I can’t believe that I forgot to post this – I may have lied (or just been chronologically challenged) when I said I blogged twice last fortnight – oh, well, that’s a writer’s life for you. I hope you enjoy these!
Sugar (my word), incongruous, plague,
She walked into the old shop, assaulted by the smells of dust and mould and time. A bell chimed, but it sounded far away, and she didn’t think the store was that big. “Hello?” she called out, her voice tiny in the dim space. This was the right place, she had stood outside and checked the address written on the scrap of paper a half dozen times before working up the courage to come inside. She didn’t know what she was afraid of. It wasn’t as if she were going to catch the plague or anything horrible like that. “Hello?” she called out again. This time her voice bounced back to her from several different corners, making the hair stand up on her arms. She wished she had brought a jacket. As she kept walking through the shop, her eyes taking in the myriad of objects and furniture on display to the non-existent customers to keep her mind off why she was here, she noticed something that made her stop in her tracks. At first she thought it was the incongruous nature of the object – a shiny and immaculate tea set complete with sugar tongs and silver tray, sitting among such dusty and forgotten objects, but that wasn’t it. She stepped closer, and saw clearly what it was that had caught her attention from the corner of her eye. The pattern along the dishes was a repetition of the same symbol on the paper that had brought her here.
shocked, fallow, wordy,
“The sad part of the whole tale was that the finest mind in all the realms was sentenced to lay fallow and go to ruin and waste, locked in a tower until the man died or the world ended,” James finished, only slurring a little, pointing dramatically at the ceiling of the pub. Trema leaned close to Halfard. “Does he always get this wordy when he’s drunk?” Halfard looked shocked. “Lass, he isn’t even close to being drunk.” Trema frowned, doubting the large man’s perception, but then she spied James collecting the coins from the other habitants of the pub with a hand that was steady and eyes that were clear and sharp. He looked up, caught her staring, and winked. She turned away, warmth infusing her cheeks, and didn’t look up until a thump and the protest of the chair announced that James had returned to the table. “Dinner’s on me,” he announced grandly. Halfard grunted, and took another chunk of bread. Trema nodded in thanks. “What was all that?” she asked. “All what?” James replied. “On the stage? Nothing. Remnants of a life best forgotten, my dear. By me, you, and everyone else.” He smiled brightly at her, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
disagreement, phallic, board
The huge stones were arranged in a series of circles around the largest one, sitting in the center of the formation, casting a vaguely phallic shape against the darkening sky. “So, what do we have to do?” Lily asked, a nervous tremor in her voice. “We have to wait until the first star appears, and then it will lead us through the stones, into another realm,” Maria answered with infinite patience. The place had been boarded up and signs warning of imminent death or fines tried to scare would-be trespassers away. Maria ducked under one such, but Lily remained outside, shifting her weight from one foot to the next. Maria sighed. She couldn’t believe they were still having this disagreement, and when they were so close. “Look, do you want to find out what happened to Billy and the others or not?” she called out, all patience gone from her tone. “Yes, but,” Lily faltered. “Look, we don’t have time for this,” Maria called back as she stood and looked up at the sky. “I’m going to look for them. You can come if you want, or not.” She found the first faint glimmer of a star, and followed it into the dark, disappearing from view. “Maria?” Lily called, more agitated than ever. “Maria?” When Lily ducked under the forbidding sign, she looked up to find a million stars glittering in the sky and no trace of her friend.
Happy Good Friday all!!
Ready for an epic Easter Egg Hunt which will take place over the interweb from today through to Easter Sunday? Fifteen wonderful and sparkly authors have hidden eggs on their websites and blogs – find all the eggs, collect all the letters and unscramble the anagram, and you get your choice of one of the ebooks above just for hunting! In addition, you’ll be entered in the drawing to win ALL the ebooks and ACTUAL chocolate eggs:
Clues are posted in the Facebook event should you need them – Good luck, and may the eggs ever be in your favor!
P.S. connect with the lovely authors – they would love to hear from you:
And the final Ink Slingers Guild exercise from the last meeting (published just in time for the meeting tonight): Hoodie, green, sight
A figure came into sight over the crest of the hill, a green hoodie obscuring their features. Berryl waited, leaning against the tree and taking small sips from the waterskin, waiting for the stranger to come to her. When the person got closer, she raised her hand in greeting, but the figure did not return the gesture, and simply continued down the road at a fast clip. Berryl blinked, her hand still in the air, and then hastily lowered it. She had been on this road for two weeks, and had encountered three people coming from the opposite direction before this fellow. They had been amiable enough travelers, and had stopped to talk and give news of the road conditions ahead. One had even offered her an apple they had pilfered from an orchard several days ahead. Berryl shrugged, picked up her pack, and set off down the road. She crested the hill the stranger had just come over, and surveyed the land on the other side, which looked much like the land she had just traversed, farmland interspersed with woodland. In the distance, a faint smudge suggested a larger forest, or perhaps mountains. Just as she proceeded to take her next step, a knife came from behind, and pressed against the tender flesh under her chin.
More coming soon!
flail, rushed, coterie (thanks to Kalvin – it means “a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people”):
“You can’t excommunicate me, I founded this Coven!” Tera screamed at the robed figures condemning her from their high perches behind the half-moon table. Tall figures were suddenly on either side of her, grabbing her arms and rushing her out of the old cathedral, as she flailed and screeched. The sounds of her displeasure echoed long after she had been removed, and only when they had died down did the members at the table remove their hoods, casting uneasy glances at each other. Redd watched them with a carefully neutral expression. No one was certain about what they had done. As Tera had pointed out, she had formed the group, but under her tyrannical guidance, the Coven had become more of a coterie, and when Witches and Wizards who disagreed with her methods and beliefs started disappearing, and then turning up dead, it was determined that her influence was most likely at fault, and it had to end. “She won’t stop,” Treven, a nervous looking Wizard at the far end of the table said. “This will just make her angrier.” “Our laws won’t allow for anything more,” Nell answered briskly, pushing her glasses up her nose. “We have people watching her. She won’t cause any further trouble.”
Saturate, cupcake, alley,
Telly went up on the roof, carrying all her spell ingredients in the ancient cauldron that her great-great-grandmother had brought over from the old world. The second full moon of the month was bright, wrapped in a sliver halo that drowned out the closest stars. Telly took the old tome off the the top of the pile and flipped to the page of the spell. After emptying the cauldron, she lit a small fire, and proceeded with the steps. Noises drifted up from the alleys on either side of the apartment building, but she was lost in concentration, hurrying to get everything ready before the moon reached its peak. The potion was soon simmering gently, infusing the air with the smell of cupcakes as it seeped and was saturated with blue moonlight. Clouds began to drift in sometime before midnight, and Telly watched them with growing concern. Rain wouldn’t hurt the potion, but the moonlight was critical. Lightning flashed in the dark clouds that were slowly eating the stars, faint grumbles of thunder heralding something worse, and when the first fingers of darkness grabbed the edge of the golden moon, Telly saw with horror that the potion was changing before her eyes.
We are told that reviews are important. Other people see reviews and decide whether or not to invest the dollar or two and take a chance on your unknown work. It has been said that Amazon doesn’t care whether the reviews are good or bad, more is better, and the more reviews your book has, the more it gets seen. Whether any of this is true, I’m not going to say. This is not meant to be an essay on the merits of reviews – any person is entitled to their opinion about anything, and the expression thereof. This is only a comment about what it’s like to be a writer on the receiving end of reviews. This is not to say I think someone should lie, and say they liked a book when they didn’t, or a book was great when it wasn’t, or that it was well-edited when there were typos on every second or third page, but there is such a thing as the golden rule and “Would I like to have someone say this about something I wrote?”. There is such a thing as recognition that the person didn’t intend to write the worst possible book they could, in fact, they intended to write the best book they knew how and if they knew of a better way to do it, they would have done so. There is such a thing as encouraging a person to improve and do better, and not killing any tendency to put anything out into the world ever again. There is such a thing as compassion and humanity, the taking into consideration that you are talking about a real, live person with feelings.
I can say from personal experience that having someone dislike your book sucks. Having someone dislike your book enough that they go and tell other people how much they dislike it is even worse. I don’t know if there are words to accurately convey what it’s like to get a really bad review on something you’ve created. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to experience that for yourself. And I hope you do. That may sound cold and cruel, but it’s not. There are a lot of people in the world, and you’re going to have to get your book out in front of all of them. Not all of them will read it, but some of them will. And some of those will not like it. And some of those will write you negative, bad, horrible, or downright shitty reviews.
If you’re looking for the one true answer to how to deal with such reviews (if you’re a writer), this may or may not be what you’re looking for. This is just one writer’s thoughts when she got her first one-star, this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review, and because I felt it might be of benefit to others, I took the time to write this little post. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, and frankly, I’d rather just forget about the whole thing, shove it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. Maybe a better way to handle it is to do just that, quietly go on my way, and say nothing of it, and hope no one notices. But I think this is important enough to say something about, so here goes.
Not all people (and hence, not all writers) are the same. Like the song says, some people sail through their troubles and some have to live with the scars. If you’re not one of those super-confident inside and out, breeze through the world and brush aside any negative comments like the glitter to your sparkle that they are, a bad review will probably hit you in that incredibly sensitive part of you that is composed of self-doubt and uncertainty, that part that is not quite sure you’re good enough and makes sure to put in its two cents to that effect, especially when the world is offering you convincing reasons why you’re not as hot as you thought you were.
Pretty bad, right? And the thought that anyone else could read it was even worse. It was rather surprising to discover how much it hurt – I never for a moment thought that everybody would love my book – but on second thought, why shouldn’t it hurt? You’ve put your time, effort, heart and soul into creating this beautiful thing that wasn’t there before, something magical, and someone has just trounced carelessly over it as though it were nothing at all. Hell, worse than nothing. I have yet to see a negative review of a book that hasn’t been written yet. It’s one thing to say “Be confident. Be thick-skinned. Don’t give a damn what anyone says or thinks.” but that can be a lot easier said than done. Even when you know that is true, and believe it with all your heart, when push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter, it still hurts, and all you want to do is lock yourself away, have a mental breakdown and never show your face again because now the whole internet knows – and worse agrees – that your book is not good enough and should not exist. It’s a really horrible feeling, and difficult to describe. After a moment of stunned shock, in which you try to figure out if this is just a bad dream, and if not, where it all went wrong, you get around to thinking, “What do I do now?”
The list of “what do I do now?” that would be composed in the early stages of shock might look something like this:
1. Chocolate (or ice cream).
2. Cry (or rage).
3. Give up on all your hope and dreams of ever writing anything decent.
4. Call your friends and cry.
5. Have your friends bring chocolate.
6. Go into self-imposed exile, excommunicate yourself from anyone who might know you, especially anyone who knows you write.
7. More chocolate (and maybe pizza).
While that all sounded appealing, it didn’t sound particularly useful. After the initial shock and despair wore off, I did what any (more or less sensible) person would do and Googled “How to deal with a bad review for writers” (I had to add that last clause in there because Google gave me articles only regarding businesses, which I don’t see as particularly relevant or useful to my situation). I read many of the articles, but I felt something was missing, something proactive, because none of them really make me feel any better.
So, I thought it over carefully, and I came up with my own plan, and it is as follows:
Step 0 – Recognize that one of the things this world lacks more than anything else is care and compassion. This person may have made you feel about as attractive, creative, valuable and important as a smear of canine feces on the bottom of a Prada shoe with their review, but instead of getting angry or upset at them or feeling sorry for yourself, think about what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” You don’t know what this person is going through. Maybe they’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and the whole world is pretty bleak to them right now, or maybe their boss fired them and ran off with both their wife and the beautiful antique car that they painstakingly restored, and the only thing they would give a good review to is a newspaper article about said car going off a cliff. I don’t know. Maybe they’re truly just an unhappy person who can only tear people down instead of building them up. The point is, you don’t have to change just because someone doesn’t like something you’ve done, and you don’t have to feel bad just because someone else does. Two seconds before you read the review, you probably thought you had a good story, than you were writing it to the best of your ability, and you were more or less happy with the idea of having written the book. The best thing you can do for you is remain dedicated and optimistic despite the invitation to feel otherwise (and fake it ’til you make it if you have to).
Step 1 – Take a deep breath, and tell yourself that everything is going to be just fine. Look around and see the world hasn’t ended. In fact, it hasn’t even changed. No matter how much you want, at this moment, to crawl into a small dark corner and hide for the rest of eternity, that’s not going to help anything. This is your first practical experience about why people tell writers to develop thick skins – they need it. So if you’re going to be a real writer, you might as well start now. This is a good thing – and not in the reverse-psychological babble meaning of “you’re not a real artist until someone hates your work”. The world is full of people, and some of these people will like your book, some will not like it, and some won’t care one way or the other. You will have to deal with all of these people when you put your book out there. Protesting this is not going to change anything. This diagram sums it up nicely:
So your book has moved outside your comfort zone. It might be floating somewhere in the black space between your comfort zone and where the magic happens, but it’s moving in the right direction. And this is a good thing.
Step 2 – This video is the single most relevant thing you can watch as a writer (or artist) in my opinion. Watch it now, all 19 minutes and 54 seconds of it – do it, you won’t regret it.
If you find you no longer need the rest of this article, congratulations! If you’re curious about the final thing I did, please, read on.
Step 3 – One thing the articles I read suggested what you should do is go and read all the negative reviews of books that you love, or the negative reviews of best-selling books by best-selling authors. Now, I did this, but I don’t recommend that you do. Why? Because while misery loves company, and it is comforting to know that even successful writers and books get horrible reviews, it’s pointless and unproductive. Also, do you really think J. K. Rowling or Stephen King go scrolling through others authors’ bad reviews if someone gives them a this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review?
Instead, I suggest the following:
- Do one thing that is productive and that relates directly to your writing. Outline the next chapter or write the next scene. Make a beautiful and inspiriting aesthetic and set it as your desktop background. Do the character sketch for your Main Character or Antagonist, or that really cool Supporting Character than you’re already planning a novel for. Plug your book on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media you have.
- Do one thing that you have been meaning to do for a while and that you haven’t gotten around to (again, that relates to your writing – I’m not talking about laundry). That podcast episode on how to be a best-selling indie author? Go listen to it. That query letter you need to write and haven’t made the time for? Go write it. That submission for an author interview you’ve been meaning to send in? Go send it. That scene you’re avoiding writing? Go write it. Now. No excuses.
- And finally, do something good, or as I like to put it, create good karma. Go read a book (or books) from authors like yourself – read them, and review them. Give them the review you’d like to receive if you had written that book. Read and review as many as it takes to make you feel good about the world. There’s one review in the world from a person obviously does not appreciate what it takes to create anything – so give the world one, two, three, four, ten that will make it better, that will lift someone up, or encourage them to continue to create the beautiful things this world so desperately needs. Whatever makes you feel good about the world. I picked three, and you can read my reviews here, here, and here. If you don’t like the exact method of #3, you can do whatever you like to achieve the same effect. Just be the change you want to see. Here are some great ideas. Or these ones. Or these ones – the options are limitless. If you don’t feel better after this step, start at #1 above, and repeat as necessary.
And that’s it. You will feel better, I guarantee it (unless you’re just determined to be miserable). Am I happy about my first negative review? No. Do I want to get more? Absolutely not. But I haven’t let my certainty that I am a good writer with a good story to tell die, I’m still smiling, and I’m still going to publish book number 5 in the Guardians of the Path Series (cover reveal coming soon – I’m super excited about that!). In closing, I leave you with a beautiful sentiment from my good friend Lisa Barry, a sentiment which I think is really important for all artists to keep in mind, and which helped ground me when my thoughts and emotions were doing a tornado-coaster: “For every story that is read and disliked, there are countless numbers of people standing in line who love and support that story or author.” So, don’t give up, keep calm and write on, and make good art!
If you found this helpful, pass it on, and if you have any advice of your own on the matter, please share!
P.S. And if you like epic fantasy, you can check out my excellent book here:
The Path is fading, and the music of Life is vanishing. Cedar and his fellow Guardians have been entrusted for centuries to protect the Path, the very force of Life itself.
An accident traps Cedar between his home and another world devoid of magyc–but not of music. He is found by Ria, a mysterious girl who holds the key to returning him home.
With little choice Cedar uses First Magyc, Blood Magyc, to save himself, and finds himself the unlikely caretaker of the very girl who might fulfill an ancient Prophecy and restore the Guardians to their former station as honored heroes.
Enchanted by Demona, a world of magyc and music, Ria struggles to understand her own growing abilities even as she is drawn into an ages old conflict.
Cedar doesn’t want Ria to be the one named in the Prophecy, but what if she is the Guardians’ only hope to defeat the Sorcerer and save Magyc?
My writing exercise from the last Ink Slingers meeting took a little bit of a darker turn. Enjoy!
Solitary (my word), caffeine, myther,
A solitary star glimmered in the sky for a moment, before the dark clouds
obscured it. Three figures sat, their voices a soft murmur, huddled close to the
fire, which struggled to hold its own against the wind, mythering through the
creaky boughs above. Jack hid in the shadows, shivering in the cold, aching to
join them in the warmth. The smell of hot spiced grease drifted over, with
undertones of caffeine, and made his stomach growl. He stood there for a minute
longer, but could not make himself go to the men and the promise of warmth and
shelter. He turned to go, his bare foot shifting in the leaves, and a twig
snapped. Immediately the men stopped talking, their invisible faces turned to
him, and Jack’s skin prickled. One stood, and with a swift motion, he lifted the
bow beside him and nocked an arrow. Something told Jack that if he moved, the
arrow would find its way to his heart before he could get away.
“You want to come out into the light where we can see you boy?” the archer said,
his voice slow and even. Jack stood frozen, unsure if it was more dangerous to
run, or to go the men around the fire.
Cake, endless, plank
“You’re scaring him, Plank,” one of the other men spoke up. “Why don’t you put
away the sharp killing instrument and maybe he’ll come. Hey boy,” he called to
Jack. “Come on over. The fire’s warm, and we have bacon and corn cakes if you’re
Jack was so hungry he couldn’t think straight, and his vision was going blurry.
He would’t be able to eat though, because his teeth were clamped too tightly
together, though his shivering still rattled his jaw, protesting the endless
cold. The man with the bow lowered it slowly.
“Come out, boy. We aren’t going to hurt you.”
Jack may have decided to go to the fire, but before he could act on it, the
world swam into blackness. Little by little, a sharp, pricking sensation wormed
its way into his awareness, and he realized it was warmth returning to numb
fingers and toes. Someone had built the fire up, and it danced and leaped in the
stiff breeze. Three figures sat watching him, two with their hoods up, one with
his face bared. That face was weathered, with three white scars slicing down the
left side through the thick black beard on his cheek.
“You’re lucky, boy. You weren’t two minutes away from frost bite, but you can
thank whatever gods look over you that you get to keep all your extremities.”
Jack sighed. “No gods watch over me. You should send me away now, before the
things that hunt me come for you.”
I hope to have some exciting news for you soon regarding the release date of Book #5 of the Guardians of the Path (and a cover reveal!!). In the meantime, you can enter my Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of First Magyc.
Keep being awesome!!
I have been very busy of late with numerous writing endeavors, which shall come to light soon, but probably not as soon as I would like. In the meantime, please enjoy the fruits of yours truly from the Ink Slingers Guild writing exercises of 31 January 2018:
Shadow, white, sunset
The sunset lit the sky in fire, and then the fire faded and died. Shevin watched the moon rise and the stars come out, sitting without moving and looking like a piece of the night itself. When he spoke, Jaden started with surprise.
“We should break camp now.”
Jaden nodded, rolled up his sleeping blanket and was on his feet in a moment. Shevin surveyed the shadows with his strange white eyes, eyes that saw more than they should.
“This way,” the wizard said.
Jaden followed him through the trees, trying to be as silent and swift, but his feet caught on roots and rocks that Shevin just glided over. Every night for the past week it had been the same, the pair traveling when other eyes weren’t watching, trying to make it to the border of the Woodlands without the Ember Guards catching them.
“I have to stop,” Jaden called out, and doubled over, gulping for air and massaging the cramp in his side. He looked up to find he was alone. “Shevin?” he called out in a soft voice, hoping the wizard had not gone too far ahead.
His only answer was the soft whisper of leaves.
Killjoy, fraction, slime,
“Shevin?” Jaden called again, a little louder this time, his heart thundering in his chest.
A figure stepped out of the darkness, but it was too short to be the wizard. It also wasn’t wearing the luminescent uniform of an Ember Guard.
“Hello?” Jaden said hesitantly, gripping the hilt of the knife in his belt.
“Oh, don’t do that,” a cheerful voice tainted with the slime of cruelty spoke up. “It wouldn’t do you any good anyway.”
“Where’s Shevin?” Jaden asked, his voice wavering slightly as he searched the shadows hoping the wizard would appear and rescue him.
“It seems your protector has deserted you,” the figure laughed. “I don’t know why you would choose to go with him anyway. He’s such a killjoy, all that duty and honor nonsense he’s so fond of spouting, and yet, when it comes to it, he runs away and leaves his charge to fend for himself. If only he truly believed but a fraction of what he said, but alas, this world is no place for saints, and eventually the darkness will reign supreme in everyone.”
“That’s not true,” Jaden said.
“Oh? And how would you know that?” The figure stepped forward and raised its hood revealing eyes like Shevin’s clear silver orbs, but rimmed in red fire.
shirk, iron, friends,
Jaden took a step back, and the figure smiled.
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Redial,” the man said and bowed low. “And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
Jaden stared at him, pressing his lips together.
“Oh, come now, how are we to be friends if I don’t know your name?” Redial said, his smile growing. “If you’re worried about the wizard, I can promise I haven’t done anything to him.”
Jaden frowned. If that was true, then where was Shevin?
Redial rolled his eyes. “Are you so enamored with him that you truly cannot believe he would shirk his duty? You don’t know him very well.”
“I know enough,” Jaden said, stepping back again.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you,” Redial continued, the redness in his eyes sparkling in a hypnotizing way. “You have no idea what’s out there.”
“What do you want with me?” Jaden asked.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Redial said. “If it makes you feel better, I want what Shevin wanted. To take you and,” he smiled slyly, “what you carry, to safety beyond the borders of the Woodlandand the reach of the Iron King.”
“And if I don’t want to go with you?” Jaden asked, drawing the knife a little further from its scabbard.
“You’ll find you won’t have much of a choice,” Redial replied.
Because today is as good a day as any to have love and goodness in the world, be you in the throes of true love, or preaching against the Hallmark marketing ploy, or being an angsty cynic and negating the pink hearts and sappy messages, I wish everyone the world lots of love and goodness on this Valentine’s day!