Part Two of the Collaboration Cha-cha with McMan and West

The Blog Mistress chimes in.  Again…. The results are in.

Friday  Jan.10th 2014  Results:
Ann’s number is:  10  (the winner is Elizabeth Sims)

Salem’s number is:  1 (the winner is Mary Anne Frett)
(believe it or not, these were from
Most interesting question: mesaraven’s question for Salem about how to attract knowledgeable readers to lesfic, etc.

* Thank you to all who joined us, we loved your enthusiasm and contributions. Mesaraven Please contact me (  Elizabeth and Mary Anne contact


Ann, Salem and Barrett –Conference Nurse


If you remember in our last episode (day before yesterday-scroll down) Ann McMan stepped up and strapped on with her memorable responses to some questions about the collaboration on Hoosier Daddy.  Today, we’ll hear from her wife of 21 months, Salem West.

DSCF7275But first my intro to his part. Ironically, I also met Salem through her review of my first book. I was thrilled by her spot-on analysis of my intent in writing the experience of a veteran FBI agent afflicted with PTSD.

Long story short. We’re corresponded, chatted, and Skyped for months as she helped 2012-03-30 10.50.49with my Nanowrimo project. Within months, she introduced me to Ann–“the love of her life” and the rest is history. We all met face to face for the first time in Austin 2012 for the Lone Star Fest.

So it is my great pleasure to share the pensive half of team AMFA, Salem West.

Since 2011 when you debuted The Rainbow Reader, you have reviewed a variety of books from both large and small publishers, including independent and self-published authors. You have earned a well-deserved reputation as an independent and balanced reviewer.

 In 2013 you moved onto the stage as a fiction writer. Working with your wife, Ann McMan, you co-authored Hoosier Daddy: A Heartland Romance.

 Would you please share your thoughts about working both sides of the street?

Well, technically, “working both sides of the street,” means to engage in deceitful or duplicitous behavior. And, while it is true that my sisters often registered formal complaints with Grandpa Hames that I hid extra Hoppy Hippo cards up my H.R. Pufnstuf pajama sleeves when I was three, I can assure you that my good fortune in Animal Rummy was simply a combination of preparation, strategy, and providence.

I’m not sure what the proper idiom for reviewing books and being an author is, but it’s probably closer to ‘batting both ways’ or ‘straddling the fence.’ Be that as it may, the experience has been utterly terrifying. As a reviewer, I deconstruct a story and try to present an informed opinion as to whether or not the characters, plot, point of view, setting, style, and themes hit the mark—and are interesting, innovative, surprising, or challenging. However, as an author, I am the one the readers, reviewers, critics (and Ann’s mother), put under that very same microscope at 100x magnification.

 How has this experience differed in both preparation and execution from preparing your reviews?

For me, the preparation and execution required to write fiction is quite similar to what is required to write reviews.

WP_20131211_025 Before any words hit the Hoosier Daddy page, Ann and I talked ad nauseam, usually while eating dinner or taking a bath, about major and minor characters, plot lines, point of view, our setting for various scenes, how to combine our styles into one voice, themes, metaphors, and how to effectively mangle idioms for maximum literary impact. We knew the beginning, middle, and end of the story before we started writing, and we spent more hours than I can count doing research about UAW organizing efforts, union busting, the economic meltdown, transplants, the automotive manufacturing process, lockout/tagout, OSHA violations, monster trucks, and chair caning techniques. Heck, one night Ann and I spent hours driving around the highways and byways of southern Indiana and southeast Illinois on Google Maps so she could get the lay of the land and visit the small towns we were writing about.

When I review books, I often do comparable research about the type of book the author is writing, the area they are writing about, jobs and names of characters, and why certain chosen elements may have been used or not. I also consider wretched little things like pacing, editing, and realism of dialogue, and whether or not each scene has a purpose, and whether transitions are effective.

 Do prefer writing fiction or non-fiction? And would you consider another novel?

Well, there may be another novel down the road a ways, but in 2014, I really want to WP_20131206_008focus on taking The Rainbow Reader to the next level. By that, I mean that I’m concentrating on things like morphing TRR into an eZine—offering more reviews, op-ed pieces, and additional content. Having a Bully pulpit will be an added bonus.

As for fiction versus non-fiction, I honestly prefer being an essayist and the challenge of mastering my own voice. There could always be a book in that, but I’d still need to do some serious thinking and planning, and that would require more bath gel than we got for Christmas.

 You have married into the job of “first reader” for your wife Ann’s recent releases. Has your work as a well-read reviewer affected your beta reading skill?

First up, Ann doesn’t use beta readers. She is probably the ‘cleanest’ writer I’ve ever met—every time she opens her working file, she edits everything that came before. She is meticulous. So, if there is a mysterious beast called a ‘beta reader’ in her camp, it is surely she. As for me, I’m really a ‘first listener’ because I always ask her to read for me— I do so love to experience Ann McMan’s stories in her own voice. You could say it’s my guilty pleasure.

[ed. if you ever have the opportunity to hear Ann read–don’t miss it!]

WP_20131208_015Beyond that, I offer suggestions, ask questions, and flag inconsistencies, but I rarely do anything more substantial than proof and limited line editing on Post-it® notes before she submits the manuscript and the typeset galley. For the long-term health of the household, and in accordance with §7, Section 4, Part 2.E.3.c of our prenup, I must clarify that only Ann McMan makes actual editorial changes in her manuscript.

 And did writing Hoosier Daddy affect your objectivity for reviewing?

No. It didn’t affect my objectivity for reviewing. In fact, my objectivity for reviewing is one of the few things that weren’t influenced by the experience. I will say that it did fortify my policy of being honest yet respectful in my reviews. Now, knowing from personal experience, any book, whether praised or reviled, came about because of some author’s hard work, passion, and persistence.

Think it’s easy? Try it. No. Really. Don’t.

Why? Because the other thing that has really shifted is my frustration with shortcuts. That is, authors who don’t take the time to do the research, significant consistency errors, plot lines that disappear, and disregard for a pesky little worm known as grammar. Respect for the effort is one thing, but quality (or lack thereof) always comes through.

 Last summer you participated in an interesting panel with two other reviewers.  Can you share some thoughts on the changing landscape of lesbian fiction?

IMG_1132Not long before that GCLS Panel (featuring Elaine Mulligan and Lynne Pierce, and moderated by Carleen Spry) I published an editorial on The Rainbow Reader titled The Lesfic Boomtown Foretold: A Cautionary Tale by Salem West.  The thesis was that growth is a good thing, but too much growth too quickly can easily overwhelm an industry. Along with the huge increase in demand by readers of lesbian literature in the last three years, I see a significant decrease in the quality of writing, editing and publishing across the industry. I also see a reading population that has not yet found its voice when it comes to speaking up for their rights and expectations as readers. That is not to say that all writing, editing, and publishing is bad, because it isn’t. Likewise, there are several loud and proud voices in the reading community that continue to call for a correction. Still, across-the-board, we all need to consider our pursuit of growth in conjunction with our ability to develop authors, publish their products, and advance the legacy that our foremothers entrusted to us.

 And what do you see in the near future?WP_20131208_020

I need to run out to do my trading, and then home again for thirty minutes on the treadmill. After that, I may get back into the book for my next review, and start on dinner before Ann comes home from her regrettable day job. This is Tuesday, and that means meatloaf.

Thanks for participating in this unique joint effort. Let the questions commence!

**Wrap: Winners of a copy of Hoosier Daddy …OR a book of your choice from Ann McMan,will be selected by a random pick of the commenters. I have asked Ann and Salem to select the most interesting Question from either set of responses for a copy of Balefire. Winners will be announced Friday Jan 9th at 8 PM EST.

37 thoughts on “Part Two of the Collaboration Cha-cha with McMan and West

    1. Hello, Anita! Contrary to popular opinion….this actually is ANN, responding on Salem’s computer (it’s the only one turned on right now). We hope you enjoy the book…. And I couldn’t resist the photo of all those dogs, leaping out of a mnivan. It was such an opportunity for wit! Just imagine what Jane Austen would’ve done if she’d had access to Facebook and a full version of Photoshop….

    1. You know, I just want to me read good books. BTW, when will you be releasing another one? I love me some Elizabeth Sims.

  1. Of course, the famous author dynamic duo know that i am appreciative fan already. So there is no more that i can add to women who are able to use erudite and turgid correctly in a sentence. This impresses me greatly. Word power is awesome and strangely overlooked. But then I haven’t had a bad review for three years since I used “Sisyphean”, “aplomb” and “dilaudid induced project analysis” in my self-review. These blog entries are certainly the green Lantern ring in our Cracker Jack boxes of literary enjoyment. Thank you for opening up a vent window for us to know a wee bit more about you both. It is always a pleasure to share in the smiles of witty banter. StephniLee

      1. I should clarify previous post. I have not had a negative review at work. Not to be confused with mad skills of certain twitchy reviewer. (BTB, Salem stay away from green faeries and their beverages. Faerie circles will only lead one to misquotes, rambling and wearing mismatched socks) SL

  2. Great interview, ladies. Thanks to all. Yes, I am looking forward to the expansion of TRR. 2014 is shaping up to be a great year. Ann reading her own work? What a wonderful idea!

    1. Why, thank you—this has been a lot of fun, and many kind thanks to Nurse Magill for letting Ann and me frolic on her playground. As soon as I can wrench Ann away from her regrettable day job, she will be chained to Soundcloud until I can get her reading uploaded onto her website—I anticipate it taking at least two cocktail shakers of Cosmos. If all goes well, we’ll see what sort of fun can be jiggered up in the next 350 or so days of 2014.

  3. Anyone who even notices the rampant abuse of em and en dashes has earned my highest respect! (From Salem’s Boomtown post, for those wondering what I’m talking about.) Loved this look into the collaborative writing process (though I started with this installment, so am now off to read Ann’s contribution). Oh, and loved the clip–CLIT Con! 🙂

  4. For Barrett: Thank you for introducing us to team AMFA. I do appreciate those in the Lesfic industry who take the time to build community by connecting, educating and encouraging.

    For Salem: I’m anxious to read your cautionary tale, hoping to find an answer to my question. How would you suggest the readers find and express their voice? The question has a flip side. How can we attract more knowledgeable readers to Lesfic? I often encounter resistance from book clubs and individuals who stereotype Lesfic as Harlequin romance. They don’t see the depth and breadth of topics being covered. Rather than how do we get Lesfic into mainstream, I’d like to know how we can draw those readers who already express their voice.

    Hi Ho Hi Ho – back to work.

    Thanks again to all three of you for taking the time to show us a bit of your book world.

    1. Hi there, and thanks for stopping by—you asked very intersting and nuanced questions about readers and book clubs.

      First, I’m not so sure it’s a matter of attracting “more knowledgeable” readers, as it is communicating to the existing readers that not all books are created equal, and that they have the right to expect more if they so desire. When I review a book, I don’t just read it and decide that I liked or didn’t like it. While that IS a critical element, I also look at the writing style, and try to consider themes, metaphors, primary and secondary character development, ease and effectiveness of dialogue, transitions, and pace. When I write my reviews, I discuss these myriad elements, with the express intent of getting readers, authors, and publishers to consider these books on a much deeper and wider plane of existence.

      When it comes to readers having a voice, almost anything goes. I chose to start a blog, and moderate and participate on panels at GCLS. Others can have their voices heard by using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and myriad other outlets to sing the praises of a quality book or author. A reader can also post reviews on outlets such as Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. And, let us not forget the long list of Yahoo and other chat groups out there that consider and discuss these topics all the time. Lastly, it never hurts for a reader to reach out to the author and/or publisher to let them know what is liked and appreciated. If we don’t tell them, how will they know?

      Right now, I see the majority of lesfic readers as women “of a certain age”. Meaning that most of our readers are 40+. Sadly, that is not a sustainable market. All of us need to look into interesting, engaging, and innovative ways to connect with readers in the age 15 – 25 and 25 – 40 markets. These women have had different life experiences, have different social triggers, and are looking for different things in literature. IF we can capture them, the market will continue to grow. Personally, I’ve always believed that if you connect with younger readers, you’re more likely to have them hooked for life.

      Now, Book Clubs. Unless you’re hooked into an all or mostly lesbian book club, chances are you won’t get to read any lesbian content that doesn’t have the names of Carol Anshaw, Lisa Alther, or Rita Mae Brown on it. And, since a vast majority of lesbian fiction (including mystery, intrigue, and general fiction) is still considered “formulaic romance”, full of graphic sex, perky nipples, and turgid clits, I can understand why some readers who invest themselves into book clubs don’t want to read those things. Especially if they are straight—I certainly know I have no desire to read about graphic hetero sex. So, what to do? Well, suggest books that don’t contain graphic sexual content. Suggest books that have defined themes, strong metaphors, and quality writing. Ask that your book club take a chance on one book, and trust you. Then give them something that will rock their world in ways they never expected. Those books are out there, and they have to power to move and challenge even the most esoteric and erudite reader.

      1. Thanks for the very thorough reply. I was never a fan of writing reviews, but I’ve started to put a few on Amazon. I despise the star rating system. There are many reasons to like or dislike a book. I might want to recognize the way a painful topic was handled with compassion or the skilful of building suspense. Those are not apple to apple comparisons and the system rankles me with its limitations.

        The Facebook interactions between readers and authors seems more appropriate as a community of encouragement. Posts go viral far too easily and without any discretion, to make that social media a safe place for constructive criticism.

        The reviews on TRR are thoughtful and well written. Kudos! I’ve added TRR to my subscriptions. You give good insight there and in your post here. The demographics were at first surprising to me and then I realized that most of the book groups I associate with are 40+. Interesting to think about. I think I’ll poke about in the brains of the younger readers in my family to find out what pulls them into a book.

        We used to pass books around to family and friends, which was a great way to learn about favorite reads. That sharing has become harder with e-books and few libraries stock a variety of lesbian novels. I’ve resorted to buying hard copies of certain books I’ve enjoyed on the Kindle and then passing them along to friends. It’s a good thing I don’t have many vices. The book budget is ridiculous! Thank you to all the authors who offer give-a-ways! Barrett tells me I won a copy of Balefire for this little dialogue. You guys rock! 🙂

  5. I had not heard Ann read before. What an awesome addition to the interview. Thanks, C.a. Casey. She is really great!

  6. “Queue drumroll” I loved reading about the GCLS conference thesis. I am with you 100% on what you wrote. It’s getting to be like buying something “made in China” where the common consensus is that you won’t get something of quality. I think we all have a responsibility to the les-fic community to turn this around. And yes, it does seem like it’s time for the readers to find their voice. Great interview! I would like to know just what Lucy’s job was in the collaborative process?

    1. Hi Lori, thanks for stopping by to read the interview, and my blog post about the state of Lesfic. My intent in bringing up my views about the current state of lesfic is not to point fingers, but instead to open a dialogue and bring the topic to the forefront of our collective consciousness .

      Now, on to the important stuff: Lucy is a busy husky, and has several irons in the fire at any given time. However, during the writing of ‘Hoosier Daddy’, her central contribution was as Project Manager for the K-9 excavation of our back yard. She’s always been good with numbers and schedules, and was able to work seemlessly with our other two dogs, Maddie and Gracie. Of course, Maddie is non-union, and Gracie is union all the way. And you know what THAT does to payroll!

  7. Hi Salem, firstly, loved Hoosier Daddy laughed out loud many times. Secondly, I read your article A Cautionary Tale on TRR and I think you have hit the nail on the head with your views. My wife and I have both noticed that the amount of excreta from the male of the bovine species which has hit lesfic in the last few years has increased dramatically as have the fans (pun intended) and I feel the genre has already suffered because of it. The other side of that coin is that we are now happy to say no to lesfic books because, unlike the past, we know there are plenty of other books out there. I personally am therefore much more selective in what I read and buy and find that I am now looking for good impartial reviews, such as those on TTR to help me decide. I think more and more buyers are going to do that too and there will be a greater demand for them. Your future plans for TRR indicate that you see this need with more reviews however, there are only so many proper reviews one person can do so I imagine you will wish to use guest reviewers too. My question (“at last” I hear you say) how do you select guest reviewers and how do you ensure that they review to the same standard?

    1. Jane, thanks for sharing!

      Before I answer your question, I need to make it clear that reviewing is an imperfect science at the very best. On a good day, two erudite, well-read reviewers could read the very same book, and have completely different thoughts and opinions on it. So, for me, a good review, a solid review, discusses the successes and/or failures of any given book, and then goes on to justify the basis for those beliefs.

      As for my guest reviewers, I only ask that they be respectful, honest with their opinions, and provide justification for their praise or censure. I review all submissions before I post, and will correspond with the guest reviewer if there are any questions or any follow-up required.

      And lastly, how do I choose them? Sometimes I ask folks if they are interested. If they are, we usually open a dialogue about what book or type of book they’d like to review. Other times, folks contact me and say they have a review they’d like to write. When this happens, we talk about the significance of it it, and try to hammer out a schedule.

      I’m always open to guest reviewers—it allows me to provide readers with more content and analysis.

  8. Hi Salem. First question for you. How did the title of the book come about? When I first saw it I was a bit put off. I don’t know why. After reading the book I understand where the title came from. I will say I did buy the book because I happen to love Anns work, and of course I wanted to see what you two would come up with. You ladies hit a home run!!

    Second question is why did you decied to start TRR? You set yourself up to be the one everyone loves to hate. I have much respect for you and TRR. I do enjoy the guest reviewers I’m hopeing to see more of you this comming year

    1. Hi Donna!

      Great first question. The title ‘Hoosier Daddy’ is simply a playful name for our fictitious bar in Princeton, Indiana. I can’t remember exactly how it came about, maybe Ann can chime in, but I just remember her looking at me and saying “Hoosier Daddy”. It seemed to fit. There is a real bar in Princeton, which we do mention in the book at one point, called ‘Poods’. To me, that is a PERFECT bar name. But I digress. Our biggest fears about the title were (1) People would think it was about a lesbian from Indiana finding her long last daddy (and, in fact, our Publisher thought almost exactly that); and (2) Readers wouldn’t think a romance about lesbians from Indiana could be smart and sexy. Thank you from the bottom of my twitchy little heart for saying we hit a home run. Coming from you, that is an awesome compliment!

      Now the second question. I started TRR because I was tired of buying books with 5 Star ratings, and finding them unreadable. I just thought I’d write a few reviews to explain what I thought was good or bad, maybe learn a little about the industry, and have some fun writing something that wasn’t techincal. Being a Reviewer is not always easy. It sucks to admit publically that an author didn’t hit the mark. It sucks more when their fans call you names and hijack your website. Then again, sometimes someone plops a book in your lap, and the world opens up in ways you’ve never expected. You get to write wonderful things, and sometimes, people even smile a little. That feels REALLY good. I plan a lot of big things in 2014, and with luck, TRR will transform into a literary eZine. I have a lot of work to do, and even more reviews to write, but this is an exciting time. Thanks for joining me on this journey, Donna!

  9. First a big Thank You to Jeanne. I so appreciate you taking the time to do the interviews and posting them for our entertainment and enlightenment.
    A question for Salem…The idea of an eZine is quite intriguing. Do you have a time frame in mind for this venture? How do you envision the content? Your reviews will be present of course but will you also be looking for reviews from other sources or original stories and such from the lesfic authors community?
    Since you and Jeanne have both commented on hearing Ann tell her stories in her voice have you or Ann considered releasing an audio version of your book with Ann doing the actual reading?
    Thanks for all the laughs.

      1. Hi Jane! Reference my answer to the lovely MAF, and be on the lookout for Ann’s notice on Facebook that her audio file is posted on her blog. If you’re anything like me, it takes fiction to an entirely new and wonderous level. And, I’m not just saying that because required by §4, Section 11, Part 9.J.8.n.6 of our prenup.

    1. Hiya MAF, thanks for swinging by to check out the wares. The eZine is the next logical step for The Rainbow Reader. I started working on it in 2013, but didn’t get it past the conceptual stage. I’d like to have it up and rolling by summer 2014, if things work out as planned. It will feature my reviews, as well as plenty of guest reviews—of both new and old works. I also want to open up an area to publish original content (short stories, poetry, essays, and experimental fiction) by both new and established authors. Beyond that, I’d like it to host an area where publishers, designers, typesetters, editors, agents, publicists, and other literary specialists can advertise their skills, and where folks looking to connect with those services can browse the aisles. And, I’d like to have a feature where publishers and authors can announce the release of new works or upcoming reading and signings. There may be a few other bits and pieces of content, but most importantly, I want it to be a literary eZine by, for, and about lesbians. Well, at least that’s my vision.

      Now, about Ann’s reading…it is truly a thing to behold.

      In the next day or two, Ann will be posting an audio update on her blog ( She’ll be reading from ‘Hoosier Daddy’. Beyond that, we have discussed the possibility of an Ann McMan audiobook, but nothing definite at the moment. Stay tuned, I’m sure something will break loose on the topic.

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