Insecurities Abound!

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps, guys. A real sophomore slump. Let me explain. My prelude novella, Blood in the Past (released this time last year), did pretty well. No one really had a bad word to say about it. I was proud of myself…and then terror set in.

Last year, as I was editing and revising the full-length follow-up to Past, Blood in the Paint, I began to worry that it wouldn’t measure up, that my creative prowess had a quota and I had used up everything in my reserve to write Blood in the Past. As a result, I hit the Publish button on Blood in the Paint a few months ago with closed eyes. I dragged my feet with the paperback edition. I haven’t sent out many review copies, and I haven’t done much promotion. I’m subconsciously forcing myself, and my Blood for Blood series, to fade into oblivion. I’m making my own nightmare, of my sophomore release not measuring up, a reality. Or am I?

When the news of Blood in the Paint’s release broke, I had an immediate spike in sales. I might have been able to capitalize on those numbers had I done some promoting. After I ordered my first shipment of Blood in the Paint paperbacks, I almost sold out of them…and I still have two events to do this week. And the reviews? The reviews have been pretty awesome. There are only nine so far (actually, as I’m writing this, a TENTH popped up!), none of which were written by me or hubby-pants, but they are all FIVE-STAR. Every single one of them. My mother-in-law, who awarded Blood in the Past with a three-star review, is raving about Paint. As is my father-in-law, who keeps asking how the next book will unfold. My niece even forgot about her “ghetto reality shows” (her words, not mine), because she’d been so caught-up in reading it. You guys don’t know my niece, but that’s probably the best compliment I could have received, short of something from Gillian Flynn herself.

So what’s the problem? Why haven’t I really written anything since April, when I went on a writing retreat, where there was nothing to do BUT write? I still feel unworthy, I still feel talentless, I still feel like everyone’s compliments are a fluke. Then I read a recent review of Blood in the Paint written by Ileandra Young. You can read the full review here, but the part I want to point out is when she mentioned a Facebook status where she posted, “Soooooooooo that feeling of inadequacy you feel while reading a fellow indie author’s novel then returning to your own WIP.” Guys, I actually remembered that status, I even Liked it because I knew the feeling. Turns out, she was talking about Blood in the Paint. Words cannot thank her enough for sharing that with her followers and blog readers and, most importantly, me. Between that and the pep talk hubby-pants gave me recently (more on that in another post, I think), I might be ready to write again. At the very least, I might be ready to begin my medico-legal research to make sure my next book, Blood in the Paper, is on the right track.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Past’s publication. To celebrate (and get back into promoting for the love of everything sacred and holy), Blood in the Past will be FREE on Wednesday, June 18th, and Blood in the Paint will be dropped to $1.99 today through Friday, June 20th. If you haven’t read them yet, now is the time to do so. Because, I’ve been down in the dumps and sales will make me feel better. ;-)

Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine

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Last year, while I was participating in a local Autumn Authors Fair, I met the lovely Cinsearae Santiago. She is an amazing author and crafts-woman who was gracious enough to ask for my contact information so she could interview me for her award-winning Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine. Live since 2005, it features the poetry and fiction of and interviews with up and coming artists. It was a top-ten finisher in multiple categories of the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll in 2013, including Best Fiction Magazine and Best e-Zine Editor. And that’s just last year!

Cinsearae conducted a very thorough interview in which she asked me about my writing, my characters, and what I’d do if I saw a zombie coming toward me. Here’s an excerpt:

Do you sometimes incorporate actual events in your writing? As a matter of fact, yes. I know, I write psychological thrillers and I’m not a cop, so I must be a serial killer, right? Let me explain. In the opening scene to Blood in the Past, Jillian and her roommate are mugged on a deserted subway platform. I based most of that scene on my own mugging, except mine took place around the corner from my building, not in the subway. Another example is the random gym member in Blood in the Paint who wears impossibly short shorts and is always straddling the machines and squatting in such a way that his “barbells” are showing. Yup, that guy exists. And he goes to my gym. Don’t be jealous. In addition, one of Lyla Kyle’s victims is patterned after a guy who practically stalked me when I was a bartender. He irritated me so much I put him in my novel and killed him off. Yes, authors really do that. No, I can’t go into further details for legal reasons.

 

To read the complete interview, get lost in some awesome short stories, and so much more, click HERE for a digital copy or HERE for a print copy!

 

How I Got My Book Into an Actual Bookstore!

I cheated. Plain and simple.

Okay, maybe I just cheated a little bit. It’s not like I had a friend distract the shopkeeper (Do people still say ‘shopkeeper’?) while I shoved a stack of Blood in the Past paperbacks on a shelf between Gillian Flynn and Dean Koontz.

You see, I belong to a couple of local writing organizations and one of them recently gave me a job. Of sorts. You’re now reading the blog of the South Jersey Writers Group new Account Manager! Please hold your applause. As such, I’m in charge of stocking the local bookstores and cafes with the group’s anthologies and any other books published under their press company, Hypothetical Press. Last Saturday, the president of the group, Amy Hollinger, invited me to join her to have coffee and meet a couple of the vendors, in the hopes it would make the transition easier (meeting the vendors, not drinking coffee).

The first contact I met was the owner of The Book Asylum in Blackwood, NJ. Amy gave her spiel and the owner readily purchased five copies of the current anthology, Tall Tales & Short Stories, as well as five copies of a member’s book, What to Expect When You’re Dead.

I must admit, I was a little nervous to even bring up the fact that I had a few copies of Blood in the Past in my purse. After all, I’m not published under Hypothetical Press, I’m published under my own company, Blood Read Press. Plus, the shopkeeper (Yes, I’m sticking with this antiquated term for now.) had already shelled out quite a bit of money to pay for the other titles. But it turned out that the woman was very nice and we ended up staying to chat and we even tried to get a little writing done, which really only led to more chatting. Then a regular customer joined us and we were all having a merry ole time when the newcomer asked me what I was writing. I immediately pulled out a copy of Blood in the Past for her the flip through and, wouldn’t you know it, the shopkeeper (Stop judging me, it’s my new favorite term.) immediately asked if I wanted her to stock my book as well!

Over the moon, I handed her the other two copies in my purse and quickly decided the affiliate price would be $5/copy so she could sell them for $7 and make a little profit. Yay!

I know. It’s only two books. That’s all I had on me at the time, besides the one the customer was looking at that I’d hoped she’d buy, but didn’t. But it gets better. While discussing that I was working on the next installment in the series, she offered to host a new release signing in her store! Yippie! (Keep checking the Events page for details!)

I plan to drop off more copies in a month or so when I stop in to iron out the details of the signing, but it looks like it might be as simple as finding a friendly shopkeeper and talking up your work! I’m sure it also helped that I’d showered and dressed somewhat nicely, too.

If you plan on doing this with your own work, might I suggest the following:

  • Create a spreadsheet listing all the businesses you intend to visit. Include the name of the point of contact (AKA shopkeepers), phone number, address, email, and a running tally of how many books you last stocked them with, as well as whether or not they paid you in advance or on consignment.
  • If someone pays you for your books up front, write them up a receipt on the spot (I believe you can find receipt pads at any office supplies store) or email them one later THAT SAME DAY. Don’t dilly-dally because you don’t want them to forget about the transaction, delete the email because they have no idea what it pertains to, and then have no record of your arrangement.
  • Keep a folder where you store your copies of the receipts. You might need them to prove your arrangement to another worker in the store and you might even need them at tax time.
  • I didn’t have these at the time (It was snowing and there was only so much I could tuck safely into my purse), but I recommend creating a flyer about yourself and your work and having it on hand so the store can create more of a display and shoppers know they are supporting a local author. You might even want to invest in some upright plastic sign holders in case your books are going to be displayed on a shelf.
  • Be friendly! If you’re gonna walk in there like the grumpy starving artist we all know we can be sometimes, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. Just saying.

Now, before you guys head over to The Book Asylum in Blackwood, NJ and fight over those two copies of Blood in the Past, does anyone have any questions?

Welcome Back, RH Ramsey!

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RH Ramsey might as well have her own room around here. Or at least a drawer in the dresser and a toothbrush in the bathroom. She’s graced the blog before and, today, she’s at it again. Everyone, please welcome back Ms. Ramsey as she chats about her newest release, Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story.

I enjoy blurring the lines between antagonist and protagonist. For, sometimes in life, there’s no one chasing us, making things difficult for us, sucking the life out, or trying to kill us; sometimes, it’s all in our heads.

I mean, have you noticed that we chase, drain, and complicate things for ourselves, causing us to perish by the day? Yes? Well, I agree. And for these reasons, in Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story (which is not a continuation of Just Beneath the Surface I) the main characters are their own demons.

Landon Adams has come from a place of darkness, pure evil, and Hell. He feels that he has escaped this darkness, and that everyone around him should focus less on the way he’s escaped, and more on the fact that they are stuck in in past. Seven Dickinson is hotheaded beauty. She allows other people, her past issues with poverty, her anger, and her insecurities, to drive her.

In Landon’s opinion, Seven is live entertainment for her friends, family, and anyone who stops to watch her in action, all in the name of being right. Still, Landon sees so much more in her. He finds her warm, loving, selfless, and self-sufficient; she doesn’t need him, at least, she doesn’t realize she doesn’t. And, aside from fighting, swearing, and behaving like someone who should spend a few nights in jail, Landon feels all she needs is a bit of direction to bring out the beauty he sees in her.

Soon, the magnetism that blossoms between them is undeniable. Before long, the magnetism becomes obsession. As time goes on, obsession brings out the monsters Landon believed he had successfully tucked away neatly under his bed, in a pretty little box with a bow.

In Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story, I remember being very inspired by writing something that, for me, was a bit outside the box. I say this because, when I first started writing and completing books in 2004 or 2005, I felt I had to have a madman chasing a good guy in order for the story to be, well, a conventional story. This changed with Landon’s Story, as I wanted to write something that spoke to the internal struggles, the good guy vs. bad guy conversations, and, most of all, facing trauma in a way that helps us, not sets us several years backward where the pain rears its ugly head. Internalizing, numbing ourselves, pretending, stuffing things under our beds in pretty little boxes with bows, never pays off.

A psychological thriller/suspense (maybe, I think), this story brings you into the mind of a seemingly normal man, into the psyche of a guy who wants the same thing most of us seek: unconditional love. Into the moments of romance, possession, hurt, help, and love, all wrapped up in one. Then, slowly, as the story unfolds, down deep into the valley of sickness, control, and obsession you go.

The superpower of control he once possessed turns to kryptonite. Wires are frayed and shocking that carefully constructed mind – the mind of Landon Adams of Just Beneath the Surface II.

Thanks, East, for the opportunity to share.

You’re very welcome, Ms. Ramsey! Thank you for taking the time to ‘stop by’ and lead us through your motivations and inspirations.

And, without further delay, here’s my review of Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story:

I received an ARC of JBTS2 and though the polarizing characters, that I didn’t personally identify with, aren’t likable, they stuck with me for days. The novel starts off slow, as the relationship drama builds and sets up, but you can see that–you guessed it–there’s something ‘just beneath the surface’ once again. Landon is one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever read on a page, but I wanted to feel sorry for him. And that’s a sign of talented writing. Well done, RH Ramsey. You’ve done it again.
Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story is available in e-book and paperback on Amazon. Get your copy soon and check out RH Ramsey’s other releases, too!

Undone and Uncensored

This post has been long overdue. I have been busy with revisions of Blood in the Paint, readying it for my beta reader team, and my good friend and fellow author (and member of said beta reader team, teehee), RH Ramsey, has been busy doing her own thing. But I wanted to invite Ms. Ramsey here to discuss her latest release, Undone, and also to share my review. And now I’ll turn it over to her…

First, I have to thank you, Jordanna East. Thanks for the extra nudges and for calling me out on my recent procrastination…with this guest post. Thank you for this opportunity and thank you for your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Muah!

Enough of that :-)

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About Undone.

Undone is a collection of short stories, essays, monologues and excerpts from novels, both released and soon-to-be released.  I think of this book as a way for me to introduce myself. It is a way to sort of shake my hand, look into my eyes, get to know me as a storyteller. I am not one to force myself, my opinions or my thoughts on another individual, and a two hundred page novel is a lot for some people to commit to – especially from a new author.

I thought to myself: Expecting you to download an entire novel, before you have an idea of what you are getting into, is sort of like a road trip – with a blind date. Not everyone wants to waste an entire week, on the awkward silence, finding out they have nothing in common, or complete lack of chemistry.  For this reason, I wondered if there was a way to offer a piece of me, without forcing readers to commit to something that may not be for them.

I think it is only fair that I offer something that represents me, and gives a glimpse into the worlds that I create – see things through my characters’ eyes. Read the short stories – take this short, intense ride. Then, see if you want to go around the world, and read the novels.

Why “Undone?”

There is an eerie glow in coming undone. It is a raw, honest, vulnerable state, and no one is exempt. No matter what falling apart looks like to you – a tear, words you cannot take back, instant gratification through substance or some type of emotional release – we are all connected in that we all come undone. We have seen someone else fall to pieces, whether directly or indirectly.

I write to establish a connection between those who are oblivious, those who are numb, those who are searching desperately for a reason to come away from that lonely ledge.

The stories

Undone is not written with happy endings or lighthearted walks through fields of daisies in mind. It is a collection of stories about topics ranging from grief, to young love doomed from the start, to a son and mother desperate to exist in an unfair world, and much more. The excerpts and monologues are from my novels, Where were you, Just Beneath the Surface and Just Beneath the Surface 2.

As I wrote these stories, it was as if I had watched something horrific unfold, and the only thing I could see, feel and process, was the emotion. Anytime I write, it seems that I see inside of a soul undone, and this is what I try to recreate. I do not see the paintings on the walls or what happened outside the window, but I see instead the way the hearts beat, the colors of a broken spirit.

Again, I thank you for allowing me a place to give some insight into me as a writer and what I wanted to convey with Undone!!

You’re so welcome, Ms. Ramsey! Wow, that was one of the most powerful guest posts I’ve ever seen! RH Ramsey has a way with words, everywhere, I tell ya! If you aren’t convinced, peep my review of Undone:

I received an advanced reader copy of this book months ago and I was vastly impressed by the author’s gift for dialogue. The exchanges are powerful and really pull the reader into the emotions at hand. As in her previous work, I still wish she would add in a little scenery once a while. Scenery adds a realism that dialogue lacks and I think it’s probably the one thing her writing is missing, which is hard to say, since her writing is so powerful.
I enjoyed Kendall’s monologue, although it got a little rushed at the very end where she’s saying where she sees them in ten years. Slowed down, the poignancy of what she’s trying to say would really hit the reader. It was also intriguing to read Spencer’s monologue, to see the abuse from the perspective of the abuser.
My Mother’s Shadow, from Olive’s point of view, was amazing, probably my favorite. I enjoyed Reggie’s half of the story as well. The excerpt of Where Were You, and the short stories Oxytocin and Two Green Chairs, were all exemplary pieces. The collection is a really excellent representation of Ms. Ramsey’s writing and her gift for delving into broken human psyches and portraying their words and actions so masterfully.

The links for RH Ramsey’s current releases, Just Beneath the Surface and Undone, are embedded above, and Just Beneath the Surface 2 will be available soon. If you’d like to learn more about Ms. Ramsey, you can visit her at her blog. :-)

 

Interview At Creative Difference!

The incomparable Sandra Hessels, all the way on the other side of the world in the Netherlands, where her website is kind of in Dutch, has interviewed me on her blog! Don’t worry, the interview is English. Here’s a snippet:

How do you find your readers (as a self-pubbed writer) and reach the largest possible audience? Right now the three biggest mysteries of the world are: 1. What is the meaning of life? 2. Is there life outside of Earth? 3. Where are the readers? Haha. It feels like we, as authors, are all still kind of marketing to ourselves. We ‘like’ each other on Facebook, we follow each other on Twitter, we read each other’s blogs, et cetera. So, I have no idea. I hold out hope that other authors are like me and read a book a week? But I don’t pretend to know where the readers are. My research has suggested that the most effective marketing tools are Pixel of Ink, BookBub, and eReader News Today. Basically, they are services that have already found the readers, but they hog them for themselves, and authors have to (sometimes) pay them to tell the readers about their books. Figures. Do you have to do a lot of self-marketing or do you have help? I don’t really have help. A couple of internet pals pitch in here and there and share stuff for me when they can, which I appreciate with the warmth of a thousand kittens, but I don’t have a street team or an assistant or anything. I post to my blog and my Facebook author page most regularly, but I also post to Google+ and LinkedIn, and of course, Twitter. I’m a member of various reader sites, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and so on. And I’m always scouring the internet for websites that showcase authors and their books. According to your Twitter bio, you love killing off characters. Is it that easy? It’s very easy. George RR Martin and I should go for drinks (Game of Throne fans, the books or the TV series, know what I’m talking about). He and I would toast our frosty mugs and laugh over making our readers become attached to certain characters, even root for them, and then we break their hearts, thus giving our readers PTSD. It would be a grand old time.

If you would like to read more of my interview with Sandra, which I would totally recommend, then please click this link to her blog over at Creative Difference. You know you want to learn a little more about me, because, well, I’m fascinating.

Also, don’t forget, there’s still time to enter to win a signed copy of Blood in the Past over at Tonya Kerrigan’s blog, so you should also head over there, follow her blog, and leave a comment telling her that she’s awesome, you’re awesome, and I’m awesome, and together we’d all make an awesome-ass club sandwich of some sort. (Okay, maybe that’s creepy, but I don’t know she’s picking the winner and maybe creepy will give you an edge.)

AND, speaking of paperbacks, Blood in the Past is now available in paperback! For real this time! On Amazon! Linked with the ebook! So you can see all 32 reviews! Yay!

Jerks & Irks XLVII: Should Readers Hold Indies’ Hands?

A little while ago someone posted a link on Facebook. I clicked on it. It was a blog post in which the blogger ranted his/her frustration with reviews of Indie books always pointing out typos, grammatical errors, etc. S/he went on to say that the reader should instead contact the author directly and alert them to the problems with their book. Then they continued their tirade, paralleling the plight of the Indie author with that of early Indie musicians and filmmakers.

I take issue with all of these points. Major issue. So much issue, that I clicked out of the blog rather quickly, didn’t make a note of it (which is why I don’t have a link here, so if you’re the author of said blog, feel free to defend yourself politely in the comments section), but the points s/he made still managed to fester in my brain for days and has now landed in front of your face in the form of my own blog post.

First and foremost, I think it is the author’s responsibility to research, and hire an editor that has been fully vetted, whose work they would proudly attach to their own. I also think even editors and proofreaders are human. Therefore, it is also the author’s responsibility to proofread their own work once or twice, backwards and forwards if necessary, before hitting that publish button. You can’t honestly expect the reader, who has found your work, purchased it with their hard-earned money, and read it with their precious little time, to then contact you and let you know that there are faults with your work. That’s not fair to the reader, now is it? Now, some readers are sympathetic little lambs and might do all this. Any do you know what might happen to them? They might run into an ignoramus of an author, an all-knowing, prick-on-a-stick (if male) or pot-o-twat (if female), who will not be very gracious to a mere reader pointing out the errors in their genius. Yikes! None of this sounds good to me. So, authors, don’t count on the reader to hold your hand. And, conversely, readers, some authors are like caged beasts. Beware.

Next up, the assumption that just because Indie musicians and Indie filmmakers weren’t taken seriously when they first came on the scene, it makes sense that it’s the same deal with Indie publishing. I would say, yes and no. Indie authors and Indie publishing are making gains every day. In just the space of a year, for example, ThrillerFest went from being all about querying an agent to including the VP of KDP and reps from Createspace. (Kristin Lamb is the bomb-sauce, by the way. If you don’t follow her blog, you should.) But that doesn’t mean authors can ignore the basic properties of the English language. Did those early Indie bands save their shekels, cruise down to the music store, buy the first guitar they could afford, and start recording as soon as they got home? Are you telling me they didn’t at least learn how to play their instruments first? Don’t Indie filmmakers learn how to hold the camera and edit film before they hop a plane to Cannes? So why should authors publish something before fully grasping story-telling and the art of language? And/or hiring someone who can polish it up for them? I just don’t get the comparison in that regard.

S/he also said something about Indie authors using punctuation incorrectly for individual expression or something, but that was around the time I clicked out of the post, so…

Anyway, what do you all think about this? Do you leave reviews that mention if there are typos present in the book? Do you contact the author? Has an author ever bit your ever-lovin’ head off? Please leave a comment below, and keep it clean and free of artistically incorrect punctuation, please!

Jerks & Irks XVII: Shame On You, Sue Grafton!

Recently a fellow author/blogger spotlighted this article on Facebook and everyone weighed in and vented their outrage. If you don’t know her, her work is well-known (I hope you all know I admit this begrudgingly). I won’t list any of her titles here because, at this point, I don’t want anyone to buy her frickin’ books. I don’t have much power, but I can do that much. Also, a good friend of mine just moved to Kentucky, where Sue Grafton is from. Venessa Richardson, if you’re reading this, please find this woman in your spare time and throw shoes at her. Thank you.

If you don’t feel like clicking on the hyperlink above and reading the whole article because doing so would feel wrong and dirty, here are the high points. Well, actually, I guess they’re low points.

  1. In response to the interviewer asking if she had any advice for young writers she had this to say: “Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.” First of all, I’m sure the Universe manages to miss more than a few well-told stories. Agents and publishers don’t always get it right, either. That’s life. But now there’s another option and this woman has the nerve to call those who take advantage of it LAZY?  Nevermind that Indie authors have to find their own cover artists and editors and do their own marketing, all while trying their best to keep putting out fresh content. But, yes, we’re lazy for that. Right on, Sue.
  2. The interviewer then questions her advice and mentions that a “growing percentage of each best-seller list [is] being filled out by “indie” writers.” Grafton notes that Indie success stories are the exception, not the rule. Guess what? The same goes for traditionally published authors, lady! Not everyone with a publishing contract becomes the next Ann Rule. Or the next Sue Grafton. (Again, I’m begrudgingly admitting her success.)
  3. In the same response, she goes on to say that Indie novels are often “amateurish,” and that “wannabes” shouldn’t be able to publish a novel without “bothering to read, study, or do the research.” Excuse me, I’m sorry, she must not have Twitter. And if she does, she must not follow any agents. Agents constantly tweet about the dumb mistakes they find in the entries they receive, just as they praise the entries that show promise. Some people read, study, and do research. Some don’t. The Indie authors that don’t will get weeded out by poor reviews and lack of readership. But don’t lump us all in the “lazy, uneducated, wannabe” category. (I was going to call her a nasty expletive here, but I remembered that some people think I’m classy. Let’s keep it that way.)
  4. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.” This is most unfounded piece of hyperbole I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I refuse to dignify this comment with any further comments.
  5. I believe the interviewer is on the side of Indie authors. This is evidenced in his responses, such as the one quoted above, and this one: “I believe many indie authors resent the stereotype that they haven’t spent years honing their craft.  Thank goodness sales numbers & reviews are so easily accessible now.  Bad books have a way of weeding themselves out of the marketplace.” Thank you Leslea Tash.
  6. The interview switches gears a little and good ‘ole Sue provides this gem of a quote: “I couldn’t write in a public setting. To me that always looks like a form of exhibitionism. (Sorry ‘bout that for those of you who love to toil away in coffee shops…)” She elaborates somewhat to include that she can’t write in strange surroundings. Fine. I can’t pee in strange surroundings. But do I think that those who can pee in public bathrooms are exhibitionists? Do I they’re they all “Look at me! I’m peeing!” No. Because that’s ridiculous. Much like Sue Grafton’s other opinions.