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!
The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived! The Proper Bearing is now available in print and digital formats! A special note for you, dear readers: if you are buying a print copy, please do so via Lulu.com... you would be supporting me far more that way than through any other channels.
I have drawn winners for both raffles: congratulations to Michelle, winner of the artwork, and Laura, winner of Nick's Private Stash! Both have been privately notified... thank you to everyone who entered!
As a special promotion for The Proper Bearing's release, I have put my other two books on sale over at Amazon - those of you with Kindles need only pay 99 cents each for In The Cards and From The Desk of Buster Heywood through Friday, September 22nd!
They say the third time's the charm, and since this is my third novel, I see plenty of reason to celebrate. If you happen to be in Laconia, NH, tomorrow, please drop by The Studio on Main Street from 5-7 PM, where I'll be having a Pop-Up Bookshop with snacks, drinks, and fantastic company! You can check out the Facebook Event Page by clicking on the invitation below!
As always, these books wouldn't be possible without you - my readers. Thank you so much for continuing on this journey with me ... I look forward to where it takes us from here!
Until next time, keep readin'!
Nicholas Forsythe is a self-proclaimed bookworm, and proud to be so. References to his favorite books are littered throughout The Proper Bearing, and they are as tied to his life as our own dear stories are to us. To honor and celebrate the impact books can have on a person's life, I'm giving away what I'm calling Nick's Private Stash: three of his favorite books and a few things to help make your own little cosy reading corner.
The package will come with the following, lovingly wrapped:
To enter ... simply comment here on this blog post! Leave me your preferred method of contact: email, or private message via Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. (I received some feedback which said Rafflecopter was confusing, so we're going the easy route here.) Due to shipping costs, this contest is only open to United States residents (sorry, my international friends!). The deadline for this contest is September 17th, and a winner will be drawn on the following day during the online release party! Until then, please spread the word about both contests, and good luck to you all!
Hello, Readers! You may remember that as part of the celebration of last year's In The Cards, I created and gave away a piece of artwork. This year, I'm continuing the tradition! The Proper Bearing contains many pivotal scenes, but the image which seemed a natural choice was one that another character creates:
The Three Musketeers stood large-as-life in all their finery, each with their foils in the air and a defeated, unconscious Cardinal Richelieu at their feet: but their tunics were Oakridge navy and gold, instead of the robin’s-egg blue and shining silver that Nick had seen in countless illustrations. Each of them bore a familiar face: Scrib had done an amazing job of capturing Terry and Cris’ likenesses, as well as his own. It was clear that she had only had Terry’s caricatures of Goddard to draw on, but even so, there was no mistaking who she had used as her model for the scheming Richelieu.
The original was done with Chameleon pens on 9x12 Bristol, and I will be mounting it on black mat board. In my art shop, Gifts of Awen, this would sell for $60 ... but you've got the chance to own it for FREE! All you have to do is enter the giveaway over on Rafflecopter! You even have chances to gain extra entries in the raffle by helping spread the news about The Proper Bearing on social media or following me ... and if you haven't bought my other two books yet, you'll get super extra entries by doing that.
The deadline for entries is September 17th.
Good luck to everyone who enters! I hope you'll join me next week for the second giveaway!
For many months now, I've had a place-holding cover for The Proper Bearing floating around my website. It had the most basic element I knew I wanted: a vine-covered wall, reminiscent of stately old school buildings. But it wasn't enough. I knew it needed something more: something which hinted that The Proper Bearing is more than just a standard coming-of-age tale. So I went prop hunting.
There's a particular item of significance which helps drive the plot forward after its inciting incidents, and I had a very clear picture of it in my mind... so I went antiquing. I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of an amazing antique store. The Laconia Antique Center was converted from an old Newberry's department store, right down to the still-functioning soda counter. I could lose hours in there - and have! - but going with a specific item in mind made things a little easier. Soon enough, I found what I was looking for, along with the vintage postcards I used for my new marketing material.
Some careful lighting and a little dance with Photoshop later, I may now happily introduce you to the final front cover of The Proper Bearing, and along with it, the magical artifact known as The Dawning Urn...
Story time! Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we'll begin.
Once upon a time, there was a young(ish) girl who had loved books since kindergarten. An only child, she made some of her earliest and oldest friends between their pages: precocious girls like Pippi Longstocking and Anne Shirley were her favorites, but she soon grew just as fond of super-sleuths Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and went on adventures with the brave mice of Redwall and discovered the creeping, delightful horrors of Edgar Allen Poe and Christopher Pike. Around that time, she was also beginning to discover the prospects of responsibility, as her teenage years loomed on the horizon, and her parents, wanting to coax her into it in the best way possible, suggested she get a job at a bookstore.
The bookstore was tiny, tucked away on the shores of a nearby lake, and catered mostly to tourists looking for summer beach reads, but our heroine loved it nonetheless. She learned how to open up shop, run a register, and create workshops for the kids who came in to amuse themselves on lazy summer afternoons. (One particularly memorable afternoon was spent teaching them how to draw Mushu from Mulan... which might tell you how long ago this was, if you're very clever and know how to use IMDB.) She discovered the joys of coffee, classic literature, and mystery novels, but more importantly ... she discovered the concept of book signings.
She was only able to work at one of them, but one was enough. The author, though no one she had previously heard of, was a mystery author, just like the books she was starting to love so much, and was willing to talk to her at length about her craft. Not only that, but she signed a book for her:
The advent of the internet (yes, this IS an old story, isn't it?) meant that she began to meet other people who wrote their stories in secret, same as she did, and one of them, a little older and a little braver, convinced her to share her own stories with the rest of the world. The wide anonymity of the internet made this all seem so much safer, and she began to gain a little following, which made her think that maybe her writing wasn't so terrible after all. College and the so-called "real world" took their turns at her confidence, but eventually, she began to share stories which were entirely her own, and discovered self-publishing, and all the freedom and challenges that came with it.
There's no neat dovetail to the end of her story - of course, she's sitting here typing it to you. ;) I will say that things have managed to come full circle: later this month, I will have my second-ever book signing at the store that started it all. I invite those of you who are able to come and join me ... it's not quite a Happily Ever After, but as far as I'm concerned, it's damn near close enough.
I hope you'll come back next week, when I'll drop some exciting stuff: the cover reveal for The Proper Bearing, and the party schedule for the month leading up to its release! Until then, I'll see you in the stacks...
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