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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

With a Bucket of Salt...with Reviews, That Is...

The important thing to me is that I'm not driven by people's praise and I'm not slowed down by people's criticism. I'm just trying to work at the highest level I can. --  Russell Crowe

Upon their first new release, a friend and fellow author flew high on the sparkly waves of first-book-itis. The knew, for the first time, the experience that is incomparable to anything imaginable. The exhilaration of having written a book. The book being accepted by the publisher. The whole kit and caboodle that is writing. And the Grand Finale. The Release

And then...and then...

That pin prick in the balloon of giddy glee---the first negative review. Ay. 

My friend immediately fell into a slump. Their confidence was deflated. They were never going to write again, they cried. They sucked at it, they claimed. Why, oh, why, did they ever think they could write? Low, low, low. Only to be soon lifted up on the breeze of the next good review. 

Reviews. Riding on the high winds of them from ecstatic glee and then spiraling down, crashing to earth then back again. A cycle. 

My friend is not the only one. It is, unfortunately, the way for many of us. We base our confidence on them. We gauge whether or not we're truly talented on them.

The scariest part of it all? We use reviews to validate the very heart of our souls---our writing. I don't know why we do. But we do. 

It gets complicated, too. I mean, here's one reader who praises our book to high heaven and another who condemns it to literary hell. If we're going to validate what we do based on such diverse opinions, how the hell do we ever just settle down and know what we're supposed to write and how we're supposed to write it? 

Once, in a department store, I was trying on a beautiful cobalt blue sweater. The friend who accompanied me shook her head. No. Not you. Not your color. Nah. Not your style. But...but....I loved that damn sweater! I truly, truly, truly felt it looked good. I felt beautiful in it. So disappointed, I started to head back to the dressing room, to return that gorgeous sweater to the rack.


A gentleman who'd been sitting just outside the dressing room, waiting for his wife, stopped me. I think it looks very nice. It looks good on you, he said quietly. I think you'll be sorry if you don't buy it, he added. 

Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, you do. Opinions.

I bought the sweater. Not because the man advised it. But because I loved it and I knew, deep in my heart---and the mirror, too, mind you---that it was a good choice for me. The man? Oh, he agreed. I used his opinion to add weight to what I'd already felt inside. 

But, more importantly,  I have loved that sweater. It was me. 

My near-mistake was allowing the friend's opinion to alter what I felt in my heart. She said it didn't look good, I believed her. I based my opinion on hers.

Reviews are just like the shopping incident. The varying opinions. Liking a book vs. not liking it. There, on one side of the scale, is a good review. On the other side sits a bad one. 

It's your call, darling. Which one are you going to grab up to base your confidence on? The good one or the bad one? 

Neither one, you silly goose! Neither one! 

I can only speak for myself on this, as we're all different. I personally take heed to almost all reviews. Good and bad. Sometimes the bad ones can be valuable learning tools if---I repeat if---they are honestly presented with tactful feedback. Still, it is opinion. Only opinion. But even opinion sometimes can be helpful. I've learned more than I care to count from kind, honest criticism. 

What do I not listen to? Mean-spirited feedback. There's never, never, never any cause to be hateful in a review. Never. Well, not if a reviewer wants to be taken seriously, that is. For me, spiteful snarls and hisses in reviews negate anything the reader intended to say. 

For instance, I've read so many reviews that began with such things as I hate to spoil the good rating party, but... And I actually read one that said Although I don't like to leave negative reviews in this instance I felt I had to provide a little bit of balance to all the positive reviews.

And that, my dears, said it all. It was offered in order to hurt. It was dished up to purposely bring---or attempt to bring---the author down to a crash. To pierce the bubble. 

I hesitate to even approach the subject of dealing with meanness when our work is burned at a stake. I think it's call authors behaving badly or something like that, and it is taboo to go to that forbidden land.

But, no. I'm not an author behaving badly because I want to be respected by persons whom I've never done anything to. 

I'm an author behaving humanly.

Oh, honey, I'm a big girl. I can handle a person not liking my book. Hell, some of the bad reviews have been so on-target that even I agree with them. I am my own worst critic. I have writing faults and I know it. I don't get my feathers ruffled by a bad review. Like I said, I even learn from them. Often. I've even written to some who've given bad but thoughtful reviews and thanked them because from some of them have come some awfully priceless suggestions. I'm no dummy. I listen. And so should you. 

The proverbial grain of salt. Yes, use it. Do not base your worth on a review. Not even a good one. You heard me. Not even a good one. Enjoy good ones. Just please, please don't let the goodness mellow your fervor enough that you bask in it and don't try any harder. Don't grab your good reviews to your chest like a winning poker player with his chips and walk away with your winnings, feeling that the game is as good as it gets. Don't. Enjoy it, savor it, and get out there and  throw it all back in to gamble again. 

Oh, trust me. For some reviews, you don't need the grain of salty stuff. You need buckets of it. 

And you know what? Reviews, bad or good, prove your work has been read. It proves your work brought someone to the point that they felt they needed to speak of it. Believe it or not, even the negative feedback---considering the time involved to share it---is still sign of your work having a life out there.

Robert Fanney says, Writers shouldn't fear criticism. Instead, they should fear silence. Criticism is healthy. It gets people thinking about your work and, even better, it gets them talking and arguing. But as for silence -- it is the greatest killer of writers. So if you hate a book and want to hurt it -- don't talk about it. And if you hate my books -- please, for God's sake, shout it from the hills! 

And he's right. Just remember the salt. Please carry your salt with you. 

The bottom line is this: good reviews, bad reviews, no reviews. Never let them, as the quote says, drive you one way or another. Do your best because...well...your work should just be your best anyway.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Company at Vastine's...Welcome, R. J. Scott!

Hey, sugars!

One of the things I love is meeting new folks. Meeting new authors and discovering their books. There's something so magical with that, kind of like the days of kidhood when we opened a box of Cracker Jack and reached in to find the prize. Something new every time, magic every time.

Well, my visitor today is a new friend and a new-to-me author. A wonderful gal! Welcome R. J. Scott!

Today she's introducing her newest book, The X Factor. We get to drool over the hot cover (see below) and she's offering us a teaser excerpt.

And...and...there's also a Rafflecopter with a chance to win a free book from her back list! I'm here to tell you, too--THAT is a fantastic prize, as I've read her work! 

So I'm opening up the house for her and she's going to talk about her kind of hero and the hero in her book!

So happy to have you, R.J.! The house is yours, lady!

* * * * * * *

Your kind of hero?

Thank you to Vastine for the invite to her blog… Hugs xxx

I love the strong silent uber-heroic types with the mushy insides. I love that moment in a film where the taciturn hero reveals that side of him that is caring and thoughtful and at the end of the day VERY heroic.

When I wrote Ben I had in mind this really big guy who people don’t mess with. He’s strong, silent, and bloody good at his job. He keeps his poker face on at all times and even though he’s approachable he's all about the job.

I needed him to be able to show the heroism in an entirely different way. Not diving to take bullets or physically restraining a bad guy. Nope, I needed him to be able to create a safe space for Daniel to be able to make some pretty hard decisions and to begin to heal. This for me is a very different kind of heroism and one I loved to write.

So if you like your heroes quiet and reserved until the shit hits the fan, then Ben might just be your kind of hero. 

The Ex-Factor

When Bodyguard, Ben Collins, finds Daniel Lincoln in a room, hiding and hurt, he doesn't immediately think Daniel is the victim of abuse. Daniel is good at pretending and being a finalist in a TV singing competition he seems like he has it made.

But something about Daniel calls to Ben's need to protect and he hands Daniel a card to contact him if ever Daniel needed help. Abruptly, after one frightened phone call from Daniel, Ben is racing to Daniel's aid and what he finds is a horror he can't imagine.

Daniel is trapped in a relationship where anger and controlling hate are the only emotions he is given. When his boyfriend crosses the line and leaves Daniel vulnerable and broken there is only one man that he wants to call.

The sexy bodyguard who promised he could help him.


“Daniel?” Ben asked with question in his voice. “They’re looking for you.”

Daniel pulled himself up, and if anything he forced more effort into standing tall and straight.

“Yeah, just needed a quiet space,” he explained. In his head he was gesturing around him with a free hand, but in reality he couldn’t much move his right arm, which was going to fuck with his ability to play guitar. He thought maybe his shoulder was separated somehow. He’d seen Mel Gibson knock his own arm back into place in Lethal Weapon once, but that wasn’t happening here. He sure as hell wasn’t a hero who could push through pain.

“Jesus, you look like shit,” Ben observed.

Daniel floundered for something to say, and the line he came out with was pretty pathetic. “I’m not sure you’re supposed to say that to me.”

“What the hell happened to you?”

Ben placed his coffee on the nearest box and walked over to Daniel, and Daniel couldn’t help the instinct that made him stumble back and end up against the wall.

Why did you choose a room with no way out? What are you? Stupid?

“Don’t come near me,” Daniel said in his loudest, most strident voice, even though it was nothing more than a forced whisper to his own ears.

“Fuck, Daniel, seriously? What the hell?”

Why would Ben ask that? What did he mean? Daniel panicked. Did he have bruises on his face? How could he go out in front of millions of people and perform with bruises on his face? He must have said some part of that out loud because the man looming over him shook his head.

“I don’t see any bruises on your face,” Ben said simply, carefully. “You’re holding yourself like you have a chest injury? Or your shoulder? What did you do to yourself? We need to get you to Casualty. I’ll call the medics.” He turned to leave, to find the one group of people that Daniel didn’t want anywhere near him. Cam would fucking end him if he involved the authorities.

“No!” Daniel said loudly. The pain of the words radiated from his chest to his shoulder, and if it wasn’t for the wall, he’d be on his knees or unconscious. “I just need more codeine.”

Ben moved closer, but this time there was nowhere for Daniel to go; he’d run out of room. He closed his eyes tightly and waited for the first blow or the spitting accusations of how the fuck he had let himself get in this state. Instead all he got was a gentle touch to his left hand, the one without pain radiating down to it.

“Daniel, you need to listen to me. You know me. I’m Benjamin Collins, with the bodyguards. You can call me Ben.”

“I know your name,” Daniel said defiantly. Maybe if he said how little he knew, then Ben would just leave without hurting him.


Win a free ebook from my backlist or first sight of a new book by visiting  the rafflecopter page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f922301b5/

and entering!

Connect with RJ Scott

 * * * * * * * * *

R.J., thank you for visiting us today! Loving that fabulous cover art, and the excerpt! 

And you darlings out there! Oh, yes! Did I not tell you that you'd love her writing? So what are you waiting  for! Enter to win a free book by lovely, talented R.J. Scott!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Company at Vastine's...Welcome, Jayden Brooks!

Welcome to the weekend, darlings!

Today another dear friend is visiting my place. She's a new author and I've had the pleasure of knowing her during the process of getting her very first book. That lovely fun of seeing a friend's first release. And, oh, sugars, I can tell you this new book will only be the first of many for this talented gal. 

Welcome lovely Jayden Brooks! Not only is she talented but she's fascinating, a stands-by-her-guns woman. 

Psst...want a peek at the luscious cover for this new book of Ms. Brooks'? Why just take a gander at this, you all...

Did I not tell you it was nice? Exquisite! 

So now that you've seen the gorgeous cover, I'll turn the floor over to Ms. Brooks. And hang around after the visit because if you comment, there's a chance to win That's Who I Am.

 * * * * * * * * * *

I’ve experienced ups and downs with being insecure about my abilities in one area or another. Am I a good enough mom, partner, friend, photographer, writer? If there is a moment where I think, “Damn, I did good”, it will swiftly be followed by, “Ha, that sucks, ya hack”.

I know I’m not alone, and usually, I shrug and tell myself that I did my best, and it’s good enough. I’m content, but last week it was one hit after another: a less than stellar book review, a photo shoot that resulted in (to my eye) crappy pictures, and some family drama.

It was my disappointment with the photos that took the largest chunk out of my confidence, which then bled into all other areas of my life. Photography, for many years was my only artistic outlet, the thing I was allowed to feel accomplishment or pride—outside my children. Failing at something I KNOW I do well…. *shudder *

 I doubted my worth in all things close to my heart.

The good reviews for my book suddenly carried less weight than the bad ones, and realizing my co-worker, who had bought my book two weeks prior and never again mentioned it… well that just added fuel to the doubt now spreading like wildfire. All sorts of manic “what if” scenarios began running rampant through my mind, igniting even more pockets of doubt. It was crushing.

It is appallingly easy to believe the worst in yourself. There I was, staring at hundreds of pictures, and I needed to find at least fifty that I could make presentable. I worked through the night doing everything I could to squeeze excellent photos out of mediocre shots. When Ze man woke up at 7 am, he found me curled up on the couch, distraught. He said one word, “babe” and the levee broke. Let me just say, I’m not a pretty crier, but it was cathartic, and once the storm passed, I made him sit down and look at the images I now viewed as proof of my incompetence. He looked, my son looked, my daughter looked, my brother-in-law and fellow photographer looked and so on… and they all said the same thing. “Good, but not your best.” And you know what? THAT I could hear. I needed to hear that from them. It validated what I knew, but in some way it also reassured me. It made me feel less inadequate, because most people would lie and offer praise to the lady on the verge of a meltdown. (I still think the pictures were crap.)

In the end, the family raved about the pictures. On Monday morning my co-worker launched into a sputtering demand for more to my book, praising and asking questions about Sophie and the baby. Their combined enthusiasm and excitement went a long way toward restoring some of the damage left in the wake of my insecurities.

So what did I learn from all this? Not to let myself be coerced into taking a job for which I feel no enthusiasm. Not to let the doubt fester in my head until I reach critical mass. And falling short of my self-imposed bar doesn’t make me a failure.

It also served as a reminder of something important facts I lost sight of… I’m a good mom, a loving partner, a fierce friend, a resilient photographer, and a writer who isn’t afraid to learn.

Now for a little promo  giveaway!

Let’s start a positive thread. Tell me one thing that you love about yourself, and enter to win a copy of my novella, That’s Who I Am.





 * * * * * * * *

Jayden, thank you for sharing your feelings. Your sentiments are ones that every author has experienced. None of us are immune to doubt. Helps all new authors to know it is just part of the biz. 

You heard the lady, folks! Come on! Tell us one thing you love about yourself!

Friday, August 1, 2014

We Meet At Last...

"Coming Home" by Anne Magill

“I miss the days when I was alone with my characters and no one else knew them except me.”  --- Lian Hearn

A couple of weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. My computer, my very first computer, my darling, my companion...crashed

I survived the tragedy, as I'd already bought a new PC and only went a few days computer-less. 

But, in one of those beautiful twists of life, the computer's dying turned out to be a blessing. Kind of a rebirth, if you will. 

And I'll tell you why.

Okay, I'm going to go to a forbidden zone here. But it's a foggy zone I've been lost in for quite some time. A miserable place. A scary place where lack of confidence and loathing of my talent lurked like creepy banks of trees in shadows.

Or better known as disillusionment.  

I'd cry to fellow authors who, for a fleeting moment, would try to understand before backing away. Afraid, maybe, because I was treading in a murky swamp of the writing world where no author likes to have to be.

The point had come in my writing career where I realized---hard, brutally hard---that I was not going to be the rave of the literary world that I'd imagined when I began writing. I saw, with aching clarity, that what I wrote just was not going to be it. I landed in a genre where I found myself to be the proverbial square peg in the round hole. 

Dawning came when I understood there was a formula for genre markets. There just is. No matter how it was sliced, it was the reality. 

This broke my heart, this feeling of not being good enough, not having the whatever-it-takes to become sell-able in the market. I, like most authors would naturally do, figured it was my writing. And, when a writer feels this way, it's so easy to succumb to the insecurity and just...stop

I was tempted to stop. 

But, first of all, I had to look deep into my own writing. IS it the writing?

Oh, hell, what do I do, then? I write fine, I honestly believe in my own talent. I really do. But so few take to my style, my voice, my stories. I've committed literary suicide by not having a voice that can be highly marketable in my genre.

I have enough confidence in my writing to know the the answer was: no, it is not my writing. It's not about who's a good writer or a bad writer.

So what does the computer crash have to do with all this?

Ah. It's really kind of beautiful, it is. 

My passion is music. I've never been able to listen to a song---any song---and not hear a story in the notes. Particularly the clasiscs.

When I began to set up files in the new computer, there came the tedious task of re-loading all my music from my Amazon cloud. And there---how, oh, how could I have forgotten them?---were some tracks I'd completely forgotten about over time. How I ever could have abandoned them, I don't know. 

But these pieces---all classics---brought memories crashing back to me. Memories of my very first plunge into writing. 

Canon in D, The Poet and the Peasant Overture, Zampa Overture, Moonlight Sonata, Hungarian Rhapsody, William Tell Overture to name a few. Music that, when I lost myself in it, was rousing, extremely potent, very sexual (if you listen, you do hear the sex in it, too). 

And the moment was rapturous. 

Back again I was to my first stories. Stories that---if you don't count my experiment in Russell Crowe fanfic which wasn't so bad, by the way---are likely to be the foundation of the stories I am meant to tell. The characters I was born to write.

Oh, gods. The days, nights, writing these men back then. Countless tales, but these guys were the core of all of them. Trying to find their niche, to bring them to live. But, hell. I finally gave up. These fellas' time was not yet to be. 


Why, after almost five years, did the discovery of these old music files rekindle that desire? It had always been there. 

Timing, I think. I had a lot to learn before I would be ready to embark on bringing to life---in the written word, that is---these men. They are, I believe, the characters of my heart. They were born from these beautiful classics. Every time I hear these pieces, I see their faces. Their faces, no one else's. 

Guess what, though? As much as I love them, as much of my heart is going to be bled into the writing of them? I am going into this with full knowledge that even they---as hugely as I love them---are more than likely going to be highly marketable in my genre. 

But the beautiful part is: it makes no difference to me. 

And that....that....is the point. 

This desolate feeling of uselessness in my genre, in any genre for that matter. This sinking discouragement because I'm not swimming in moolah with my writing. The tinge of jealousy that I'm not popular. 

All these discouraging, almost-to-the-point-of-giving-up feelings somehow evaporated the moment I put on those ear phones and heard the sweet, sexy, passionate strains of The Poet and the Peasant, the Zampa Overture

By some exquisite miracle, I was taken back to my beginnings. To those men, those very first men who owned my passion. And I started their story. Finally. And I love them. With all my heart, I love them. 

I have loved every character I've ever written. 

But there are some---and you know this is true---who own you, who you know are going to tell you the stories you were meant to tell. 

For some reason, during this awakening, I stumbled on the artist Anne Magill and her powerful work. Her painting is the way I want my characters to be. Real. So real that, like in the painting above, you can reach out and touch them and feel them. Yet simple. So human and so simple. Hell, the man in the picture looks like someone I would write. I recognized him from my soul. 

And then I knew. 

These characters and their tales are what matters. The beauty and love they draw from me will be powerful enough to drive me, to give me purpose, to make me know it is all that matters. 

With this revival of my writing spirit, I feel like I did in the old days. Passionate, fire-the-fingers excited to write. 

It's their time, these characters. It's time for their tale to be told. Finally. It's as though they're sighing with relief and approaching me, waiting for me to hug them. And they're so happy. And I can feel them, 'So we meet at last.' Yes, we meet at last, because the time for them has come.

Cannot wait for you to meet them.