Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's Coming Next for My Writing

I have to admit it: I've not been writing much lately. It's frustrating me. But it's not writer's block. It's that paralysis I feel when there are too many choices.

When I first started writing, my goal was to write a book. As in singular. I didn't know if I'd ever write another one, or anything else for that matter. But I wanted with every ounce of my soul to write a book. I focused entirely on that novel until the first draft was done. Then, as I realized that while I needed to edit it, I also needed to figure out how to get it published. During my research, I discovered that writing short stories and having them published in literary magazines would help me get my novel published.

Well, then. There I went! I dove off that cliff and pounded out a slew of them. (You can look at the tabs above to find links to many of those stories online, btw. And links to purchase anthologies that contain others.)

But then Finding Angel was published. And Seeking Unseen. And now I find myself in a weird situation. That paralysis I mentioned because now it's not just about getting published, it's about reaching readers. Marketing. And these days, that can include self-published works.

I've self-published two novelettes already. Protection's Prison, which is a companion story to Finding Angel. And Ordinary Folk, which is a stand-alone werewolf story of unique focus (see this review). I have two more in the works (again, one a companion to Toch Island, and one an unrelated stand-alone).

But I also need to work on Book 3 of the Toch Island Chronicles. And I need to finish editing a whole other book I've written the first draft for. (Info on that one here.)

Anyway, today I took a look at what I have for Book 3 of Toch Island. It ain't much. A prologue and a couple of pages of chapter one. But that look did me a world of good. It made me realize that I really, truly do need to get these other projects done. I want to be able to completely submerge myself in writing Book 3. I don't want distractions. I know where it needs to go, and it's going to require 100% focus to get it right.

I owe the book, and myself and my readers, my full attention and I can't give it that until I'm done with these other things.

Fortunately, I'm really close. The stand-alone novella is more than half-way written. The non-Toch book is being critiqued right now and I'll be able to dive into edits soon. And, truthfully, the one Toch companion story may need to wait until Book 3 is done.

So there you have it. My plan for what's coming next in my writing.

Not that you asked :P.

Oh, and while you wait on me to get through this pile of writing projects...HERE is something to go read. Big thanks to Lisa M. Collins for interviewing me on her blog!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Authors as Reviewers

Yesterday a link to a blog post showed up in my Facebook feed over and over. The title of the article is "Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews?" (henceforth "SAWBBR")

I jokingly said this as a response on my FB wall:
"I say, no one should write bad book reviews.
If you're going to write a review, do it well."

I understand that the SAWBBR blogger actually means negative book reviews. And...I happen to disagree with her.

As I said in THIS blog post on my blog a few months ago:
I've labored over my decision to review books, especially YA books. What's going to happen if one day my books take off, and suddenly I am face to face with some of the authors I've given negative reviews? Will I be sitting alone in the cafeteria, the one hated by all the populars?
SAWBBR implies that yes, you should not give negative reviews for that very reason. You might anger or hurt the author you have reviewed and they may hate you forever. She basically says that because writers are oversensitive, it's our job as fellow writers to never hurt their feelings. Listen, I went into this writing thing knowing I was going to have readers and fellow writers who don't like my work, and who are willing to say so. All writers should know this. You should not put your work out for all to see and expect nothing but gushing praise. Being an emotional artist is not an excuse.

Ah, but there's the whole "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" thing. You know, silence is golden. Just don't review the book at all and the author will get the message without you having to say a single hurtful word.

But the reviews aren't for the author of the book. The reviews are there for readers, and what silence says to readers is something entirely different. When a book has only a few reviews, it does not tell other readers that the book is hated--it tells them that it isn't being read at all. And when a book has gobs of positive reviews and no negative ones, it gives the reader nothing for comparison. Silence doesn't speak volumes, it says nothing.

And since the whole idea behind the article addresses why authors shouldn't give negative reviews for fear that it can hurt their careers, let me say this:

When a reader looks at the list of books a reviewer has reviewed and sees only five-star ratings, that is ALL the information they have about that reviewer. It could mean the the reviewer is not an avid reader and they are impressed with every book they have read. It could mean they only review for friends. It tells readers nothing about what the reviewer does not like, what would make them give a book two stars or only one.

In all honesty, when I see that a reviewer (author or not) only ever gives four and five-star reviews, I tend to dismiss their opinions altogether. I don't assume there are a slew of books out there that they are simply holding their tongue about. And if I know they are an author, I assume they consider reviewing a way to prop up their fellow writers. What I see when a writer says they will give only positive reviews is someone who expects only positive reviews. One of the blog commenters on SAWBBR actually says, "I agree that reviewers should not post 1 or 2 star reviews. When my book comes out, I hope that people will extend that courtesy to me." That reeks of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine."

I really am trying to keep this post from being a point-by-point dismissal of SAWBBR. The author there has a right to her opinion, but one thing in particular really galls me. She says:
"So when I see this in new writers? It’s cute. Like baby steps. When a baby is learning to walk, we don’t yell, “YOU SO SUCK. CAN’T EVEN WALK! LUZR!” A lot of the writers brave enough to go it alone know they are risking rejection, but I prefer to focus on their bravery and not the lack of plot."
I'm sorry, but that boils down to praising in public for someone publishing before they have mastered the craft of writing. If I bought a car and the car was made by someone who hadn't mastered the craft of car design and mechanics, or I bought an outfit by someone just learning to operate a sewing machine, while under the impression that they were a professional in their field....Uh-uh. The whole point of all the gate-keepers and editors and revisions and revisions and revisions is so that what ends up published is actually at a publishable level. Baby steps should be taken in the safety of the living room, not in the middle of the road during a marathon. I really don't consider calling them out on it "hurting my brand." I want readers to respect my opinion on books, and if I'm in defense of authors who have no business self-publishing when they are nowhere near ready, how is that going to help me? (BTW--you can give an honest and negative review and not call someone a loser.)

The final thought in SAWBBR is that critique should be reserved for private emails. The author gets emails from people who point out typos, and it's "super sweet' because they "cared." Yes, and that's great. I've got no issue with a reader privately emailing an author to point out typos. But...typos don't belong in reviews. You do not knock off four stars because of a misplaced comma or a single instance of their when it should be there. ALL books have typos in them. Those little beasts are impossible to get rid of completely, and it's lovely having someone help find them.

But I would not ever presume to send a private unsolicited email to an author listing out what I think they did wrong. I've been asked directly for reviews and emailed authors privately about issues I found in their books. I've emailed a couple that had so many issues I had to tell, I'm sorry, I won't review this publicly. Because I do, in fact, have a heart and if I have agreed to *swap* a review with another author I'm not going to let them (possibly) rave about my book while I bash theirs publicly. But guess what? Those authors have since given me the cold shoulder. They did not at all find my emails super-sweet, even though I wrote them because I cared. I can't imagine sending an email to an author who has no idea who I am and who did not ask for my opinion and expecting them to think I'm anything but a pretentious prat.

No, I actually feel you need to post your reviews as a reviewer, and unless you already have a relationship with the author in question that allows you a personal email, keep it out where others can see it. Take responsibility for your words. Own up to them.

I truly believe that readers find my opinions on books more trustworthy because I'm willing to speak out against books I don't like. And because I'm willing to accept negative criticism out in the open. Yes, I've gotten negative reviews--and I did not have an emotional writer hissy fit.

Lastly, an observation of my own that came about during discussion of SAWBBR on my Facebook page.

The idea that avoiding negative reviews is a way of protecting my own career feels...selfish. As I said, reviews aren't for authors--they're for readers, and it's for readers that I write those reviews. For them alone, and putting my career before my loyalty to readers doesn't feel right to me. And definitely going about it with the attitude that I won't give negative reviews to avoid getting them....well, you know how I feel about that.

That said, I believe there is a level of success an author can reach where negative reviews end up with superpowers. When an author's name holds more weight than the words of the review alone, there is an issue, and those authors need to be very careful. Instead of being a one or two star in a sea of ratings, theirs can end up elevated to unnatural levels. This is why when I see a NYT bestselling author refuse to review books, I'm okay with it. But generally, they simply don't review at all rather than hand out only five-stars, and that is huge difference. They step away and refuse to be a reviewer of any kind, and I don't find that in opposition to my stance of being in as a reviewer means being in all the way.

So maybe some day I'll be proved* wrong in the way I've decided to handle it. I may find that writing negative reviews, and possibly writing this very blog post, will result in writing-career suicide for me. In the meantime, I'm keeping my reviewer hat.

(*grammar nazis--if I have that form of the word wrong, please tell me--I could not find it for sure online)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Craftiness Abounds (or, the Impossible Holster)

So, I'm going to the Realm Makers Conference in August, and there will be a costume banquet. Of course -- of course -- I will be dressing up as River Song.

The particular outfit I wanted to wear is her gunslinger ensemble from the Impossible Astronaut episode:

So, let's see. Jeans...check. Boots...check White shirt...check. Denim jacket...check.

Awesome tooled leather holster...not check :(.

A search online revealed that there are holsters EXACTLY like hers for sale! :) But they run at minimum $80 plus shipping :(.

However, I would not let that deter me. There HAD to be a way to MAKE this...

And yes!

I started off by going to Goodwill and buying a really ugly purse for $5. Which I should have taken a picture of. Here it is after I chopped it up for the pieces I wanted:

It had some textured parts (perfect for the tooled leather) and some smooth parts. It was, however, the wrong color. Fortunately for me, we have lots of wood stain in our garage. After cutting, stitching, gluing and staining, this is what I got!

The belt I bought at Walmart for $6.50, btw.

And for comparison's sake, the "purse" BEFORE and AFTER:

Anyway, the only thing I have left to do is buy the pouch she carries on the other side, which I would've had to buy even if I'd gotten the megacash real leather holster:

Not yet sure where I'm going to find that, but at the least I could probably stitch it from a piece of leather bought at JoAnn fabric. I'll likely make another trip to Goodwill, though, in search of a small leather satchel that I can cut the strap off. We'll see, but I'm not too worried.

Just had to share! And I promise pics of me in the full get-up after the conference. WHICH, BTW, THERE IS STILL ROOM AT! Click HERE for more info.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Companion Story to Finding Angel - FREE June 10 -14!

I've just released a short story (well, pretty short, about 20 pages) that goes along with Finding Angel. If you haven't read the series, Protection's Prison is a good place to start. If you have already read Finding Angel, all the better!

Here's the description:

Siophra's magic enables her to Protect living things from harm. But there is no way to Protect herself from the heartache she feels over her father's refusal to allow his precious Elven daughter to love a human.
Her father's anger pushes her to make an extreme decision, until her love for him, despite his cruelty, puts her in a place where her magic becomes necessary to keep him safe--a place where her Protection becomes her prison.

And right now - from June 10 to June 14 - it's free on Kindle! Click HERE to snag it!