competition if I have won several from one blog in a short amount of time, although I still want to leave a comment if there are none or very few.
In getting so many books, many may wait some time before they are read, especially if they are digital. I do win a number of paperback and hardbound books, many of them autographed, personally autographed. And many big-name best-selling authors not only have fan pages on Facebook, they actually “FRIEND” their readers.
But I digress.
Long ago I noticed that if a ‘different’ movie made, another with the same premise did. I am not talking about a romantic comedy, which are almost always girl-hates-boy, girl-loves-boy, boy-disappoints-girl, boy-gets-girl back…in the case of rom-coms, you have to be Zen about it: It is not the destination, Grasshopper, it is the journey…( you travel with the writing and the performances).
Now, it seems to be happening more and more with books, especially romance novels or mysteries, that is, cozy mysteries.
Suddenly, even prolific writers with well-running series are doing other series where the protagonist are doing what other writers’ protagonists are doing, mostly needle/sewing shops , bookshops and bakeries.
There are so many stories that have someone going to a small town and almost immediately being not only completely embraced by nearly all of the ‘Locals’, her,(it’s usually it’s a her), business seems to thrive. By thriving I mean that although she may complain that she has to worry about making the bills, she sometimes drives an expensive car and she often eats out, travels far and seldom blinks at the prices o her suppliers. The biggest annoyance is that she can always afford top-notch employees who can virtually do all of her business while she is out helping friends and family, sleeping in late with Mr. Right-or-Wrong, or following him around. (Which she does badly, because she only overhears part of a conversation or sees him enter some dodgy place which she totally misconstrues into a wrong, worst-case scenario.) Having been in business in a small community, I know all of this is so far off-the-mark, it should be under sci-fi.
Do you have any idea how terribly hard it is to insinuate yourself into a small town, let alone get a business up, running and have steady customers? If there was a need for the shop or business, someone would have opened one; you can’t compete with a local, established business already ensconced in a town, no matter how badly run or how bad the owner is; he’s related to everyone or the citizens have always done business with his family . If there wasn’t a need for the shop, no one will see a need now; they are set in their ways…and they are suspicious. Do you know how expensive it is to start up any kind of business? You need to come up with money for rent, equipment, utilities, licenses,supplies, taxes, …and money to pay employees. Even successful businesses usually take at least three years before turning a profit at all; you better have another source of income or have a trust-fund, and that is while you are working your little fingers to the bone. You have to rely on a unique or pretty darned-good talent. Even at that, if you can leave the business workings every day,( be it floral arrangements, making cupcakes, bookbinding or glassblowing), on a whim in the hands of employees, your product is not all that special and you are going to fall flat even in a boom-town, let alone a small town. You aren’t going to have the dough to do anything…probably not even have enough to leave town.
A few good writers have solved this dilemma in a few believable ways. One way is to have the main character return to a small town; the townfolk are the main character’s people and the business is already a family one that has been thriving or needs an update. There are also family members who can fill in for free or on the cheap when they need them.
Several other writers use a plausible approach for their new-in-town-yet-making-it characters by giving them extra business through mail-order for their specialty, (it must be unique to work),or by supplying their goods or work to a boom in the town…(and getting a contract for something new and now essential, such as hi-tech or health foods), supplying their work or good to a nearby city, or by giving a not-too-fresh look to a business that is vacated by an elderly citizen,( or the sudden death of one), who has no one to take over his/her particular skill. And that skill better not be out-dated. Unless the late craftsman was the only blacksmith in a very horsey area, the protagonist better have a lucrative career as a novelist under another name or is a still-rich prince-in-exile, he better forget about doing business under a spreading chestnut tree.
None of this was what I had intended to talk about today, but I guess I needed to vent more than I did on Facebook last week.
Is anyone else bothered by the points I raised? Would you care to add anything?
FYI, this is not sour grapes on my part. I had a chance to keep afloat while I moved and revamped my business by supplying goods to another business in a nearby town and with a chance at addressing a temporary need in my own town. Unfortunately, a number of family crises arose, but it would probably have worked.It would have been the only way we could have stayed in business before the jump in newcomers and population here.
I’ve noticed those exact same points! Sometimes it just drives me nuts, other times I’m able to look at is as what it is – fiction and a quick escape!
And, I’ve actually stopped entering contests, too! When I feel like I’ve won too many, and not even from just one author, I stop entering for a bit! 🙂
I think it’s just common courtesy to not be a prize-hog…I might not feel the same if I kept coming up with cash, though! Seriously, I decline especially when I know that I’m not really interested in the type of book, as well. And yes, I read the other books and enjoy the stories but gee, sometimes they may as well say they went to the moon and started a cheese shop that the Moonmen all loved.
(What, the moon ISN’T made out of cheese? I thought Wallace and Gromit confirmed it!)
I have a lot of sympathy for people who are starting up businesses. Most face unbelievable challenges, in all those areas you cited.
I’ve never forgotten, on the route I commuted each morning and each afternoon for 26 yrs, the plight of a struggling businessman. In what looked like an old abandoned drive-in (hamburger joint), suddenly appeared a fresh coat of paint and a sign announcing a taco stand (or maybe tamales… no longer certain which). As part of his promo, the guy’s sign included that it was a cherished family recipe and he’d waited his whole life to open this stand.
Hardly a couple of weeks after he’d opened his new business, the bridge which that street led to, was closed for extensive repairs — and would be closed for some 15 months. That closure took about 90% of the traffic from that otherwise busy street and routed it up to the interstate to get across the river and into Shreveport.
Though I no longer commuted on that street, I was still on it occasionally. After the bridge closed, two more signs appeared outside that man’s brand new business.
The first said something like, “just because the bridge is closed doesn’t mean you don’t need delicious tacos/tamales.” Those were not the words, but it was a positive entreaty to still drive down that street and eat.
It was probably a few weeks later that I noticed the follow-up sign, which basically said, “Folks, I poured my life savings into this place and the bridge has taken away all my customers. But my tacos/tamales are still delicious.” [Not the exact wording, but that was the essence.]
A few weeks later the sign was simply, “Closed… like the bridge.”
I I could cry for that man,literally cry. That was just not meant to be,I guess.I all that money and all that hope…
I don’t expect every romance novelist or cozy mystery writer to make everything TOO real, I mean if I stumbles across a dead body every few months,I’d run away to a small, deserted island, thinking I was a jinx! (Maybe I’d ask for an exorcism!) But, as you well know, fitting right in to a small place where everyone else seems to be family is a Herculean task…and there aren’t many Hercules about. Now, I must go, because after 20 years, I still have more of the stables to clean.
Hmm … I had to read the post twice, so I knew I was on the same line here … I humbly disagree. It’s fiction Tonette. If I want real life, I step in front of my house and listen to friends, neighbours or colleagues. I see your point, I suppose, but I would like to escape just that “real life” for a little while and ponder how it could be :-).
I’m all for ‘escape’, Iris. As I said, reading about a person who always finds dead bodies is surely enough escape. I would hate for anyone to be in the position of Jeff’s story, where instead a bridge closed , minds and communities were closed and shut down their dreams. I saw it happen here to too many times to B&B’s, craft shops, gift shops, photography studios, books stores, etc. To come in dead broke, have employees that can do your work and be immediately the darling of a small town anywhere is completely foolish. The premise is too sappy, too Pollyanna-esque.
I totally agree with you about small town life, fictional or not. And my heart cries for the man in Jeff’s story. It was just the wrong time and place for him. 😥
If you’ve had any experience at all with small-town life, you know I am on the mark. Whether they mean to be consciously or not, people in small towns are suspicious of (what they call us here) “Brought-ins” and they don’t like change.
Jeff’s story is a real heart-breaker, alright.