Welcome, September!

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It’s no secret I’m not a fan of August, so imagine my glee and joy to rip that particular page off the calendar to expose…SEPTEMBER!

Breaktime

Well, not really time for a break because the train really never stops rolling, right?

So what have I been up to?

I’m in the process of updating this site dedicated to my writing endeavors, and Word Webbing for editing. It’s a monumental task, but progress is being made.

I’m always busy with editing projects, which I love. Busy is good. But I’ve also been putting some steam behind certain writing projects. October 15th will see a re-launch of Not Nice and Other Understatements, with a delicious new cover by the incredibly talented Melinda VanLone, a new intro by the lovely Patti Larsen, and some bonus material not included in the original publication. It was time for a face lift :) Stay tuned for the cover reveal–subscribers to my newsletter on Word Webbing received a sneak peek. *Hint, hint*

It’s my little book that could. Not Nice was recently translated for a Chinese publisher, and I am incredibly thrilled about that.

November 1st, a special, personal anniversary, will see the publication of Still Not Nice, or the Strange Planet Inside My Head. I’m really excited for this.

And, by popular demand, it looks like at some point next year my evil feline overlord, Athena the Hun, will be featured in a volume of our conversations. Yes, we have conversations. Don’t play like you don’t talk to your pet. The difference is for me I’m usually trying to talk Athena out of eating my eyeballs or devouring my soul. She’s pretty evil.

Look at this face. My soul AND eyeballs are definitely on the line.
Look at this face. My soul AND eyeballs are definitely on the line.

Somebody hold me.

I have taken quite a break from blogging, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing. More updates as they happen, along with whatever happens to pop into my head.

I know, that’s a little scary to me, too. Heh.

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Independence

Until then, I'll keep on my dancing shoes.

Please note: the website is currently under renovations. Don’t mind the dust. Work progresses as time allows. There’s missing studs and holes in the walls, but we’re getting there. Thanks for your patience!

 

I have been an indie from the get-go, since I was a tiny person. It’s in my nature and I can’t help it. I’ve always cavorted to a tune it seems no one else could hear; independent to a fault, some might say. It has its ups and downs, pros and cons, highs and lows. During my lifetime, I have been both rewarded and punished for it. I was raised to be independent, and my life’s journey has trained me to be independent.

And while you might be able to teach an old dog new tricks, it’s much more difficult to change an intrinsic part of your personality.

vivi
I’m always ready to learn something new. But it better be good.

When I started my writing career, it was a no-brainer for me to go independent. I might be a bit of a control freak, and when it comes to my fiction, I want to be the one in charge. After all, fiction has been and always will be a gigantic part of my life. It means so much to me I can hardly bear the idea of handing off something into which I’ve poured my life’s blood and soul to someone else.

But in the changing tides of today’s publishing, it makes good business sense to keep your options open.

I have come to realize everyone’s circumstances are different. What works for one writer may not work for another. I’m not built to follow the road most traveled, anyway, and most of my close personal friends would scream, “HALLELUJAH” to that statement. I have to make the best decisions for myself without looking to see what other people are doing. I’ve lived most of my life that way, and it hasn’t turned out too badly, despite some spectacular failures. Hey, go big or stay home.

I have also discovered if something scares me witless, it’s probably the thing I need to do the most. I live with a lot of fear—but I never let it stop me. I was scared to go freelance when writing non-fiction. BOOYAH. I was scared to dive into fiction. Double BOOYAH. I was terrified to venture into editing. HAH.

So when I contemplated my next business move, I considered sending a novel to a traditional publisher. I almost talked myself out of it. Was I scared of rejection? Nope. Been rejected on several levels, many times. What I am scared of is success.

Which told me I needed to do it.

So I sat my happy ass down and took a few hours to do something for ME. I wrote a synopsis, put together the first three chapters, and wrote a cover letter. As we speak, my little package is winging its way to a traditional publishing house to see what we can see. I’m not even worried if they don’t like it. I’m worried that they WILL.

Then what?

Well then, we’ll just go from there, won’t we?

Until then, I'll keep on my dancing shoes.
Until then, I’ll keep on my dancing shoes.

 

Photos courtesy of morguefile.com. 

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Happy New Year, 2013!

And so goes another revolution around the sun and here comes another one.

DSC_6918

2012 was quite a year. And while I look forward to what 2013 has in store, I can’t help but think back to the past year and take stock of the things I was able to accomplish.

I drove 1800 miles in 4 days to see my kid graduate Cum Laude from college.

I published a novella in a new series called “The Adventures of Sally Mae Riddley” titled The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident, and am halfway done with the next one.

I lost 22 pounds.

I edited over 30 books and many short fiction pieces which have been published.

I wrote over 30k on “Athena’s Chains”, sequel to Athena’s Promise.

I changed the cover and format of AP.

I baked a dozen cookies in my car.

I worked out in an actual gym with a trainer six times.

I have survived 365 days with a psycho cat.

I saved two puppies from death’s clutches.

I taught my first editing class via Skype to a lovely group of writers from PEI.

I published The Fantasy and The Heart, two collections of short fiction.

That’s only a small part of my year, but all in all, I’m satisfied with the way it played out. There were a lot of bumps and potholes in the road, but I managed to stay on course and Take Care of Business. So I will call 2012 a Win, but I plan to blow 2013 off the map. Because that’s just how I roll.

Right off the map, baby!
Right off the map, baby!

One of the casualties in such a busy year was my poor blog. I used to be much better about updating here regularly; in the past I had a private blog in which I blogged daily for six years. I think of that now and I’m astounded. But then, things change and life moves on, and while it was a fabulous habit in which to develop discipline for writing every day (plus a measure of catharsis yet unmatched) I’d rather put my energy now toward fiction and editing. Words. Lots and lots of lovely words.

But even so, I want to get back to keeping the blog alive and well, and to this end I’ve tapped into my Mad Organizational Skillz. So what you can find here will be a new schedule of postings.

Mondays will feature inspirational posts from writers, works of fiction and non-fiction, and various other tidbits to help get rid of the Monday blahs and the work week off to a good start. Probably not as good as a double-shot of expresso, but every little bit counts, right?

Tuesdays I plan on presenting guest posts from other authors in the indie field, the movers and shakers who have something to say. But not just authors and writers–oh no! You’ll be hearing from a wide variety of people, people who do business and create art and live life. I have left the format completely open to participants, so I’m not sure what we’re going to see here, but I’m sure it will be fun to find out! If you’re interested in guest posting, give me a shout. Next Tuesday’s guest will be the fabulous Patti Larsen, so make sure to check back and see what she’s got to share. I’m sure it will be FAB.

Wednesdays will be wordless with a picture or photograph that moves me. It might give you inspiration for a short story, poem, or spark off a novel idea.

Thursdays are reserved for editing tips, tricks, and observations. Here I’ll share what I know and what might help you through the experience of editing and what it entails.

Fridays–anything goes! New releases, helpful links, or maybe more car baking. Who knows?

And finally, this was my favorite video and song of 2012. It was not an easy year, but none of them are. I will mark 2012 as the year I finally lived my life as it was meant to be. I will mark 2012 as the year I heard my name–something I have not heard in too many years. Good bye, 2012. I ain’t mad, because in many ways you were good to me and taught me many lessons I needed to learn. But I am looking forward to 2013, overcoming challenges and taking my life to the next level.

Come on, 2013! I have plans, and lots of them. Bring it on, and let’s see what you got!

Woohoo! Let's get it on!
Woohoo! Let’s get it on!
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New Release-The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident

And so the first adventure of Sally Mae Riddley has hit the ground running!

The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident
That face cracks me up every time I see it!

The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident is the first in a series of novellas about the adventures of Sally Mae Riddley, and hoo doggy, she’s a hoot! This story was so much fun to write–I giggled through the entire thing. It started off as a joke between a few friends, and eventually Sally Mae’s voice became so loud in my head she just busted out all over. Take a look at this excerpt:

The thing you gotta remember is the Queen of the Trailer Park title has been held by the womenfolk of my family for three decades. So for me, Sally Mae Riddley, the pressure was on. And I was really motivated, see, because of the goat.

I’ll get to that.

My nemesis was Mabelline Townsend. She had bigger boobs, true, but most people knew they was totally fake. You can’t hide nothing in a trailer park, ’less you’re real clever, and people called Mabelline a lot of things but clever warn’t on the list. Of course, fake or not, that kind of thing don’t matter to boys. If it’s got mammary glands, they’re going for it. Just look at my cousin Jimmy, stuck in the County Jail for the next six months on account of the cow problem he had.

Don’t act like no one in your family never got in trouble over something stupid.

Anyway, Mabelline had the boobs. She’s right pretty, too, if you squint your eyes and dim the lights. To, like, full dark. Other girls in the trailer park thought they had the title sewed up this year for sure, seeing as my older sister, Sue Ann, was out of the running since she won last year. Sue Ann’s a real beauty, with long golden hair just the right shade of yellow–thanks to the bottle of peroxide under her bed no one knew about but me. And a nice tan with no tan lines anyone could see. Never mind the orange look to her, it was real complimentary to the yellow of her hair. And pretty, painted nails, thanks to the fine people at Lee Press-on Nails from Walgreen’s.

I could hardly compete with that package, what with my red hair the color of carrots, gangly legs and big feet. Mama just loved to remind me of my god-awful looks, compared to Sue Ann, every chance she got while Sue Ann pranced around the trailer in her coveted beer-can tiara. “Sally Mae,” she’d say, “I afeared you got out of the wrong end of the gene pool. If I din’t birth you myself, I’d swear you weren’t any o’mine.” Then she’d get this funny look on her face like she knew something she warn’t telling and she’d grab for the whiskey bottle and turn the tee-vee to Maury.

Ever since Daddy disappeared, she ain’t been right in the head. Rumor had it he ran off with DeeDee Townsend, Mabelline’s older sister. Truth is, a few of the town boys on vacation found DeeDee on the strip in Vegas, and never found Daddy. If anybody knew something about my daddy, nobody was telling. Mama din’t talk about it, but I sure did miss my daddy fierce.
So, Sue Ann won fair and square last year, and what she did with her moonshine prize was her business. But, here’s this year’s Trailer Park Pageant coming up, with my family’s reputation on the line and competition stiff. To be honest, I din’t really care too much for the reputation part, in spite of Mama’s harping–I only cared about the prize. Oh, the prize. When I say “moonshine” you probably think of some ass-kicking hooch from an illegal still in the woods. You’d be wrong. I needed that prize. For the goat.

I’ll get to it.

I knew for a fact Mabelline was taking pole dancing lessons for the talent part of the show, and it was going to be hard to beat. Not that she needed lessons, mind, she had more than enough experience dancing around poles, if you catch my meaning. Me dancing around a pole would be like looking at a grasshopper having an epileptic fit, so it was out. I couldn’t sing to save my life. I din’t have many options other than to figure out some way to beat Mabelline.

I thought about going to the swamp witch, Mad Hattie, for some advice, but since it was her what caused the problem with the goat in the first place, I figured I’d better come up with something on my own. Besides, I planned on visiting Mad Hattie when I won the competition, and it was going to be a one-time visit. Nobody wants to see Mad Hattie more than once.
So, I did the only thing I could think of. I went to my big sister to ask her advice. After all, she’d won the competition last year with a spectacular fire baton twirling routine. Sure, she set the honorable Mayor Tim Smith on fire, but she put him right out and that was pretty impressive. He was out of Intensive Care in a week, and nobody noticed the scars anymore. I figured she could help me out. After all, the family reputation was on the line.

“Sally Mae, I don’t know what to tell you,” she said, sitting on her bed, which was covered with the pink satin spread Mama got for her at the flea market with some of the prize money from Sue Ann’s big win, and wearing her tiara. She barely took it off since she won it.

She hardly paid me any attention, she was so focused on filing her nails to a sharp point in anticipation for her big date with Roscoe Diesel. He had a reputation and I guess Sue Ann wasn’t going to give it up that easy, which made me feel right proud. “It took me weeks to get that routine just right, and you don’t have weeks. The pageant’s tomorrow.” She looked up and gave me the once-over. “You know, even though Mabelline has bigger boobs, she ain’t no prettier than you. Especially if you do something with that hair.”

I smoothed my hands over my curls, quite aware Sue Ann was probably just being nice since last I saw in the mirror, my hair looked like the patch of spleenwort over yonder. “That ain’t my problem, Sue Ann. I can stuff my bra, but I heard tell Mabelline was going to do one of them pole dances for the talent part. I can’t do that, not in a million years.” I flopped on the bed next to Sue Ann and heaved a long sigh. “I have to win this thing. First of all, Mama will kill me if’n I don’t, and second…”

Sue Ann nodded. She knew. At least, she din’t know about the goat but she knew how valuable the moonshine was. I never asked her what she did with hers, and she din’t ask me what I was going to do with mine, if I won. When I won, I told myself.

“Well, you can’t sing, you can’t dance, and you can’t twirl a baton.”

“I already know what I can’t do,” I snapped. “You ain’t helping me much.”

Finally satisfied with her wickedly pointed nails and sticking the file back in her makeup bag, Sue Ann said, “Oh, don’t be getting your panties all in a bunch, sweet pea.” She turned back to me and smiled. “You can’t twirl a baton, but you can still do the fire thing.”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t. The last time I played with fire I set the outhouse to burning, remember that? Mama made me promise not to do it again.” I looked at my hands and wriggled my fingers. All us Riddley women had an affinity to fire; mine happened to be stronger than most. For instance, Sue Ann was pretty impressive with the fire batons, but I din’t need them to handle fire. Plus, I could make a lot more fire than what it took for two puny batons.

Sue Ann sighed. “Girl, if’n you don’t win that tiara, Mama will set your ass on fire herself, trust that. It’s been in the hands of Riddley women for decades. She’ll be mighty ticked if’n you don’t take it this year.” She stretched out on her bed. “Besides, you ain’t got boobs, so unless you plan on flashing your panties, the only thing that can compete with Mabelline is fire. Men love fire.” She grinned.

***

And that’s just the start of Sally Mae’s hilarious adventure. What starts out as a simple task ends up as complicated as it gets. Sally Mae and her best friend, Becky Jo, end up in a heap more trouble than they counted on, with a most unusual goat and a trip to visit the swamp witch, Mad Hattie.

As an added bonus, the first part of Sally Mae’s next wild ride is included, titled “You Ain’t the Boss of Me”.

“I promise you, you will laugh until you’re able to sit in the kid’s chairs. When you finish this book, you may have to worry about falling into the toilet when you sit down because YOUR ASS! IT WILL BE GONE FROM LAUGHING!” ~Joseph Paul Haines, author of Marooned and Ten With a Flag.

Disclaimer: Author shall be held harmless in any injuries resulting in the loss of asses or any toilet accidents.

You can also find The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident on Smashwords. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

VIVA LA GOAT! :)

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Finding the Time to Write – The Sequel

Back in 2008, I wrote a blog post about finding the time to write. I thought I’d re-visit the topic, especially since a lot of things have changed since then, although the basic issues I address in that particular blog post still apply. Right now I know many writers who are neck-deep in NaNoWriMo, and finding the time to write is really a concern. But for most writers, it’s an ongoing issue since the majority of us hold full-time jobs, have families, or would just like a spare moment to eat a meal, visit with friends and family, or even take a pee break.

Finding time to write
You think there’s a lot of time. But never enough.

When I wrote the original post, I was just launching a career in writing, which at the time meant writing non-fiction copy. Fitting in fiction was difficult, especially since there were these pesky things like “deadlines” and “rent”. It’s hard to make that brain switch between non-fiction and fiction, and sometimes I couldn’t do it at all. I mean, there are only so many hours in a day and my brain can handle just so much.

My brain on cauliflower
This is my brain. Yes, it looks like a cauliflower. I’m aware.

Even still, I managed to put together my flash fiction collection, other shorts, and my first publishable novel, Athena’s Promise. Since then, my career has changed (change is the only constant, I’ve found) and I am working quite steadily as a successful fiction content editor. I realize how lucky I am; I have a dream job, work for no one but myself and from home, and therefore, set my own schedule.

But I put in long hours and still have deadlines and there’s always that damned rent thing. So finding time to write my own fiction is…challenging, like it is for most of us who have this deep, abiding passion to throw words on a page to see what sticks. I still have other things to do, like eat, sleep, try to get the word out on my own fiction efforts; mop the floors, clean the litter box, and run my business. I struggle with brain re-charging, dealing with family issues, health issues, keeping up with the industry, networking, finding new clients so my cat and I don’t end up living in a cardboard box. I count myself very, very fortunate because even with all that, I’m doing what I love to do so I’m not complaining. Not even one damned bit.

But it wasn’t always so. It has always been a challenge to find the time to write, and I am sure it always will be. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When I started writing fiction, I had a full-time job in the Out, and three kids to raise as a single mom. I think it’s the main reason I started with flash fiction, which will always be my first love. I still maintain writing flash is one of the best training grounds for writers — but that’s another topic. The point is, finding time to write it was almost impossible. But with this burning need, I really didn’t have a choice. It was write or die. And I don’t know about you, but writing sounds a whole lot better than dying.

Cemetary
Yeah. Not fixing to end up here just yet.

So I managed. After working eight or ten hours a day, taking care of the house and the kids, I’d scratch out what I could and just put all my nuts in a basket. Nuts which later turned into a collection of which I’m very proud. I was on my way. I also started a daily blog (yes, DAILY) in which I’d write something, ANYTHING, no matter how banal and stupid it might have seemed to me, just to get into the habit of writing something every single day. This is known as “discipline”.

Fast forward a few years (what, you think this shit happens overnight. Heh. You funny.) and I’m working in a hotel. Long hours. LONG. Brain-numbing, in fact. I just didn’t have time to write fiction, although I kept up the habit of blogging every. Single. Day. Even through an awful storm knocking out the power for five days, I wrote a blog post in longhand on yellow legal pads, and then posted them later. I did this for a total of six years. I tried NaNo once, without computer access during my imprisonment–uh–I mean EMPLOYMENT at the hotel, by using the same method–you know, real paper with a real ink pen, no spellcheck–and crapped out at 25k. What I wrote was awful and will never see the light of day while I draw breath, but I tried.

FIRE
This is where my first novel attempt ended up. Believe me, it was for the best.

Then, I started freelancing, and trust me, I worked harder than I ever did in an Outside Job. That’s the nature of the beast, but being no stranger to hard work, it didn’t faze me. In this time, I wrote “Athena’s Promise” and although it was slow going, I got it done. I set myself a goal every day, and no matter what, every day I hit it. I hit it as hard as I could.

Currently, I am more often than not neck-deep in Other People’s Words. And I love it. I absolutely love what I do for a living. It’s not easy, but my Momma always told me life was not easy. While she may have been wrong about a lot of things, about this she was absolutely, 100% correct. Life is not easy and it’s not meant to be easy. Switching my brain from Other People’s Words to my own is difficult. You know, deadlines and stuff. Immersing myself into a world of someone else’s creation and picking apart the mechanics. Another switch to click and all that. But the voices in my own head are loud, and chatty, and just won’t shut the eff up. And I have yet to train my cat to clean out her own litter box. (She’s an asshole.)

And so, more material was wrought, and remembering my lessons on discipline, I have been working on the sequel to “Promise” titled “Athena’s Chains” and am halfway there. In the meantime, I have completed the first in a series of novellas, titled “The Trailer Park Tiara and Goat Incident–The Adventures of Sally Mae Riddley” (coming soon) and started the second, working title “You Ain’t The Boss Of Me – The Adventures of Sally Mae Riddley Volume Two” with three more (at least, if Sally Mae doesn’t quiet down) planned.

How do I find the time to write? I make it. Late at night, with my asshole cat prowling around yowling it’s time for bed or destroying yet another roll of toilet paper, I set aside at least an hour after a grueling 12-16 hour day to make it happen. Because I know if I don’t, it’s not going to happen. Nobody’s going to write these stories but me. I have to make it work, because I AM A WRITER. I am a lot of things, but at my core I AM A WRITER. And writers write, even in sub-optimal conditions. Tired? Sure. Obstacles? Definitely. So. What. Even if it’s only a hundred words, a thousand. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. Because here’s the thing; you take a small thing, and add another small thing, keep going, and the next thing you know…you have a Big Thing. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of “things”.)

Mountain
How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time, motherheifer. One step at a time.

If you want it bad enough, you make it happen. YOU. No matter what stands in your way, no matter what it takes, YOU are the only one who can make it happen. The obstacles or challenges just make the journey that much more rewarding. And really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the destination which matters as much as the journey.

Happy trails. Keep on keeping on. YOU CAN DO THIS. Now, get to it.

*All photos courtesy of Morguefile.com

Need a content editor? I do that. Check my rates and services here.

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Arrrgh, Me Mateys! In Honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day…

I figured I’d treat you to a piece of flash fiction I wrote a while back in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, included in the “Not Nice” collection, available on Amazon. Enjoy!

MUTINY
 
“Slap on the irons and toss the traitor in the brig, savvy?” roared Captain Morgan Larch. “Mutiny is a hangin’ offense, yar it is, and soon the crows’d be feastin’ on yer yella hide!”
 
The same pirates who had whispered support and betrayal to Seaman Jamie Peterson shackled and threw the insubordinate fool in the dank hold of the ship. Rats nibbled on exposed toes and the smell of fish and rot permeated the air. The activity of the ship continued in the wake of the aborted mutinous effort; mops swabbed the deck and the captain bellowed orders which were followed immediately.
 
Jamie sat in the dark, contemplating the inevitable fate looming, and shuddered. The cruel and tyrannical command of Captain Larch had grown too much for the fair-minded sea dog to accept any longer. If dying was the price which had to be paid, so be it. The traitors left behind would have to deal with their own conscience.
 
It was dark and cold in the brig; Jamie shivered and tried to keep bare feet from the rats. It was hard to tell the passage of time, but Jamie used it to clear a conscience heavy from a loss of honor over the last few months.
 
Past exploits came to mind and inspired shame. Pillaging, thievery, spying…vowing to change pirating ways, Jamie felt a sense of peace that had been sorely lacking. A fitting state of mind in which to meet the Maker.
 
Jamie was startled from a doze by the barked command of first mate Joe Peraulta. “Get ye up to yer feet, matey,” snarled the officer. “Yer time has come, so it has.”
 
Hauled up on deck and shackles clanking, Jamie caught sight of the noose dangling from the yardarm and swallowed hard. The captain glared from the wheel deck with arms crossed. The leering faces of the crew of pirates showed no mercy.
 
Until a screeching voice split the air. “Morgan? Jamie? Yooohoooo!”
 
“Oh my gosh, that’s Mom! Quick, everybody grab something! She’ll have a cow if she sees us like this!” exclaimed “Captain” Morgan. There was a mad dash to clean up the playhouse, to hide the cutlasses, eye patches and handcuffs. Someone scooped up Horace, the gerbil who liked to nibble toes, and stuffed him back in his cage.
 
By the time Mrs. Larch reached the playhouse, everyone was sitting in their assigned seat around a table set with a lovely tea service.
 
“How nice, “said Mrs. Larch. “Is there any tea left, Josephine? And Morgan, what happened to your hair ribbon, dear? Jamie honey, there’s a smudge on your dress, how many times have I told you to be careful before church?”
 
“Yes, matey…uh, I mean ma’am,” Jamie said before she could catch herself. She stifled a giggle at the look on Morgan’s face.
 
Josephine folded her hands demurely in her lap as Morgan poured the tea.

Athena’s Promise has a new cover and new formatting! Check it out on Amazon :)

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Scams For The Indies

Well, I’ve been saying it all along. The sharks are out for we indies, and what they want to do is rend the flesh from your bones with sharp, wicked teeth and eat you.

Oh sure. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a leg. Or an arm. Or both.

Think I’m kidding? Nope. Check out this post by Patti Larsen regarding the ill-conceived notion of a “Mark of Excellence”. And this thing had a price tag of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Seriously? Thankfully, since this post and others like it, the IBC (Indie Book Collective) has pulled their “program”. For now. UPDATE: (Yes, already.) Apparently the “Mark of Excellence” program is still available, although I refuse to link to it from here. RUN. AWAY. Seriously. This is so much bullshit I’m about to faint from the stench.

And then, this weekend, my friend and fellow indie, Janet Sked pointed out yet another entity trying to hop on the “let’s choose for readers what they want to read” bandwagon. Although I HATE to give them any hits, Grub Street Reads wants you to know “the best indie authors come from Grub Street”. Here’s the gist of their program if you really want to go look. But in a nutshell, the people here want you to PAY to put your book through a vetting process by their “qualified” endorsers and then, if approved, YOU CAN GET A STICKER FOR YOUR BOOK COVER!

Woohoo! I’m so excited I think I peed a little!

Look, let me just break it down. Indies vetting other indies is a CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Especially if they are charging a fee. Granted, Grub Street is nowhere as expensive as the “Mark of Excellence”, but still. And they might be lovely people. The truth is, there’s already a vetting process in place — it’s called READERS. Readers who now have the choice of reading whatever they damned well please, whether it’s something like Ninety Shades of Turquoise or the latest from a long-term bestselling author.

Get it? There’s no one standing between you, the indie author, or any author really, and the reader. NO ONE. Which is the whole premise behind this indie revolution, amirite?

This is really what it’s all about. SOMEONE WANTS TO TAKE ALL YOUR MONEYZ.

What makes this particularly disgusting to me is it seems these types of “programs” are preying on the new writer, the scared indie, the struggling artist who just wants to cut through the white noise out there and stand out. But if you think a shiny golden sticker handed out by people charging you money for the process is going to shoot your work of genius straight to the bestseller list, you’d better get a grip.

Think about it. Does Amanda Hocking have a golden sticker? Or Konrath? No, but they do have one thing in common — a shit-ton of material out there you can choose to read. Actually, how many of your favorite authors actually have a golden sticker on their book cover? Do you even notice? Does it make a difference in whom you choose to read?

Readers don’t care about stickers. They care about STORY. You can have a book cover with a bajillion stickers on it, but if what’s inside sucks, those stickers aren’t going to mean a damned thing. Not in the long run.

Write a good story. Save your money for great covers, great editing, and put the thing out there for the readers. And then you know what you do? WRITE ANOTHER ONE. Rinse and repeat. Your readers will find you, promise.

There is no magic bullet for success but HARD WORK. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no in-between and there is no short cut.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Here. Have a cookie. THEN GET TO WRITING.
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So, You’re A Freelancer And You “Work” From Home

You know, there are times it seems the Universe just LOVES to put people in my path to push my Bitch Button. I really try to refrain from unleashing the Kracken, for the most part, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Sometimes, there is the straw breaking the camel’s back.

This is a real camel. I'm talking about a figurative camel. I wouldn't want to break one of the real ones, that would be cruel.

Yesterday, someone I know (let’s call him “Mr. Camel”, shall we?) engaged me in conversation and said, “Oh, you’re a freelancer? And you work from home? Aren’t you lucky. I wish I could work from home. It must be nice to do anything you want anytime you want and make big bucks without having to work a ton of hours. What a life.”

Okay, Mr. Camel. You obviously have no clue whatsoever about self-employment, working from home, and you probably don’t know “Firefly” is the greatest television show canceled before its time.

This would be one of the many reasons. Yes, Nathan and I broke up but I'm still in love with Captain Mal.

I’m not going to get in to a whole argument of how you have it so much better than I do, or how I have it so much better than you. But let me clue you in on a little secret, Mr. Camel. You’re right. I am lucky. I’m lucky I get to perform a job I’m not only good at, I’m lucky because I have a job I absolutely adore. I don’t think you’re as jealous of the fact I am my own boss as you are the fact you aren’t as lucky and quite possibly hate your job with the passion of a thousand suns.

I know. It's pretty damned hot in that there cubicle, and it feels like hell. Been there, done that.

I understand your frustration. I was once a cubicle monkey, among other things, and it’s not fun. Unless you are very fortunate, it’s quite possibly Hades on Earth. There’s nothing worse than working a job you can’t stand eight hours a day, with weekends off, medical coverage, and paid vacations. It sucks that when you leave the office, you leave the work behind and carry on with normal activities. It’s difficult, I know, to be able to call in sick and know your shift is covered and all you need to concentrate on is getting better.

But when you’re a freelancer, you’re on your own, bub. As in, you NEVER leave the office and there’s no one to pick up your slack but yourself. You work when you’re sick, when you’re bored, when family members are sick and bored. You work even when you’re not working, because there are a hundred and one details which need to be taken care of running a business and there’s only you. When you’re not working, you’re looking for work, because while some months are flush, others you’re dodging disconnect notices because that’s just how it is. You’re always trying to think five steps ahead, even at 1 o’clock in the morning and you’ve just gotten to bed and supposed to be sleeping, having completed one deadline when you have to get up at 5AM because there’s another deadline to meet.

And that’s not to mention I have the same daily chores to complete that you do. Like laundry, or dishes, or shopping, or paying bills. I still have to scoop out the cat box, clean out the refrigerator, mop and vacuum floors. Worry about my kids. Carve out even a tiny bit of time for some kind of social life so I don’t turn into that crazy lady with the insane cat who never leaves her house and can’t talk to humans. I, too, have to deal with people knocking on my door wanting to save my soul. (I usually use a voodoo doll. What do you use?)

Not that there aren’t any perks, because there certainly are. But you know what? I’d trade working in pajamas for medical coverage; I might even consider trading in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my desk for a total weekend off with no worries and no deadlines and a regular infusion of cash into my bank account. But then again, probably not. Why? Because I love what I do and I know the deal.

What you don’t realize, Mr. Camel, is I have EARNED my job position. I have paid my dues. I have worked hard, and so has every successful freelancer I’ve ever met, to build something from the ground up, using all those years of being a cubicle monkey, burger-flipper, ass-wiper, etc. to learn as much as I could in order to apply it to my job today. This wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter — I EARNED IT, and so has every other freelancer. And I can guarantee you I put in more hours in the course of a week than you probably do in a month. (Okay, my math might be a little off, but you get the point.)

These are silver platters. I don't have one. And frankly, I don't want one. They're high maintenance.

It takes a lot of guts to work as a freelancer, Mr. Camel. It’s scary. There is no safety net. It also takes a lot of self-discipline, passion, and sweat. Sometimes blood is involved, and most definitely tears. And I don’t think you realize the perks you seem to covet are not the perks which make it all worth it. Perks like producing a stellar product all on your own; perks like satisfied clients with whom you forge amazing relationships. Yes, I can take twenty minutes and indulge my obsession with Words With Friends (but don’t pretend you don’t do the same thing in your little cubicle, I’ve seen you, and QAT is not a real word!) and that certainly is a perk, but for the most part, you are absolutely 100% correct about one thing….

I am lucky. I love my job. And that, my friend, is the best perk of all.

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The Fantasy – Volume One

I’m excited! As a matter of fact, I’m just doing a happy dance all around the living room. I hope nobody’s watching because I probably look a touch insane and I’m fairly certain I’ll never make it on So You Think You Can Dance, because…well, I can’t. I rather look like this:

Only imagine the grasshopper in an epileptic fit.

Anyway, what’s the big deal, you ask? Well, I’ve decided to release some new volumes of fiction as I work on completing the sequel to Athena’s Promise and book two of the Aegian Trilogy, titled “Athena’s Chains”. The first volume is now out and available — The Fantasy – Volume One. It contains three stories from the Not Nice collection, a brand-new and never-before-seen short story, the two flash pieces which inspired the Aegian Trilogy, AND the first chapter of “Athena’s Promise”.

I have four volumes planned in all, The Fantasy being the first. Coming up over the next few weeks you will find:

The Funny
The Horror
The Heart

All will contain a mixture of new and old, and of course, you know they’ll all be twisted, which is why you love me. Heh.

This is what the inside of my brain looks like. Don't tell me you're surprised. (Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com)

It’s been difficult to find writing time with all the editing projects, but I’m not complaining because I love my job. I’ve been really busy earning a living, but I came to realize if I didn’t start scheduling time to write, it wasn’t going to happen. SO…I’m really happy about making some changes to include writing time for real, and I feel like I’m on the right track.

I have to thank Patti Larsen for the kick in the ass (because I really needed it and the woman kicks HARD!) and the unflagging support of Lori Whitwam, Joseph Paul Haines, and Joshua Guess, all fabulous indie artists in their own right.

I forgot how much fun it was to write and publish. I hope to remedy that on a much more regular basis, and I hope you have as much fun reading as I do writing for you. :)

If you like what you read (and even if you don’t!) I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a review on Amazon, or click the “Like” button. I’ll love you anyway if you don’t, but I’ll probably love you long time if you do :) And a million thanks for all the support!!

Available NOW!

And you can find it here!

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The First Rant of the New Year – The Word NO, Rape, and Responsibility

I’d like to start by saying someone or something stole my January and half my February and I think that’s rather rude. But it pales in comparison next to the REAL burr up my ass right now.

I realize this is most likely not going to be a popular opinion, and it’s also likely to cause some hard feelings. I’m okay with that. But it’s something that’s been building for a while — a long time, actually, and since this is my blog, I can say what I want. And yes, I also realize this is a topic which has been around the block more than once.

I receive a lot of unsolicited manuscripts from many different writers. I have read just about every genre known to mankind — I’ve had phases where all I read are biographies, sci-fi, epic fantasy and all the sub-genres, bizzaro, literary, historical stuff, poetry, Shakespeare, romance (oh yes, it’s true, I know Harlequin and Silhouette, although those years are long gone) and every sub-genre you can think of (and I can’t right now because I’m too pissed off). There’s also a crapload of free material out there, so I guess you could say in a literary sense, I get around. And some of the shit I’m reading is really, really pissing me off.

Not because the grammar or sentence structure makes me want to swallow a maggot milkshake rather than read one more word; not because the story line is about as ethereal as a lace curtain; not because the main character has the personality of a tongue depressor. Because many of these writers are hella talented and tell a really good story. No, what’s lighting my fire right now is IRRESPONSIBILITY.

Hey, it’s a free world. For the most part. You can write any damned thing you please. I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t even if I could. But what I will do is drag your ass out into the light and ask you WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?

I’m talking to you, Romance Writer. You might write straight up historical romance, you could be an author of LGBT stories, contemporary stuff…it doesn’t really matter. I am seeing a lot of “her mouth said no but her eyes said yes” bullshit and I’m just SO OVER THIS CRAP. And a lot of it, pardon me, seems to be coming from the paranormal ether, but certainly not all of it.

Why does this bug me? For several reasons. I am sick to death of reading scenes where the woman says no, the man hears yes and proceeds even when she says no more than once, and they have hot monkey sex. (Insert preferred paranormal species here. They seem to get a pass on all kinds of abhorrent behavior.) Afterward, she’s all ga-ga over the guy and sometimes he expresses remorse because after all, he’s not a BAD guy, he’s just a HORNY guy and driven crazy over her incredible HAWTNESS, all is forgiven, and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.

Really?

For one, NO MEANS NO. “No” does not mean, “Oh, I’m just being coy because I want to preserve the fallacy I am a good girl just overwhelmed by the sensations of my lady bits” and NO does not mean, “Oh, if I say yes he’ll think I’m a bad girl and I’ll have to give up my Virgin Decoder Ring,” and NO doesn’t mean “Oh, go ahead and take it and by the way I love you for it and thank you so much for introducing me to the marvels of an orgasm.”

And NO, motherheifer, you do NOT get a free pass just because you have to drink blood to live, turn into a werewolf at the full moon and it’s the way of the pack, or your body parts are rotting off. Actually, if body parts are rotting off you probably shouldn’t be having any kind of rough sex in the first place. Gawd only knows what’s gonna fall off. Just a suggestion.

ANYWAY. Before you start jumping all over my shit and calling me Mrs. Brady (although she was a freak in her own right, GO FLO!) or saying, “Geez, Netta, you act like you don’t have a freak flag when we all know what a heinous untruth THAT is,” you’re right. I do have a freak flag. This is not about flying a freak flag. It’s not about “forced seduction” or erotic fantasies. I understand those, I have a few myself (that I shall keep to myself, pay no attention to the purple monkey, move along) and it’s not about titillation. It’s about glamorizing RAPE. There. I said it. Happy now?

Because when a woman says NO, and a man forces sex upon her anyway, that is called RAPE. There is nothing glamorous about it, there is nothing right about it, there is certainly nothing romantic about it. STOP. IT.

I mean it. Stop it. In fiction, why can’t the woman get on board and enjoy herself if that’s what she wants? Why can’t a man stop if the woman tells him NO? She can have her internal conflicts (oh lordy, don’t we all) but I’m afraid all these stories about the female saying NO with her mouth and YES with her eyes are desensitizing readers to the fact this situation is RAPE. And what about the mixed messages to the males out there? “Oh, you told me no, but you have bookshelves full of those romantical type books where the guy takes what he wants and they ride off into the sunset and have thousands of fat babies.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

As a writer, you have to understand your words have power. You have never, ever in your life, held a weapon as powerful as the words you share with other people. Of course you’re an artist, of course you write for yourself, of course. But when you expose your work to other people, it’s a whole other ball game.

I’m not singling out romance writers, because it happens in every genre, but of course it’s more prevalent in romance. I’m not talking about realistic depictions of rape, or the horrendous and sad fallout after the fact. I’m not talking about a situation inimical to the plot of your story. I’m talking about this frivolous-type attitude toward a very serious issue. Think about what you are writing!

“Her mouth said “no” but her eyes said “yes”.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

IF HER MOUTH SAYS “NO” THEN THAT MEANS “NO”. (Besides the fact I have never met a talking eyeball.)

In this day and age (the heyday of rape in romance seems to have been the ’70s to the 90s although I feel like I’m seeing a resurgence) if you are a talented writer, certainly you can come up with something else to create tension and stop making it seem like this kind of situation is part of the mating ritual. Please.

Rape is all about power. It is not foreplay. It is not a way to bind a woman to you heart and soul. It is a crime. It is violent. It is wrong.

There are ways and ways and ways to explore the power dynamic between a man and a woman without using rape as the catalyst and if you can’t find them, you’re a shitty writer. That is my opinion. Therefore, if I read something of yours which trivializes this act, I will never read anything of yours again. I just won’t. I won’t promote it, I won’t edit it, I won’t read it.

Here is where I draw my line in the sand.

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