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Today I am an “Angry Feminist”

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Y’know what? There’s a reason feminists become “angry”. It’s because you wake up and check your facebook/twitter/news station and get smacked with another steaming hot face-full of sexism.
 
This morning it was some scraggly-bearded, hobo-turd in a tweed jacket saying that women aren’t as ambitious as men. That we aren’t “driven”. The only way we’ll ever be happy is marrying and having children.
 
We aren’t driven. Women. All women. That includes me.
 
This pushes me over into angry feminist territory, because I have spent the last five years of my life FIGHTING to achieve my goals, to not give in to the sucking vortex of hopelessness and stress and shitty jobs, while I struggled to write more and write faster and write better. I have been rejected and rejected and rejected and broken down and picked myself up over and over because I WANT THIS SO BADLY.
 
Lately I’ve been killing myself to meet two deadlines that fell on the same date. My house is in shambles, I’m eating out of Tupperware, I’m on the computer until eleven at night. The other day I edited for seven straight hours.
 
I mean, I am literally working my butt off (yes, literally, I forget to eat occasionally and dropped three pounds over the last three weeks). I look like a wizard trying to dress like a muggle because at this point I’m just putting on whatever is left in my closet.
 
So don’t you dare tell me I’m not driven.
 
I just sent off both projects last night and realized my house looks like a bomb went off, and I am a disgusting, unwashed mess and most of all I realized, I AM FIERCELY HAPPY. I love what I’m doing. For once in my life I don’t stand around and wonder, What the hell am I doing here? I don’t have times where I’m watching Netflix or lying around on my phone thinking, I feel like I should be doing something. Those feelings are gone when I’m fulfilled, when I know I’m right where I should be, doing exactly what I’m meant to do.
 
So don’t tell me I’m not happy.
 

My husband also makes me fiercely happy, he’s an amazing guy (and he puts up with the human disaster that is me) and it’s not like I don’t want to have a kid someday, but to have some dirt-bag yammer on about how women simply aren’t driven after all of this…well, it’s enough to make a gal angry.

And I’m not the only driven writer I know. I know loads of them, all balancing work and family with their writing, squeezing in time to write between feeding everyone and cleaning the house and working a full time job. They do this because they’re driven. Because they have ambition and passion and they’re not going to give up regardless of how much rejection they face, or how difficult the battle becomes.

So basically I have one last thing to say, and it’s not professional or eloquent in any way, but it needs to be said so…

Screw you neck-beard, dude. Screw you.

And that’s about it.

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How to Beat Writer’s Block

It’s always hard starting a new project. I found out this week that it’s especially hard starting book 2 in a series. When I talked to other authors, they agreed with me, they dread chapter one of book 2.

I have no idea why that is, but I had to go back and watch my own video to make myself start! At least I can convince myself if no one else.

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Strangest Book Covers

As an author, you don’t get to pick your book cover, you can only hope you get something you love. So for some of the authors below, these covers must have seemed like a total nightmare. Others have simply picked really, really bad titles. All of them are great for a laugh.

Oh, Piers Anthony. One can only ask why? Even if that was a central theme of the book, just…no. This is a case of the author picking a really, really bad title.

After I recovered from my fit of screaming, and upon further examination, I can only conclude that what you are looking at is a crocodile in a dress. Poor bastard (the author I mean, not the crocodile).

It doesn’t happen often, but I’m nearly lost for words here. This is weirdly specific. Saddle up? Ahem…

Oh my, they don’t beat around the bush, do they? I wonder if the entire title fits on the spine?

Ew. That is all.

 Captain! We’re being attacked by a fleet of magical flying dildos!

I think I laughed for about fifteen minutes. Yes, mature of me, I know.

I’m just picturing what led up to this. The author likes one title, the agent another, the publisher another. So they jam them all together, stick in some commas and bam! Awesome title!

Ah yes, the rare and elusive shopping cart in it’s natural environment. Careful now, don’t get too close! They’ve been known to run over people’s feet.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these!

What are some of the strangers book covers you’ve ever seen? Do they beat reptiles in nightgowns?

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Why You Should Wattpad

WattpadLogo-thumb-486x165

There’s a lot of buzz about Wattpad lately. On twitter, on people’s blogs, in Publisher’s Weekly. A lot of people are wondering what Wattpad is exactly, and more importantly,  As a writer, should I be on Wattpad?

As someone who has used Wattpad to build up a core of dedicated readers, and met thousands of awesome people who love books just as much as I do, I’m inclined to say yes. Heck yes, actually.

But there are a few things I always hear people say when they’re thinking of joining, concerns they have. I thought I’d cover a few:

Q) Is writing free stuff really going to sell books?

A) This is a valid question. The thing is, there’s no yes or no answer. I’ve had people tell me sales increased after they posted the first book in a series to Wattpad. I’ve also had people tell me they don’t think it’s working. It depends on the types of readers you get, it depends on what your book is like, it depends on the phase of the moon.

Okay, not that last bit. But you know what I mean. That’s a bit like saying, “If I publish a book, will people buy it?” Well, maybe they will. Hopefully. But there’s really no guaranteeing either way, is there? Some people might tell you putting your work for free on Wattpad won’t sell books, but I’m sure someone like Anna Todd would heartily disagree with them.

But should you throw your work up there expecting it to make the difference between working a full time job, and writing for a living? I’d advise against it. It’s about your mind set. Do it to connect with readers. To form a community, or just to boost your ego a bit (the reader comments can be really lovely) but don’t do it thinking you’re about to become the next NYT best seller. You’ll be disappointed.

But where are my stacks of cash?

                                          But where are my stacks of cash?

Q) Will people steal my work?

A) Good question. The answer is once again, not exactly what you want to hear. The answer is, “It’s possible”. I’ve had people take my most popular story (FROST) a number of times. It’s never actually people trying to make money from it (not that I’ve experienced). It’s generally teens who don’t seem to realize just how bad plagiarism is. And it’s been pretty easy to get them taken down.

Wattpad has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism. If it’s someone on the site who’s taken your work, you simply report them and their account will be deleted, sometimes within the hour. If it’s off site, it can be a bit trickier, but my firm (but polite) emails usually work. When they don’t, Wattpad has been known to get involved. They don’t want to see people’s work getting ripped off either.

Should you let the possibility of theft stop you from posting your work? I don’t believe you should.

Q) If I post my manuscript on Wattpad can I still query it to agents?

A) Technically you can still query it, yeah. BUT (there’s always a big but, isn’t there?) for a lot of agents, once it’s out there, they consider it published. I would feel free to post the first chapter if you really want. But not much more than that if you want to be sure. If it’s a critique you’re after, there are forums on Wattpad where you can find another writer and swap beta reads with them.

If you don’t have a spare novel to throw up there, and you don’t have time to write a new one just for Wattpad, put up some old short stories. Or snippets of poetry. Some people even keep a sort of “blog” over there, like an online journal that people actually read.

There have been writers that have queried after they put their novels up on Wattpad, and went on to get book deals. Taran Matharu is one of them. But like so many success stories, he’s the exception to the rule. Not the rule.

So there you go, another wishy washy answer. For myself, I haven’t put anything up there that I intend to query later on. Y’know, just in case my dream agent decides that once it’s out there…it’s out there.

Why it’s Worth it:

My experience on the website has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve met some awesome people on there. The comments on each chapter are overwhelmingly supportive and positive. If I’m having a crappy day, I’ll read through them and find myself grinning like an idiot. I get messages over there, from people that tell me “You inspire me”. That still shocks me.

I’m not a “real” author yet. That would have never been possible a few years ago, before I joined Wattpad. There would have been no way to actually gain readers.

I’ve even become part of a group that hosts twitter chats every Monday. We (quite cheekily) call ourselves “The Wattpad4” and I pretty much talk to them every single day.

I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for Wattpad.

So if you do sign up, here’s my advice: Don’t go into it to gain “fans”. Don’t make it a numbers game. Don’t make it about sales. Sign up for the community. Join the clubs, chat with people. And if you happen to sell a few books while you’re at it, chalk it up as a bonus.

I’m sure there are questions that I’m missing. If anyone has any, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Because I’m incredibly long-winded, this will probably turn into a two part post eventually.

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What Does Your Muse Look Like?

 

Hopefully your muse isn't this terrifying, unless you're writing horror, then she should scare the bejesus out of you.

Hopefully your muse isn’t this terrifying, unless you’re writing horror, then she should scare the bejesus out of you.

 

What does your muse look like? What does he/she sound like? Do they have a tangible voice? Mine does. You might think me quite mad after this blog post, and I could hardly blame you. But my muse is a young man, he’s a bit earnest sounding, very British, and he talks while I’m trying to write.

It’s a bit annoying, actually.

But he does talk, and so I write it down and get on with it, or nothing would ever get done. It’s only been recently that he developed more of an actual “voice”, around the same time that literary agents began telling me that they loved my voice. The first time I’ve actually HAD a writing voice. Because voice is such a dastardly hard thing to pin down, isn’t it? It develops only when it wants to, and sometimes it seems, quite suddenly. Before that you’re confused, floating around, trying out first this voice and then that, like you’re trying on hats.

And then something clicks, eventually – sometimes years and years later – and you’ve found it. That sweet spot, that “just right” feeling, that place where the words actually flow instead of being jerked out of you painfully, one syllable at a time.

There are some of you who have woken up one day, and to your shock, found your muse fully clothed and substantial, standing at the foot of the bed, tapping her foot impatiently, demanding that you get up and write. Tell me, what does he or she look like? How do they sound?

Have you found him or her yet, or is your muse still a vaguely fuzzy blob that hovers over one shoulder as you try on hats?

I imagine mine looks something like this. And he likes tea and biscuits an awful lot.

I imagine mine looks something like this. And he likes tea and biscuits an awful lot.

 

 

If you know what your muse looks like, post a link to the photo in the comments below, or create your own blog post and let me know, I’ll link back to it in the bottom of this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Secret Life of Writers

secret

Come closer. A little closer. Okay that’s good. Sit down and get ready for scandalous revelations. Get ready to hear things about writers you’ve never known before, or wanted to know, really.

Writers, I see you lurking back there. Show this to your husbands, mothers and grandparents. It will explain your inexplicable, often worrying behavior.

Here it is, all you’ve ever wanted to know. Dirty Writer Secrets.

Secret #1:

Being married/friends/family to a writer is hard.

Sometimes we get that vague look in our eyes when you’re talking to us. It’s not that we think you’re boring, it’s that we just had a really fantastic idea for the story we’re working on, and while you’re talking, we’re off in the star mines of Zibit 5, fighting space crud with out laser guns, or frolicking with unicorns through fields of daisies. It’s not that we don’t find you interesting, it’s actually very likely that you inspired us. You talked about frolicking, or space guns, or it was just the way you pushed your hair out of your face that made us think about the perfect main character to GO frolicking with unicorns.

See, it’s your fault.

Secret #2:

We may leave vague, sometimes terrifying post-it notes around the house that say things like, “Should I kill off Bob?”.

Please do not be alarmed. All casualties are fictional.

Secret #3:

Our internet searches will curl the hair on your big toes.

If you find us searching things like, “How to completely dissolve a body in acid” or “How to cut up a body into small pieces” or “How fast does it take for a stabbed person to die?”, I assure you we are not considering bumping you off. We are merely dreaming up the best, most effective and delightfully unpleasant ways to kill off our character.

I’m not sure if that’s much more comforting.

Secret #4:

Our passion makes us kind of crazy.

Keep in mind that you may find us curled up in the fetal position sobbing at any time. You may also find us doing an Irish jig in the middle of the living room and gleefully throwing small scraps of manuscript paper around while shouting “confetti!” and a number of other strange behaviors I can’t even begin to describe.

The truth is, writing is full of ups and downs. Even more so if you are trying to get an agent, or you’re on sub, or trying to promote your books.

One day your writer will be on top of the world, excited and happy and full of confidence, the next day they will be binge eating chocolate and marathoning the show “Girls” all day. We are unpredictable like that. But that’s why you love us, right?

I recommend keeping an emergency stash of chocolate and Supernatural DVDs on hand.

Secret #5:

We will never have enough books.

What’s that, your bookshelves are jammed full? Your computer desk is being taken over? I’m sorry to tell you that won’t ever stop. It will only get worse. You can buy your writer a kindle and pray, but that’s it. Some of us will never be sold on ebooks, others will embrace them completely.

Whatever form they come in, we can never get enough of them.

Secret #6:

We are all secretly jealous.

Maybe it’s that writer friend who got a book deal. Maybe it’s the person on twitter who keeps bragging that she got an agent. Maybe we bash Fifty Shades of Grey just a little too loudly. Whatever it is, there’s always something.

Underneath our pasty skin we are all secretly a beautiful shade of green. When you want something so badly and you see other people getting it before you, it’s hard not to let the little monster come out.

We all struggle with it.

Secret #7:

We want it to be “all about the art”.

But that’s an impossible standard to have when you have to do inconvenient things like, y’know, eat. The result of this is that many of us are a little confused, a little torn. Are we “sell outs” if we want to make money? Should we be writing commercial stuff, or just what we think of as “art”?

Do we feel fulfilled in our art, or do we pay the rent? Can we do both?

Secret #8:

We picture our books as movies.

Yes, we daydream about hitting it big. We think about who would play our main character, what we would wear to the opening night. What we would say when the TV people interviewed us. All that good stuff.

We dream big all the time. Every day. That’s why rejections make us cry.

Secret #9:

We are scared to admit what we do.

Most people don’t flinch at the question, “And what do you do?”. Only a writer spends fifteen minutes at the doctor’s office deciding if they should put “writer” under the “occupation” section. Like the doctor is going to pop out and scream “Fake!” at you after he’s read it.

But we get these looks when we tell people. Like they’re humoring us. Or worse, they ask “What have you written?” like they expect us to confess we’ve written the Harry Potter series, surprise! Or the better question, “Have you written anything I’ve heard of?” which makes a writer want to melt into a pile of sludge and sink into the cracks in the floor boards.

“Have you heard of Fifty Shades of Grey?”

“Oh my God, you wrote that?”

“No, just wondering if you’ve heard of it.”

Secret #10:

We know we shouldn’t read mean comments. We do it anyways.

Writer’s are drawn to comments and reviews like a moth to a flame. We know we’ll probably fall into the fire and our tiny bodies will shrivel up and we’ll die in agony.

But the fire is so fascinating.

There’s a mean comment on our blog post. We’re going to read it twenty times. Agonize over it. Eat a bucket of ice cream and then read it again.

We get a nasty review on goodreads, or a writing site. We can’t look away. It dictates the outcome of our entire day. Sometimes our week.

You can tell us to “just let it slide” or “just ignore it”, but we are suckers for punishment. It’s important what this one person thinks. It’s so important that we rage at the computer and yell lots of mean names at the screen. Once you get tired of listening to us ranting, feel free to walk away. We’ll tell the cat what a knucklehead this person must be.

Have you seen enough now?

I’m sorry I had to show you that. But now you can go into the world better prepared to deal with writers. To deal with your wife/husband/friend/family member.

Remember: Chocolate, Supernatural DVDs, wine.

These are your tools. Use them wisely

cake

That should do it.

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Dealing with Negative Comments

person yelling

It’s no secret that the internet makes people mean. It used to be that if someone didn’t like you or what you had to say, they had to tell you in person.  These days, if someone doesn’t like what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, or just the way that you do your hair, they can shoot off a nasty email, tweet or youtube comment right away.

It’s great that we can upload videos instantly, and participate in interesting conversations online.  But in doing so we also open ourselves up to the opinions of strangers. And strangers can be cruel, especially when they’re feeling safely anonymous.

It’s a great time to be a writer. It’s wonderful to be able to post rough drafts of stories on Wattpad or Figment to gain a fanbase, or join hundreds of other authors on twitter. There are forums full of writers who are eager to share their experiences, and sites where you can get thoughtful critiques on your work. But writers are now open to newer, faster ways of having our work ripped to shreds.

Please note, this post is not about reviews on goodreads or amazon or even the old fashioned reviews in newspapers. There is only one way you should respond to actual reviews, and that’s not at all. Once you’ve set your book baby free into the world, it’s inevitably going to get negative reviews, and how to deal with those could fill an entirely different post. This particular post is about biting comments sent directly to you, addressed directly to you. They might be on your blog, they might be in the comment section of your most recent youtube video. They might be “mean tweets” or an email that lands in your inbox that makes you cringe.

How Do You Deal?

Accept that the comment bothers you. Even allow yourself to fume. Get it out. Pace back and forth and tell your dog how stupid that person must be, how small-minded they are. Your dog will sympathize and agree.  Perhaps punch a pillow or two, or savage a bar of chocolate. Some people find it helps to sit out and write a reply and then delete it.

But Don’t Answer.

If it’s a truly nasty comment, one that has you really worked up, don’t answer it. Don’t waste your time and energy on that person. Not only will you be investing your energy into someone who doesn’t deserve it, but you’ll come off looking bad. Answering a snarky comment with another snarky comment only makes you look like you’ve taken the bait. That you’ve lost your temper and you’re barking back. Resist the impulse.

Look For Value.

There’s a big difference between a harsh critique, and an internet troll throwing flaming balls of poo at you.

Is it possible that the comment has any merit? Maybe it was a critique that was worded rather badly, but they have a few valid points. In that case, try to calm down and think about how you can apply this. There, now that person, as miserable as they’ve just made you, has actually helped you. You will stumble across some people that are actually trying to help, they just may not know how to word things tactfully. Keep in mind, take everything with a grain of salt. A beta reader that tells you something like “you should stop writing” or “stick to your day job” needs to be jettisoned promptly. If the critique is doing more damage than help, then ignore it

When There’s No Value.

If there isn’t any value don’t reply. Comments like “You suck and your mom dresses you funny”, are not worth the energy. Just move on. Don’t answer, try not to dwell on it. Don’t let the hater take up head space.

When To Delete.

If you’re like me, you might go back and browse through your comment section more than once. If you think you’re going to continue to stumble on that same comment and get upset about it all over again, then delete it. Some people might complain about “freedom of speech” and how you shouldn’t delete internet comments. But it’s YOUR blog/facebook page/youtube video.

Your house, your rules.

Always Remember…

Your youtube video/comment/blog post/novel isn’t necessarily bad just because a few people have negative things to say.  There will always be people that don’t like things that everyone else seems to love. Everyone has different taste. The Harry Potter books have bad reviews. There are people that hate chocolate. And puppies.

puppies

Okay, can anyone really hate puppies?

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The Worst Advice You Can Give Young People

girlreading

In my early twenties I was given some very bad advice.

It was well-meaning, and it came from someone who cared about me, but it was still bad.  This person told me I was too young to decide what I wanted to be and who I was. I needed to travel first. I needed to get out on my own and “experience life”. I couldn’t possibly know who I was at that age. But here’s the thing…

I have always known exactly who I am.

These are things that we hear our entire teenage life, and when we get into our early twenties we expect it to change, but it doesn’t. People still tell us that we don’t know who we are yet. Like we’re an entire generation of people walking in circles without a clue what we’re about. We need to “get out there and find ourselves”.

“You don’t know who you are yet.”

“You’re too young to get married/have children/worry about a serious career.”

“You can’t possibly know what you want to do yet.”

I was told I would change my passions, my opinions, my mind. That I needed to find myself. Like the real me was out there somewhere,  backpacking in Thailand, or sleeping a hangover off on top of hot pocket wrappers on a fellow band member’s couch.  The present me, the one that sat in the corner and read books all through high school, and would rather go to the library than a wild house party, couldn’t possibly be the real me.

This advice, well-meaning though it was, made me second guess myself very briefly. After that, it just made me angry. I was too young, so I couldn’t possibly know my mind? I disagreed. I very heartily disagreed. And so I wrote myself a manifesto.

rebel

I AM, a manifesto

I know who I am. I’m sloppy, careless and forgetful. I’m impulsive and creative. Filled with anxiety or happy and carefree at the drop of a hat. I have entire fictional worlds in my head. I get excited over the sticky note section at Target.

I’m both pathetically dependent on people for my sanity, and incredibly introverted and emotionally closed off. My house is in shambles but I feel bad if I go for one day without writing.

Wild story ideas stalk me like jungle predators, and I’m kept awake nights in order to daydream. I’m creative. I’m confused. I’m immersed in the lives of imaginary people.

Don’t tell me to get out and “find myself”. I’m already here. I was never lost to begin with.

I hold foolish, romantic ideas about writing letters, and each time I get one my heart aches just a little bit. I’m not afraid of snakes, spiders or the dark, but I live in fear of all the bookstores closing down. I dream big, of book signings and lines around the block. My name in lights! But a reader sent me an email last week to tell me my story touched them, and if nothing else happens, that email will sustain me for the rest of my life.

I know who I am. I know that through death and sickness and disaster, I will write. I know that if the world ends and the cities are razed and men scatter like cockroaches across the scorched face of the earth, I will use a stick to scribble in the soot to tell you the story of how it happened.

I’m me. I’m a writer. I’m Erin.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given? What’s your manifesto? Do you think it’s impossible to “know who you are” as a teenager, or someone in your early twenties?

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