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!
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