Decisions, Decisions

IWSG

The idea of self-publishing used to terrify me, but not for the reason one might expect. It had nothing to do with a fear of failure; as an overweight, divorced, bankrupt and often-unemployed woman nearing her fiftieth birthday, I pretty much deal with failure on a daily basis. Believe me, I could write a long and detailed blog post about all of the areas in my life where I have failed.

I fail at a lot of things, and I usually do so spectacularly.

I am not afraid of failure.

But I was afraid to be a self-published author.  You see, I heard all the horror stories. I read the warnings when I haunted the writing forums to learn what the self-published authors were talking about. I learned terms like “carpet bombing” and “Goodreads bullies” and “trolls” and I almost bailed without ever trying.

It was intimidating. No, it was terrifying to think that years of hard work and effort could all be washed down the drain for reasons that had nothing to do with writing skills — or lack thereof. I was afraid to self-publish because I was worried about ending up on the wrong side of the wrong people. I was scared of pissing off someone who might take revenge on my book, because, hey, I read about it happening all the time.

But I have never been able to resist a challenge, so I swallowed my fear and self-published Her House Divided in February of 2014. I made a lot of mistakes and I realized that I had a huge learning curve ahead of me, but it’s been a great ride. A bumpy ride, but still a  thrilling one.

And the people I was warned about? Yep, they exist. Trolls and Bullies and Whackadoodles, oh my!

But I’ve learned that those guys are the minority. A noisy minority, to be sure, but a minority nonetheless. For the most part, the world of self-publishing has turned out to be filled with helpful, supportive, and productive people who really do seem to look out for each other. I have been so warmly welcomed into the community by writers in every genre, at every different stage in their writing careers.

It’s a matter of finding the supportive people and walking away from the destructive ones.

Easier said than done, right?

Here’s how I see it. I can go to the writing forums and spend my time with the people who want to look for the negative in everything. I can argue with every writer who swears Amazon is stealing their money or lying about their sales, and I can end up embroiled in unproductive arguments about every aspect of writing and publishing. In the end, it would be sort of like arguing with a rattlesnake to convince it that it’s a garter snake — it’s an argument I can’t win, and I’ll just end up filled with venom.

Or . . . . I can surround myself with the kind of professionals who understand that we are all part of the same community.That’s been the “bumpy” part of the learning process I referred to earlier. I’ve wasted far too many hours over the past year and a half, spent far too much time around the kind of folks who are more concerned with dragging down than raising up.  

For every author who spends their time mocking a particular genre or writer, there are authors like Marysol James and Mae Martini, who are always ready to offer honest feedback and practical suggestions of what works for them.  There’s an M. Lauryl Lewis  standing by to chit-chat about marketing strategies and share her ideas.

For every author who takes delight in the poor sales of a competitor, there is a Nancy Gideon offering words of encouragement instead.  There’s a Jasinda Wilder reaching out to say “Don’t be jealous of me honey! … Just keep writing. Get the next book out because that is more room on the shelf. I’m rooting for you.”

For every angry blogger posting insults and criticisms aimed at their fellow writers, there are bloggers like Ryan Lanz, Chris McMullen and Kristen Lamb, who use their blogs to offer guidance and support to their fellow writers.  And let’s not forget that Kristen Lamb is also responsible for creating the “MyWANA” hashtag, which is there to remind us all that we are not alone.

We are not alone. That’s what Alex Cavanaugh and his Insecure Writers Support Group are all about. We share our insecurities, and our fellow writers swoop in to offer advice or encouragement, or sometimes just a bit of virtual online hand-holding when needed.

If you go into self-publishing expecting trolls and whackadoodles, chances are good that you’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for. So why not look for something better? Be something better. Surround yourself with those who lift each other up, and try to do a little lifting yourself when you can.

In the week ahead, I want to challenge all of you to step out of your comfort zone and do something nice for another writer. Share a link to someone else’s book. Leave a comment on a blog you’ve never visited before. Reach out and offer a word of encouragement to an author who’s dealing with slow sales or a bad review.

Make a choice. What kind of writer do you want to be?

This has been my monthly post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. If you are a writer struggling with insecurities or just in need of a little support, please check out this FABULOUS group of wonderful people!  http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Randomness

I don’t really have any one big topic to write about right now, but I have a whole bunch of random things that I feel like sharing.  Just for snicks.

  • The daffodils are almost done, but the lilacs are getting ready to bloom. What a great reminder that life may suck sometimes, but true beauty always comes back.  Things get better. They have to.
  • I just worked up the courage to enter the Writer’s Digest annual competition.  I used to enter it every year, but sort of let it fall by the wayside a while ago. I have no delusions about taking first place, but I’d like to get recognition for being somewhere in the Top 100. Even if I’m all the way down there in 100th place I’ll be ecstatic.
  • My espresso machine just broke. I feel as though I’ve lost a valued member of my family.
  • My daughter went to prom this weekend, and I got all nostalgic and weepy when I saw the pictures of her and her friends dressed up for the event. There are rumors around town that I spent the evening singing “Sunrise, Sunset” at the top of my lungs, but I can neither confirm nor deny that particular rumor.
  • I cut off my oldest son’s hair last week and discovered that he’s a pretty good-looking kid now that I can actually see his face.  Poor kid has this absolutely astonishing hair that grows wide instead of long. He usually won’t allow me to cut it because he says it is an endangered habitat for the baby eagles nesting in there. Yes, he says things like that all time.
  • My house has had no heat for a week, and my relationship with my afghans has moved to the next level.
  • Interesting tidbit that some folks may not realize:  if you are a blogger and you leave a comment on my blog, it leaves a clickable link that readers can follow back to your blog. This does not mean that I am sending people to your blog or linking to it in any way; when you leave a comment, you are creating that link yourself.
  • Readers who click on the link created by your comments are not “stalking” you.  Bloggers who approve your comments creating these links are not “stalking” you, either.
  • I will never again buy frozen burritos from the local Amish store. I still don’t know what was wrapped up inside those suckers, but it should never have been put inside a burrito. That was a bad idea.  And I should never have eaten two of them; that was an even worse idea.
  • Going back for a third one the next day was just stupidity on my part. I’ve got no excuse.
  • Speaking of the Amish, I saw something yesterday that was just delightfully wrong on so many levels: four Amish ladies, in full black dresses, bonnets and aprons, jumping on a trampoline.
  • Words failed me.
  • Seriously, words never fail me.
  • I have chosen to discontinue my author interviews for the time being for some personal reasons that I’d rather not go into right now. Don’t worry; I plan on starting up again when things calm down a bit in my world.
  • And speaking of author interviews . . . those of you who enjoyed my conversation with Zombie author M. Lauryl Lewis may be interested to know that her book Grace Lost has been nominated for the Zombie Book of the Month Club. If you’d like to vote, click here and scroll through the comments until you see the mention of Grace Lost. Then just “like” it. That’s all there is to it.
  • I am speaking about writing and self-publishing at my local library in two weeks, and I am utterly terrified. I just know I’m going to stutter; my old lisp is going to come back, and I will probably forget how to speak English. That’s a problem, because I don’t really know how to speak anything else, either.
  • Oh, and one last thing. Like any author, I have set up Google alerts to let me know whenever there is an online mention of my pen name, my real name, the names of my books, and so on. When I receive an email letting me know of such a mention, I check it out. That is not “stalking.” That is “protecting my professional image.”
  • And that’s all I’ve got to say on that.

Now I’m off to watch part of my youngest nephew’s baseball game, followed by youngest son’s first game of the season. It’s cold and damp outside, and sitting on the bleachers is going to be just plain awful.

And I can’t wait.

Ten (or more) Questions with M. Lauryl Lewis

Well, it’s time for the grand finale of Zombie Week here at A Goode One, and I’m very excited to introduce you all to the author who inspired me to focus on that theme, M. Lauryl Lewis.  Her Grace series gives a different and unexpected twist on the current Zombie trend and makes it something new and unique.

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As someone who has never really been a big fan of Zombies, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure I’d really enjoy these books. But I was surprised to discover just how heartfelt the books are, and how much I came to care about the characters.  This series is about so much more than Zombies, and I can’t wait to learn more about the author, so let’s get started.

AJ: You are a former nurse.  So does that mean some of the gorier scenes in your books could be medically accurate?

MLL: Yes, absolutely! I try to be as accurate as I can when it comes to the gore and also the few birth scenes in the series. With over 18 years in the field, ranging from hospice to labor and delivery, I not only aim to be accurate in descriptions of death and decay but I also try to build the emotions of difficult situations into the story. Many readers have mentioned that they both laugh and cry while reading my work. You can safely say that if there are tears being shed, I was likely reflecting upon my own experiences either in work as a nurse or in my personal life when I wrote those scenes. And scenes that people say are overly gory? Chances are they were based on some smaller-scale “yuck” that I came across somewhere in my work life.

AJ: It can’t be easy to write some of the more violent and disturbing scenes in your books.  How do you come up for air afterwards—how do you come back to reality?

MLL: Fun question! Yes, it can be very difficult to write some of the scenes that I do. Many of those scenes have some root within them from my own life, and so reflecting upon them can be somewhat miserable. Others I come up with from deep within my mind. Perhaps there’s something not quite right in there? There’s times where I have to literally stop in the middle of writing and just take a break. I once went for a walk to the edge of the woods behind out house. It was after dark and, well, that didn’t go well. I was scared pretty bad. Chocolate M & M’s can be of comfort, or a cup of hot tea. Some of the hardest scenes are the death of favorite characters. I mourn, just as my readers do.

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AJ: I understand that this past year was a pretty rough one for you and your family. How did that affect your writing? And how is everyone doing now? 

MLL: Yes, 2014 was the hardest year of our lives. Our oldest son, 10 at the time, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I took the entire month of May off to be at his bedside while he was in Seattle Children’s Hospital and underwent two brain surgeries. I also took a portion of June off while he recovered. It delayed my release of the 5th Grace book, and I am so blessed that readers were understanding and forgiving (my readers truly are the best!)  While our son doesn’t have cancer, his tumor is inoperable and he now faces some lifelong medical issues. It’s a rough road and emotions are still very raw. As a result my progress with projects has been slower than average while I try to just breathe some days. He really is doing well. He is such a bright young man who is kind and compassionate, and who loves life. I think he’s coping better than us adults! His prognosis is good, thankfully!

AJ: I’m so glad to know he’s doing better.  It sounds like you have a very strong family.

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Now, Praying for Grace was the final book in your Grace series.  What’s next for you? 

MLL: Actually, the Grace Series does not end with Praying for Grace. Many others make that assumption as well, which really is my fault. I ended the book with a “fast forward” scene similar to an epilogue, but it was still part of the final chapter. That “fast forward” was a setup to the next book (State of Grace) that releases later this year. It promises to have a slightly different feel than the rest of the series, and will be set about 2 years down the road in their apocalyptic world. This next book may end the series, but that’s TBD. Aside from that, I’m also working on a standalone haunting called Schiessl House, and the first in a sci-fi/dystopian/horror trilogy called The PlantedSchiessl House will be loosely based on my own paranormal experiences. The Planted: Year One will follow a group of young adults as they settle a new planet as humanity’s last hope for survival after an extinction level event on earth. Days and nights will be long on their new world, and darkness will bring monsters their way.

AJ: Can you tell me a little bit about the Sun Trilogy?

MLL: The Sun Trilogy is still a work in progress. I wrote book one, This Side of the Sun, wanting to give contemporary new adult romance a try. To be brutally honest, it hasn’t been as well received as my horror works. I had a ton of fun writing it, but I feel my niche is horror. I still intend to finish out the trilogy with Under a Brighter Sun and The Heat of a Thousand Suns, but my inner punk needs to finish my other projects first. This Side of the Sun follows Saul and Hattie as they find each other amidst a tragedy in their small town. The second is series will follow Saul’s sister Carolina as she tries to heal from a violent intrusion into her life. The third book – well, I have no idea just yet.

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AJ: You’re a mom, and a nurse, and you come across as a very sweet lady.  So . . . where the heck did the Zombies come from?  How were you inspired to write this particular series of books?

MLL: I am a total zombie addict! When I was about 5 years old, my dad spliced into the neighbor’s HBO (back in the days of rabbit ears ha ha) and I would sneak into the basement in the middle of the night to watch horror movies.  I think my addiction began with Night of the Living Dead. When it comes the Grace Series in particular, I was inspired by breaking my ankle in a random act of clumsiness in March of 2012. I was spending so much of my time in a recliner with my foot in a boot and in pain that I figured I might as well try to write a book (true story). When it comes to my choice of zombies, it just seemed natural to me. Also, I needed some new zombie material so I figured perhaps the world did too.

AJ: With Zombies being such a popular trend right now, did you have to avoid other books and TV shows in the genre while you were writing, or were you able to keep your own work separate?

MLL: The thought of NOT indulging in zombies makes me want to cry! Sadly, I cannot give up the genre even for the sake of my own work. The only time I feel it interferes with my own writing is when I discover that my ideas have coincidentally mirrored someone else’s. If I discover that prior to publishing, I change my work because I have a horrible fear of being accused of copying others. I also rack my brain when I have a new plot idea to avoid writing anything too similar to other materials out there. I opted to NOT use a mall for scavenging or living within, for example. Also, within my series there were zombies with their jaws and arms cut off, but then the episode of The Walking Dead that introduced Michonne and her “pets” aired. I immediately altered my storyline. I have not read TWD comics but do religiously watch the TV series. That being said, my series has two main kinds of zombies, referred to as ROAMERS and RUNNERS. TWD (TV) has recently introduced the town of Alexandria, whose residents call the dead “roamers.” While I’m quite confident that the show did NOT get the term from me, I didn’t get it from them either. And so, unless it’s in the comics, I call dibbs.

AJ: What was the last book you read, and would you recommend it to others?

MLL: Ahhh…that’d be the Emily Goodwin Contagium zombie series. YES, I recommend! I know you asked about one book, I but I absolutely LOVE recommending other authors. A new author has hit the scene who has mad awesome skills. Check out Shana Festa’s Time of Death series (also zombie).

AJ: If you could have lunch with any “big time” author from any era, who would it be?  What would you ask?

MLL: Hands down, one of my favorites – Charlaine Harris! I think I would ask her questions about her Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series, wanting some answers as a reader. I would also likely ask her how she got started. I would want to know what makes her mind tick.

AJ: Why did you choose to go with self-publishing rather than traditional?

MLL: The choice was fostered by my intense lack of patience. I did what I thought I was supposed to and queried literary agents for oh…2 months? I got plenty of rejections out of the 50 or so queries I sent off. I got tired of that in a hurry. I did some research into self-publishing, utilizing Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) as my source. I jumped into it not really knowing what I was doing and what-do-you-know an agent asked for a full manuscript to read about a week later. Being the honest person I am, I informed her that I had self-published. She kindly retracted her offer to read my manuscript but asked for the sequel once it was ready. I ended up never sending off that second manuscript and have never looked back. By this point in my new career as a novelist, I also have to be real and recognize that income plays a role as well. Since retiring as an RN, my books are what helps supplement our family’s income. Writing allows me to stay at home with our kids and most especially to be available for our oldest son with his health needs. Frankly, if I were traditionally published it’d be a huge income cut.

I honestly have no interest in going with a traditional publisher at this point. Self-publishing affords me complete control of content, editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, and even price. I guess I like control.

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AJ: If any of your kids want to follow in your footsteps and become writers when they grow up, what advice would you give them?

MLL: “Follow your heart and dreams because you can do anything you want!” I would tell them that writing’s a tough go at making a living and they should have backup plans (like a day job). Our kids are only 11, 10, and 7 right now but we already talk about education, college, dreaming, and we encourage reading for fun. So, really, the advice starts this young. The most important thing to us, aside from good health of course, is that the kids all grow up to have a passion for what they do. We talk about that often.

AJ: I heard that you have some exciting news when it comes to the Grace Series, do you care to share?

MLL: Yes! It’s very exciting! One of my readers is a make-up designer. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in collaborating with her on a collection dedicated to the series. Nessa’s Naturals is a line of all-natural mineral make-up. Vanessa decided about 10 years ago that she didn’t like the harmful ingredients of most make-up lines available, so began to create her own. She started small and has turned it into a full time business. I ordered some of her products and fell in love, and was so excited to hear she wanted to custom-make a line linked to the Grace Series. And so, she has developed 3 unique colors of eye shadow (Hope, Zoe, and Roamer) and a lip glaze (Blood Orange) and will combine them in a set along with my personal favorite eye-liner (smoke monster). I actually got my set in the mail from her yesterday and it is even more than I imagined it’d be. She’s done an incredible job. The set will be available near the end of this month, so be watching!

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Nessa’s Naturals: www.nessasnaturals.com

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AJ: How Exciting! The make up looks great – especially the lip glaze!

How can people find you and your books?

MLL: My books are available through all major ebook platforms (Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc) as well as through my website as PDFs. Book 1 of the Grace Series (Grace Lost) is always free! I love to interact with readers, so welcome people to contact me.

My website and blog is www.zombieauthor.com

AJ: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions.  I wish you all the best with your books and the make-up line – and of course, with your son’s health. I hope he continues to get better.

MLL: Thanks, Amy, for such a fun interview!

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If you are an author or blogger who would like to be interviewed for “Ten Questions With –” please contact me at AuthorAJGoode@gmail.com.