We’ve Come, Once Again, To This

Hello Readers! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Especially since I disappeared with what I told you was pretty much a finished draft of “Tasting Ash,” I know it’s been hard on you. Well, it’s finally time for me to be real with you guys and tell you what is going on.

The last two years have been hard on a lot of artists. Quite a few have found themselves unable to commit to creative projects or dropping projects half finished. Some have found themselves entirely frozen by fear. While others have dedicated their time and talents to trying to bring focus to topical issues and make a difference, no matter how seemingly small.

It’s time to admit that I am one of those artists. 

In the last two years I’ve dropped all my projects and done absolutely everything I could (without endangering my desperately needed day job) to make sure that my friends and loved ones are better informed than they were at around this time last year. I know I have been successful in starting several conversations and I know I’ve encouraged people to get involved in their districts. I even helped a friend edit their statements in their bid for public office. You probably didn’t notice and that is by design as I do not currently live in a place that responds well to liberal viewpoints, so I’ve worked behind the scenes as much as possible.

It hasn’t been an easy few years and there hasn’t been a lot of writing going on during it. I have to admit there’s a bit of fear in me that I’m still not doing enough or that I’ve done too much and might make myself a ready target.  Either way I’ve done what I could and now it’s up to all of us to vote and hope things go a saner way.

Exhausted but satisfied?

I’ve decided that I want to move forward as if good things are actually coming, and stability will return. It just so happens that November is Nanowrimo and that competition has always been a great excuse for me to block out distractions and bang out some work. The novel I’m working on is unlikely to be a part of either of my current series. It is, by necessity, something totally new. Hopefully some of you will enjoy it anyway. I’ll be keeping you posted on word counts and maybe excerpts as the month continues on. 

And please, whatever else you do next week, VOTE. 

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Pre-orders Are OPEN

I’ve been hinting at this one for ages but it’s finally available for pre-order! If you’re a fan of my rare romances, then make sure to check out “When World’s Collide Pre-order” for another installment!

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This anthology features works by myself as well as Catrina Taylor, Heather Birchfield and RaeAnne Hadley.

Constructive Criticism: What It Is and How to Give It

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Anyone who has ever put there work out there has heard of criticism and everyone with a mouth has probably given a critique of something at some point, usually unasked for and since this is the internet (stupid) probably in the harshest of possible tones. It might surprise many to know that there’s a way to give criticism that’s actually helpful, that will help the person improve if they’re willing to listen. It’s even possible to give that criticism in such a way that they’ll want to listen to it.

When I went to college and majored in creative writing – this was an actual lesson we had to have at the beginning of the semester. Everything about it seemed pretty common sense but in order for all us tender young things to actually learn and progress rather than shrivel up on the vine, we needed to be on the same page. The same thing goes with all kinds of people who make things and have an internet presence. If you want them to keep making the stuff and improving, you’ve got to learn how to tell them that so they’ll actually hear you and not just run off into a corner crying after reading your first sentence.

It Starts With the First Sentence

The first sentence is always, always crucial. You can win or lose someone with just a handful of words so, choose carefully! When offering criticism that you want them to hear and heed it’s important to start from a positive place.

Remember the Positive

If you’re going to take the time to offer a helping hand towards improvement, you must have seen something in the work that you enjoyed. Start there. Know what you like and don’t be afraid to gush about it! Knowing what really struck a cord with you, might help them to understand that they’ve hit the right point somewhere, so they’re less likely to throw out all the things you loved as they improve their craft. There’s nothing worse than not really liking everything about someone’s work but really enjoying a few elements only to find that the next work doesn’t have any of those elements left in it.

Enhance That Image

Now that they know what you enjoyed, tell them ways to enhance that image. Talk about additional steps they could take to improve on what’s already a good thing.

Don’t Overemphasis the Bad

Eventually you’ll run out of the good bits to talk about and you’re going to want to talk about the bad things you want them to lance out like a infected boil. Hold up there buttercup. How much good stuff did you mention? A nice rule of thumb is to aim for no more than an equal number of bad things so they don’t get overwhelmed. Make sure you know what really bothered you so you don’t get bogged down with smaller pet peeves, prioritize.

Be Polite

Should go without saying but this is the internet (stupid) so it’s worth pointing out specifically: be polite, especially when you’re talking about someone’s faults. Remember that even though you’re talking about someone’s work, most creatives view their work as externalized parts of themselves, so everything negative you say about their work can feel like a personal attack.

You Want to Help

This is the most important part, even when you’re talking about the stuff you absolutely hated – you want to help. Don’t forget to offer possible solutions as you’re pointing out the bad bits, without this no amount of careful wording will make your criticism constructive. You need to not only know what you hated but why, how to improve it and most importantly how to tell them how they can do better.

That’s just about everything. As you can see it’s not an easy task but if you care enough about the thing the thing to try I promise you they’ll appreciate the effort. Don’t forget that while being helpful takes some actual work on your part, you can always just drop a positive word or two in the review section to brighten any creative’s day, seriously we live for that stuff. Now go forth and help improve the quotient of awesome in the world!

So… What’s Next?

Sunset Pair Romance Love Bank Nature Lovers LakeAm I really back? Yes I’m really back – at least until August when I gotta go back to the grind.

What kind of goodies can you expect, now that I’m really really back? Well first up – I’m about as far along with “Tasting Ash” as I was before I went poof. There just wasn’t really enough time and room for me to concentrate on the rewrite as it needs to be done properly, though I can assure you it’s never been far from my mind and that despite my lack of releases or blog posts – I have been writing.

My gran is 92, you see, and in the last year she gave us all a horrible shock, such a shock I insisted on dropping everything and flying home to see her briefly. While I was there I asked her what she would like me to write (my gran is great but she’s got no head for fantasy or horror so hasn’t read anything of mine since grade school when it was still mostly fairy princesses and love stories) and she said, “I’d love it if you’d write me a romance.”

Cue me, completely out of my element trying to fulfill my gran’s request. Some of you might remember that I’m not very good at romances. Lots and lots of practice is therefore required before I’ll finally have something I can show to my gran. Basically I’m saying I’ve got a folder full of horrific little Belladonna shorts that I’ve been adding to in my rare healthy and unoccupied moments. A few of them I actually think I might not die from embarrassment releasing out to the world, a very small few but a few nonetheless.

One of my other author friends who actually has a handle on this romance thing suggested an anthology and as luck would have it I had a nub of a story that seemed to fit the bill! So this summer there will be a new Belladonna short released upon the world in “When Worlds Collide: A Vampire Alien Romance Anthology!”

Those of you who are fans of my twisted little brand of romance are in for a right treat!

Aaaand We’re Back!

So it’s been forever and there’s a good reason for that, I recently returned to the world of day jobs and self loathing – and it almost killed me.

That’s not sarcasm either, I had no less than three incidents of illness where I was afraid for my life in the last ten months or so. All of which probably could have been prevented or drastically alleviated if I had been able to go to a doctor. Of course, I can’t afford healthcare even with the new job and paying out of pocket would have negated my entire savings. Savings I was desperate enough to earn that I kept going back, risking my health, for an entire year.

The good news is, I survived! I survived and I have manged to keep most of my savings! Money I’ve been using for some much needed replacing of various electronic bits that make this whole self publishing thing a reality as well as more professional edits.

I am exhausted.

So expect updates full of goodies to come but for right now I really need a nap!

The Quick and Dirty

So where have I been and where’s that book I promised you – a year ago?

Truth of the matter is, my dear dedicated reader, that it’s been a long nasty road that I’m not done traveling yet and I can confirm has been seeded liberally with landmines.  The gist of it? I picked up a part time job because editing is expensive. Various important appliances (computers, cars, you know the things I need to live) have broken down and been jury rigged into a state of “please don’t die just yet.” My grandmother has had a stroke, recovered and gone home, had another and resigned herself to hospice care for what will very possibly be the rest of her life. Mom made great strides in her own health that all came crashing down like a castle of cards as soon as her mother got sick and I didn’t help matters much by immediately catching a flu so bad it reminded us both that people can still die from the common cold.

It’s been bad, dear dedicated, and it’s likely nowhere near done being bad just yet. While I’ve been occupied with all of that I’ve gone and let this vital lifeline grow dangerously thin and that’s not helped matters one bit. A writer that isn’t writing is a very unstable and hazardous person indeed. So in the interest of getting healthier (while still recovering from that monster flu) I’m preping “Toxic Ash” for paperback release and working on the rewrites of “Tasting Ash.” It’s slow going, a little like an athlete that’s been out of competition for a long while, gained a bit of a gut and a lot of self hate, before finally starting to train again more for their sanity than for any love of the game itself.

I don’t love editing. Editing is a very special kind of hell that’s only true competition is the dreaded formatting for paperback publication that will come next. But there’s a very special kind of healing magic to be found in reading your old work over again. A kind of wonder and ego boosting pride to read a few pages that aren’t half bad and realize that maybe you don’t suck half as bad as the mangled manuscript you’ve been wrestling with off and on for a year has led you to believe. That maybe, just maybe, you can polish this old turd into a diamond after all. You’re not entirely sure of the exact alchemy you’ll have to perform, to transform turds to diamonds, but there before you is the proof that you’ve done it before and you’ll do it again and again and again.

Probably.

So long as you can just keep with it long enough.

What the Azathoth is Going On Here?

Posts have been few and far between for a while now, culminating in a long period of seeming silence. I haven’t updated anyone on what’s going on with the books or posted anything of use on the blog, facebook, twitter or tumblr. A few particularly astute readers have taken the time to track me down and demand answers but I’ve been cagey even then.

The truth of the matter is, many nasty things have happened in the last six months or so added up with recurring bouts of problems with my hands and fingers that have really put a hurt on my writing work. Not all of what’s happen only concerns me and my affairs so I’m not even at the liberty to divulge them all (except for the knowledge that my Grandmother had a stroke earlier this month – and we’re lucky that she’s recovering nicely) that have left me psychically and mentally fatigued.

I keep trying to put off saying that I’m exhausted, depressed and looking at a complete rewrite for “Tasting Ash.” Shortening the projected story line has ruined the flow and it needs serious work before I can release it to anyone. Meanwhile I’ve lost one of my first readers to mysterious (and worrisome) circumstances. I’ve also been casting about for a new editor to go over the second books in both the Eldritch Elysium series and The Four Horsemen series, in preparation to committing them both to paperback.

All in all I’m a bit overwhelmed and tired, I had some awesome plans for the new year (setting up a proper newsletter, taking the site to it’s own page, offering up a few ecourses on self publishing) but now I’m cutting my project list waaay back and just trying to keep my head above water for the nonce. Books will be published, stories will be written – it’s just going to take a lot more time and right now I feel like I’m at the bottom of the hill looking up with a giant boulder in front of me that needs pushing.