Today is Lughnasadh, the Celtic harvest festival which marks the transition from summer to autumn. While we won't be in full celebration of the harvest until Mabon, the fall equinox, I felt like this was the perfect time to end my hiatus.
I want to start off by expressing my gratitude to all of you for your patience. Life has not gotten much easier, but the harvest of all my stress and struggle is the knowledge that I can make my own choices about how to handle it. Being overwhelmed is a choice, and so is how I express that state of mind. I went through a few different experiments in coping: a far more casual and laid-back form of writing, which backfired spectacularly, and more importantly, solidifying my vision for my future. While I was away, I met another facet of myself, and this persona became a "twin": Hazel, my crafty, spiritual side, who runs her Moving Cottage separately from my own business as concierge. There is now a clear distinction between my crafts and my authorship, and I am working on making that divide evident in social media as well. Hazel just needs some time to learn from me about how such things work: she does live in the forest, after all, and she's blowing the dust off her Wi-Fi router. (She does it out of love: if we sell what's in the shop this month, it'll cover phone and internet, which is sorely needed. And of course, copies of my novels will serve the same purpose.)
Some of you may be asking, "That's all well and good, Ang, and I'm excited about what Hazel's made, but what's your harvest as an author after this summer hiatus?"
My fruits are still growing. I have a feeling they won't see a proper harvest until Mabon. The first things I'm seeing spring up from the branches of my imagination are more tools, more gifts which work in the background: self-acceptance, patience, the lesson that I don't have to keep up with everyone else, or the constant flashfire of Daily Tweets and Weekly Blogs and Yearly Releases. Will I still strive for a book a year? Oh, absolutely. There's so much story between my ears and tucked into my heart, and so little time in the scope of the universe. But I'm done listening to the barrage of advice and trying to do it all. Bloghopping! Game hosting! Writer's Chats! NaNoWriMo! Camp NaNoWriMo! Daily prompts! Hashtag games! Release Parties! Daily Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr/HotSocialThing! .... It's no wonder I started wearing down.
I'm taking a hard, close look at what's worked for me in the past. I'm going to do more of that. The first thing on that list was being an active part of a good community: not just acting, but reacting and sharing. I'll have a schedule for it: a designated day for each platform, so you'll know when to find me around. I've yet to decide whether updates for this blog will be monthly or bi-monthly, but I'm dialing Between The Lines back, as well. I let the social media and the promotion become the bulk of what I did, and in doing so, I became a Social Media Person first and an Author second. That's ... not what the name of the game ought to be.
This blog is going to serve as not just a keyhole into what's going on in Aviario, but what's going on in my author circles, as well. There may not always be a review, but there will always be community news. If I find something useful, I'll share it! You'll get a nice little compact breakdown of it all here, from across my various wanderings on- and offline. I'm really excited about what's coming up from the ground, now, and I hope you'll celebrate this harvest with me.
Until next time, I remain your Concierge,
P.S: If you'd like to learn more about Lughnasadh, The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids has a lovely article about it here on their website. Blessings on your own harvests: be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual!
Dear Friends of Aviario,
I have been resisting this decision tooth and nail for longer than I'd probably like to admit. I know it's been a long time since my last blog post, and a while since I've been on my social media platforms, as well. Life outside of Aviario has been difficult, and as much as I had hoped to be able to balance being an author with my current struggles, it has fallen by the wayside. I owe it to myself and to all of you to step back, to address the things which are currently causing me stress and strain, and to focus completely on them. I have managed to write about half of the first draft of Adjustments, but my previous first drafts were all completed by this point in the year. Trust me when I say: this one is too good and too important to turn into a rush job. "A book a year" was a promise I made to myself, first and foremost, and while there's a little rush that comes with being that prolific, it's not worth sacrificing the quality of something I hold so dear ... or the possibility of burning myself out.
I haven't decided how long this hiatus will last ... perhaps, at least, through the summer. Quite a few things that are causing me strain and exhaustion are beyond my control, and I need to dig deep and find the sort of patience and resilience required to weather them. I appreciate the messages of concern and support I've received from some of you over the last month or so, and want to apologize for my "radio silence". There have been days when just thinking about how long I've been away has made me anxious: that spiral of avoidance stops now. I miss all my Twitter and Instagram friends, and I promise you, I'll check in when I can.
To those I've received book review requests or proof copies from: I do still completely intend to review your books! Part of my time away will be spent preparing for my return, and this includes reading and writing those reviews. I will be emailing you all separately for personal, private conversations. The same goes for anyone I may have scheduled guest blog posts with.
I know that in the culture of the internet, we expect things to come quickly, at a constant, breakneck pace. We click, we scan, we move on. But books are different animals: meant to be savored. I need to treat their creative process in much the same vein, especially this time around. I have complete faith and trust that this break will, in the long run, bring us all closer together, not create a rift of absence. In the meantime, be well, read good indie books, support one another, and - hmm - maybe reread the first three Aviario novels? This one ties them all together. You might want to refresh your memory ... wink, wink.
Until next time, I remain your fond concierge,
The clocks are springing ahead for most of us, this weekend, so to celebrate the longer days, I'm taking 33% off e-book copies of Saving Daylight... which includes my illustrated short story, The Lost Hour! This sale is good until midnight on Monday, March 12th, so please hurry and take advantage of it while you can!
I also want to take a moment in this post to thank all of you who helped last week by donating to Bella's fundraiser. While she is feeling better and out of the woods, we still have not reached our goal. Please keep spreading the word, so that we can pay off the last of her vet bills and square our debts with the wonderful ER doctors who helped us get her back on her feet.
Also: in just four days, it's Pi Day! Since In The Cards' Ral O'Dailigh is an enormous fan of pie, I'm going to be having an In The Cards flash sale on that day. If you haven't grabbed a copy of it, yet, mark your calendars ... the sale will apply to both print AND e-book purchases!
That's all the news I have for you this week, Friends of Aviario! Please stay tuned ... I have some things in the works which are going to make you fall in love with this little town all over again.
Until next week, I remain your Concierge,
Just a brief update, this week, with my apologies: life still refuses to calm down around my little Burrow ... I'm heading south to Connecticut tomorrow. Normally, I'd be ecstatic to see the area which inspired Aviario again, but this trip is for the memorial service of a dear, loving, and wonderful cousin who lost a long, hard, fight with cancer. Being able to be with family, even for a day or two, should help ... and of course, a few pictures of the area for the Aviario Travel Guide might come back with me, too. I'm discovering more and more that I have to make my own happy moments.
I have my first Indie Book Review of the year lined up: the first book of The Letter Mage, by Alexandra Penn! It looks like an amazing read, and I have a review copy in hand which I'm looking forward to digging into. Fantasy, magic, space, and some wonderful LGBTQ representation? It sounds like everything I enjoy reading, and more. I can't wait to let you all know how it is!
My final note for this week is a bit of a somber one, as well ... normally, I only promote my books here on my website, and am more apt to nudge you toward my Patreon for crowdfunding, but two days ago, one of our lovely cats got suddenly ill. I've set up a YouCaring fundraiser for her ER vet bills and any procedures she may require ... Even if you can't afford to chip in, I would appreciate it very much if you could help spread the word. The kindness of strangers over the last 24 hours since I opened the fundraiser is astounding: a person I don't know from Adam donated $200. Knowing that there are other kind hearts out there in the world gives me so much hope: not just for Bella, but for our world and our future.
You can see the fundraiser, share, or donate @ YouCaring: Help Us Fix Bella's Belly.
Next week, I will have better news: good news, and progress, and wonderful things to share with you all... even though I'm admittedly saying so under sheer force of will. I can't give up on any of this: it's not even close to a choice. I love you all, and I'll see you next week.
Is this thing on?
Hi! Welcome to my first blog entry of 2018... I know, I'm seriously behind. But this is the Year of the Earth Dog, which means that it's my year, and I've been planning some things that are going to knock your socks off!
The first big thing is one I hope you've already noticed: my site's gotten a lovely new makeover in Aviario's signature colors (Go, Eagles!), and things are generally a lot more streamlined. The About Aviario page is front-and-center in my navigation, now, because I'm going to start rolling out some fun information and pictures about the characters and their favorite places to hang out. My goal is for your Aviario experience to be as immersive as possible, before you've even picked up a book: if the novels are the trip, consider my website the brochure.
The second piece of great news that I have for you? I'm opening up Between The Lines for indie author book reviews again! If you're interested in getting a review from me, please hop on over to fill out this form. It's only a few questions long, and extremely user-friendly.
I've also started sharing excerpts and art over on my Pinterest boards ... if you're a fan of Pinterest like I am, please head on over and follow me there! I also curate boards for Druidry, Bullet Journaling, and Arts & Crafts ... let's share ideas with each other!
Until next week,
I don't usually get deep into my personal life on my blog, or much of my other social media. But it has affected my online presence as an author to a higher degree than normal, these last few months, so I would like to keep you all informed. I have had a number of fellow authors and other creative friends reach out to me, lately, and depending on what was going on, I may not have responded. This is my blanket apology to you all - personal ones will, of course, follow. Normally, I'd find some way into this via another book, or a video, or something funny, but I'd rather not sugar coat this. It's time to be real about what happened to me over November and most of this month. Please understand that I am not writing this post in search of sympathy or attention... it is for the sake of honesty, and to be an example of not letting failure stop us from creating. (At least, I'll strive to be.)
We lost my father-in-law over two very sudden weeks in November, to a stroke. (Those who are willing and able to do so may contribute to our family's GoFundMe page to help my mother-in-law cover his funeral expenses.) It's been a very difficult time for us, and while we are slowly recovering from the grief, it lingers during a particularly awful time of year for such things.
While my internal fortitude was weakened by this, my depression and anxiety snuck back in and double-teamed me, hard. I started thinking that there's no way any of the creative things I do mean anything, that I have no real worth, and other heinous, horrible lies. The worst part is, for a couple of very dark weeks, I believed them. As anyone who has ever struggled with depression can tell you, it's extremely hard to write, or even make a daily Instagram post, or take decent care of yourself, when you think you're not worth anything.
It's still pretty hard not to listen to those little brain-lies, but today is Yule. As long-time readers of my blog may remember, this is the day when the hours of light begin to overtake the hours of darkness. It is also, on a more personal note, the 18th anniversary of my personal dedication to being a practicing pagan. My magic is legally an adult, and can buy scratch tickets. That's got to be worth something, right? Worth my feeling kind of old, at least - ha. So I took a handful of that magic, threw it into my morning coffee, buckled down, and started reaching out and catching up. I'm still not completely certain of my path, but I know I can still take it one step at a time. Soon enough, I'll be writing again. Soon enough, I'll be sharing it with you again.
In the meantime, I encourage you to check out two guest blogs I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write: one amazingly fun look into Aviario's morning radio show, and one about writing and life balance. I am especially grateful to Ian Rogers, host of But I Also Have A Day Job, for being patient and understanding with me through a multitude of edits.
Until next time, enjoy the growing light, and take care of each other!
Greetings, friends of Aviario, and welcome back to the blog. I still haven't quite gotten around to telling you all how my November went, and I'm afraid it's going to have to wait just a little longer. Things Keep Happening, you see, and I continue to have some pretty strong opinions about them.
The first issue is that Patreon, the crowdfunding platform for artists and authors like myself, has changed one of their terms of service: specifically regarding how they parcel out their processing fees. I wrote about that at length on my Patreon feed, which is its own sort of blog, but I've made that post public. I encourage you to check that out over here.
The second issue is one which has been bothering me for a while now: proper book reviews. Fellow author and dear friend Jette Harris expressed her frustration with this subject earlier this morning, and I finally found the proper metaphor to express my feelings on the subject. Jette shared this Twitter thread about author reviews on Amazon (and elsewhere), and I responded with my own frustrations, which I'll repeat here:
Many of the reviews I receive, both unsolicited and otherwise, are lackluster. At best, they say that the reader enjoyed the book, and share a constructive criticism or two. At worst, they are simply reworked, weaker synopses of the book. I am beginning to think that people are forgetting the original point of a review. Crack open any traditionally published book on your shelf and look at the reviews, either on the back or the first few pages. I'll get us started: here's one from the closest to my hand, David Eddings' classic "Pawn of Prophecy": "Eddings' Belgariad is exactly the kind of fantasy I like. It has magic, adventure, humor, mystery, and a certain delightful human insight." This was penned by fellow fantasy great Piers Anthony, and it is a gem of a review... not only because I'm sure David Eddings felt over the freaking moon when he got it, but because it does what a review should: it gives the reader's opinion of how it made them feel. I liked it. Here's why. Here's why you'll like it, too.
This is what I have to say to all of you, in regards to reviewing books: treat them like the brain-food they are. Say you're buying a new brand of peanut butter cups that you enjoyed ...
Cashier: Oh, I haven't tried those yet. How are they?
You: The peanut butter is nice and smooth, and the balance between it and the chocolate is great. They're not quite as good as, say, Reese's, but for the price, they're really, really good value.
You've just done that cup-loving cashier a huge favor. If they don't like smooth peanut butter in their cups, they know these aren't for them. If they like saving money? Sold. If they like Reese's? They might think about it. Now, what do you never hear someone say?
Cashier: Oh, I haven't tried those yet. How are they?
Customer: Eh, they've got peanut butter in the middle, and chocolate on the outside.
(Salty) Cashier: No shit, Sherlock.
One last scenario, and then I'll leave you to your reading and (hopefully) excellent reviewing:
Customer: (to cashier) DON'T BUY THESE. They're full of peanuts. I HATE PEANUTS.
Salty Cashier: It says so right there on the bag. I can tell.
Customer: YEAH, BUT THEY'RE GROSS.
AKA: if the synopsis or trigger warnings of a book contain something that you don't care for, don't go around leaving one- or zero- star reviews simply on the merit of that one thing. Some people enjoy that sort of literature, and seek it out actively. They're not going to care that you don't... they want to know if it will be an enjoyable specimen of that particular genre, or depict that experience well. If our Cashier is allergic to peanuts, they're not even going to ask the customer about the peanut butter cups, are they? They're going to avoid them like ... well, like peanuts.
So, really, it boils down to this: if you like a book, especially an indie book, give it an honest, fair review. Leave your opinions. Say what you liked, even if you have to be vague to avoid spoilers. "I really liked the fight scene between Ral and the murderer toward the end: it had me on the edge of my seat!" (Shameless In The Cards Plug: Complete.) But don't just say "Hey, this book is a person and people around them and the things that happened". The author already did that for you ... and most authors have a hard time condensing their book into that one tiny blurb. They did that for you, so you'd know whether you might like to pick it up.
If you did? Say thank you by giving other readers a leg up, and telling them why.
Keep readin', and I'll see you around here next time!
Those of you who follow me on social media in its various forms know that I've been working on a collaborative project with fellow author and illustrator Julianne DiBlasi Black for a good part of the year... and I'm pleased to announce that it's finally HERE! Times of Trouble, our pair of spooky stories, centers around our respective ideas about what, exactly, happens when the clocks move back and forth during Daylight Savings Time. My offering, "The Lost Hour", is a throwback to vintage horror movies like Halloween and The Amityville Horror, and makes extensive use of vintage 1970s fabric patterns.
Right now, Times of Trouble is only available in print versions, and the Kindle version is still forthcoming, but you'll want to own this one in print ... Julianne's graphic design work and illustrations on her story, "Saving Daylight" are so richly detailed that the pages could be framed on their own. Her work puts me in mind of Dave McKean, the artist who helped Neil Gaiman with his covers for the infamous Sandman series, and lent his style to "Batman: Arkham Asylum".
For those interested in the process behind "The Lost Hour" ... daylight savings time has been the seed of a story for years. Its original incarnation had something to do with an ice fisherman abandoning his partner under the ice, only to be confronted with his thawed corpse once spring came ... but it lacked the zing which I like to have in my stories, the unique element. A spree of vintage horror movie-watching and a renewed interest in Ouija boards over the past year combined in just the right way, and I knew I finally had the right hook for my story. Readers of In The Cards will spot a few connections here, too ... if they dare to look with a keen enough eye. I'll be posting a few of the original, unaltered illustrations over on my Patreon later this week, and sample snippets on my Instagram and Twitter. In the meantime, you can purchase Times of Trouble here on Amazon ... if you act fast, you can have it in time for Christmas, as the perfect gift for the horror buff in your family or circle of friends!
Thanks for dropping by for the good news, and I'll see you next time!
The Byrds once put it to music: to everything, there is a season. I’ve been deliberating on this for a couple of years now, and it’s finally time to let #2bitTues go the way of this year’s leaves: down and away.
When I started the little hashtag game on Twitter three years ago, it was one of a very few contenders. Now there are several for each day of the week: you can check out Twitter user @writevent, who tracks them all. For me, the best thing about #2bitTues was that it allowed writers two things: unique expression (with the concept of an optional theme), and connection. Most of the players still enjoyed sticking to the theme… and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I feel as though the original purpose has gotten lost in the shuffle. I began to feel like the only substance to my Twitter presence was putting up a word and a picture every week, and I lost the connectivity, the spark.
To make a long story short, I’m tired of Twitter feeling like a chore. It’s a community, a place to connect and share and help one another. That’s what initially inspired me to self-publish … not something lackluster that can be found in other places.
So, the #2bitTues hashtag is going to be shut down this week. I am working on something new, something which will work with the new double tweet length and be even more fun. It’ll be cooperative, like the best things on Twitter, and encourage sharing the things we love the most about our writing, which will help us all get the word out about our work better without feeling … “sales-y”.
I know a handful of folks have already contacted me to say that they do not want to see it go. Please honor my request and let it. As I said, there are other hashtag games out there, and their hosts and hostesses would be happy to have you. I am not going anywhere, things are just evolving and changing, as they should. I hope you’ll come along with me. You are, after all, still my writing tribe, and my hope is to make it a stronger one.
See you on Twitter,
I'm back from book release recovery and rolling up my sleeves, friends. I was going to ease my way back into my weekly routine with something nice and easy, but kismet had some other plans. Let me blow the dust off my soap box ...
I recently stopped by one of my local bookstores - a place I've frequented and enjoyed for decades. The manager is a good colleague, and she recommended a new company she learned about at a recent book expo: DartFrog Books. They are the first distributor geared exclusively toward independent and self-published authors, so my interest was piqued. She gave me a bookmark with their URL and the not-so-subtle hint that if I were to say she referred me, she'd get a finder's fee. So I went on my way.
It took me a few days to get around to looking DartFrog up. Something about the interaction gave me a strange vibe, and I was right, but I'll come back to that. Here's their mission statement: "Every year there are an estimated 450,000 self-published titles released into an overcrowded literary marketplace. Unfortunately, most of those books will live forever in total obscurity. But, there are within that mass of self-published books, some real gems. DartFrog finds those gems and distributes them to our partner bookstores."
O-kay. So, sounds good, but how does it work? I clicked on every link that looked as though it'd give me a straight answer. "About Us"? Mission Statement and glamour shots of the staff. "Why Dartfrog"? Buzzwords and all the stuff that sounds too good to be true, no numbers or details. "Our Standards"? Some stuff about quality control that's just a little bit condescending, if you ask yours truly... and it had typos. (I laughed. A lot.)
Oh, wait. "Author Agreement". Finally, I thought, something that should lay it out in black and white. Click: "The author agreement is a straight forward document that seeks to remove all the legalese that most of us don't read or understand anyway! But there are a few highlights that you should know." Not only is that on the edge of condescension ... but the full, actual text of that agreement isn't anywhere I could find on the website. Presumably, you only get it after you've started the sign-up process.
So I made a mock order for In The Cards. It asks some straight-forward questions about your book: did you edit/format it yourself, how long is it, what's the ISBN/genre, etc. But it doesn't even tell you what your order form is doing. Or how much it'll cost. I hit "proceed to payment" and was hit with the sticker shock: $350.
Let me reiterate: I still don't know what, exactly, I'm paying for, here.
I clicked back out of the cart - or, in the vernacular, "noped out like nobody's business" - and tried to dig a little deeper to see what that price tag entailed. The closest thing I could find to ANY detail about what my money would buy was on "Why DartFrog":
DartFrog evaluates your book to ensure that it meets a standard-of-excellence bookstores require. Those books that do, we make available for distribution to our network of partner bookstores. If your book is not ready for distribution, we will tell you what needs to be fixed and allow you to re-submit when the changes have been made. We do not charge an additional fee for a second evaluation.
Oh. So I'd be paying DartFrog $350 to pat me on the head and tell me my book is good, and then add it to a catalog they give to a (so far) very small list of indie stores. How is that any different than an agent or a publisher? I don't really think it is. Sure, that 70/30 split afterwards is pretty nice, but I'd have to spend an initially HUGE chunk of money that I don't have. There's very little about their evaluation team, so I don't even know if the people I'm paying to vet my book would be fair or unbiased.
Given that I had to do a half hour's worth of web surfing to find all this, I'm pretty unimpressed. If you're a web-based service, you're catering intrinsically to people who are used to very fast service: go to the site, find what you need, get it, get out, move on with your day. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but self-published authors' time is precious enough without having to constantly verify and vet their potential allies and business collaborators. I could have spent that half hour connecting with my peers, making marketing graphics, preparing for my new collaboration release, or - oh, hey! actually writing more. Instead, I'm here. Because I get the increasing feeling that I need to share these experiences with you all, to save you the time and make your life as fellow authors a little easier.
We're all in this together. I've never felt that it's about the money - but saving it where and when we can is crucial. Being transparent and communicating about what works, what's fair, and what things really are is even more important.
In the end, I passed on BookFrog because I just can't spare that kind of money for a random person's validation. If you can, I don't judge: in fact, I'd love to know what you think. If you've had experiences with BookFrog, yourself, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email. I want to be proven wrong: I want to believe that there really are people out there who genuinely want to help find the good indie books, give them the love they deserve, and build a mutual relationship ... not just take our money and laugh all the way to the bank.
Until next time, dream on, write on, and stay amazing!
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