Monday, April 6, 2015

To "Clean" or Not to "Clean"

This week I wanted to get caught up on one of the themes we've been slinging around Spacefreighters Lounge the last couple of weeks, by throwing out a crazy thought of my own.

And I've got a bit of news to share, too.


Ever since Greta posted the first blog on this, Clean Reader--Censorship by any other Name, followed by Donna's thoughts ("Clean Readers?" Not Mine!) I've been giving it a lot of thought. Initially, I was on the fence. If readers want to read an "expletive deleted" version of novels, would that be so bad? Wasn't the important thing that they were, in fact, reading the books?

But then I saw the point raised that the books were being altered without the author's (or publisher's) knowledge or approval. That got my back up! That is NOT a good thing, no matter how you slice it.

Sharon also pointed out the potential problem with reviews. If readers are providing reviews of the "sanitized" version, they aren't really giving a fair, unbiased opinion of the novel the author published. That's not a good thing either.

So that got me thinking...

You know how movie producers often provide two versions of a film, the original screen-version and the "fit for prime time TV" version with either bleeps, overdubs (or alternate) dialogue, and sometimes even a few edited-out scenes of naughty-bits?

What if we, as authors, took charge of the situation and decided to do the same?

What if we started producing TWO versions of our books, the original "raw" version and a version intended for more sensitive audiences? What if publishers started doing the same?

Is that too far-fetched?

Let's look at the pluses. It would return the control to the author to present their work in a way they intend it be presented, and any changes would be made by their own hand, while still giving the reader a choice of whether to read the "Original" or "G Rated" versions. (Probably not that phrase, since G rated films have to go through a vetting process by an educated committee, but I'm sure a simple, universal phrase could be implemented that everyone would recognize.)

In that way, phrases like "Hounds of Heck" could be avoided (as per Greta's example).

What would be the drawbacks?

For books available in digital format, I think it would be pretty negligible:
  • A final edit to alter dialogue and scene-language so it fits the G rating  
  • A cover note (or seal?) to reflect the book is the author's G-Rated Version
  • A bit more work on promotion and marketing to let the public know both versions are available
Not a huge deal, I would think. Unless anyone can think of a major drawback. Print might be a bit more labor-intensive, especially if the book is being published by a major publisher with tight timelines, but possibly still doable.

Advantage to the readers:
Readers would get to read the version they prefer. If certain words, phrases or scenes tend to make them uncomfortable, they'd have the option of choosing a "milder" version.

Advantage to authors:
Authors might have opportunities to reach a larger readership and less chance of bad reviews based on more adult or explicit scenes or "bad" language that some readers find objectionable.

There would have to be some sort of a standard reference developed as to what words or content would need to be banished from the "G-Rated" version. Opinions may vary, so this could lead to a lot of debate until these standards could be determined. And if it runs too far to the extreme on the "milder" end of the scale, it may not be doable at all for some authors. Adult situations are adult situations, no matter what language is used.

Or the decision could be left up to the writers, though this is bound to spark some controversy with readers over exactly what is or isn't "acceptable" for a milder version of an adult book. (Oy!)

So what do you think? Am I all wet or does this idea carry some merit?


I've also done some thinking about the Clean Read controversy as it relates to my first novel, INHERIT THE STARS.

Because the story takes place fifteen hundred years in the future, the language has changed a great deal. In all likelihood, many words would become unrecognizable in that far-flung future, but I had to keep it within the realm of understanding, so common phrases were shortened, words and names truncated, and slang phrases evolved with the times. Close enough that readers should get the gist, but just different enough to be a bit, well...alien to our speech patterns.

This applied to expletives, too, because the words we use today would no doubt morph into something else in the span of 15 centuries. So my characters use words like "fug" and "fuggen" (no translation needed), Hades is generally used instead of Hell, "giggadam" instead of "damn" and phrases like "Gods of Gellen" and "Empora's Hades" in the place of more recognizable oaths. There's even a silly composite word for an exclamation (rated "clean") Gerabunga!--a mash-up of Geronimo! and Cowabunga!

The love scenes are steamy, but lack "spicy" language (frank references to body parts or acts) or explicit description, though the bedroom door--or airlock--is most definitely not closed on these passages.

So now I ponder if INHERIT THE STARS automatically qualifies as "clean" because it avoids the use of "common" words considered to be bad language as well as explicit language in scenes of intimacy? I dunno. I think readers will have to weight in on that question.

Hmmm, this topic has generated a lot of "what abouts," hasn't it? Let me know what you think.


I hope those of you who celebrate had a wonderful Easter holiday or spring celebration. (Or maybe Fall celebration in Greta's neck of the woods.) I have something fun to go with the holiday.

Easter eggs!

An "Easter egg" is a slang term (Clean Read approved) that's also known in the publishing world as a freebie or bonus material added to the back of a novel--something fun for readers to discover.

My author web site is throwing a little Easter celebration all week long by tossing in a few surprise Easter eggs for those who stop by for a visit. You're invited to go on an Easter egg hunt this coming Monday through Friday (April 6-10), to search for a few buried treasures. And while you're there, consider signing up for my newsletter which will provide a few Easter eggs, bonuses and exclusive material all its own when it launches later this Spring. Signing up comes with a No Spam promise. I won't be filling up your inbox with emails, guaranteed. I'll only be sending a newsletter once a quarter or if there's a special announcement. And speaking of...


It's out! Woohoo! *happy dancin'* INHERIT THE STARS is now available as a complete novel on Amazon. Originally launched as a serialized novel in three parts for those who prefer shorter, more manageable reads on their Kindles or Kindle apps, the complete novel is for readers who want the entire epic all under one cover. The cover is the same as Part I: Flight, but identifies it as "The Complete Novel."

Next, for those of you who subscribe to or buy current issues of Romantic Times Book Reviews, there's a little surprise in the May issue. Both Donna and I share a page--along with two other Firebird peers--in a debut author spotlight. INHERIT THE STARS and UNCHAINED MEMORY are depicted in living color, along with our smiling mugs and mini-blurbs and bios.

And finally, congratulations to our own Pippa Jay for hitting #1 Best Seller on Breathless Press with her SFR, TETHERED. Yahoo, Pippa! Way to go! She was still on top at the time I wrote this blog, so you can take a peek for yourself on the Breathless Press site.

Have a great week everyone!

~~~ * ~~~


  1. Jennifer Foehner Wells actually did this with her book Fluency. It has the 'All Ages' Edition.

    1. Aha! I figured some author out there somewhere had probably already tried this. Thanks for mentioning which one, Gobitis.

  2. I personally would never produce two versions of any of my work. Because of many of the themes and character types I write, I can't just sanitize words. In the case of My Name Is A'yen, users of the Clean Reader app would object to the overall content and A'yen's romantic background.

    A'yen is the reason I made the decision to leave that market behind and pretend it doesn't exist. I refused to change him to meet those idiotic rules. And I've been blasted by people in that community who've never read the book, simply because I wrote a bi alien hero.

    I've spent too many years around the people who make up the Clean Reader audience. I want nothing to do with them and I will not cater to them in any way.

    1. I agree, Rachel, that this just won't work for some books. It's not always the words, but the situation.

  3. Some authors already do this, particularly if they use WattPad. While I don't have to worry about sex scenes in my books, there are some I'd rate at least PG for violence. As for the other, that was my thought when this blew up. Movies provide sanitized versions for television and airlines all the time. I will admit to not having the issues other authors have had. Because the app doesn't change the base file AND allows the end user (who has CHOSEN to download the app) to control what they see, and because the reader has paid for the file, I'm like, whatever. BUT, I can see ways this might be distorted. For instance, if someone went in and set the app to remove certain political commentary...but then I circle back to reader choice. People self select what they see and hear all the time...So yeah, it's a puzzler.

    1. Pauline, it's certainly not cut and dried, is it? Every book is going to present unique situations.

  4. I think this could work for some books. But when I think about Jake in my new SFR ECHO 8 ... his character would not make any sense with sanitized dialogue. And while sometimes a sex scene is just a sex scene, many of them are very transformational for one or both characters.

    1. Sharon, I agree. It would definitely change Jake's personality to change his dialogue. That's the drawback to what I'm proposing, because the two book versions would have some fundamental differences.

  5. Apart from anything else I wouldn't like to find myself with two slightly different editions of the same book. They'd both need to be edited, copy edited and the like. It seems like a lot of work for a minority. I've taken to appending a warning to the blurb to appease those who don't like romance, sex, or cuss words. "This book is a science fiction romance. It contains coarse language and sex scenes." To me, it's sort of a book version of the ratings for movies. If the person then reads the book - well, what you see is what you get.

  6. Absolutely this would work for some authors. I wouldn't do it personally because a) I already have too many published works and WIPs to spend the time making all of them suitable for all (but still wouldn't use something like Clean Reader to 'sanitize' it or pick words not of my choosing), b) I write adult AND YA so already cater to two audiences (there is still swearing in my YA, though no sex), c) my publisher wouldn't do it for the books I have with them, d) I don'ttend to write very explicit in general, so most of my books are what I consider suitable for most, and those that aren't are marked up accordingly as for adults only, and e) I had a specific age range/audience in mind with the books I write and they are written accordingly. I don't want to do something like, say, Coca Cola where you have a dozen variations of the same product. I feel I gave a wide enough audience by writing adult and YA and in multiple genres without trying to do everything with each separate title. Again, I feel it would change the actual aim/feel/essence of the story I wrote in the first place. Commercially, perhaps it's a good idea. But I'd need a massive incentive to commit the required time to it when I already don't gave enough hours in the day for my current projects. And I'm someone who has the luxury of hours in the day to spend on it!

  7. And damn my phone for keep changing have to gave. Sigh. And thanks for the mention! Still sitting at number one at time of commenting. ^_^


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About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.