The Most Dangerous Game

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I’m going to do my best to put this into words, despite my suspicions of their inadequacy to convey what I’m feeling.

We’re told as artists, from reliable sources, not to take things personally. Yet the act of being an author, or musician, or painter, is quite tied to our intimacies and close relationships. Any career that deals, even a little bit, with reputation is by default a career of duality. The self is suddenly shifted from a thing of sole possession, to a commodity to be bought and sold.

Don’t kid yourself—as an author, you are your writing. That simple truth is the reason why many authors choose to publish under pen names. It protects them. It shields them from some of the inherent pitfalls of this industry. In retrospect, I wish I’d used my pen as a true pen, instead of a novelty leftover from when I was a girl who once dreamt of being an author.

Why?

Because—just like in Son of Ereubus, nothing is what I thought it would be. I don’t feel like I thought I would. I am not reacting as I thought I would, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.  Blogging only goes so far. “Getting over it” only goes so far. “Holding your head up” only shuts out so much.

I mentioned, months ago, that everything was changing for me. Part of that change includes  sudden interest in my life, attention from people with whom I’ve tried desperately over the years to rekindle relationships—with whom I’ve tried to start friendships with, in some cases. It’s a double-edged sword. I am both grateful and heartbroken: Grateful because the support has been overwhelming; heartbroken, because it has nothing at all to do with me as a person.

I am now the equivalent of my accomplishments. This isn’t universally true—of course–there are some folks who have been in my life and been by my side since long before any of my dreams started to appear even remotely possible. This post isn’t about them.

So, with all of that in mind, let’s talk about relationships for a moment.

Brutal honesty, while honorable in some circles, is simply cruel in others. Siblings, parents, close friends and spouses often bear the brunt of our less-civilized selves, in part because we know they love us and that they aren’t going anywhere … when in truth, they should be granted only the best of what we are as human beings. They deserve our highest respect and deepest consideration. Yet, we seem to reserve those things for veritable strangers … people we want to impress or from whom we have something to gain.

We are not immune to this as storytellers.

Our fellow authors deserve nothing from us but the kindest regard and the sincerest empathy. Instead, we’re often consumed with jealousy or simply too absorbed in our own pursuits to realize how our actions affect our peers in publishing. It all stems back to this childish competition mode that a good majority of writers fall into … as if one person’s triumph has anything at all to do with yours.

Seriously, as a whole, authors can be the most self-serving assholes on the planet. I’ve watched writers tear each other apart, disregard favors, back-stab and sabotage till they’ve flat run out of ideas. Then they wait till opportunity knocks. If you don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, then good for you. But, read on anyway because if you stay on this career path, you will eventually understand me. It might take moving up the food chain a few notches. The darkness of human nature, in some ways, seems at its most raw and excitable in the creative world. Maybe this is because we deal with the soul on a daily basis. I genuinely don’t know. And religious authors are not exempt from this untoward behavior. They just do a better job of hiding their nastiness.

Not all authors are this way (yet those who are, are unavoidable). Some of us will genuinely do anything and everything we can to help out other people. We want to see others succeed because we remember what it was like to feel the all-mighty Power of Suck. Hell, I’ve given shards of my soul away for the benefit of others, and you know what … it was worth it. I’d do it over again in a heart beat. The problem though, is that a great portion of up-and-coming authors are downright selfish. Pure and simple. A great many mid-level authors, who’ve been in the game for years are even worse. They’re not just egocentric, they’re ravenous and exhausted from treading proverbial water. They’re tired of being the sum total of their achievements to their friends and family, and especially strangers, and some are out for blood.

And in a way, it reminds me of the 1932 film ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Why? Well, here’s the plot (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Famous big game hunter and author Bob Rainsford  swims to a small, lush island, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. There, he becomes the guest of Russian Count Zaroff, a fellow hunting enthusiast. Zaroff remarks that Bob’s misfortune is not uncommon; in fact, four people from the previous sinking are still staying with him: Eve Trowbridge, her brother Martin, and two sailors.

That night, Zaroff introduces Bob to the Trowbridges and reveals his obsession with hunting. During one of his hunts, a Cape buffaloinflicted a head wound on him. He eventually became bored of the sport, to his great consternation, until he discovered “the most dangerous game” on his island. Bob asks if he means tigers, but Zaroff denies it. Later, Eve shares her suspicions of Zaroff’s intentions with the newcomer. The count took each sailor to see his trophy room, on different days, and both have mysteriously disappeared. She believes their host is responsible, but Bob is unconvinced.

Then Martin vanishes as well. In their search for him, Bob and Eve end up in Zaroff’s trophy room, where they find a man’s head mounted on the wall. Then, Zaroff and his men appear, carrying Martin’s body. Zaroff expects Bob to view the matter like him and is gravely disappointed when Bob calls him a madman.

He decides that, as Bob refuses to be a fellow hunter, he must be the next prey. If Bob can stay alive until sunrise, Zaroff promises him and Eve their freedom. However, he has never lost the game of what he calls “outdoor chess”. Eve decides to go with Bob.

Eventually, they are trapped by a waterfall. While Bob is being attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff shoots, and the young man falls into the water. Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress, to enjoy his prize. However, the dog was shot, not Bob. Bob fights first Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing them. As Bob and Eve speed away in a motor boat, a not-quite-dead Zaroff tries to shoot them, but he succumbs to his wounds and falls out of the window where below are his hunting dogs, it is assumed that the dogs kill him for good.

Head on a wall anyone? There are days when this plot certainly seems to do a damn good job hemming up the publishing industry. And it certainly sums up what it means in this current climate to be an author in general. Whether it’s by fellow scribes, or old friends, we’re hunted once we’ve joined the game … one way or another. We can deny it all we like. But, we’re in this for better or worse. We agreed to this. Didn’t we? This most dangerous game?

 

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I Love Me …

“I see myself capable of arrogance and brutality… That’s a fierce thing, to discover within yourself that which you despise the most in others.” ~George Stevens

Everyone has them … articles that make you cringe. Things that make your skin literally itch to crawl off your bones in disgust. Pet peeves. Mine is literary elitism and I just read the mother of all posts on the subject. You can find it here. Go read it, or the rest of this post won’t make any sense. Seriously … I’ll wait.

OK, I trust you’ve read it. Here’s my problem … not only is Andrew Brown asserting that readers, who enjoy the prose of writers such as Dan Brown, are illiterate … wait for it … he has the balls to go on and on about his spotless and (worse yet) brilliant method of assuring that his style transcends the likes of Dan Brown and his ilk. “Flat prose” isn’t a new term, not by a long shot, but once again I find that intellectuals such as A. Brown are using their distaste for popular fiction as a childish weapon against feeling jealous of others’ success.

Comments are closed, no shock there, but I’ll give them some credit since the article is virtually archaic (2006). Still, it smacks of pretentiousness and frankly, I found the whole thing nothing more than a stroke-fest.

Unfortunately, A. Brown isn’t alone in his thoughts. If he read my work or anything at The Asylum, it would do nothing but verify his claims. After all, I’m sure this post is rife with dull, unadorned, and unpolished conversational fluff. But, my point in bringing this article up is that he’s gotten one thing in particular grievously wrong: what he calls flat prose, is simply elemental. Some stories are larger than the words with which they are told, and no amount of complexity is going to change that. Yes, he does give a little credit to LOTR for being just such a story, but did you catch the nastiness in his reference?

“Not all bad books would sell better if they were better written: if you rewrote The Lord of the Rings so that it did not read like a translation from invented dead languages, a lot of the book’s strange credibility would vanish, though by no means all. Its deeper credibility is non-stylistic and has more to do with the experience of war and loss than anything else.”

Strange credibility? Tolkien was a brilliant linguist and despite some of my personal issues in adoring his dialog, I’m not dense enough to wonder at the work’s credibility. LOTR is epic in more ways than one.

But, it doesn’t stop there.

“But there is a class of author where even this kind of explanation breaks down: Dan Brown, Dennis Wheatley, and some other thriller writers like Robert Ludlum fall into this category. They all produce books so aggressively badly written that no virtues of plot or characterisation – even if they existed, which they clearly do not – could make up for the deficiencies of style.”

No virtues of plot or characterization? Really. Who the hell is this guy to make such heated claims about the works of others in comparison to his own work? Five years later … how many Andrew Brown books do you have on your shelf?

Oh wait, we’re the illiterate masses. We wouldn’t have purchased his books anyway because we would be far too daft to fully grasp the understated brilliance of his stylish, yet-oh-so-humble prose. Wouldn’t we?

Or is it that something deeper within these works touches the hearts of real readers … the ones who carry those books near their souls and speak of those stories years after first reading them, as one would an old and dear friend? Perhaps there is something about the sort of narrative that transcends the overly ornamental prose of whomever it is he deems as worthy. I can’t give you names because he doesn’t bother to quantify what he thinks is relevant, worthwhile fiction. Other than his own.

But here is the real rub, and the most offensive claim he makes:

“I labour the point, but this resemblance to ordinary speech (except for the small matter of being unspeakable) is, I think, the secret of these books’ success. It is not just that they are written by people who can’t, in any interesting sense, write; they are read by people who have not properly learned to read. I don’t mean their taste is uneducated, or that they can’t spell, or that they have trouble with long words, though all those things may be true; I mean that they have not internalised the activity of reading so that it feels natural.”

Who can’t in any interesting sense, write? Wow. There aren’t words. At least not that come easily enough to rip this guy the new asshole he deserves. There are certain circles that would applaud his elitism. I hope, for his sake as an author, that those circles are large enough to maintain his livelihood. Calling everyone who doesn’t “get” your work, illiterate, does absolutely nothing for your career … as any professional publicist would tell you. Then again, maybe that small group of readers is who his writing best suites. I looked up some of his “refined” work and found it unutterably dull. But, perhaps that’s my fault for being so uneducated. He does after all hint that he believes all best-sellers to have been written for the poorly taught masses.

Andrew Brown, like so many of his professional peers, is a literary bully. His words are strong, but unlike a good cup of coffee, they have such little substance that drinking them leaves one feeling like a naked emperor just walked by, reveling in his new cloak, gloating over how it makes him look.

I’ll tell you how it makes him look. It makes him look like a jackass.

You see, there is bravery in saying precisely what you mean. There is danger in it. You can’t be misunderstood that way. Complex prose, often lends itself as its own excuse and defense against criticism because you can easily claim that you were misread or that the reviewer missed the point. Dan Brown doesn’t have that problem. There’s no cowardice in his work, because it merely is what it is. And millions of people think it’s incredible.

So, with that in mind allow me to translate Andrew Brown’s post for all of us illiterates out there. You’ve read what he wrote. But here is what he meant: “I love me. But my shit ain’t selling. So, it’s your fault because obviously you don’t know how to read. Not interestingly anyway and my work is infinitely more interesting than Dan Brown’s. Maybe when you’ve gone back to school and learned to naturally read my clumsy, clod-footed prose, you’ll understand my genius for what it really is. Until then, I pity you for your tastes.”

Nice. Good luck with that. I pity you for your arrogance.

**Brown (Andrew) is the author of The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man and In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite. And no, I didn’t just make that last title up.


Bizarre Behavior (and other revolutionary concepts)

 

**If you don’t care for profanity, or get offended easily, or if you already have your panties in a knot, I’d suggest you skip this post and go find something else to read … maybe something about puppies … or the Junior Women’s League.**

“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids.”  ~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

And I’m not talking about literal parenthood.

This quote perfectly explains how I feel about being a career author. If you’re going to get anything out of this post, then you might as well get over the fact that I use children as an analogy for my writing. Or else you’ll find the next few minutes an utter waste of your time.

You see, I just finished getting my second child ready for graduation. We’ve been through birth, the terrible twos, the worse threes, and all of the educational, meet-with-the-teacher kind of stuff, and here we are, a few months away from taking the final exam (the final exam being the moment where the novel gets sent out into the world). It’s all over. The fat lady has sung. I’ve had my last chance to wipe lint from his shirt or smooth down his unruly hair. And funny enough, I don’t feel like I did with the first one.

Like with children …. you mellow out a little with time. I’ve noticed this more as I speak to fellow authors whose first novels are releasing this year. They’re hyper-sensitive. I was hyper-sensitive … though I didn’t know it at the time. Now, I’m kind of … well … over it. I’m excited, enthralled, and all of those other buzz words. But, I’m OK with everything. I feel a tad less neurotic this time around. It’s nice. It’s a pervasive feeling of, “I’ve been down this road before.”

By the time June 30th rolls around, I will have turned in my third and fourth novel. Come March 2012, numbers five and six will have passed on as well. What then? Will empty nest ensue? Who knows. That’s new territory. I’m looking forward to finishing that horror/dark fantasy novel that has been DYING to be written (Of Blood and Bone). If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to write it a little bit at a time between revising and polishing and proofing everything else.

But, the point in sharing all of this with you, is that if you’re destined … correction … if you work hard enough to make a life out of this calling, then most likely you’ll be where I am as well, and I wanted to tell you that it’s a nice place to be. There is peace to be had. And I think a lot of this comes from steering clear of reviews and media-hype. What am I talking about? I’m talking about getting caught up in blog-talk about the industry, reading reviews of other books (which we’ll invariably relate to our own work), Facebook, Twitter and all of those other, totally-useful-yet-insidious time traps.

I swear a little bit of my soul gets sheared away with every hour I waste ‘marketing’ and ‘networking’ on those various sites. I don’t give a great goddamn what the authorities on this stuff have to say about how valuable all of that can be. It depends on you personally. It’s the same idea as this drivel you read in parenting magazines … not every concept will work in every situation, or with every child. There are thousands of theories on parenting … this isn’t without good cause. The idea of pimping yourself and your work in order to make a career out of your writing, may work for some folks, but I’ve got to be careful how much involvement I have in that aspect of things. Because the separation between my writing life and my personal life is non-existent (see Holistic Writing), I can’t shut off my emotions like a lot of authors can. Believe me, I wish I could. I’d be a better marketer.

What I mean by all of this, is that ever since I made a firm decision to step back … I’ve written more and been more productive than I have been in YEARS. It doesn’t have anything to do with stars on a calendar (though, I’m still doing that because it’s a cool idea). In other words, I stopped giving a flying frack about how other people see my work. Or me, for that matter. I didn’t realize how much I’d started to care. But, after taking a lengthy emotional inventory, my give-a-shit meter was set on ‘high’ and it shouldn’t have been plugged in at all. You catch my drift here?

Two dear friends, Vin and Michelle, came to visit us in January. Vin knows how to do handwriting analysis (among many other really cool things … and you should SEE how gifted his wife is. AMAZING peeps). Anyway, he analyzed my handwriting … and months later, two things that he said still ring loud and clear in my head.

“Wow … you really don’t give a fuck what people think. I mean … I knew you didn’t, but … you really don’t.”

“You aren’t living up to your potential, {insert lengthy dramatic pause for effect}, and heaven help us all if you ever decide to start.”

No, I’m not paraphrasing. I actually wrote that down in the journal I had in my hands right after he said it (yes, all the way down to ‘insert lengthy …’ cause that’s totally how I roll).

I thought long and hard about that. Especially the latter part. And I had to ask myself what was going on that was preventing me from deciding to go down that road, and came to the startling conclusion, that nothing was keeping me from doing what I want to do with my life. I was putting roadblocks up by doing everything in my power to make myself give a damn about acceptance and peer approval. I guess, somewhere down inside, I thought I was supposed to … give a damn that is … that maybe I was a bit inhuman for not caring.

Then it dawned on me, that such a crotchety attitude, is what allows me to write the way that I do in the first place. If I take that away, then I take away everything that makes my life worth living. And frankly, whatever I deem to be a life worth living, is all that should matter to me.

No more crap. No more ploys or gimmicks or wasting time with useless ‘strategies.’ I’m focusing on my craft alone, and sharing what I learn with others here, and that’ll just have to be enough. It’s the only way I’ll keep living that life worth living.

What does this mean, literally?

For starters, I’m not doing another blog tour. Sorry. I can’t slow production down to a crawl, which is exactly what happens whenever I do stuff like that. It isn’t worth the five extra copies that it will sell of whatever book we’re pimping. I’ll still do guest posts and all of my stuff at Best Damn and Suspense (especially Suspense, which has given me some newfound sense of purpose and responsibility). But as far as drawings, or contests, or whatever … sorry … not happening. You’ll have to win an iPad2 somewhere else, from some other really-way-too-excited author.

I’m also done soliciting reviews. If you want to review my stuff, the right people will find you. Or you’ll find them, I’m sure. Or you’ll flat out ask me. Why would I go this route? Because what really, really, really sells a book anyway? Great writing. I can’t give you great writing unless I’m .. gasp … writing. Yeah, I know … all writers must market: **cough cough** I get it. I was there for the memo. Truth is, I can’t remember the last book I bought from a blog comment, a review, or a stupid contest. I buy books because people recommend them to me, or I like what I read of the excerpt. That’s it. Occasionally, I’ll look into a book because the cover is too awesome to bypass, or the title. But past that, it’s sheer dumb luck if I come across a book and buy it without being prompted to. There are all sorts of reasons to argue this, and there is plenty of ‘proof’ that certain strategies sell books. Look at James Patterson. He’s a brand.

I don’t want to be a fucking brand. Allow me to rephrase. I’m NOT a fucking brand.

And besides, the majority of the ‘evidence’ for low-level marketing hype reminds me of television ratings. Have you ever had one of those boxes in your home? I sure as hell haven’t. Who ARE these people who are buying books out of the great blue nowhere? Who are these illustrious individuals who buy into these gimmicky strategies? Talk about bizarre behavior. It’s like the father I heard behind me with his son a few days ago at target. I’m SURE he sounded like a rational, sane, human being before he had children. But by the time he was there in line behind me … he’d lost at least 50 IQ points. How do I know this? Because he said to his seven year old, “You betcha, sodas are yucky ucky!”

Ahem … yucky ucky? Wow. You’re wearing a suit and tie … and not a cheap suit either. Somehow I don’t get the impression that you use that phrase in your day job. What the hell comes over a parent?  And before you say anything, my parents never baby-talked me. Because of that sound parenting decision, I had a better vocabulary at seven than most fourteen year olds.

What comes over writers? When did writers first get roped into the whole media, one-liner, catch phrase bit and start sounding like total douche bags? We’re not used car salesmen folks! We’re already at the very, rock bottom of the food chain here. No, really, we’re the ONLY part of the equation that can’t be removed, yet our percentages are the lowest. We make less off our own books than anyone else involved in pushing them in the marketplace, INCLUDING the twenty-two year old chick who rings you up at the register at Barnes and Noble. Yup, she makes more than most published authors. **smacks gum to paint a mental image of Obnoxious Register Girl**

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in …

Take away agents, and publishers would be forced to deal with authors directly. Take away publishers and agents, and authors would become their own publishers and would still continue to write and distribute their stuff. Take away authors … do you see where I’m going with this? Yet the average percentage an author gets for a novel is what? The average advance (assuming you are lucky enough to get one in the first place) is what? And yet … there are some well-known publishing houses who require authors to put a percentage of that advance back towards marketing? Even those who don’t require it, expect it. Most expect it. All of them expect you to market your stuff like hell online, in-person, and on the radio.

I’m not saying that I’m not going to help market my stuff. On the contrary, I’ve decided that I’m going to do what I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the ONLY thing that will help my career and assure longevity in the marketplace (brace yourself for this revolutionary concept): I’m going to be a writer.

A real honest-to-goodness one, who writes more than markets, and who only engages in the kind of bizarre behavior that comes naturally to a Holistic Writer.

Consequences be damned …

Natural Selection: Writers Edition

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
-Oscar Wilde

Oscar, I love you, but for once … I don’t agree with you. Not after reading about an author’s book review meltdown on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. I took a good, lengthy read, and couldn’t get over how simple a discussion this could have been had Ms. Howett kept her cool. If you go and look at Amazon, that book has gotten (as of 9pm my time) nine 1 star reviews TODAY. Ouch. {Update: 4:20am. There are now 20 1 star reviews} {{second update 4/28 9:55pm 46 1 star reviews}} {{Third update 4/29 7:23pm 64 1 star reviews}}

And what’s worse, is that the review wasn’t particularly scathing. In fact, there were places in the review where the reviewer pointed out what he liked about the novel (I think it’s a he).

At this point I don’t read reviews. I try my damnedest not to go over to Amazon or Goodreads at all. I am aware of a handful of not-so-awesome reviews for Son of Ereubus, and that’s totally normal and to be expected. It isn’t my place to whine or complain. In fact, if you don’t have any negative ratings or reviews, I would wonder if you’re getting enough exposure. Meaning, is your novel getting reviews beyond friends/family members and FB friends?

I shouldn’t have to remind you that every author who makes it will have readers who will loathe them. Period. Almost every major author who has become vastly successful has been sued—for something or other—so go ahead and get used to the dark side of this industry. None of this is changing anytime soon. If you can’t handle a couple negative reviews with dignity, then there’s no way in hell you’ll make it in the long haul. Natural Selection will throw you out of the game before you’ve had a chance to score a single point.

Don’t ever do what Ms. Howett did. REALLY. It isn’t worth it. Not even a little bit. Controversy sells, but not nearly as well as a well-written novel will sell. In my not-so-humble opinion, this was a career-killing move. If I were an agent or publisher, I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole. And yes, I know she is an indie author. But, considering how she responded to anyone who commented, I’d gather she’s this fiery with readers. Who wants to deal with that?

Further, who wants to support that kind of nastiness? Reviews are important to writers. Even though I don’t read most of them, that doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply appreciate each and every one of them. I will occasionally comment—if a friend or my publisher sends me the individual link. I did so just a few days ago when a reader who’d downloaded the book from our free ebook event gave it a fantastic five star review. But, I will ONLY say something, if that something is positive.

SO, writing tip #327: Don’t tank your writing career by biting the hand that feeds you. Say unto others, as you would have them say unto you.

I’m Just Saying…

“Having the critics praise you is like having the hangman say you’ve got a pretty neck.”
Eli Wallach

I just read ANOTHER post on the pitfalls of praise. It even had a cute trendy title and came from a, gasp, respected trustworthy source.

Why is it that somehow praise is always to be regarded with a skeptical attitude, but criticism is not? I realize that this is rarely stated as being 100%, but it still seems like every other blog post I read these days is all about gleaning nuggets of wisdom from the negative reviews and “plugging your ears” when the praise comes around. I’m not saying that there isn’t some truth in being cautious with how you interpret reader reaction, be it positive or negative, but this #trendy topic I think has grown a bit big for its britches.

You know how small our percentages are as authors, how much we get paid in reality (even those of us on bestseller lists), and yet the one thing we get to really enjoy … we’re to plug our ears to? This was a great post that I just read, and I understand where she was coming from, just like I’ve understood the perspective of every other post on this subject. Yet, it still chaps my ass a little. Why?

Because we grew up in a world where things like 5th place exists. Because every other profession gets to celebrate, regardless of where they fall on the continuum except, it seems, for authors. Honestly, I’m a little tired of it. Who really stops growing as a writer because they think that they’re made of awesome? Seriously, are there that many authors out there who are throwing all their forward momentum into the trash because their latest novel was well received and they’re reveling in it a while?

I doubt it. Maybe one or two … but it’s hardly the epidemic that the blogosphere is making it out to be. If the temperature of the literary community is in any way related to how bloggers see this subject, we’d all be proclaiming our own worth like Capote on steroids. But, we aren’t.  No one writes blog posts about how much they rock (no author I’ve ever heard of anyway).

Unwarranted praise? I believe in the existence of unwarranted criticism, but a wealth of praise from the anonymous public without cause seems … um, legendary? I can’t even think of the right word for this. I get what she’s saying if the praise is coming from friends and family, but give us some credit for not being totally brain-dead here. We know genuine praise from total crap. And even if it is from family, it depends on which member of the family the praise is coming from. If your uncle has told you that your stuff is shit, 9 books out of 10, then you’re more than free to take that 10th book’s praise to heart.

I’m SO tired of hearing this chanted like a mantra for newbies. The Pitfalls of Praise. It’s cute. It’s catchy. It’s everything you’d want in a viral blog post. It probably even looks good printed out and posted over an aspiring author’s desk, but I can’t bring myself to agree with it. I think if you’re in-tune enough with your voice, as an author, and your editor, as a professional, then you’ll be just fine.

If, for some ungodly reason, there is a giant steaming batch of unwarranted praise hanging out there for a novel, your publisher/agent and/or editor, will tell you not to let your head get too big over it. I’m sure. Can’t say that I see that scenario actually happening in real life, but perhaps for someone the words, “All those comments about how strong your characterization is, are total shit. You need to seriously work on it in the future,” have been spoken.

Whatever. All I’m saying is that I doubt Stephen King takes advice like this. Or J.K. Rowling, or Dean Koontz. Or hell, even James Patterson. Maybe they just don’t care and I’m too bitter to see the forest for the trees … or, just maybe, we’ve let Twitter and Google Ads overtake our want for genuine writing guidance and sound mentoring. Most things worth hearing don’t fit into the viral scheme, so that stuff doesn’t get blogged about all that often. It doesn’t easily fit into packages with shiny ‘totes fave’ Blogger of the Week badges, or into the top five sponsored Twitter topics.

Real gold takes a little searching. It doesn’t pop out at you from a laminated sticky note above your desk. It comes from inside your head or your heart. The real gold is you, your special gifts, and your unique voice as an author. It’s the stuff only you’re capable of telling yourself.

So, instead of shunning praise and scouring criticism … how about we spend a little more time invested in finding out who we really are as authors?

I’m just saying …

Sex and the Art of Author Marketing

“There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered:  entertainment, food, and affection.  It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection.  As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately.  When the affection is the entertainment, we no longer call it dating.  Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.”  ~Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour

As I stated in a status update mere moments ago, it’s like taking the magic out of Christmas. Or rather, it’s like talking about the mechanics of sex, while in the middle of the act.

No, I don’t mean dirty talk. That’s entirely different and is actually quite effective. Usually.

What I’m talking about, is the crappy work of promoting your stuff, yourself and then on top of that, all of the conversation about your work that goes on while you’re doing the aforementioned “deed.” For example, your beloved Ariana becomes your “main character.” Your carefully crafted evil, yet complex, master race becomes “central destructive force.” And so on and so forth. Shall I give you the run down of genital comparisons? No, I’d rather that I didn’t either.

Part of becoming successful is marketing. Because, let’s face it, publishers either won’t or can’t, do it all. Large publishers could, but don’t give a damn until the marketing part is almost unnecessary because your stuff is selling itself. The little guys want to, and sometimes try, but can’t due to budget restrictions and the realities of being a modern day book press.

Most authors I know, THRIVE on this stuff. They host giveaways, they write brilliant, witty blogs on how to do this, that or the other thing. They glow when they talk about their stuff.

I wither. I wilt like a ten year old little girl who has just found out that Santa Claus isn’t real. My creative spirit dries up, my mojo runs low, and my muse all but goes on strike. It’s the number one reason I never got an English degree. I just. can’t. do. it. I can’t talk about my work as if it isn’t a sentient thing. After the fact I can, sometimes. I don’t know what this makes me (this is not the best moment to answer me here). Something of a naturalist perhaps? It reminds me a little of folks who love music, can play the piano (or other instruments) by ear, but don’t know the notes. I adore writing. I’m at my best when I have written. I am a miserable excuse for a human being when I haven’t been writing.

But I don’t like talking about the technicalities. Oh, I’ll talk about story all day long. I’ll talk about characters, world building, etc. But, for some reason, the technical terms just totally drain me. Weird right?

I want the date to go along without stopping and analyzing when the entertainment should decrease, and the affection increase…etc. How awkward would that be? Or to be more crass, if my husband and I are having sex, let’s just have sex, huh? And if there is any talking, let’s NOT use medical terms? Please?

Problem is, if you want people to see your stuff, you don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice. I have to market and trump up stuff to gain media exposure and all that jazz. God, I envy Salinger in this. I have to tweet and FB and Digg and a whole myriad of things that I really don’t care all that much about. I like FB because I’ve made invaluable friends through my contacts there. But, everything else…par for the course I suppose, but it still sucks the muse out of me.

I want what all writers want deep down…just to write. Pure, and ridiculously simple. I want what nature intended for us.

Instead, I have to woo the masses. I have to date them, entertain them, and with any luck, at the end of the night I’ll get laid. But GOD, how I hate this. Can’t we just skip all of that and get on with it? Whatever happened to an author’s business being the written word, and the book seller’s business being marketing? It DID used to be this way, once, long long ago when curling irons were iron fire pokers. And don’t go into the whole bit on everything else that was different back then, I’m not a total douche. You get my drift here.

Am I alone here? Anyone else feel like this? It’s OK if I am alone here, but….still….thought I’d ask.

You Reap What You Sow

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”  ~Wayne Dyer

The literary industry can’t withstand what happened to the music industry. We can’t build houses of sticks and straw and expect them to weather the storm. Media piracy sucks the lifeblood out of the entertainment business, but as wounded as musicians have been over the illegal distribution of their material, they won’t hurt like authors will.

Just two weeks after the release of Son of Ereubus, a ridiculous amount of downloads have been completed. Really, it’s staggering. I had to take a screen shot because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing (still don’t). Compounding this is the fact that it went viral. I’ve seen it in forums, multiple free torrent sites and a few membership only ones.

I’m not Stephen King folks…and I’m flattered that someone out there, somewhere, thinks it’s good enough to steal. Honestly. But that warm fuzzy feeling, like a good strong night’s worth of drinks, leads to nothing but a vicious migraine and one hell of a stomach ache.

With the dawn of new technology and the ever-changing format of material, our rear-ends have to get in gear here or we’re going to be left in the dust. Again. Why do I say again?

How many authors, who are signed with large publishing houses, who have awesome (big name) agents, can afford to write full time? Answer: Not as many as you’d think. 

Artists are often in this same boat. Even being featured in well-known galleries doesn’t mean that your work will necessarily afford you a decent lifestyle. I suppose it depends on your definition. But, how do you take what isn’t there to be taken? An author’s royalties, even before you take out an agent’s 20%, are SO minimal…that the idea of losing a good portion of that income because of piracy makes my insides hurt. I’m not saying that this is the case with Son of Ereubus. I’m published with a very small press, so I don’t expect to earn a ton anyway. I’m sure sales have been affected, but I’m talking on a wide-scale basis here. This hits home with everyone who ever hopes to earn a living from selling their fiction, whether they realize it yet or not.

Now, pair this with all of the other “hot  topics” out there right now: E-book vs Paper, Paperback vs Hardcover, Self-publish vs Traditional, POD vs Print Run, Large Print Run vs Small Print Run, Small Press vs Big Five, Literary Fiction vs Pop Fiction, Listed at P&E as Gold vs Listed on P&E as Evil, To Blog vs Not to Blog, Social Media Savvy vs Being a J.D. Salinger Hermit, All Rights Contracts vs Limited Rights Contracts ….really??? Are you guys hearing me here? WE HAVE ISSUES….and not the kind of issues that “I”m OK, You’re OK” can fix. And don’t even get me started on the whole audio rights and ereaders thing… 

Back to the problem of piracy…a lot of these torrent sites are over seas. Right now…there’s next to nothing that can be done about it. So, I did the only thing I could do—I went to my J.S. Chancellor FB page and asked that if anyone had downloaded it illegally, liked it, and was on my page as a result, would they please consider leaving a review of the book somewhere. I don’t exactly consider that an even trade, but I know what it’s like to not be able to afford to read a book you want to read. Yes, I’m aware that some downloaders can afford to buy it but are too cheap or lazy to do so…you reap what you sow and like the quote above states, the best thing I can do in this situation is to find the silver lining and be grateful for it. This may gain me readership that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The issue though, still remains…our industry is already in shambles. Less books are being signed and published now than in recent years (no smartass, keep that in context. I’m not comparing 2010 to the dark ages here).  Yet, it’s easier than ever before for authors to network and submit their work. We have computers to write on, instead of relying on type writers (talk about revision hell). We don’t have to send queries via snail mail anymore. It’s also harder to avoid things like reviews and reader reactions. Nearly everyone with a keyboard has a blog these days (with ample opinions and snark to accompany said site).

Have I ever downloaded music illegally? Without answering that directly, I’ll simply say that I’m not a saint. Anything I may have done though, I paid for in spades later out of guilt.

Double-edged sword if I’ve ever seen one. I swear if I ever become independently wealthy, you guys will never see or hear from me again. I’ll legally change my middle name to Hermit.

SO, what now folks? What’s your suggestion? Better yet, what’s your prediction for the future of our industry?

Guest Blogger: Ien Nivens

Falsetto   ~by Ien Nivens

Play nice with the other toys!

Every so often, I come across an old piece of advice that writers like to pass on like a bad gene. It usually goes something like this: “Has someone done you dirt? Get even! Use the anger you experience to fuel your writing! Maybe you were rendered speechless at the time, but you thought of the perfect retort an hour later or the next morning. Get it out of your system! Give yourself permission to retaliate in writing by casting the offensive person as the villain who gets his or her comeuppance in a story!” It is this last bit, the idea of disguising the bully-victim of your wrath in fictional clothing, that makes me cringe. The temptation to dehumanize, to humiliate an enemy in effigy because we can’t do it for real is, to my way of thinking, not something to encourage. Not in group therapy. Not in private. Certainly not in writing.

I know. I know. We like getting special indulgences for acting out, for being “bad”. It seems edgy, this kind of advice. It’s not, though. In fact, it only gives a writer permission to act like a coward, to snivel, not to confront an issue and to process it but to whitewash pain with a weaselly form of vindictiveness. If you need to stand up for yourself, why are you sitting at your desk? No, I’m sorry, but it’s just bad advice. Let me say why I else think so.

It is true that retaliation can release some pent-up energy. So can drilling through the sea floor and tapping into a deep reservoir of fossil fuel. The problem with it is two-fold. Not only does it tap a limited supply of energy, but the potential for creating a personal and professional disaster is always going to be with you. There are cleaner, more durable sources of energy that can be easily replenished without picking fights or prospecting for old injuries, figuring out who was to blame for them and working yourself into a lather, or even a fit of impish glee over a clever revenge.

It is OK to experience pain, envy, disdain, hatred, despair, dependency, despondency, anger and any other honest emotion triggered by living in a human body among others in a human society. It is also OK to practice self-defense, to stand up for what you believe in–in or out of writing–including your own right to respectful treatment. What is not OK, in my opinion, is to willfully provoke those emotions, to savor them, to provide occasions for them in your own life by doing unto others under the cover of fiction. It is not OK, I say, to use your art to serve a petty, personal vendetta. I have no respect for back-biting and sucker punching, and even less for ineffectual writing that does nothing whatsoever to heal a wound or to prevent further injury, since the original offender is not likely to recognize himself or herself in your fiction anyway–not if you follow the standard advice and camouflage the stand-in character well enough. If the original offender does see what you’re up to, you lose everywhichway. You can be called out. You can be sued, even. But worse than that, you will have given evidence of your own cowardice.

In any event, you will know.

Instead, tell the truth. Say what happened, if you need to write about it. Play witness, not victim. Name names if you want to (if it’s both safe and legal to do so) or write it as fiction. Change whatever superficial thing you feel like changing, but resist the urge to get even, to turn an inglorious and painful situation into a moment of choreographed triumph. Resist the urge to give your character the perfect, off-the-cuff rebuttal, because readers aren’t stupid; it will only give your roar of righteous indignation a lingering falsetto whine.

But, I said pretty please…

Yup, that's shit all right...

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”  ~Chinua Achebe

I’m good at offending folks. No, it’s quite all right. I have come to accept that trait like one would a tarnished piece of silver. You keep it around because you can’t bear to part with it, it belonged to your grandmother, it has her initials engraved on it…

Humor me, this hypothetical situation if you will:

You are unemployed. You go to a temp agency to be placed with a company that may or may not keep you on past the trial period. You buy your best suit to wear to the interview. You spend weeks preparing to answer any and all questions. You arrive early (not too early though). You wait with everyone else in a ridiculously large waiting room. Several hours later the interviewer emerges, shakes the candidate’s hand who has emerged with her, then—the moment the candidate leaves—the interviewer turns to those waiting still and makes light of how awful the interview went. Pokes fun at it.  Reads aloud some of what the candidate said because it was “atrocious.”

When everyone has stopped their guffaws, she asks a few questions surrounding if her ‘ass looks big in this‘ (to which of course everyone in the room jumps to slather the interviewer with compliments and adoration). Then, after pausing long enough for dramatic effect, you’re called to return to the interview room with her. Everyone gives you piranha eyes as you clumsily gather your belongings. Once you’re in the stifled, legendary space, you stand before her desk and deliver flawlessly your thirty-second introduction as to what you are looking for in a company and why you are the best candidate for the job. The interviewer looks at your resume and then, without word one, hands you a slip of paper and ushers you out of the door.

The paper reads: Dear Candidate, thank you for your time. You’re one of the lucky ones! You got the green letter!! We’re going to look over your resume in more detail. However, this will take 3 to 6 months. You are, of course, expected not to interview with other temp agencies and certainly not to look for a job on your own.

And so, being a ‘professional’ candidate, you agree and you wait. You don’t look for another job. You don’t interview with other temp agencies. Then, one day, 6 months later, you receive this letter in the mail: Dear candidate, thank you for interviewing with us and allowing us the opportunity to look over your work history and references. While you show merit, we feel that we would be unable to place you in this market. This is subjective, so feel free to continue interviewing with other agencies. Best of luck!

You dry clean your suit and start all over again. Sound ridiculous? Does it sound absurd that you would be expected to sit on your rear end while the TEMP agency decides whether or not it can even try to place you? Really? What do you think you’re doing every time you agree to that same request from a literary agency?

But that’s different…

How? You’re unemployed or not employed in the field you want. Be honest for once in your life and answer truthfully if you’d really do that if the situation were literal. Would you really sit there, waiting on a form letter, from a TEMP agency? I don’t think so. Why? Because it’s unrealistic. It would take YEARS to find a job. Yet, someone said the fated words…if you’re a professional you’ll agree to this…and like magic, it became unwritten law.

For shame. No wonder we spend so much time picking on each other…we’re sitting on our hands by agreeing to this load of horse manure. This is our fault, as authors, because we’re the ones who let it get this far. No, not all agencies ask this…but the great majority do. The wise ones know what it’s like on our end and allow multiple submissions. The bottom line is that if you haven’t even been hired, then you’re under no obligations of any kind…to anyone.

These agencies need to learn that losing out is part of the game. If they don’t read fast enough, tough luck. Why should writers always get the shaft? Before anyone even goes there, yes, I think there are rules of etiquette. Those rules don’t include lying down as a doormat. They include saying please and thank you. They include being grateful when things go your way and gracious when they don’t. They include a great many things, but under no circumstances should we have handed over the reins like this…not even when they said pretty please.

So, yeah..I’m fairly sure this will piss someone off. Maybe they got the red letter instead…

Doesn’t Play Well With Others…

It isn’t that I feel your criticism unworthy of making my work better—that isn’t the case at all. It simply makes my work yours and I’m not willing to share the burden. You see, I don’t play well with others. Well okay, I didn’t just figure that out—I’ve known most of my life. It has just been brought back to my attention.

Yeah, I understand that this is part of the industry, get a thicker skin, blah, blah, blah. I’m not talking about career moves here. I know better than to argue with the editor who is trying to get my manuscript in shape, or to refuse my agent’s suggestions. I do have a brain and a smidgen of common sense (not much past that, mind you). I simply have a different opinion on the value of a ‘critique’ than most.

Before I say anything else, let me make clear that I have beta readers—a couple of which are brutally honest and I handle it just fine. I want to hear what they have to say, because I trust them. I know where they are coming from—I know their bias and their preferences. We don’t always agree on things and more often than not, we clash. But the dialog is always beneficial because I know what to do with it. Now, with that said, let me state that I personally would never join a critique group. Why? Because my belief in positive reinforcement pervades my ability to give what others consider ‘useful’ criticism, and I am an independent creator. I’m not alone in this viewpoint. There are a slue of other authors who agree with me, but an even larger population that doesn’t. When I’ve voiced my opinions on this in the past—without fail, I always get the you should toughen up and take what’s good for you lecture. It’s always well worded and backed up with solid logic. Problem is, Thalidomide also had fairly sound logic behind it…oops. Feel that an unfair comparison? Toughen up and take what’s good for you. Thalidomide is a powerfully effective drug, and works wonders for patients with Multiple Myeloma and Leprosy. In other words—what’s good for one person, isn’t necessarily good for everyone.

I did a little research to see if I was being a sissy. Turns out there are more than a few authors who swear by cautiously accepting critiques on their work. According to Kristen Painter:

“Luna/Berkley author P.C. Cast doesn’t use a critique group for two reasons. One is that she feels her writing process works best as a solitary endeavor. “Often it feels as if I’m soughing through mud, but it’s mud I have to fight through myself. That’s how I resolve plot problems and how I develop characters. If I had help, or even too much input from others, I don’t think my end product would be the same.” (http://www.kristenpainter.com/writers/CritiqueGroups_RWR.pdf)

Painter goes on to list the second reason Cast doesn’t use a critique group as time. “Many authors produce work at a greater rate than a critique group can critique.” To be fair—in addition to the authors she lists as not using groups, Painter also shows the other side. So, I’m not saying that there isn’t value in it. I’m merely saying that it doesn’t work for me. I find it infinitely more useful when a reader points out areas of strength than when they comment on what they personally didn’t like. If eight out of nine readers mention my character development as being strong and no one ever says anything about the worlds I’ve created—I’m going to get the idea that I need to work on my level of description. Maybe some authors don’t take subtle hints…rest assured, I do and have no need for others to tell me what they would have done had it been their story.

I suppose that gets to the heart of my issue. When you hand your work to other writers, you are asking for just that. No writer can read something in the draft stages without the question, ‘what would I have done here’ staining their ability to be objective. And that’s the problem, it isn’t your story. You’ll never hear me tell another author how a story should have gone—that isn’t valuable feedback. Nor will I ever suggest tearing a story apart because it isn’t ‘marketable’ the way that it is. Critique groups as they are now, are a relatively new creation. A writer in decades past would have a few trusted readers, if he/she showed an unpublished work to anyone aside from their editor. The concept of a collective or collaborative effort is an invention of mass market production. If you want to produce a manuscript to please the masses, show it to them first.

Personally, no thanks. I’m a purest when it comes to fiction. If it didn’t happen that way, I’m not changing it or adding fluff to make it more palatable to the market. Period. Burn me at the stake for it—the masses are good at that. I’m simply tired of seeing it worded as an absolute, when it isn’t. I’m tired of reading that in order to take yourself seriously as an author, you should sign up for the unsolicited criticism of an anonymous online community or a face to face, weekly commitment with other authors…because no serious author does it alone. This simply isn’t true at all. While we may be the exception, we aren’t a myth.

I’m not interested in hearing critique groups or critiques in general defended. I’ve heard it all, more than once, and saying it again won’t change how I feel about it. Writers get up in arms over this…which makes no sense if you think about it—I’m criticizing the norm and you’re immediately rushing to the defense…doesn’t that fly in the face of your argument? Shouldn’t you take my words for what they are and maybe see if you can’t learn something from them? Improve? My favorite argument thus far is the assumption that since a work hasn’t been published yet, there must be something inherently wrong with it. Really? You believe that? And passing it through enough critiques will eventually whittle down the ‘errors’ and you’ll have a ‘publishable’ novel at some distant point in the future? Formulas don’t work. That, is a formula. To hell with those who say it needs shredding. Tolkien himself told Lewis that he should scrap Father Christmas from The Chronicles of Narnia. Several years ago a poll was done in the united states that asked grade school children what part they liked best, and wouldn’t you know…Father Christmas won by a landslide. So, it isn’t even a matter of who is giving the criticism—whether they are qualified or not—you know when something is right or wrong in a story. Have a little more faith in yourself and your ability to write.

Stephen King said it best, No, it’s not a very good story – its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.”

You Want a Piece of Me?

Time

Olympic athletes train every day. They wake up at absurd hours because they need more time than a normal human schedule allots. Before the average Olympian has ever won a medal, they have supporters. The public cheers them on because they want them to succeed. When they compete, they are known for either life altering mistakes (broken limbs, public falls, etc.), or dream achieving performances. If I have my facts right, most of them don’t hold full time jobs while engaged in a ‘training’ season.

Writing is no different. Save the public’s basic understanding of what it takes to become a master of our craft. Family members question our absence at holidays or get-togethers. Friends whine about unanswered phone calls, unaddressed emails or short visits. In-laws, acquaintances and neighbors ask why we don’t do something more directly related to gainful employment…or worse, success. I suspect they don’t truly know the definition of the word.

Publishing companies, those few who are willing to accept unsolicited submissions, make the bold requirement, ‘No multiple submissions’ yet with the same tongue, ‘Expect a reply within 6-8 months.’

For each agent, a writer must research all the particular likes and dislikes, the format (there are just as many ways to submit a query as there are stars in the sky), the amount to include (five pages, no pages, query only, full synopsis), and even how to address the agent. This essentially boils down to personal preference. Agent X doesn’t appreciate being addressed by their first name. Agent Y wouldn’t get past the greeting if it didn’t specifically address her by first and last name. Bottom line: you don’t want us to succeed.

I don’t want to hear the usual crap I hear from the publishing world about professionalism, courtesy and all of the excuses used for  supposedly ‘streamlining’  the process. We get to read all of the time about one author or another who had the audacity to….fill in the blank with the offense of the week.  I’ve read more than once how it isn’t possible for an agent, NOT to be FOR authors. Really? Step outside of your self-righteous shoes and read your bullshit for what it is. “Don’t submit to anyone else for half a year, wait for me to send you a form rejection.” Really. That’s–FOR authors? Did that sound supportive to you? Oh wait, you didn’t say it like that, did you? But that’s what you meant. There are whole blogs dedicated to educating authors on how to better get along with agents by way of bettering their queries and synopses. How about a blog dedicated to agents on how to respect the amazing amount of time and soul it takes to write a single piece of work? I’d be blacklisted in a NY minute. If I’m not already. Oh and don’t bother telling me that they are being magnanimous enough to spend a few moments of their precious time to ‘help’ us out.

*Sigh* I’d love to see just one agent, make a single dime from selling books without the authors they’ve signed. Wait, books don’t exist without us. So, unless HAL develops literary aspirations, we won’t EVER see that.

Why would I be blacklisted? Free speech right? For everyone but us. I have a big problem with the amount of arrogance it takes to expect every writer to take hours out of their time researching your personal tastes in such depth that a simple slip of the tongue could warrant a rejection slip. Don’t think that possible? Do a little research and then come tell me it’s never happened. I have better things to do—like, I don’t know, bettering my craft, for example. I know, how dare I expect to spend my time actually practicing, actually writing. Will I stoop to this heinous act myself?

Yeah. Because if I ever want to see my work on the shelves of a brick and mortar store, I don’t have a choice in the matter. But let me assure you—should fortune ever smile on me, and I find myself in a position to REALLY say something about this, they’ll get a serious piece of my mind.

Oh, and because I know some smart-ass will either ask or think this. Yes, I would be saying this if I were published or currently signed with an agent. Don’t believe me? Well, nobody’s perfect.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!

Why do things always, without exception, hurt worse than we think they will? And if this is the case, why don’t we learn to anticipate more? My apologies for blogging again about personal stuff instead of my usual (if you are reading this on facebook—go to the actual blog page at www.jschancellor.wordpress.com).

I recently quit my job, see Associated Content for an article entitled, “The Psychology of Job Loss,” and you’ll see that I need to take my own advice. But is that ever possible? If you can manage to figure out how, do tell. This was my first real week away from the job. I know that this will take time and that five years is a decent stint for someone my age, especially since it’s all I’ve known since college. Despite all of that, I feel like horse crap. Why? I don’t know—maybe something about feeling kicked off of a cliff; that I was running toward of my own volition. Friday was anti-climatic, which was to be expected considering that I was practically on my own as I closed up shop. But there was no goodbye, no screw you—nothing. I dropped my keys off in the drop slot Monday (no one even asked me for them), and there was something hollow and empty about that. There was no gathering for margaritas or farewell lunch, or even a good riddance card. I don’t know what I expected after five years. I don’t think I gave it any thought at all until I noticed how empty I was feeling. How empty I am feeling.

Bottom line is that it doesn’t matter in the end. I made my decision and I am married to it now. I don’t regret quitting. In fact, all of this has made me that much more pleased with my decision. I guess it just didn’t feel real until now. It’s been a rough week. My writing is going fine. Demand Studios pays on time for the record.

So, what have I learned from all of this? I’ve learned that you can’t place your worth on your job, unless you are working for yourself and doing what you can call a true passion. Find something you love to do and then find someone who will pay you for it. If you wouldn’t do it for nothing, then you’re in the wrong industry. Yeah—someone out there is saying that there needs to be garbage collectors and who would do that voluntarily? Truth is, I don’t know. All I know is that everyone out there has something that they excel at/in and our world would be a better place if all of us focused on our strengths instead of a paycheck. Again, I realize I’m being a bit idealistic. Aren’t I always?

I suppose what really bothers me is how little, the company I worked for, cared. Things in our economy are still rough, I get it, but don’t put me in a position to fail and then act like it was in everyone’s benefit that I decided on my own accord to leave. I functioned quite well for four and a half years before growing intensely miserable—for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was my inability to work in mass confusion and disorganization. This hurts because I left feeling totally incompetent and like I was a waste of air. I understand corporate America is cold—that it won’t coddle you and that career placement is cut throat. But the problem is, this company was supposed to be different.  This company was supposed to be family oriented and in reality, it’s just like any other property management company. Nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary and if average is all they are shooting for, then I wish them the best of luck. I have no doubt they’ll reach utter anonymity in the industry and moderate efficacy in employee retention, with startlingly little effort.  It’s a shame too, because they were so damn close to being more. It wouldn’t be tragic if they were light years from being exceptional. Employees who come first will keep their customers first. Employees who are treated as more than a means to financial gain will work harder for every dollar they make for themselves and for the company. Employees who are valued as human beings, with unique personalities and strengths, will purpose to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come.

Have I burnt a bridge by posting this? I write under a pen name, so probably not, but honestly—I don’t care anymore. I hate to feel this way, but I won’t deny it. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

All I want for Christmas is an agent

n50503723_30999745_267 Writers endure more judgment and criticism than perhaps any other art aside from music. Agents write blogs on the amount of drivel they read in the slush piles, ranting on how many of us they would like to bar from ever buying another laptop, or picking up another pen. Even when one of us has the good fortune to get published, reviews can cut right to the bone. Some of them are purposely written to make the reviewer seem more important than they really are.  So here is my question, does it matter, really? When you read rants from agents about ill-prepared authors or seemingly thin plot-lines and less than stellar characters, does it discourage you from writing?
There are times when it discourages me from submitting. Mostly, I chastise myself for wasting time on the Internet in the first place. But, there are times when the weight grows too heavy and it halts my ambition. That’s when any author needs to take a few days away from the phone and Internet, and recharge.
Receiving tons of rejection doesn’t mean your work is genuis waiting to be discovered, just as being placed on the shelves of Barnes and Noble doesn’t mean it has been. Trends in publishing wax and wane and the personal tastes of burnt out agents, editors and publishers only narrow down the slight venue that makes it to print. This, at the end of the day, means little in relation to your story.
I read a review from a website I am quite fond of, that felt harsh. I won’t go into which author or what book, but what I will say is that it felt like the reviewer wanted the author to follow certain formulas, map out characters in a very specific way and even went so far as to critisize the plot itself. Clearly, he didn’t care for the book…so why make the assumption that it needed to be changed? If you want it to be another book, perhaps you should just…read. another. book.
I don’t know, maybe I am too sensitive, but I hurt for her. She responded far more professionally than I might have been tempted to. She was applauded for accepting criticism so gracefully. I don’t do much of anything gracefully, let alone taking shots like that. I’ve never been accused of playing well with others. (Unless of course those ‘others’ happen to be my characters, that’s a little different)
So what say you? All this makes me want to be a recluse, not that I’m not already…am I alone here?

So very lost…

“So, here are two pervasive reasons that people write novels: (a) for the approval of others and (b) for the sake of writing itself. Nobody does it for either reason alone. There are easier ways to get approval, and the novelist who works in isolation, never publishing, is not a true novelist but a hobbyist.”  Donald Maass

I’ll admit, he had me through the first line. By the end of the quote, I was slightly put off. In case you don’t know, Donald Maass, is a literary agent with his own agency in New York. He wrote a book, which is where I obtained the little gem of wisdom above. So, my question is, are you telling me Emily Dickinson was not a true poet? In fact, here is a list of other works that were published posthumously:

So, tell me again how being published makes me a ‘serious’ novelist? Maass actually has a great deal of good advice in his book. However, it was clearly written by someone who has more of an eye on the market than on the craft of writing.

In the opening chapter, he remarks that there are a good many ‘novelists’ out there who write because they feel they must…who adopted the identity of ‘writer’ in adolescence and never learned to let it go. I have worked closely with teenagers for the past decade, and I’m afraid I disagree. There are a myriad of psychological reasons why someone who has the desire to write, cannot.

It has always come easily for me.  Though I have never felt forced to pen my thoughts, I have known others who struggle with it daily. It has nothing to do with their want to write, more with an inability to say what they mean or the reluctance to come to terms with their own emotions. It isn’t just because they’ve likened themselves to angsty, reclusive writers … but nice try, Maass. I’m sure many people thought that was a brilliant insight. Perhaps it is. I just fail to believe that those who consistently publish soulless drivel are any more true in their endeavors than those who don’t care for the scrutiny of the likes of agents, editors, etc.

I mean, even a blog can get you blacklisted these days…