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?