Dealing With the Book Baby Blues

After months, or even years of incubating, brainstorming, plot forming, typing away your days, and sacrificing precious morsels of your life for the greater good of your project, you put the finishing touches to your book baby and sent it out through Amazon’s birth canal…

Now what?

If you’re like me, it goes a bit like this:

*Rides tsunami publishing high for 24-48 hours*

*Refreshes Amazon every 3-5 minutes to check ranking*

*Until that moment when the numbers start to get bigger again*

*rank plummets as if book baby were an anchor in the Mariana Trench*

*cue depression, self-loathing, heavy drinking perhaps, followed by tantrums, whining, tears, more drinking, etc*

Somewhere around a week postpartum, suddenly, that shiny and new, precious lil book cherub starts to keep you up at night. You feel inadequate, worried that you may have overestimated your abilities. You wonder what in f*ck’s name you were thinking when you decided to become a book-mom-or-dad in the first place, because you obviously aren’t fitting the bill. You aren’t rich yet. Your ARCs bailed on you, or a lot of them did. You let people down because your baby didn’t come out the way they wanted. They were hoping for curly locks, but yours came out with straight, black hair and a funny birthmark that looks like a middle finger. Who knew? You curse yourself, embarrassed because you should’ve seen it coming. You should’ve prepared better. Maybe you should’ve paid the extra bucks for one of those fancy genetics Docs to enhance its DNA with bells and whistles and curls and what-have-you, so that he and she and they would all be happy and love you and all your book babes for all eternity.

But alas, the realizations come.

a) You did the best you could do, and that’s all you could do,

OR

b) Maybe, you didn’t.

Both of these realizations are difficult to swallow. With the first, it’s both frustrating and empowering, because DAMN. There is nothing more you could’ve done. How your baby is received into the world is out of your control. But also–> DAMN! You did a hell of an amazing job, because you did everything you could do. You ate the right foods, you did water aerobics and took your prenatal vities. You read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a new book baby)” and you did your new-parent homework. You painted the room, got the crib, bought the clothes, purchased the toys, the whole shebang. Meaning, you had it professionally edited and formatted. You got a nice, professional-looking cover that was eye-catching and fit your genre. You had it correctly formatted, you set up your marketing and book promos ahead of time, you did your Thunderclap, HeadTalker campaigns, etc. You played nice with other authors and readers, treating them with kindness, and respect. You had every single base (that you knew of) covered. You should be proud of your amazing accomplishment. Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for all of this awesomeness, because you are an absolute rockstar.

Before we move on to the book baby blues, let’s address b: Maybe you didn’t.

I read a post the other day in a FB group I’m in, where the author was pleading for help. He was suffering from a big case of Book Baby Blues, and needed some direction. Upon reading the comments and checking out his books on Amazon, a few things clicked into place. This author had been so focused on quantitypublishing book after book after book as fast as humanly possible–that he had let quality slip, big time. His books were not edited; they were riddled with errors. His covers were not great. His characters were flat and lifeless, IMO, a byproduct of not enough incubation in the writer-womb. Oh, and he didn’t have a mailing list, which is a huge must-have for success as an indie author. (More on building your mailing list to come)

I’ve also witnessed talented authors with great books, or aspiring authors, be total asshats to others, not carrying themselves in a kind and professional manner, and I just cringe, inwardly, because that is not good for business. Would a store manager have repeat customers if he was a jerk to everyone who came in his store? That old adage,  “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is true. For the most part, people are attracted to others who are kind, thoughtful, honest, and don’t try to cheat them. I can’t express enough how utterly important integrity and respect are in building your brand, your network, and your fan base. If you want to be successful, you have to cultivate some gosh darn people skills, mmkay? Even if people are ugly to you, you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner, otherwise Karma will come back one day and bite you, and you will regret your a$$hole ways, I promise.  Here’s a good book to help with that. 😉

Being successful at anything is a delicate balance of light and dark. Patience and realistic expectations are key, as are willingness to see your faults and weaknesses, and learning from your mistakes. In order to improve your craft, these are vital. If something isn’t working for you the way you’d like for it to, then perhaps it’s time to try something different. SLOW Dooooooowwwwnnn. Take your time with your book babes to ensure you’re outputting the best possible product you can. YES, getting a book professionally edited, formatted, and covered is expensive. YES, it is worth every penny in the long run. You’re building a brand, and you want your readers to expect quality products from you with faith that that’s what you’ll deliver. The answer is not always ‘more books, faster.’ Sometimes the answer is ‘more patience,’ or ‘more time.’ Only when you are truly honest with yourself will you see what that ‘more’ is for you.

But for those of you who have done this, and have still arrived at the Book Baby Blues, my answer is this: Give yourself a break. Maybe take a day off–you deserve it. Give credit where credit is due. Keep your expectations reasonable and realistic. Building a successful business and brand takes time, sacrifice, patience, more time, money, tears, sometimes blood, perhaps therapy, more time, immense passion, determination, and SCREW YOU GUYSit-doesnt-matter-how-slowly-you-go-as-long-as-you-do-not-stop IMA DO THIS THANG  NO MATTER WHAT stick-to-itiveness.

You’ll get there.

One step at a time.

Progress, not perfection, is a reasonable expectation.

Most books do better when they are first released. Just because your rank is falling now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way. With each new book you publish (that is quality), your overall sales will increase. Books do sell books, yes. But not if they aren’t quality books, which is why that is so important. Your rank will ebb and flow, but as long as you continue to put your best foot forward, you’ll continue to build a business and brand–and publish book babies–that you’re proud to put your name on. Enjoy this journey, even the hard parts, because one day you’ll look back and see that it was in those darkest moments that you were pushed to grow, to believe, to persevere, and to perhaps, choose a better path. It’s in those times that we are driven to search for the light, to move toward it, and to shine in this world in a way that only we can. And THAT . . . is what’s most important.

 

Do you have experience on this topic? Spill your thoughts in the comments below.

***

Check out my new website!!

And you can check out my books on Amazon here:

 The Treemakers (Book 1 in the Treemakers Trilogy) (Mature YA Dystopian Scifi Horror)

The Soultakers (Book 2 in the Treemakers Trilogy)

The Seeker’s Keys (Book 3 in the Treemakers Trilogy)

The Truth About Mud (YA Fantasy Adventure novelette)

“The Importance of Blogging”-Guest Blog by Katy Walker

I started my blog a few years ago as a little piece of something that would be mine and mine alone. I had my second son in 2012 and was left questioning who I was and if there was more to me than babies. Babies are great, don’t get me wrong…but where did I go?

 

My posts started out as short paragraphs about what I was wearing for a wedding, a movie I was watching, or some small inspiration that I personally needed at that time. In 2014, everything changed when I joined a group on Facebook called Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by a passionate group of people who all loved books as much as I did. I began attending the online book release parties and winning games. I started reviewing the books I won on my blog and, as they say, the rest is history.

 

Now, I’ve expanded my brand to writing about books, the occasional inspirational post, and geeky stuff. I interview authors and try to spread the word about Indie/Self-published authors. I share my own writing, but also promote others as they release new books. Even though I started blogging for me, it’s grown past that. Now, I help others.

 

After these couple years of blogging about books, I’ve found a few things to be absolutely true.

 

  1. People subscribe because they want to read what you say. This may seem obvious. But I don’t have anything to offer readers except my opinion. An opinion that they value.
  2. Indie/Self-published authors NEED bloggers. They need people who love what they write to tell others about their work. To someone who doesn’t have a publisher to promote their books for them, bloggers are GOLD.

 

And a few tips:

 

  1. Be kind. Kindness will get you everywhere. I actually wrote a post about always being kind because it’s important to me. That brings me to my next tip…
  2. Write about what you love. This is my 3rd or 4th attempt at starting a blog. I’ve always loved writing, but didn’t know what to write about. If you aren’t passionate about the subject then it’ll end or not be fun to read!
  3. Readers, other bloggers, authors, geeks––they are all friends. Allies. Your tribe. (See point 1 about kindness) They are not the competition, so reach out. Share their posts and visit their blogs if you can! You might find a special person you never would’ve met otherwise.
  4. Take chances. Start new types of posts. It could fail, but there’s no harm done (unless you didn’t follow tip #1).
  5. Have fun!

 

I’m still learning, but blogging if definitely a piece of my life that I didn’t know was missing until I started. Is it your missing piece as well?

 

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Katy Walker is the creator/writer for THE KATY blog, a site that promotes indie/self-published authors while giving readers a peek at her vast array of geeky interests. Visit her on thekatyblog.com!

Introducing: The Twisted Book Curmudgeon Indie Review Group

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Today I’d like to welcome a very special group of people. The Twisted Book Curmudgeon has done spectacular deeds for the indie community in the past year, in the form of a multitude of well thought-out, honest reviews, and they do so gracefully, skillfully, (insert more adverbs) for their one love of the indie community.

Joining us as the Cranky spokesperson, and an indie author herself, is the lovely and talented Neeny Boucher. She’ll be answering a few questions, then you’ll be able to find out more about them in the bio following the interview.

Why do you do what you do? What led you to organize this amazing group of reviewers?

Reviews are really important for all authors, but especially for new and indies. They’re a way to increase visibility.

We started this group because we’re in the indie community. Authors were always seeking reviews and sometimes, found it hard to get them. We thought we could help.

Sooooo, we sought out people who loved reading and encouraged them to review for our crew. Our reviewers are really good. We’re lucky to have them and I know people are surprised at the size of our group.

I think one of the reasons we work well is that we all have different genre preferences and come from different backgrounds, but we function on the basis that this is fun. Fun – is a good thing.

How many reviewers do you have currently? How many did you have when you first started?

Currently, we have twelve reviewers. When we first started out we had about four, but the team has grown and keeps on expanding, which is great.

Are there any genres you won’t review?

We review all genres. Our reviewers are a great mix and are diverse in their book tastes. Someone is always going to prefer one genre over another, which makes our team work really well together. What one doesn’t like, someone else will love.

What are some qualifications of reviewers you bring on board with your team of Cranky reviewers? Must they be “cranky”?

The main qualification is that someone is a book lover. We check out their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to see if they will fit in with us.

In saying that, experience is not essential. We are more than willing to help someone structure their reviews until they’re confident. I think reliability and enthusiasm are what we look at.

Cranky people… they are definitely our tribe, but we’re not mean people. To be honest, the group is filled with lovely people – kind and generous and extremely helpful.

Where did the name come from?

Logan Keys and I came up with it. We liked the word “curmudgeon” and the image it invokes. It conjures up grumpy librarians and battle-ax grandmas.

How many books would you say you review per week, on average?

I’d say on average, our crew reviews about seven books a week. I’ve discovered that there are peaks and troughs. Sometimes, we’re inundated. Other times, there are less books to review. We try to spread them out and post a maximum of two books a day on our page.

We also try to manage how many books our reviewers get. Most of our group consists of working women with jobs and families and responsibilities. They do this in their spare time and out of the goodness of their own hearts.

What is it, exactly, that you love about the indie community, and about reviewing in general?

I like the people. I’ve met some great people in the indie community. I’m a bit of a rebel and an outsider. I admire people who give things a go and step outside mainstream avenues to achieve their goals.

What’s your favorite thing about being a Cranky reviewer?

My favourite part is our review crew and also, knowing we’re helping people in some way. I’ve discovered wonderful people and books through this experience.

I’ve made great book friends and I buy a lot of books on the basis of Cranky reviews now.

What are your future plans for The Twisted Book Curmudgeon? Where would you like to see it in, say, five years?

We’ve made great strides in the year we’ve been going.  At the moment, we have achievable goals – increasing our ranking and visibility, become a preferred reviewer in the field.  I know people enjoy our reviews and we love the feedback we get from authors and readers.

We keep growing and changing. We meet new people and other bloggers, readers, and groups. We’ll continue to make connections in the community and be a work in progress.

I think when you stop evolving and reaching for something – the fun ends.  We started this group on the basis it would be fun and we aim to keep that promise.

The Twisted Book Curmudgeon

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“I’m not Cranky!”

We’re a group of twisted sisters from all over the world who love to review books. Our crew includes people from the US, UK, Europe, and New Zealand.

We formed because of the need for reviews in the indie community, but we read traditional and indie books. We know it’s tough to get reviews, so we sought out people we knew who loved to read and review. They then brought friends.

At first, it was slow, but steadily, review requests climbed. We just posted our 300th review on Amazon and we’ve only been going a year.

We read all genres and are open to authors who are established or just starting out. We’ll give you a chance – no matter what. If you are interested in submitting a review request, all our details are in the banner above.

We are always open to people who are interested in reviewing for us. At the moment, we’re looking for a reviewer who reads YA, fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian. If anyone is interested, please send us a personal message on Facebook.

Get in touch to request a review, or to apply to be a reviewer by messaging these Cranky ladies on Facebook >HERE<

Effective Bookish Facebook Groups: Featuring Band of Dystopian Authors & Fans

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while know I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I’ve thoroughly outlined the reasons why it’s good to step away from time to time, but I haven’t delved into the main reason I always come back.

I’ve met amazing individuals online who share the same interests, obsessions, goals, dreams, and hobbies as I do. Whether they be reader or writer, they’re  wonderful folks I don’t have around me in real life. They get me, in all my word nerd glory, they support and encourage me in my endeavors, they enrich my life with their own unique lights and talents, and some of them even buy, read, and review my books. This is enough to get me through even the bleakest of days as an indie author.

One of my favorite places to find such people is the Facebook group, Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. When I stumbled upon this gem in the sand I was mesmerized. There was something different, a magnetism, a life I hadn’t yet found in any other FB groups. Until that point, most of the bookish groups I’d joined were a conglomeration of spammy promo posts and other such noise that felt similar to being at a street market where everyone spoke different languages than me. It didn’t take me long to figure out that BOD was a special place. I’ve made tons of friends, gained readership, and had a blast being in this group, so I thought I’d get to the bottom of what makes BOD tick. The moderators of the group, Cheer Stephenson and ER Arroyo, have graciously agreed to lay out all the juicy details for your visual consumption. Enjoy 🙂

Hey, Cheer and ER! Welcome to A Spark in the Dark. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

Cheer: I’m an avid reader constantly on the lookout for my next escape. If I’m not reading, I’m a mom to three amazing kids and I work as a Dental Hygienist. Before BOD, I was a moderator for a group on Goodreads that focused on YA dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. I was able to connect and interact with some amazing authors, including ER Arroyo, which eventually led to the genesis of BOD. I guess you could say I enjoy promoting books and being a cheerleader for my favorite authors.

ER: I’m an author of young adult, dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic fiction (Antius Ascending Series, Prep For Doom, The Doomsday Chronicles). I created and edited Band of Dystopian’s anthology, Prep For Doom. I’m also a wife and mom.

~How did Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans come to be?

ER: BOD was the result of a discussion I had with a friend who’d encouraged me to join a dystopian book group on Facebook. At the time I couldn’t find a single one. I took the idea to start one to Cheer, and it all just fell into place from there! I’m pretty sure she came up with the title, too.

Cheer: I, for one, refused to believe that dystopian fiction was a fad on its way out, but no matter where I searched, I could not find an active community dedicated to the genres I love.  When ER approached me with the idea of starting a Facebook group where fans and authors could mingle, I jumped at the chance. From that moment on, we were flying by the seat of our pants.

ER: For the record, we are no longer flying by the seat of our pants. LOL.

~What do you love most about BOD?

ER: Camaraderie among the authors and the sense of community throughout the group, fans and authors alike.

Cheer: What do I love most? Oh, that’s a tough one. I guess I appreciate the fact that members come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and beliefs, but we are bonded by a common love for dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. Despite our differences, we are honest, yet courteous. So I guess that means I love the RESPECT I witness every single day on BOD.

~What’s the deal with zombies? Why the obsession?

ER: This was kind of a discovery on Cheer’s part. It was never really a big deal when we were starting out – it wasn’t, like, a goal of ours or anything to make a big deal out of zombies.

Cheer: A lot of apocalyptic stories involve zombies and the zombies refused to be ignored. Prior to BOD, I discovered authors like Carrie Ryan, Ilsa J. Bick, and Rhiannon Frater and surprise, I fell in love with zombie fiction. Apparently, I wasn’t alone, thus the birth of BOD’s zombie craze.  

~Why do you think people are so fascinated with Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction?

ER: We’ve asked this question in the group before to see what people would say, and the reasons vary. I can only speak for myself in saying it’s because it allows me to imagine a world with a completely different set of rules, different set of stakes, but it’s still so grounded in our actual reality that it’s relatable (as opposed to fantasy genres or others similar). It’s easy to imagine ourselves in these dystopian, apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic situations and settings. For some reason, our current society has kind of romanticized the apocalypse. I’m not sure why. I read an article recently that said young people identify specifically with dystopian so much because this generation of young people are more aware of social injustice than generations past. I think there’s something to that.

Cheer:  We see major changes happening in the world every day and fiction is becoming reality. We are experiencing terrifying world events we never would have believed possible. In part, it’s a reality check, but the fascination runs deeper than that. I think the idea that people’s values and motivations change when stressed, for either good or bad, makes for situations that are riveting and horrifying at the same time. What kind of person would I be in an apocalypse? Would my morals change as I struggle to survive? It just makes you stop and think.

~What’s the hardest thing about running a group this size? How on Earth do you manage to keep order in a group of over 3,000 people?

ER: With a dystopian-style iron fist! Just kidding. It’s a lot of work, honestly, but we divvy up. I tend to watch over the group during the day, Cheer does more so at night. We also have slightly different roles, Cheer being more of the face of the thing and me being the behind-the-scenes one. We have rules in our “about” section, and we do our best to fairly apply them. We are very attentive to what gets posted, and we keep an eye on conversations/comments. Basically, Cheer’s the party and I’m the gatekeeper. If you have ever had a post come up missing, it was most likely me who deleted it. I delete a LOT of posts (usually advertisements unfit for the group’s focus, like cookbooks for example). We are hyper-aware of the atmosphere in the group, and we work hard to preserve it, because we think that is the best thing we have going for us. But preserving that is also the hardest part – having to constantly keep an eye on things and delete posts that are out of pocket, and even worse, when we have to message people and ask them to stop doing something, or to change something they’re doing. Confrontation sucks. But we would much rather confront one person than allow drama to infect the atmosphere in the group at large. Our “culture” is important to us. Say it with me… “BOD IS A HAPPY PLACE.”

Cheer: Team work! Maybe it was just luck, but ER and I seem to strike a healthy balance. We have different talents, strengths, and weaknesses, but combined we are a fierce team. We also have an amazing line-up of assistants for which I am truly grateful.

ER: True that on the assistants!

~How would things be different if the number of members surpasses, say… 10,000?

ER: That’s tough to say! Maybe we would need more assistants? Maybe even stricter rules, hate to say it. We attempted to not have any rules at the start but as we grew, we had to add guidelines.

Cheer: Goodness! Let me wrap my brain around that number. Nope, can’t do it. We will embrace that challenge as it comes.

~It’s obvious you’re very committed to BOD. Are there ever times in which you feel you need to back away and breathe? If so, what do you do?

ER: I think our partnership is key (teamwork). No decisions are made that Cheer and I don’t discuss and decide on together. We help each other out. There are ebbs and flows in the group and in our lives. We do our best to support each other and help fill in the gaps when the other is spent. And as Cheer mentioned, our assistants (currently we have five). We definitely all need breaks from time to time, and the other members of our team are usually right there to jump in and keep it covered when we ask for a break or for help.

Cheer: We have incredibly busy lives outside of BOD and at times that can be overwhelming. We are really good at communicating when we need to step back for awhile. Luckily there’s always someone willing to take the driver’s seat for awhile.  ER and I try to always make sure our team isn’t overburdened. We want this to be fun, not just work.

~What would you say are the three most important rules for running an effective Facebook Group/Community?

ER: A lot of this depends on the intent of the group. A group with a different purpose would have different goals and therefore different rules. For BOD, I would say…

  1. Keep it FUN – People genuinely enjoy spending time in BOD. We don’t ever want that to change.
  2. Foster COMMUNITY – Real friendships have been made in our group, and many of us feel like a big family. You have to remember that we are united by a common interest that most of us don’t have people to share with in “real life.” BOD is a tribe. People should feel safe expressing themselves with us. And they can be as nerdy as they want with no recourse.
  3. Stay EFFECTIVE – We have learned what does and doesn’t work for us. We get ideas from people all the time, but at the end of the day, Cheer and I have to trust our gut and stay within the realm of what our experience has taught us will be most effective and enjoyable.

(We realize selling books is an intent of authors in the group, and it’s one that we welcome, but when we focus more on keeping people excited and having a good time, they find great books to buy and read as a byproduct that we don’t have to push for. It’s why we are so strict about promoting.)

Cheer: ER nailed it.

~Have you ever had to ban anyone? If so, why?

ER: LOL – yes. Spammers usually get removed or blocked (Ray-Bans, anyone?). We also remove people, without necessarily blocking them, for joining the group and promo-dumping stuff that has nothing to do with our genre guidelines. So help me, nothing will get a person booted faster than promoting a romance novel. Indie author promotion places are SWIMMING in romance titles. We created BOD so our niche genres could stand without being drowned out by the (many, many, many) romance books. We aren’t against those authors or those books, this just isn’t the place for them (of course this doesn’t refer to dystopian, apoc, or post-apoc romances; those are welcome, but it would help to include one of those keywords in the written part of your post if you share a romance-looking book). But seriously, go to literally any other non-niche Facebook group and see how long you have to scroll before finding, say, five titles that aren’t romance. We also get random stuff like cookbooks and self-help that we delete, and if the unfit posting persists we remove the user. And of course, if someone is nasty towards others or blocks an admin, we remove them from the group as well.

Cheer: Reluctantly, yes; however you really have to work at getting banned. We are fairly tolerant, to a point.

~What are your thoughts on adding people to a group without their permission?

ER: This isn’t something I’ve given much thought to, honestly. We haven’t had any issues that I’m aware of. But I’ve heard some people get pretty agitated about it.

Cheer: Yeah, I don’t like that at all. In the beginning, I would message authors and invite them to check us out. Invite, don’t add without permission.

~From personal experience, I’ve seen the outcome of your awesome release parties for your “BOD Authors.” They’ve helped me hit the Amazon bestseller list each time. I’d totally understand if you charged, and I’d also be willing to pay you, as I’m sure many authors would. So, my question is: Why do it for free?

ER: We’ve had this conversation several times actually. I think it’s because Cheer is so generous. Also, we spend a LOT of time focusing on our readers. We want authors to know we support them too. If we ever start to charge, it’ll be because it costs us money, and it costs whoever is hosting a lot of time.

Cheer: It goes back to our mission, we want to introduce fans to authors  and encourage reading. When money is involved, the atmosphere changes and we have worked hard to maintain a positive vibe.  

~Why do you think a lot of Facebook groups don’t “work?”

ER: I can only speculate, since I’ve not really been exposed to other groups with any sort of regularity. But maybe because it’s a lot of hard work – that would be my guess. This is a day in and day out burden of responsibility. Also, I hear drama is a big problem in other groups. We strive to be supportive and positive and insist our members behave that way as well.

Cheer: I’m guessing that groups without purpose, consistency, and dedication fail over time. In addition, I believe our motivation is pure and sincere, and members can sense that and want to stay.

~To sum up, what advice would you give someone who wants to create and run an effective, fun Facebook Group?

ER: Be ready to spend some money on prizes :). Figure out your group’s purpose in advance, create guidelines to help achieve it, and be proactive about pursuing your goals. Do your best to squash drama ASAP. Have tough conversations with people in private when needed, never in front of others. Keep a positive tone and don’t complain publicly.

Cheer: Respect your audience. Listen to their needs and ideas. Serve your fans and authors and in turn they will reward you with their loyalty. Keep it fun and real and leave your insecurities at the door. Recognize that you will never please everyone and that’s okay. Sounds like a checklist, but it’s not. It’s just about being kind while doing what you love.

~What should the person reading this do if they’d like to join BOD?

ER: Visit www.facebook.com/groups/bandofdystopian and click join 🙂

~I  BOD SWAG. Can you share some pics with us, and maybe a link to where we can get some of our own?

Cheer: We periodically have BOD tees up for pre-order, but merchandise, such as swag, is primarily for giveaways. We like to keep it special. I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out though. Fan loyalty demands representation.

Thank you so much for giving us your time and insight, ladies! I look forward to the amazing things BOD has in store for the future.

 

**What about you? Have any experience with Facebook groups you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Play Your Violin Amidst the Madness

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Well it’s that time again. 2014 has come to a close, another year has passed us by. How was it for you? Horrible? Fantastic? Just kinda meh? Best year ever?

For me, it was mostly fabulous, with sprinkles of meh, and a few jiggers of heartache.

I did an amazing thing this year. I wrote and self-published a novel while single-handedly raising four children. That, alone, is cause for celebration, right? So, why the meh and heartache?

On top of all of the loss, death, and devastation present in everyday life around us, which makes it difficult to focus on life’s beauty sometimes, I have struggled with the disenchantment of my love of writing.

This masterpiece of mine (“The Treemakers”), which has garnished such fabulous (though few) reviews, hasn’t brought my children and I out of the poorhouse (yet!), and I have been dealing with some grim realities of my existence as an indie author.

Sure, there are things I love about being an indie author, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t sell out to the first big publisher with a five or six-figure advance. Because struggling sucks. Right? I know we all struggle with different things. A lot of you can relate to mine, I’m sure. Skimping on the groceries toward the end of the month because you’re almost out of foodstamps . . . . Having to go without things so your kids don’t have to . . . . We could sit here all day and whine about how much it sucks to be poor. And bitch about why it is that people say they care about us, want the best for us, totally support us, but then won’t/don’t even buy/read our books/art/etc… Or, they read it and don’t review it/recommend it to others… (why? Do they not realize that this is the bread n’ butter of our existence as an indie author/creative person?) But none of that wallowing and complaining and whining would do us any good. It won’t make us rich, and would only be counterproductive. It would irritate those around us, and bring more negative results into our lives.

But still, I wonder about those people. A little birdie pointed out to me that some of them are perhaps just quiet souls who honestly aren’t of the reviewing/recommending-variety. And some of them are just lazy. But then . . . there are those of the hater variety. Even people you may share blood or long-term friendships with. They see you shine and it reminds them of how dull they feel, so instead of lifting you up and adding to your brightness, they shoot you down, or try to ignore you altogether. They secretly want you to fail. Your greatness makes them realize how un-great they secretly think they are.

So. What now? What to do in the dim light of the people who want us to fail? Who want our children to go without? Who secretly want us to crash and burn because they are so flipping self-centered that they can hardly see the world around them for what it truly is? Shall we lie down and die so the poor haters may feel better about their wittle selves?

HA. WE THINK NOT.

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I’m not a millionaire yet. I’m not even a thousandaire. Hell, I’m not even a hundredaire. But I’m not dead yet, either, and neither are you. I sure as heck don’t plan on making things any easier for me or those around me who can’t handle the light, do you? Put on some sunglasses, haters, because we’re just getting started. And hey, those who may be in need of that permission to shine, will look at us and find the strength to do so. Our strength will make them feel stronger, too.

I’ll tell you what I did once I saw “The Treemakers” plateau at a level of un-greatness (for me). . . I cried.

I cried good and hard. I died inside for a short time. I gave up writing (for a few hours) and imagined what life would be like without it (horrible). I cursed the day I ever decided to do this for the long-haul, and I wallowed in my morass of self-pity until I was so drenched in the muck that only two choices remained: give up and “die,” or take a nice hot shower, put on some fresh clothes, and do what I do best.

Stick my two middle fingers in the air . . .

and then get back to writing.

A friend and I were discussing how difficult it is to be heard in the chaos of social media land. When you have a book out, especially when you’re new, she said it can be much like standing on a runway filled with jetplanes and screaming to be heard. I thought about this for a long while. It didn’t sound like anything I wanted to do. How pointless. I thought, “why not do something that would make the pilots stop the planes and get out alongside the passengers and watch?”

This is what happened next (in my head)[you may have to skip a stupid ad first]:

No matter what life brings us, no matter what elements lie before us, we have to “play our violin” amidst the madness . . . or the calm, or the heartache, or the bliss, or the riots in our minds, or the joy, or the sorrows . . . we let our light shine on, and don’t give up.

What is that thing you do that makes you stand out, like in a good way? That’s your violin–Do that. Writing is my sweet violin, and I know if I just keep playing it, eventually, someone will hear me. They’ll see me, feel the music pouring from my soul into theirs . . . the pilots, passengers, and all the people inside the airport will gather ’round to listen when it’s my time to shine.

Same as you.

It may not be our time to shine for everyone all the time. Sometimes we may stand alone on an empty runway with no one around for miles. It’s at those times we must practice practice practice, preparing for when it’s our turn. When the world and time stop and wait, and listen. For us. It will happen if we believe, plan, practice, prepare, and continue to play our violins amidst the madness.

Believe it will happen, and make the best out of this miracle before you. Another year awaits to unfold before our eyes.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

And no matter what, always . . .

Play on

To check out reviews or purchase “The Treemakers,” follow the links below. Thanks!
Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P49KVKG
Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00P49KVKG/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22036603-the-treemakers

12 Things I Learned While Writing “The Treemakers”

 

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My release date for my upcoming novel, “The Treemakers,” was originally set for this July. As you can see, that date has flown by and here I sit, awaiting still that righteous day when I hit that big, red “PUBLISH” button. (Is it red? I don’t know, I’m new here.)

“The Treemakers” (blurb below) was a project I began during National Novel Writing Month last November. I did, indeed, write the first 50K words of what I believed at the time would be something of a short novel. Being still a new novelist, this was my third novel, but I still had not worked with a professional editor. I was nearsighted in my vision for the future of TTM, thinking it was a quick little project that I could toss to the masses and maybe, snag a few readers for when I put the REAL work out there.

Yeah.

“The Treemakers” had other plans.

After I decided to go Indie (link opens new window), I also decided it was time to get professional feedback on my work.

BEST. DECISION. EVER.

I had just had TTM read by a couple of trusted beta readers, who had great things to say about it, but also pointed out a few of the story’s weak spots. I went back to work and fleshed the entire story, stretched it out and tacked on another 53K words. I thought the project was close to being “perfect” when I sent it over to my editor, Kimberly Grenfell. Um, yeah. Not so much. What I received back from her was 33 pages of content notes.

What happened when I read those content notes was a reverse-alchemy of sorts. The solid gold badass status I had dubbed upon my 3 novel-writing, NaNoWriMo-winning self, became a cackling peanut gallery. Those questions opened a sort of Pandora’s Box, a snowball effect of doubts, fears, and inadequacies dumped upon me like a mighty, putrid ice bucket challenge…

Dramatic, yes. But also, true.

I spent precisely two days regretting the day I picked up a pen when I was 14 and spewed out my first, four page teen-angst poem.

And then.

I pulled myself up by my uncle Allen’s rainbow suspenders… I realized, like he, and so many others have said to me in my life–that I am a storyteller. I was put on this earth to do so, and though I might do it kicking and hurling wet noodles, I shall do this thang, I shall do what I need to do to move forward; I shall do to my stories what they need to thrive and grow wings and fly into the world, as beautifully-winged creatures who can withstand the certain storms of darkness and whirling pools of light ahead.

I didn’t really intend to rewrite the entire 103K word novel, it just happened. The truth is, even when I sat down to tackle my editor’s content notes, there was that little voice telling me things I ignored as I smothered it with a mental pillow. As I fought to rework my manuscript, things began changing. Big things. So many things were changing in fact, that I finally just threw up my hands and never looked at the old manuscript again. I was at 13K words. I had a whole novel ahead of me, and though the bones of the story were very similar, but an ounce of the same flesh remained from the old version to the new. I was terrified. For a moment, I was unsure if I could do it. But do it, I did. I conquered that mountain and buried my flagpole deep in it, claiming it for myself and all writers who have ever accomplished similarly amazing feats, or wanted to, or needed to, but were too afraid. I did it. And boy, did it feel great.

Following are some things I learned during this past year while working on “The Treemakers.”

#12. Characters and worlds are like real life, in the sense that it takes a while to get to know them.

How well do you know a real life person in three months? Do you know them better in six months? How much better do you know them in one year? The same with places. I mean, I’ve lived in Dallas, Texas most of my life and still get lost. (True story) But what if I took a trip to an alternate dimension of time and space to a third-world alien country where up is down and left is right and so on… you know, like opposite world or something. In many ways, this is what my imaginative worlds are like. When I first started writing TTM, their world of Bygonne was a foggy, bare bones rendition of what it is now. It took me writing the story three times to really, I mean really flesh out my world and characters. Not until the third time (and months later) did I finally know my characters as if they were real live persons, and their world as if I lived there myself.

#11. Trusted, honest beta readers are absolutely necessary for the success of the beginning novelist.

It can be scary, handing over your work for critique. In fact, it’s a miracle Logan Keys and I are still friends. Logan and I met on Facebook and before we really knew each other well, we were swapping stories. From that first encounter, where we asserted our mutual knowingnesses of the other’s weak spots and thus shared, I discovered something about myself: I am a total masochist when it comes to writing. I fear the painful results of sharing my work for critique, but there is nothing more fulfilling than feeling the burn of truth when my eyes are opened to my own weaknesses, and facing them with honesty and humility, tenacity and courage, to become a better writer, telling a better story.

#10. A brilliant, encouraging, honest, open-minded, and optimistic editor is absolutely necessary for most writers to reach their full potential.

I say most because I’m sure there are writers out there who would beg to differ. Maybe you need a drill sergeant who sprays you with lemon juice for every comma splice…. But as for me, and many others, we’re squirrely little rascals who have spent too much time doubting our abilities. The slightest bit of harshness or unnecessary pessimism or negativity in regards to our work may send us packing to some far off land where we take up knitting and drinking and sobbing into the wee dreary hours of dawn. As with many people, it takes someone with a positive, encouraging attitude, the know-how, and the optimism to help us cultivate our inner talents and bring them to their highest yeilding states of fruition.

#9.   You don’t need an agent or a publisher to be a happy writer.

For the longest time I really did think I had to be an agented, NY-published writer to be happy. With this belief, I was self-fulfilling my own prophecy. Once I realized I didn’t need these things and really began to focus on why I write, and started doing it for the right reasons, magically things began to fall into place for me. See #8 below:

#8.  When you follow the light, it multiplies.

When you discover that spark in the dark, with it you can build a massive fire, burning up dark worlds and naysaying universes in an instant. All it takes is a spark. Follow that, and things in your life begin to rearrange themselves to bring more light. Sure, this is my personal hypothesis, but it has also been proven in my life in a trillion ways. If you missed it and you want to know more about the darkness I’ve come from, check out a bit of my story >HERE<.

#7.  You can be a single parent and write a novel.

It’s true, anything we are really passionate about in life, we make time for. I once made up tons of excuses for why I didn’t have time to write, but one day I finally said enough is enough. I quit squirting lemon juice in my own eyes and made a commitment to myself to write every day.  Just a year later I was wrangling NaNoWriMo by the horns and “won” with my first draft of “The Treemakers.” Now, with a little help from a good set of headphones, some awesome, mostly-wordless music, a fierce ambition, and stern rules with my children about “mommy’s writing time,” I have been known to write between 1K-4K words a day. It can be done. All we need is a bit of gumption.

#6. I queried for agents too soon.

Not that it makes much difference to me now, but I know there are many of you who still aim to give it a go with traditional publishing. This one’s for you guys. Now I see where I was blind when I queried agents for my first and second novels. Not only was my writing not the best because I wasn’t yet working with an editor, but also, my worlds and characters were way underdeveloped. Not to mention, my query letters and synopses totally sucked dirt balls.  I get all teary-eyed and sneezy when I look back over them now.

#5. I realized I had no idea how strong I really was. 

I love this journey so much. Before I began it, I was a very needy soul who lacked confidence in my work. I was scared of him and her and they and didn’t show my work to many people. I’ve only been blogging for a year, because I believed I wasn’t good enough for any of this. I couldn’t be successful. No one would want to read my words. I could dream of being a published writer all day but that wouldn’t make me a published writer. Those were my debilitating and belittling beliefs. They totally held me back in the cesspool of fear for the longest time. But then, things changed. Once I started conquering my fears within the writing itself–taking criticism/critique, hiring a professional, rewriting–I changed. I realized I didn’t need anyone to wave a magic publishing wand over my head and tell me I was “good enough.” I could do it myself. Well, mostly… (See #4 below)

#4. It takes a village.

Just because I’m an “Indie” author, doesn’t mean I’m solo. I do need others to help my stories come to life and be amazing. Beta readers, trusted friends, supporting family members, encouragers, EDITORS, and (for me) children to remind me that there is so much wonder and magic in life when I dive deep into my imagination. Most importantly though, it takes believers. People who believe in you and your work are so important.

#3. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup. Or spill it in our nether-regions and scald and/or singe our unmentionables. Not to mention, no more soup.

There is such a thing as too much outside input. There comes a time–when 2,000 of your closest friends on Facebook are writing this or that or telling you to write this or that–that you have to press the “mute” button and do your own thing. Don’t chase trends or do what they do, if it means straying from your own lighted path. In “The Treemakers,” I touch on some pretty taboo subjects. I’ve had to have some heart-to-hearts with my characters and make sure it’s really what they wanted. The answer was yes. I wrote the story the way it would’ve really happened, I truly believe that. And if I were to change it because so-and-so say it might offend a few narrow-minded individuals, then I would not have a true, authentic story to offer to the world. We must write the story that is in us to tell, regardless of those pesky naysayers who don’t like much anyway.

#2. Growing Up in Public SUCKS.

I’ve erased countless blog posts because I read back over them and sputter the contents of my cereal bowl onto my computer screen. “Ugh, did I really write that crap?” Sometimes, it’s so overwhelming learning all of the things that go along with being an Indie author. Social media. OY. All of those things those “other authors” do that piss me off on Facebook? I think I’m guilty of every single one of them. Almost. You’ll never catch me in a half-naked yoga pose, but, you know… all the rest. We learn as we go. It sucks that we have to be ignorant of certain things in the process, but that’s just the way it is in this golden age of Everything Online & Social Media. My advice though: Never get on social media angry or drunk. That will save you so much embarrassment.

AND

#1. I can prove the naysayers wrong–just because I am self-published, doesn’t mean I’m throwing a fat turd in the air and calling it a book.

I just wrote an amazing book. I can say that with confidence. I put the work into it and it will be great. There will be people who hate it, most definitely, but the fact is, there will be a ton more people who don’t. And that makes me happy. 😀

Sooo, that’s it for now! I have a slew of amazing announcements coming up, including my cover reveal, and the unveiling of my fansite. I’ve yet to figure out how to do an actual mailing list signup in WordPress (growing up in public!), but for now, take a look at the blurb for “The Treemakers” below, and if you’d like to be added to my launch list for when it releases, you may email me at rozelle[dot]treemakers[at]gmail[dot]com. Feel free to email me for any other reason as well; just to say hi, ask a question, or vent about whatever… just promise you’ll be nice because I’m sensitive. 😉

“The Treemakers” (Edgy YA Dystopian/SciFi)

Doomed to a life of building mechanical trees for the dying world of Bygonne, sixteen year-old Joy Montgomery remains the only one left to care for over thirty orphaned children enslaved by the Superiors in the Tree Factory.

But the iron bonds of friendship and family, the discovery of magic in the dark, and love amidst devastation, soon fuel her search for a way out. Aided by an unlikely ally who harbors a dangerous secret, Joy and the Treemakers embark on a quest for freedom, and for the truth about the existence of a forbidden paradise.

Coming in November! (Release date/cover reveal TBA)

Until next time, writerly souls,

Write on! ❤

Talent will Find a Home

books magic black background light blue 1280x960 wallpaper_www.wall321.com_31“It’s always hard to break in, but talent will find a home.”

This quote from an agent at a New York literary agency was pinned to the wall in my work space forever. I often looked at it with that misty-eyed look of longing, slipping into a daydream about the day that it would happen. I’d get that email–you know the one–saying something like, “We think your story is brilliant and we wish to offer you representation, along with the promise of fortune and fame forevermore.” I remember thinking, “that’s when I’ll know that I have arrived; my writing is good enough (and so am I) . . . .”

It was months after I made the decision to go indie that I read that quote and saw what it was really saying. First off, it was telling me that this thing I love to do–writing, storytelling–has to be a struggle. Second, it was implying that the destination and key to my happiness as a writer is out there somewhere, waiting to be found.

I had an “aha” moment, ripping the paper off the wall and tossing it in the trash. Though this agent meant well, and was trying to bring hope and perseverance to struggling writers, this manner of thinking is from the Old Testament book of writing and publishing. Sure, it can be difficult to land an agent and make it “big time,” but no, the joy in writing is not anywhere but right there, in you, in me, between us and our computer screens. There, the magic is born.

When I was so worried about getting an agent, I fell into the belief that I wasn’t “good enough” until that happened. I became discouraged, disenchanted, and depressed. I cried a lot. I cursed myself with every rejection letter that came. I vowed to never write again on a few occasions. The joy and magic of writing became muted in the quest for being “good enough.”

As soon as I decided to go indie, things changed for me. A weight was lifted. A light turned on somewhere in the background, growing brighter and brighter each day. Once I began doing this for the joy and the magic of storytelling, not only did my writing improve drastically, but my life did as well. I began to see clearly the lies I had once believed; the lies of the Old Testament of writing and publishing that don’t realize they are lies–that I can’t be successful and happy unless I land an agent and get a big publisher.

The year is 2014. There are tons of ways to get my stories into the hands of readers. I don’t have to depend on anyone else to do it for me, or to wave a magic wand and grant my wish of being “good enough.” The truth is, when I am focused on the art of storytelling, telling the story the best way it can be told, and I am committed to constant improvement, and I am okay with me enough to look at my flaws humbly and be willing to make improvements where they need to be made, then I am good enough, and my story–once it is completed–will be good enough as well. Sure, there will always be people that don’t like what I write. They can go read elsewhere. And yes, the possibility of becoming super wealthy as an indie author is there, though not extremely likely. But that doesn’t mean I can’t strive for perfection, and set my sights on a prize.

Many Olympians dream of winning gold medals and never do–if their successors looked at the ratio of gold-medalists to non-gold medalists and used that as an excuse not to try their best and train like gold-medalists, we wouldn’t have any gold-medalists. And being an Olympian–like being a novelist–is a great feat no matter how you look at it. A small percentage of people who start a novel actually finish one. We can’t all be gold-medalists, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved a measure of greatness already.

Don’t ever place your happiness, joy, and the inherent magic of life and storytelling into another’s hands.

Until next time writers and readers whom I love and adore, keep the amazing art of storytelling alive, and stick your middle finger in the air to anyone who tries to hold you back! ❤

UPDATE:

You can check out my books on Amazon here:

The Treemakers (YA Dystopian Scifi Horror) http://amzn.to/1H3tqFw

The Truth About Mud (YA Fantasy Adventure) http://amzn.to/1EoAme8