Bold Strokes Books author Ann Aptaker is here today. She’s kindly giving away three sets of her Cantor Gold Crime series. Three lucky winners will receive e-book copies of Criminal Gold, Tarnished Gold, and Genuine Gold. More details are below.
Please welcome Ann.
Here’s an invitation. I invite your imagination to enter another world, an unfamiliar, even dangerous world, where people risk all for glory, riches, power, vengeance, lust, and sometimes—but only sometimes—love. A world where myths are made or resurrected.
I invite you into the world of crime.
Now, doesn’t that sound like fun? Oh c’mon, you know you’ve always wanted a walk on the wild side.
So, why aren’t you?
This is a serious question. It’s also a dangerous question, since it challenges the expectations of Lesbian literature and the tastes of its readers. But I wouldn’t be a crime fiction writer worthy of the title if I didn’t have the nerve to challenge convention. Crime and criminals challenge—even threaten—accepted behavior. They stick a finger, a knife, a gun, in respectability’s eye, and crime writers have license to do the same…um, without the killing people part, of course, except vicariously.
I am fortunate in my genre. My Cantor Gold crime series has won awards, my books are sold and read. But not nearly in the numbers of books about—you know where I’m going here, and I can already see the knives coming at me—romance.
I beg you, please put the knives away. I’m not here to condemn romance novels. I’ve read damn good ones, enjoyed the romantic ride, the sweet pang in my heart. A good story by a talented writer with a creative mind and a flair for language is always a pleasure to read. To my mind, all genre fiction—romance, crime and mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, steampunk, the lot—is legitimate literature in that they are cultural folk tales, featuring characters and situations whose stories have resonated in the human soul for thousands of years, and always will: Aeschylus’s “Oresteia” is a murder story, as is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” And who has bested Greece’s Sappho and Persia’s Rumi in the romance and erotic longing departments? Their love poems are brilliant, and eternal.
But the overwhelming preference for romance novels—and thus the preponderance of reviews on Lesfic review sites for romance—over other forms of Lesbian fiction concerns me, not just as a crime and mystery writer trying to find an audience, but as someone who wants the full spectrum Lesbian fiction to win the respect it deserves in the larger literary world. Okay, it’s true that romance even outsells everything in mainstream publishing, too. But Lesfic has a far smaller ratio of non-romance to romance titles than the mainstream publishers offer, which makes good business sense for Lesfic publishers since those titles don’t sell as well, unless they are the subset of “romantic thrillers/mysteries/sci-fi/adventure” and so on, or feature a crime solving/crime committing Lesbian with a happily-ever-after wife or girlfriend to go home to and who may even be her accomplice in crime or crime solving. The truth remains that the profits brought in by romance novels subsidize non-romance titles, allowing my publisher, Bold Strokes Books, to take a chance on my non-conforming stories about a very non-conforming heroine, the art thief and smuggler Cantor Gold, whose life teeters on the edge of danger, and happily-ever-after is not a guaranteed component of her world. Cantor’s world is about courage, defiance, survival, and justice turned inside out. Cantor is a mythic figure expressing a Lesbian heritage.
At the risk of annoying everyone even more, I’ll move on to the question: what to do about it? Well, beyond writing the best books I can, publicizing them to the best of my ability and that my non-existent marketing budget will allow, proselytizing in venues that give me a microphone or a guest blog post (thank you, I Heart Lesfic!), the only answer I can come up with is: I don’t know. How can I reach potential readers who aren’t my Facebook “friends,” or aren’t in the various Lesfic Facebook groups, or don’t follow me on Twitter or Instagram?
I accept that changing people’s tastes is difficult, perhaps impossible. There are readers who will only read romance and readers who will never read it. The same is true for every other genre. That’s fine with me. (In this hyper-visual world of streaming video, video gaming, and other passive forms of story-sharing, reading anything is a triumph for the human brain.) But there are also readers who are open to a wider spread of stories, and might read a book in a less popular Lesfic genre if they were aware of the book. And that’s where the Lesfic community of readers comes in. Yeah, I’m talking about reviews, those far-too-important little paragraphs on Amazon and Goodreads. The treachery of algorithms can decide the fate of a book regardless of its quality, sending it to the dungeon where very few potential readers are made aware of it, or raising it in the rankings and thus in visibility. A short paragraph, a single sentence, even three little words, “I like this book,” posted by lots and lots of people can improve a book’s chances of being seen and thus read.
So what I’m asking is this: if you’ve enjoyed my Cantor Gold books, or anyone’s books in any genre, please take five minutes to post a review. And please, review the book the author wrote, not what you think a Lesbian book should be; i.e., those reviews that say, “I loved the mystery but only giving the book three stars because it didn’t have a love story or sex scene.” Would you demand a love scene in a Stephen King thriller? If you want to write a long post discussing the book, great! If all you want to do is post, “Good book. Loved it,” that’s great, too! In the case of Amazon, it really is quantity over quality in terms of getting visibility. Potential readers can then rely on the synopsis and blurb on the book’s Amazon page, and the “Look Inside” feature where they can sample the first few pages—or better yet, often an entire chapter on the publisher’s website—and decide if it’s their cuppa tea. But none of this will happen if readers aren’t aware of the book in the first place.
So, back to my original invitation to take you into my exciting, dangerous walk on the wild side of crime. Here’s the deal: I’m inviting you into my world. I’d love an invitation into yours. And please introduce me to all of your friends.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Native New Yorker Ann Aptaker’s first book, Criminal Gold, was a Golden Crown Literary Society Goldie Award finalist. Her next book, Tarnished Gold (Book Two in the Cantor Gold Crime Series), was honored with a Lambda Literary Award and a Goldie Award. Told from the point of view of a dapper, custom-tailored lesbian art thief and smuggler, and set in mid-20th century New York, the Cantor Gold series resurrects the outlaw spirit of lesbian life, its daring and sensuality.
Ann’s short stories have appeared in two editions of the crime anthology Fedora, edited by award-winning crime author Michael Bracken. Her flash fiction story, “A Night In Town,” appeared in the online zine Punk Soul Poet, and another flash fiction story is included in the anthology Happy Hours: Our Lives in Gay Bars, edited by Lee Lynch and Renée Bess. Ann still occasionally curates and designs art exhibitions, is an art writer for various New York clients and a contributing writer to the children’s science television show Space Racers, and is an adjunct professor of art and art history at the New York Institute of Technology.
CONNECT WITH ANN
Three winners will receive all three books in the Cantor Gold Crime series. Two of the winners will be selected from the comments section. To enter, simply leave a comment below. The third winner will be selected via the giveaway plugin. All you need to do is enter your email. The giveaways end on October 30th.
Thanks so much Ann for stopping by.
Best of luck to everyone.