I’m going to keep this evening’s blog post short and sweet, but I really didn’t want to sit on this news any longer!
If you follow me on Instagram (and if not, why not?) then you may have noticed I already spilled the beans there.
Ayup, that’s me…breaking out of my shell and heading to Virginia to do an author event!
The coordinator is the super ambitious authorpreneur behind the MinxLit Box, Sade Rene, and I am delighted to meet her and see her in action.
If you are in or around the Arlington, VA area, I would be oh-so-very excited to meet you! Here’s the flyer, so go ahead and save the date. Put it in your phone. Mark it in your Erin Condren planner. Make a note for the fridge. Tell a friend. Tell two friends. Hell, tell all your friends. 🙂
August 18th. Shall we call it a date? 😉 Check back often for updates in regards to this inaugural author-outing, as well as my social media. If I’m going to do this, I might as well go all out. Stay tuned. I’ll be making some announcements.
Happy Monday, writers! I hope you’re in for a truly amazing week filled with lots of productivity and words that thrill you and chill you.
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock—or perhaps you’re not on Writer Twitter—you’re aware of a bit of an indie-publishing scandal nicknamed #CockyGate or #ByeFaleena. Yeah, it’s a doozy.
I am actually not here to discuss Faleena or her trademark. All of my sentiments have been shared either here or by other people. What I want to discuss today is the negativity that has been brought about because of the whole cocky hoopla, and the negativity I’ve seen in general. In fact, I want to discuss it so much, it’s become an impromptu three-part series.
The Root Cause
When you find yourself tempted to lash out at others, I urge you to take a second and figure out why. Usually, at least in my experience, the why has much more to do with me than it does the person to which I intend to give a lashing.
Let’s look at the whole Faleena thing as an example. If you watched the odd, desperate video she released and then took down, you might have paid attention to when she addressed someone rather specific. Now, they didn’t have a name, but she did say that this person was someone she had been in a writing group with, someone whom she had shared their works with her own newsletter subscribers, and that the whole reason she went for the trademark was this one person. She said, and I quote: “You know who you are.” The rest has gone down in some astounding Twitter history, but the gist is, there was a root cause for her actions. Her actions were not okay, mind you, but instead of evaluating why she was hurt by this person and working to resolve this one issue with that one person, she wound up alienating a large sector of the romance writing community…and perhaps ruining her own reputation in the process.
I think if she were honest, Faleena might even say she’s gotten herself in a shit storm she wasn’t prepared for because she basically lashed out with this trademark thing. Of course now she’s in no position to really admit that, but there’s a lot of evidence that points to her flailing about as all of this settles.
What can we learn from her mistakes?
Don’t lash out. See, if you haven’t noticed, the internet isn’t exactly a forgiving place. As a writer, everything you post online is your brand. Your reputation. Your work.
You will be wronged.
You will be hurt.
You will be slighted.
You will want to shout from the social media rooftops that the wrongdoer is an asshole. But, this rarely works out for anyone. Are there times for it? Perhaps. Maybe if someone is being abusive. Like, really abusive.
The best thing to do is just block, mute, and move on. Be better than the asshole.
[All of this is a moot point if your entire shtick is to be an asshole, like those waiters at Last Resort restaurants. In which case, keep on keeping on if that works for you.]
Sort Rudeness from Constructive Criticism
So, you know that we writers aren’t supposed to read our reviews. At some point, you won’t. But, let’s be real here. We read our reviews. We wait on them like a kid at Christmas who was really, really good and expects that toy they’ve been asking for all year. Only, lots of time we find out that our dad didn’t get his Christmas bonus check and instead was enrolled in a Jelly of the Month club…but reviews aren’t guaranteed because of a sale.
(I should know.)
We see our sales. We see no reviews. We covet reviews. When we see one come in, you bet your ass we read them.
But…maybe you lashed out at someone because you hadn’t read this post yet, and suddenly you have a 1-star review that just says your work is shit and no one should buy the book. It sucks, but there isn’t a lot you can do about it.
There is one thing you should never, ever do: never respond to negative reviews.
Especially never respond to a negative review with your own bullet point list as to why they are wrong and your book deserves 5-stars and that you’re going to blast them on Twitter and petition Amazon to take the review down and…just stop.
Now, if you get a string of bad reviews and they all pretty much had the same issue…then maybe that is constructive criticism.
Listen to constructive criticism, do not listen to rudeness.
The writing community is filled with wonderful people. Amazing people. Talented people. Jealous people.
That’s right. I said it.
You will find people who want to say something negative about your work simply because they haven’t published a book yet and you have. Or maybe they have published and you haven’t, but you have more social media followers, or more blog subscribers…there’s a million reasons for anyone to be jealous of anyone.
The best thing to do is keep on keeping on. I’m telling you, that mute button is a wonderful thing.
Don’t Listen to Your Negative Nancy
Guys, I’m not talking about depression. Depression and mental illness aren’t something you can control on your own, and those voices are impossible to ignore without help—and sometimes not even then.
I’m talking about that little voice that creeps up now and again telling you that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t deserve the life you want. That voice is stupid. That voice is also stupidly loud sometimes.
Writing is lonely and hard and defeating at times. It’s easy to look at someone else’s work and say I’ll never do that. If I can’t do that, then what’s the point? I’ll just quit.
For instance: I’d love to have a vlog. If I had an ounce of true self-confidence, I’d dump the blogging platform for vlogging in a heartbeat. I see other indie authors with these insanely popular YouTube channels, and I know that a chunk of their writerly income stems from their channel and you bet your ass I wish I had a piece of that pie.
But, if you’ve even read a few of my posts, you know I am terribly introverted and the thought of putting my visage on camera and speaking…well, I’m already shaking. That’s just not in my deck of cards. I’ve wondered more than once if an Indie in today’s landscape can be viable at all without a YouTube channel, which is silly. If all of us had a YouTube channel, subscriber numbers per channel would probably plummet.
When I first got into this arena, everyone said GET A FACEBOOK, GET A FACEBOOK, GET A FACEBOOK. And, so I did…but I never utilize it. I hate it. So I technically fail all the time because I have this thing I don’t use. Why bother with a social media platform if I don’t take advantage of the most popular platform out there? Why not just give up?
If I only had a nickle for every time a similar thought has crossed my mind.
My point is I’ve come up with at least a thousand excuses as to why I should just stop writing. I’ve listened to them once, but I came back and I have no intention of going anywhere again. We all have our bad days, but tell your Negative Nancy to shut up and let you finish that chapter.
Remember: When you’re online, you are responsible for the types of things you read and hear because you have the power to distance yourself from it. You can’t control what someone else says, but you can control your reactions and whether you choose to be around their curmudgeoness. Don’t give a single inch of room for someone else’s negativity (or your own!) to seep in and poison your creative well.
All that said, I hope you have a fabulous week. Be kind to one another. There’s plenty of evil and meanness without contributing to it!
So, my amazing, dear, sweet, lovely, talented friend Jewel E. Leonard is once again hosting a slew of lovely people on her blog as she counts down the days to Possession’s release, and today was my day to guest post! Check it out!
Also, check out Jewel’s Twitter account and wish her well on Possession’s release—and get your copy! I had the pleasure of reading it already and it is AMAZING! ❤ ❤ ❤
Please be sure to show her some love for this amazing book’s birthday!
So, my amazing contact at ProWritingAid emailed me yesterday to say how glad she was that the giveaway went so well, and she wanted to thank all of you for participating with such enthusiasm so…
She is hooking you up!!
One of my goals when I started this whole indie journey was that I wanted to one day be able to help other indies along their path, and I am honored to be doing that with ProWritingAid at my side! (I cannot tell you enough how much I love them.)
So… without further adieu, let’s get to the amazingness. It’s time for you to see for yourselves why it is I can’t stop singing PWA’s praises, and it’s also time to save a little cash.
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Click the picture above to take you to ProWritingAid and get started on improving your writing. (Again, coupon code is: AILA502018) This is a heck of a deal, especially if you’ve had your eye on that LIFETIME membership!
I plan on continuing my relationship with amazing resources like ProWritingAid and building on other relationships as well, with the intention of bringing you fabulous offers and giveaways like this.
To my current (and future) subscribers: Thank you for taking the time to check in and participate in my shenanigans events and for all the kinship and camaraderie. I just love each and every one of you!
Happy Monday, friends. I’d like to start by saying a huge congratulations to the winner of the ProWritingAid giveaway. I announced it on Twitter yesterday, but in case you missed it…
If you’re still interested in trying out ProWritingAid (and I highly suggest you do) you can get your free trial started…now! Well, as soon as you click the linky-loo below. (Yes, it’s an afflink, but it doesn’t affect the price of the product whatsoever.)
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
I’m writing this on Sunday evening, and it may or may not be a good thing for me to do at the moment. See, I’ve had a migraine today. I think it’s over. For the moment it’s been downgraded from migraine to annoyingly bad headache. But, I’ve dealt with these things for so long, I can also feel my body still giving me warning signs that I’m not entirely out of the woods just yet. My body isn’t happy I’m looking at a computer screen. But, at the same time it also wants me to do something to distract myself from the pain it’s in and the pain it has been in all day.
See, migraines are funny that way. They’re different for everyone, but for me there comes a point where I can do too much or too little and navigating that fine line is difficult, so, here I am.
My Migraine History
I’ve suffered them since I was a child. I’m not talking headaches, okay? Headaches and migraines are different things. For people like me, watering down the definition of migraine to meet the definition of a headache is dangerous. If I tell my employer I cannot come in to work because I have a migraine, sometimes that is met with: “Well, can’t you just take a Tylenol and come in in say…an hour?”
Nope. So, pardon me if I am one of those migraine sufferers who will prod a bit if someone says they have a migraine and yet they are playing video games.
Oh yeah, my history.
They’re hereditary for me, passed down from my father who got them from his mother, and I suppose she got them from one of her family members. I don’t know that my mother has actually ever had a true migraine. I don’t know if my brother has. I get them on average around 3-4 per month. Sometimes it’s worse.
When I was little I had them much more frequently, because not only do I have them due
to my fantastic gene pool, I also get them as a reaction to eating Sodium Nitrate or Sodium Nitrite…a fact that went unknown until I was in the second grade. My reaction to nitrates and nitrites is frightening. I was hospitalized when I was in kindergarten, scarily dehydrated. It was around this same time frame that, while suffering through a nasty migraine, I pleaded with my father to please get his rifle and put me out of my misery. True story. Sad story, but true.
Once the sodium nitrate/nitrate aversion was discovered, my migraines became less frequent, but they didn’t disappear. Once, my mother was cooking something overnight in the crockpot which contained a ham hock and the simple action of breathing that in put me in terrible pain. I was put on some heavy medication as a youngster because they were so unbearable.
Aside from my nuclear family unit, though, convincing other adults that a child as young as I was at the time actually suffered migraines was a bit difficult. That’s an adult problem, was the general consensus. So, I found myself on occasion being forced to suffer through them while at school because my teacher didn’t believe me, or thought I just wanted to get out of assignments.
My Migraines Now
Luckily I’ve gained some valuable insights as to what triggers migraine for me now. I still can’t eat things with Sodium Nitrate or Nitrites. I also can’t eat onions anymore. (Which, is probably what happened to me today. We had breakfast at a diner yesterday, and I’m guessing they probably cooked my eggs where they cooked someone else’s bacon, and there were some onions in my hash browns. Good job, Aila.)
Sunglasses are a must for me. The bigger, the darker, the better. I’ve even been known to wear sunglasses in the wee hours of the morning or the darkest parts of night in order to cut down on the brightness of passing headlights. Even wearing sunglasses, if the sun catches on the car in front of me in just the right way, the migraine is near instantaneous.
Some people go to bed when they have a headache, because a nap makes it go away…not me. If I have a run-of-the-mill headache, I cannot go to sleep to make it better. If I do, nine times out of ten, I wake up with a full-fledged migraine.
I also upgraded, for lack of a better word, to aura migraines. Most of the times I hear something that isn’t there, a sort low beeping noise. Sometimes I see flashes of light, sometimes bright, sometimes like a dim strobe.
It helps I have a supportive husband who never complains about caring for me when I have a migraine. I cannot handle much light, so we have blackout curtains hanging in the living room and our bedroom.
Balance is everything for me. I usually want a light blanket, but also a cold pack on my head. I don’t want sudden loud sounds, like dogs barking, so I cope with having the TV on rather quietly, to keep them from hearing and reacting to every little thing outside. I don’t want strong smells, but I will occasionally utilize some essential oils. I take my medicine, which sometimes includes chewing up some baby aspirin (eight of those things with some tepid water can take the edge off if I catch the migraine early on.)
Even caffeine becomes a tightrope act. Too much makes the migraine worse, too little makes the migraine worse—or can actually cause migraines in some instances.
Migraines knock me on my ass.
Someone could offer to fully-fund my dream Disney World vacation and arrange for David Tennant himself to be my tour guide…and if a migraine struck, I’d have to pass on the adventure to someone else.
Today, for instance, Mother’s Day…I had to call my mother (after the migraine had started to ease) and tell her I wouldn’t make it. She understood, of course, because that’s what moms do, but I felt even worse for disappointing her.
As a writer, migraines can be stupidly disruptive. I’ve forgotten ideas. I have to take time away from the computer because a screen so close to my face is a bad idea. I also get really negative thoughts while the pain is at its highest points, and even sometimes on the way down—thoughts that I’ll never be good enough at this, that I’m too awkward for social media, that I should just give up and do something else, nobody likes me, I’m a burden to my husband, etc.
I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy. I’m talking about this so that other sufferers know that they’re not alone in all of this. The perceived severity of migraines has been diluted because it’s become what people say when they have a headache. If you’ve ever said that and now you’re wondering if you’ve actually ever had a migraine…chances are you didn’t. You’ll know it when you have one.
Being A Writer When It’s Impossible
So, how do I take care of business while I’m caring for myself in the throes of a migraine? To put it simply: I don’t.
There’s nothing I can do during a migraine except for try to get better. They can last for hours or they can last for days. There’s nothing to be done except wait and employ all my personal tricks.
When the migraine wanes, though, and downgrades, there’s this period of time between headache and healed when I might not be able to write but I can do something to be productive, even if only a little bit.
Today, for instance, once the migraine faded and my head stopped swimming and my stomach settled, I dimmed the screen on my laptop and tinkered around with a bookmark design for Alabama Rain. I worked slowly and took several breaks for my eyes. I stopped when my body told me to.
When I gave up on trying to come up with the wording for the bookmark’s backside, I took a breather, drank some water, refreshed my cold cloth, and then decided to reorder business cards.
I jotted down some notes on an idea I had for my next book. And while it might not have looked productive to an outsider, I shut my laptop and shut my eyes and I just thought about my current work and the trajectory it is on. I contemplated changes and also I tried to think of the story as if I weren’t writing it and instead reading it. Thinking is very important to a writer.
So, why didn’t I buckle down and write in Alabama Rain rather than this post? Either way I’d be coming up with new content…well, I figured if the pain level increased, I’d feel less guilty if I abandoned a blog post. Also, by getting it out of the way, I’m freeing up my entire afternoon tomorrow (today for you, or yesterday or last week, depending on when you are reading this.) to write in Alabama Rain.
The Unspoken Side-Effect
It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, a mother, a father, a chef, a police chief, a coal miner, a teacher, a librarian, a dog-walker, or The Queen…suffering from a migraine causes all sorts of problems, there’s pain agony and nausea, sometimes visual and/or auditory hallucinations, sensitivity to light, sound, ambient temperature, etc. etc. etc. but there’s also one that isn’t talked about much.
We’re supposed to be doing something else. Anything else. We rarely plan to spend 5+ hours sitting in the dark, trying to block out smells and thoughts that are too loud. We aren’t enjoying ourselves, and no one else is enjoying us either. So, here’s my big secret. Here is how I truly take care of business when I just can’t:
I take care of myself, first. And you should, too. Not take care of me, take care of you.
So, that’s all I have. Literally, that’s all the energy I have to give today. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you have a wonderful, productive week.
I have gone against my own grain a lot lately, it seems. I’ve started bowling. I took time off from work. I started telling real-life people (oh, you know what I mean) about my books. I’ve even joined another writing group.
I’m not even sure I used to talk about the writing group I was a part of a while back, but I’ll give a brief overview from what I remember.
I found this group on Meetup.com and I spent a few weeks going back and forth on whether I should actually join the group. At the time I hadn’t yet published SL&T and I was afraid of being the only person there who wouldn’t be published. I was afraid I would be the only one to view Indie Publishing as valid. I was afraid of sounding stupid. I was afraid of not being as well-read as everyone else.
I was afraid of a lot.
I convinced my husband to hang around in case I needed to run. (No, I’m not joking. The social anxiety is real.) They met at a bar/restaurant that is no longer in business. It was a bit too loud for me. There was too much going on, and I was so far out of my element I couldn’t even see my element anymore.
They went around the room, of course, and asked for introductions and I choked out something about how I was on revision seven-million and forty-two, which got a lot of laughs. I eased. A little.
And I went back for the second meeting. It was at that meeting they asked for people to consider paying dues in order to keep the Meetup.com thing going and to help pay for the materials they brought each week. (Each presenter would bring worksheets they created, educational materials, etc. etc.)
I can’t remember how many meetings occurred between the time I paid my membership dues and the time I decided I was sorta, kinda…done…but it wasn’t many. I never really spoke much. I think I read one or two of my writing prompts we did. Mostly, though, I sat in the back, sipped my tea, and soaked in the knowledge from the presenters—who, I should add, consisted of four different people, two I barely remember, one who was a traditionally published author, and the other a marketing professional who was finishing up her manuscript and getting ready to seek traditional publication. She got it, by the way…suffice it to say, I was ecstatic about the knowledge in the room.
But…c’mon, you knew there was a but coming…then there was the meeting that killed my warm, fuzzy feelings.
They announced a traditional vs. self-publishing pros/cons type meeting. I was skeptical, but excited.
I don’t want to say the traditionally-published author was rude to the self-published author they had invited. I really, really don’t want to. It certainly felt that way to me, regardless if that had been his intention. I don’t suspect he thought she’d be so incredibly articulate, nor that she would make such valid arguments for going the indie route.
The whole thing made me feel very awkward. I cannot imagine how it made the invited indie feel. She did great, though. And while I had already decided that was the route I wanted to go, I had looked forward to gaining knowledge and insight from the pitching process and all the trad-published guy had to say. (Which was basically: I’ll take getting an advance for my book and plopping myself on a beach any day. That was about all I learned about the trad-world that night.)
That was my last meeting with that group. I kept my affiliation with the FaBo group, for reasons, but I never attended another meeting. And there weren’t more anyway, as the group quickly fizzled out (mind you, they’d been going strong for years before that) and that was pretty much that.
I’m giving it another go, though! It’s time to once again play with others. New group, [mostly] new faces, new ideas, new leader. No dues, as of yet anyway, but I’d consider paying again if this incarnation is more accepting of indie publishing. And maybe even if they’re not.
Our first meeting was so much freaking fun! I was a nervous wreck again, but not as much as before. I’ve published two novels now, so I’m at least not a total newbie to the indie-publishing process. I knew I’d have something to contribute to the group in that aspect, a far cry from how I felt the first go-round. I legitimately have hope this will be good for me. We’re going to meet twice per month, every other Monday. The first Monday of the month will be more of a free-for-all type meeting, with discussions, and guided topics, workshops, etc. The second Monday will consist of critique groups.
You know, not far from your typical writing group.
So, what am I afraid of this time? I’m leaps and bounds more knowledgeable than I was the last time, though I will always have a lot to learn. I’ve got more confidence in my writing than I had. I’m certain that while I may not be the most talented in the group, I won’t be laughed out of it either…so, what’s rattling my cage this time?
Not a damn thing.
Briefly I was afraid I’d cut loose if they started trashing the indie publishing world, just as I did last time. But, this time? I think I’ve gained enough confidence in myself, and the indie world as a whole, that I will be able to smile through it and do my best to prove them wrong. Sometimes that’ll be a tall order, because as we all know, there’s a lot of…we’ll call it examples to the contrary out there. But, if we all run away, how will we ever prove our point? So, of course I’m lying. Of course I’m afraid of all of that. But, I’m not lying when I say I’ll stick it out. I will attempt to be a champion-voice for indie publishing.
I’m going to submit the first two chapters of Alabama Rain to the critique group. I’ll see how it goes. Tell me, have you been a member of a writing group outside the interwebs? What have your experiences been like? Any ideas you’d like to share from your writing groups that I might pass along to this one? We’ve only had one meeting and we’re still brainstorming ideas for what we want to do. I’d love, love, love to hear from you!
Time is running out to enter for a chance to win a full-year subscription to ProWritingAid! This is a $50 value, but the benefits of subscription are priceless! Click the image below to enter!
All right, my wonderfully talented, amazing, sweet-as-pie friends (and you snarky, little-bit-of-devil-in-you friends, too), that’s it for this week. Enjoy your weekend, enjoy your words, and take the time to enjoy someone else’s, too. ❤
Since I didn’t post anything last week, I’ll start with a general update. Why didn’t I post anything? I felt…horrible. Physically, I was just exhausted. It felt like day 4,591 of allergy season. I was adjusting to new allergy medication. I couldn’t think, much less write, anything. So, I apologize. It was the first scheduled post I’d missed since December, and missing it made me feel even worse. I haven’t even been on social media much.
I woke one morning and I felt fabulous. I can’t explain it. I’m no spring chicken, so I don’t normally feel fabulous upon waking. Most days I feel okay. Better after a stretch. Better still after a cup of coffee or two, and as the day progresses I might even feel good…but this one morning I woke up, I felt sixteen again. It was weird, and it hasn’t happened since. Nothing remarkable even came of that day, but it was such an anomaly, I feel the need to share it.
So, what was I up to during my convalescence? Watching Doctor Who and eating all the spicy things. I re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-restarted with No. 9, and I’ve just about finished up Amy and Rory’s first series, so for you Whovians that are calculating…that’s a lotta Who in a short time! But don’t worry, I brought a bunch of bananas to the party. 😉
Both of my nephews and my niece are hitting some major milestones all at the same time, which contributes to my feeling ancient:
My oldest nephew just turned 21.
My youngest nephew just registered for kindergarten.
My niece is going off to college in two weeks.
THIS MAKES AUNTIE AILA FEEL SO OLD. Old, proud, and excited to see their futures unfold.
In other life news, my father’s physical health remains about the same (which isn’t good, but will never get better, so the same is better than the alternative) but his mental health seems to be in a steep decline. So, I know I don’t talk about him often because his privacy is so important to him, but if you are a prayerful person, a love-and-light person, a chanting person, a good vibes person…anything, please send him/me/us a little something.
Wonderful World of Writing
When, not if, when I finish Alabama Rain, it will be a joyous occasion. I am thoroughly enjoying writing the book, but it’s not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. I am behind in this book. I’m not too worried at the moment, because I’m about to take a nice vacation from work which will give me time to catch up. (When I’m not at work, I can easily bang out 6k words per day, if not more) Since my allergy medications are doing their thing now, I’m back away plucking out as many words as I can during the work week. I know this will be out-of-context, but I really enjoyed writing these last few scenes and thought I’d share a little something, something. Remember, it’s raw:
Corrie is such an interesting character to write. In the sections of the book where she’s a teenager/young adult, she’s a little naive and totally smitten at first, but life in the 1930s was tough, and it’s heartbreaking to write the things that harden her. The research I’ve done into the psychological problems people went through during The Great Depression has been hard to digest sometimes. A lot of the time. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I have to mentally check out of it for a few hours and watch or read something light and fluffy after researching something for this book. Don’t fret, I am writing in some moments of levity because I must.
In other writing news, my local writing group disbanded about a year and a half ago when the group leaders either got married, moved out of state, or started new jobs—someone is picking it back up, though! It appears they want to meet on Mondays, which may cause me to rework my schedule some over the next few weeks, but if these first couple of meetings prove beneficial, I’ll make it work. Cross your fingers! [I just came back from the first meeting, and it was amazing! More on that Thursday!]
That Thing Happening on Twitter aka #ByeFaleena
So, of course I grew up being taught that if you have nothing nice to say you should say nothing at all. I try, at least publicly, to live that way.
But not today.
If you haven’t checked out #ByeFaleena, let me just sum up what’s happened here the best way I can without interjecting my thoughts just yet. A romance author by the name of Faleena Hopkins applied for and was granted a trademark for the word cocky. This pertains to a series of books she has written called The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, where each book’s title starts with the word Cocky. Therefore she now (as of April) has two series titles for this series. 1.) The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, and 2.) The Cocky Series.
She began sending her own cease and desist letters to authors with the word Cocky in their titles, going so far as to say if they did not change the titles of their books that she would sue them (and would win) all of the monies they had made on those titles.
Look, I understand wanting to protect your work. And if Ms. Hopkins had created the word Cocky, or even just wanted to prevent people from having their own series of books called The Cocky Series, I might’ve been alright with that. But, this sort of thing happens when you use certain words, especially within certain genres.
Common words in Romance titles: Love, Lust, Billionaire, Sexy, Kiss, Cocky
Common words in Sci-Fi titles: Odyssey, Space, Mission, Battle, Star(s)
Common words in Mystery titles: Murder, Killer, Blood, Detective
Common words in Fantasy titles: Land, Magic, Dragon, Wand, Crown, Sword
What I am getting at is the precedent that’s been set here. Ms. Hopkins’s trademark hasn’t affected me, nor anyone that I know personally. But, the ramifications might. What would happen if someone decided to one day write a series of books with Secrets in the title and my lovely friend Vania receives a cease and desist letter for her Summer Secrets books? Or someone else decides to write a series about witches and tries to strong-arm my friend Jewel out of her own series about witches? Or if someone decides to trademark the word Rain and decides I can no longer have my title? It’s the precedent that’s being set which gets to me.
Ms. Hopkins alleges that authors which she insists re-title their books will not be impacted further than a day’s worth of effort into changing their covers, but that isn’t so. It’s a huge financial undertaking for some authors. Perhaps not all, but definitely for some. For me it would mean reassigning an ISBN because those are not transferable. One title can have multiple ISBNs! eBook, paperback, hardback, audio–those little strings of numbers are not cheap! Then, there’s having to edit the interior of books where you’ve listed your now-unusable title in the back. For those of us who use IngramSpark, that’s $25 to edit each interior where the offending title exists. There’s marketing materials that need to be trashed, and the loss of our own brand recognition for the sake of someone else who also decided to use a common word.
And to a degree, Ms. Hopkins understands this. In an apology she included in the back of her book Cocky Soldier she stated she had no clue that Marines never refer to themselves as anything other than Marines but it was too late to change the title because when she learned of this, Cocky Soldier was already up for pre-sale and she had already printed bookmarks. There’s a lot of speculation about Ms. Hopkin’s net-worth, and frankly, I don’t particularly care, but if it would’ve been too much of an inconvenience or expense for her, then how can she, with a straight face, claim it won’t be so for another indie author? We aren’t well-known for our abundance of wealth.
I have other suspicions about Ms. Hopkins, but I only want to acknowledge things on this blog that are rooted in fact, so I will keep them to myself. All of that said, however, let me say something to her opposition:
Don’t give her undue 1-star reviews.
Don’t stop voicing your opinions on this frankly baffling display of cockiness, either. Don’t stop signing petitions. Don’t stop spreading the word that what she is doing is at the very least morally wrong—but don’t leave her undue 1-star reviews. Be better than that. Believe me, I want you to win this fight. I want her to lose the trademark on this very common word, but I don’t want you to give up your own reputation in the process. Is she a 5-star writer? Not from what I’ve read in the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. But, I haven’t, and won’t, buy her books, therefore I will not review them 1-star or otherwise.
Just as I do not like the precedent she’s set by trademarking a word that shouldn’t be trademarked, I do not like the precedent set of 1-starring authors we do not agree with.
Call for boycotts. If you’ve legitimately read and reviewed her work before and now in this light you’ve decided you don’t want to support her because she doesn’t support others, fine. Erase your review, but don’t change it to a 1-star just because.
I am keen on watching this story unfold in the next few days. I’ve never seen someone seem so content on throwing gas on their own dumpster fire, what with talking about sitting back with popcorn and watching the hate spew, down to issuing not an apology, but a statement of forgiveness to those who are wronging her. This will definitely get more interesting as the RWA steps in with an IP lawyer, and with all the parody books being published astonishingly quickly on Amazon.
I still find her trademark of choice ironic as hell.
But let’s set this negativity aside!
There are only a few days left to enter my giveaway!
That is all I have for you today, my friends! May your muse be kind this week! ❤
It’s springtime in The South. If you aren’t from here, you might not know what that means. In some parts of the country, it’s still quite cold. Snowing, even. In other parts, it’s already hot as blazes, as my grandmother would’ve said.
So, what is springtime like in The South? And by The South I am referring to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee…the states to which I can speak of with experience.
The mornings are sometimes freezing, followed by uncomfortably warm afternoons.
Sometimes the mornings are uncomfortably warm, followed by chilly afternoons.
Sometimes the mornings are chilly, followed by equally chilly afternoons.
Sometimes the mornings are uncomfortably warm, followed by even warmer afternoons.
The one thing that is consistent is the inconsistency of it all…except for one thing:
There are a lot of nice things about pollen.
Its absence would be devastating.
But for allergy sufferers like myself, its presence is devastating.
In fact, this blog post is the first thing I’ve written in three days because of the cloudiness in my head, the burning in my eyes, my nose. @&$^#+! pollen!
Couple the thick blanket of the devil’s yellow dust with the unpredictability of the weather, and you’ve got yourself a fine equation for feeling like absolute shit.
Allergy attacks can quickly mutate into ear and sinus infections. It turns people like me, people who love nature and being outdoors into damn near cave-dwellers inside our homes, venturing out only long enough to go to work or to the grocery store.
Or the freaking pharmacy. Again.
As a longtime allergy sufferer, I’ve learned a few tricks beyond taking allergy medications, and thought I’d share them:
1.| Change Your Clothes. When you come in from the yellow-dusted outdoors, it’s imperative that you change your clothes. As soon as I come in from work, I get those clothes off and into the wash. That pollen gets tracked in on our clothing and invades our poor, unsuspecting homes.
2.| Use Pet Wipes. There are these between-doggy-bath wipes you can get—use them! Just like our clothes can trap pollen and bring it inside, our pets get coated in it every time they go out. It might surprise you how much yellow stuff is clinging to your pup’s coat. (Please only use products designed and tested for domesticated animals.)
3.| Use a Saline Spray. Every day, actually. A few years ago I had near back-to-back sinus infections during allergy season and the third doctor I visited told me I would need to use a saline spray every day, especially during allergy seasons. They work best if you use them before you show any symptoms. They help afterward, loosening up the gross junk…but you don’t want it to get to that point.
My favorite is Arm & Hammer Simply Saline.
4.| Spicy Foods. If my throat is sore, I skip this. But, spicy foods can really help open you up, even if only for a few minutes at a time. One of the things that works best for me is mixing Sriracha sauce into ketchup.
But beyond spicy, spicy foods, think spice. I know, sounds like my allergy fog is still in full swing, but hear me out. There are a lot of different spices out there that can help your congestion. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, cayenne. Personally, I like to add some turmeric to my chicken noodle soup. I eat pickled ginger on its own.
5.| Avoid Dairy. I’ve been told this isn’t an issue for everyone else, but for me and several people I know, having any dairy products makes congestion so much worse. There is one time I break this rule, though. If my allergies transform into a full-blown sinus infection and I require antibiotics, I will try to have some yogurt. Antibiotics are great at ridding bacteria, which can sometimes kill off our good bacteria. It can cause thrush in your mouth, gastrointestinal problems, etc. So yogurt might prevent all those nasty issues.
6.| Essential Oils. Some people think me a snake oil salesmen when I start talking about essential oils, so if you don’t think they’ll work for you, don’t try it. Simple as that. They work well for me, though. My go-to concoction for allergy/congestion is lemon and eucalyptus. Sometimes I just sniff the vial, other times I add a few drops into grape seed oil and rub along my throat and across my sinuses.
This is essentially the same thing as using a mentholated rub. (There’s a lot to be said for using that on your feet!)
If you’re interested in essential oils, I get mine from Piping Rock.
7.| Hot Beverages. Yeah, yeah. This isn’t a secret. But…it is. I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times about drinking hot tea with honey and lemon…but have you heard about drinking hot jell-o? It’s true, this is not a vegan-friendly option, but if you aren’t vegan, this trick passed down to me from my mother may work nicely for you. The theory she has is the flavor is pleasing, the sugar helps to give a little burst of energy, and the gelatin helps soothe the throat…the same benefit marshmallows provide to a sore throat.
When I started writing this post, I was sipping on some warm strawberry jell-o. I mix a few tablespoons into a standard coffee mug with hot water. There’s no exact ratio, though, play around with what tastes and works best for you.
And about hot tea: It’s soothing while you’re drinking it, for sure…but be careful of overdoing the tannin. It can dry out your throat.
8.| Local, Raw, Unfiltered Honey. You might’ve heard of this one, and if you have that’s great. I’m not going to apologize for repeating it. The thought process behind the honey being local is that the pollen collected to make the honey will consist of the plants you are allergic to. Using the honey may help you build up a tolerance for it, therefore reducing your allergic reaction to it. Use it in your hot tea, on your toast, or mix it with…
9.| Honey, ACV, and Cayenne. Use your local, raw, unfiltered honey and mix it with an equal part of unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar and 1/4 part cayenne pepper. I take a tablespoon of this whenever I’m sickly. This is especially handy if you’ve got a cough and you’ve taken all the cough syrup you can and it seems like an eternity until it’s time for your next dosage.
It’s a strong flavor, be forewarned.
10.| Don’t Ignore Your Body. Allergy attacks can make you feel crummy. But don’t forget, they can develop into full-blown sinus or ear infections, so if you don’t start to feel some marked relief after a few days of taking anti-histamines and one or more of the above suggestions, then you might want to see your doctor.
The last couple of days I’ve had a marathon with my doctor. 😉
I hope you are well and enjoying your springtime. If not, I hope some of my suggestions help you feel better.
Please excuse my absence from social media as of late…the pollen got to me.
You know what isn’t affected by the yellow dust of face-death? My giveaway. There’s still plenty of time to enter! Click below!
Happy Monday! If, you know, there is such a thing.
I hope you all enjoyed my Writer Resources series. There may be a few more I add at some point, but my research on them is, as of right now, incomplete. If you haven’t checked those posts out, here’s a list of the resources I covered:
So, what’s this writing with pitches thing? I’m no baseball fan—much to my Braves fanatic husband’s chagrin—but I encountered a problem in my own writing this week and I found myself naming the solution with baseball terms.
I have no idea why. Seriously…I don’t do sports.
Except bowling, apparently.
As I relay this rather odd mashup of baseball and writing, the pitcher will be the writer and the hitter will be the reader. I will be the one gritting my teeth and hoping that any of this makes the least bit of sense.
The Change Up
In baseball, the change up pitch is thrown in such a way that the hitter thinks the pitcher has thrown a fastball, but really it reaches the plate rather slowly.
The main goal of a writer is to engage readers, and predictability doesn’t exactly get the job done. Done the right way, though, you can lead your reader to think that one thing is going to happen, but then blow their mind and give them something else.
Not all that long ago on this blog we discussed tropes. Tropes lend some predictability to your stories, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. Romance readers want to see certain tropes, but imagine shaking things up just a little bit and giving them a moment that makes them gasp.
The Fast Ball
The fastball is pretty self-explanatory. It’s fast.
One thing you might want to check the speed of in your story is pacing. Pacing can be difficult to get right, because while you don’t want it too slow, you also don’t want it too fast. The slower paced moments allow your reader to totally indulge in the emotions you endeavor to evoke or to take a breather after intense, fast paced sections.
What I am referring to as the fast ball is getting from one point in the story to the next by skipping the unnecessary bits in the middle. This might require a scene break or it might require recapitulation of the behind-the-scenes events.
Lucas hung his head as the clock ticked closer to the time his wife would come home. He’d fixed her dinner, bought her flowers, and even changed his shirt after work—something she’d cited as one of the many things she wished he’d do…and she’d cited it many times. The garage opened, and Lucas went through the motions, disinterested in eating but he was a man of his word. He knew they’d argue—again—afterward.
“Thanks for dinner,” Tracy said. “But it doesn’t change anything. We didn’t solve anything this morning. And today, she called my office! Your whore. How do you think that makes me feel? Just when I think I can deal with this…I just can’t.”
In this example, we took the fast lane approach to their dinner. It wasn’t important to the story. Ironically, the dinner wasn’t the meat and potatoes of it. So, why waste three-hundred words on something that will likely bore your readers?
If we had decided not to skip the dinner scene, maybe we could recap it instead. That might’ve looked something like this:
It was just as he suspected: Tracy came home and dropped her keys before walking past him with nary a word. Her perfume stood in the doorway longer than she did. They ate, looking at anything than the other. The clink of their forks against their plates replaced the loving words they used to share. The quiet would last only as long as the potatoes.
It was no mistake he’d made so many.
So, if while you’re revising, you find you have some slower passages that aren’t giving you the desired effect, try tossing in a fastball.
The Knuckle Ball
The knuckle ball is thrown for unpredictability. The hitter has very little idea which direction the ball is going to go, thus making it difficult for the hitter to decide how to swing.
The trick as a writer when deciding to write in your own type of knuckle ball is that you need to know where the ball (plot) is going to go. You may want to work up to a climax that has the reader guessing—maybe there are three people you want your reader wondering about when they’re trying to determine who the killer is.
Of course, you’ll want to weave in some subtle clues.
This was one of the pitches I threw into Alabama Rain recently. I found myself hating the words I was tacking on for a couple of days.
I am one of those writers who goes back and rereads the last day’s work before I get started on a new day’s work…and I couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was at first, but when it got to the point where I just couldn’t keep writing in the direction I was going, I knew I needed to backtrack and toss in knuckle ball and a change up.
Afterwards, the words flowed freely, and I was happy with them again.
Unlike in baseball, in writing we want these pitches to result in a home run for our readers. Can you think of any other names of pitches and how they might be a metaphor for writing? If you have any ideas to contribute, I’d be tickled pink.
Before we go, I’d just like to remind you that while my writer’s resources series may be over (for now) my giveaway for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid and a $15 Amazon gift card is still going!
Today’s writer resource post is going to be a little different. It doesn’t have the flash or whimsical appeal of the fun stuff like design. It doesn’t usually incite excitement. It is probably something writers avoid even more than they do marketing.
Does an indie author need to worry about the legal aspects of running a business?
If your ambitions carry you further than that, then you may want to start thinking about how to keep yourself out of trouble with local, state, or federal authorities. I want to make one thing absolutely clear before we continue:
I am in no way offering any legal advice. I am simply sharing my experiences and opinions. Please do not misconstrue any of this as legal advice. As with everything, you need to conduct your own research and proceed how you feel is best for you. I cannot, and do not claim to, replace the advice of legal counsel, an accountant, or a tax professional. Laws vary from country to country and from state to state. I can only speak to laws I have encountered in the United States.
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to it.
If you’re an indie author who sells their work anywhere, including Amazon, guess what? You own your own business! It can be hard to wrap our heads around that, but it’s true.
When you’re starting up a business, one of the first things you need to decide is what kind of business are you going to be? The two types of businesses which will appeal to most indie authors are sole proprietorship or limited liability company.
This is the way most of us operate on default. There’s very little one must do to set themselves up as a sole proprietor—in fact there is no start up documentation required by the US Federal Government. Licenses and permits may be required and will vary from state to state, so check with yours if there are any requirements.
Sole Proprietorships often operate under a DBA, or a “doing business as” (think of it as the pseudonym of the business world) which will require some sort of filing most of the time.
In fact, if you use a pseudonym that could be your DBA. Or even the name of your imprint.
Acting as a sole proprietorship is usually just fine for most indie authors.
Limited Liability Company
It is my opinion that starting an LLC (which isn’t a cheap process) is overkill for most indie authors. I can see this becoming more important if you expand your business to offering services or goods that go beyond fiction.
If you offer editing services, design services, marketing services…any sort of service (like all of these for-profit coaching programs I’ve seen a few indies promoting)…there is always the chance someone may at some point sue you. The likelihood of this happening may not be high, but it is there. An LLC protects you from losing your livelihood in the event someone wanted to be litigious.
If you are interested in learning more about these two business types, I recommend using Legal Zoom.
Regardless of the type of business you choose to go with, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:
Every business needs one. Figure out what is a reasonable amount of money for you to spend on your writing business and then figure out how to allocate those funds. There are many options for budgeting software. The first one that comes to mind is Quickbooks from Intuit.
Once you start listing your expenses, it may be difficult to stomach adding on an additional monthly expense just for the…sake of keeping up with expenses…I get that. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t show you a free option!
Of course you can always do this for yourself using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. The more complex your business needs get, the less likely you’ll want to do this, though. Excel can be a bit intimidating to learn, but there are plenty of classes available on Skillshare to help you navigate Excel’s murkiness—as well as tons of business classes!
If you’ve read this far, I’m going to guess at least a few of you have wondered why the hell all of this is important if you haven’t even sold your first book.
You’ll need to talk to your tax professional, but counting your losses on your taxes might be a very good thing for your bottom line come tax time. The list of things you may be eligible to deduct may surprise you.
You might be able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage as a business expense if you have a dedicated office space. From what I’ve seen you break your rent/mortgage down by the square foot and you can deduct the amount of the square footage. (So, if you have a 1000sqft apartment and your rent is $1000 per month, you could deduct from your taxes $50 per month if you have 50sqft of dedicated home office space.) Again, please check with your local laws.
You might be able to count mileage if you go to trade-related conventions or if you go somewhere for research purposes. Part of your utilities, internet, new tech, educational classes—there is a long, long list of things you may be eligible to deduct.
Here is a list of a few of the things I am looking into deducting:
Images used for marketing
Stock footage used for marketing
Images used for book cover
Title setup fees for Ingram
Website plan fees
Tickets to trade conventions
Gas/mileage to trade conventions
The cost of giveaway items
A portion of my internet bill plus more…
I know legal stuff isn’t sexy. But, congrats Indie! You are a small business professional, and all of this boring legal shit may be very important to you.
You know what is sexy? A FREE YEAR OF PROWRITINGAID, that’s what!
My giveaway is still going on strong, so don’t forget to enter!
You may have noticed that a ProWritingAid ad has been placed on my blog posts, and if you’ve wondered why it’s because I believe in their ability to help every writer at every skill level. I have been a faithful ProWritingAid user for over two years now, and I will remain so as long as I have stories in me I want to share.
Cost: The free version allows you to edit 1000 words at a time, only online. (great for blog posts or emails) The paid version allows you to edit unlimited words with their website or right inside your Word document, Scrivener document, in Mac, or in Google Docs. What about the paid plans? See below:
While this is the priciest resource you’ll find in this series, it is for good reason. This program is amazing. You’ll hear that a lot throughout this post, I’m sure.
Pros: This will not only show you things that need to be fixed, it will teach you why, and in turn it will make you a better writer. The support is amazing, and they endeavor to provide you with amazing content outside the editor.
Cons: If you’re using the plug-in for Word (which is how I use it) and the program feels you’re analyzing too many words at one time, it will let you know. If you get this prompt and you choose to analyze the large document any way, be warned it might take a while to analyze, and on occasion it has crashed Word on my computer, but this has only happened once or twice and I have never lost any work because of it. If you edit in smaller chunks, which I recommend anyway, this becomes a non-issue, negating the only con I can find.
Ease of Use: ProWritingAid is freaking powerful. There are a lot of things you can do with it, therefore there is a lot of things to learn. Once you have spent some time with it, it is super simple and the interface is user-friendly.
How’d I Find It, Anyhow?
Sometimes I cannot remember how I came across a certain resource. Sometimes it’s a tweet. Sometimes it’s a YouTube ad. Sometimes I just get lucky. But I know exactly how I came across PWA, and it was no accident. See, there is another program out there which claims to help you with your grammar. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
I used to use this program. I hated this program. So I searched for something better, and boy, did I find it.
If you want to try it before you buy it—which I recommend in all things when possible—the online editor is a great place to start. First thing is:
Click “Editing Tool.” That will you bring you to this screen:
Copy and paste into the document area what you want to edit. If you’re using the free version, remember it will only edit 1000 words at a time. (Again, that’s usually good for a blog post or email.
You’ll choose what report you want to run (or you can run multiple at a time) and then sit back and watch as they make glorious suggestions! Of course, as the writer, you have final say. For instance, PWA will flag a lot of grammar issues in Alabama Rain because I use incorrect grammar for several of my characters’ dialogue. Obviously the program isn’t going to make the distinction and it is up to me to decide what to keep and fix.
About Those Reports…
This would be an incredibly long blog post if I give you information about all twenty-three of those reports, so I’m going to choose my five favorite.
Overused Words | We all have words we fall back on. When I wrote the first draft of Sex, Love, and Technicalities, I thought this report was going to make me cry. I plugged in the first chapter of Alabama Rain to show you what these reports look like. This is unedited, absolutely raw work—ought to be fun. 😉
This is actually much better than I expected, and much, much better than my first pass with Sex, Love, and Technicalities. Why? Because using ProWritingAid helped shine a light on what I needed to improve upon.
What I won’t show you (for reasons) is how it highlights all of these instances in the document so you can find them easily and decide what, if anything, you want to fix.
Grammar Report | Remember how I said the grammar report would go a bit crazy for Alabama Rain? Yeah, this didn’t surprise me, and as such, I’m not going to fret about a large portion of this report. That said, I’ll still go over it with a fine-toothed comb.
For the sake of this post, I did go through a few of the issues it presented me and I found something I hadn’t done on purpose, therefore will change it. I’ll show you what that looks like:
It’s like having a grammar teacher at my disposal. I love it.
Consistency Report | Traveling. Travelling. Canceling. Cancelling. There are a lot of words that are nearly identical, but not quite in American-English vs. British-English.
Those instances are extremely difficult to catch as you’re reading through because it is rare for your word processor to mark them for you. With this report, you’ll see each and every one. Miss a quotation mark? This’ll find it. It finds all those little inconsistencies.
What about my red flags?
It flagged them, but they’re used in different ways, therefore not an actual issue. Don’t be put off by this. It’s still worthwhile to check all inconsistencies.
Pacing | This report is important and I run it with every project. It is, though, highly subjective. It doesn’t even mark slow paragraphs as an issue because they aren’t technically an issue unless they’re back to back or filled with sticky sentences. (Another report that will absolutely force you to grow as a writer. Believe me.)
It highlights the paragraphs it finds slower so you can see how they’re spaced in your manuscript. In my case, I might try to “fix” two of them, but the others I am fine with.
Dialogue Report | This report helps me keep track of the dialogue tags I use, and how much dialogue I’m including in a given chapter.
I prefer using say/said or ask/asked, so that’s all you see here. But in other chapters I know I’ll see a whispered peppered in. In the 40k+ words I’ve written so far, there’s one shout and I’ve decided to keep it.
If you’re a writer who is trying to break yourself of using telling dialogue tags, this is indispensable.
And that’s just FIVE reports.
I am a Microsoft Word user. I tried to get into Scrivener, but it just didn’t work out the way I’d hoped it would for me.
Never fear, if you’re a Scrivener user, ProWritingAid has you covered.
But, I do use it directly in my Word document, so I’ll show you what that looks like:
This little menu lives at the top right-hand corner of Word. Notice how it says “Creative” there? That’s because that’s the style it’s assigned to my writing. (Cue awww) This affects the way ProWritingAid analyzes my work. You can change this, depending on what you’re writing.
Other than that, the reports perform just the same as they do if you use the online editor (with the added benefit that I can edit more than 1000 words at a time and because I can work right inside my Word document instead of copying and pasting.)
Do you love word clouds?
ProWritingAid gives you all kinds of options if word clouds are your thing. All kinds of ways to style it. Just for fun, I’ll post one for Alabama Rain…but not the first chapter. Let’s go with Chapter Nineteen. I don’t know why. Just because.
Beyond the editor, ProWritingAid has an amazing blog. They post writing prompts. Confused about a report? They explain them in detail. They’re excellent teachers. They’re active on social media and prop up indie authors like me all the time. There is so much to love, that I am sure I will have to publish more than one blog post about them this year.
If I still haven’t convinced you how much I love them, then listen up.
I’m giving away a FULL ONE-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to ProWritingAid! Also, I’m giving away a $15 gift card to Amazon for you to use anyway you wish! Want to enter? Of course you do. Click the Rafflecopter below.