Don’t Most Writers Love Halloween?

Just a week and a day until All Hallows Eve, the most magical time for the imagination. I love Halloween, always have. Nothing pleasures me like a good thrill, a creepy chill, a scary goose bump, a stray scream, a suspenseful tale. As a child, I loved to dress up and become someone new. I think this carries over into today’s world, right? We have Cosplay and LARPing, we have card games where we “battle” one another, or we roll the dice to see what power we will exert over another player who is a druid, a thief, a knight, a magician….or how much blood you will drink from your victim.

These games and dress ups of today are like blossoms of Halloween, to me. I remember the Fall Harvest at the school, where old-fashioned carnival games were played while consuming cotton candy, candied apples, or soft serve ice cream. There would be pumpkin carving competitions, baked goodies bought in the name of the PTA, and a dunking booth. But at the end of the afternoon, as twilight would tickle the sky into shades of mauve and indigo, we would race home to put on our costumes!  The time for haunting the neighborhood had arrived!

And then we would meet up in the street, a gaggle of friends, with parents watching from front windows and wood porches up and down the street. We were so safe and yet we felt so free and unencumbered. It was a glorious night for treats and tricks and giggling good fun.

We became princesses and pirates, superheroes and super villains. We had Mighty Mouse (more than Mickey) and Huckleberry Hound, a multitude of Dracula’s, Frankenstein’s and Mummy’s (the cool, foot dragging one). The object of Halloween was to scare and be scared in character. It was a real, true Halloween. This was the kind where when the Hound of the Baskervilles howled, you were quivering and turning on the light.

Ah, Halloween and the characters we played! But think on this a moment. What are writers but creators of Halloween? Maybe you don’t write frightening creatures like the Fly. Perhaps you write of fairies and princesses, of mothers or dancers. Weren’t there ballet dancers and baby dolls in Halloween too? I was once a blue fairy.  I was once a military member and a prairie girl. And then I was a queen, a tap dancer, a witch and eventually, a vampire (that one seems to have stuck).

So we all grew up and instead of dressing up all year long (the Dragon/Comic/Trek cons are all a new phenomenon), we turned our love of characters into stories. And then we could play act any time we wished, live any fantasy, be anyone we wanted, anytime we pleased.

Yes, Halloween is the imagination’s wild ride, the magical playground. But really, weren’t we – the ones who ran down the street, screaming like banshees – the ones destined to live out our characters all the days of our lives? We  became the keeper of characters!

We became writers.

It’s almost Halloween. Actually, it’s always Halloween for writers. Get ready!

Trick.

Or.

Treat.

BOO!

BOO!

 

Die Vampires, Die! (NaNo Here I Come!)

You are a writer. Say it with me, “I am a writer.” At least you want to be, right? You think you are? You sometimes are. You used to be? You thought you were? But….but…but…

And as a writer, you want to become a novelist and then, an Author. (ooh did you hear the angel choir and the epic soundtrack when I said that word?)

What’s that??

Did I hear you say you CAN’T do it? That you’re AFRAID? You don’t have TIME? It’s too hard? Life happens? There’s the kids…you don’t know what to say…you tried before and failed….no one wants to hear what you have to say…blah, blah, blah (oh yeah, I’ve heard ALL the excuses!).

Uh-oh. You’ve got vampires! And believe you me, I know vampires!

Every year about this time, I have to drag out my favorite Broadway tune just for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) people and any of my friends who try to tell me that they have Writer’s Block or don’t “feel” the muse or some other excuse that is holding them back from taking pen in hand and putting down all those words that have been pestering them for months. Years. If this is you (and it’s okay to admit it), then you have vampires and I have the stake cure for you!

slayer

Oh and this isn’t just for writers either!  If you are any kind of an artist – sketcher, painter, sculptor, musician, poet, actor, singer, dancer, anything creative – then this little bit of inspiration is FOR YOU. Time to slay the vampires in your heart, mind and soul. Those spirit suckers are going down!

Go get all your buddies and friends, spread the word, bring your tools of the trade and settle in. It’s time to kill some vampires!

First, deep breath. Now close your eyes. Now, believe. In yourself. In your stories. In the possibility of fun. Just believe.

Next, trust that belief. TRUST in yourself. You are a writer. Trust this instinct.

Then, stop saying why you can’t and start listing ways you CAN. (belief).

Now, what would you like to write about? Write that down. Now, name the three characters you just have to have. Write that down. Now what is the reason for the story? Write that down. See? You can do this. Now make a bare bones outline of what all you want to cover. Then spend the next two weeks filling in the blanks with all the delicious moments you want in your book. Go wild and crazy! This is NaNo time!

There, look at that! You are now in possession with the first stake against those vampires. Do more. And believe in yourself. This can be fun.

Most of all. This CAN BE. (belief).

All right, my little vampire slayer. Go forth and prepare to write! Sign up for NaNoWriMo and join people from AROUND THE WORLD who are going to take that leap of faith and exercise their need to write down the stories aching to be told.  I believe in YOU.

So, November and the rest of our lives, here we come!  Here’s a little gift for all you Vampire Killers while you make more vampire killing stakes and stock up on ink pens, tablets, printer paper, notecards, chocolate, tea, coffee and music. Make this your top song! Go get ‘em!

 

 

Where are the professionals?

I’ll be blunt. I’m disgusted.  I’ll explain.

When I was growing up and learning life lessons, I was given some basic rules of behavior that I was told would carry me through my life and subsequent career(s). These rules, if consistently adhered to, would protect my reputation and mark me as a person of honorable character.

1. Your word is your bond. When you say you will do something, you don’t have to promise. If you say it, that IS a promise. If you say it, then you must follow through. That is integrity.

2. If you tell someone you will be at a place at a certain time, then be there. Don’t show up after the time. Don’t assume that not being on time will be acceptable. Be. On. Time. Be early. Ten minutes early is so much better than ten minutes late. When you are late, you are saying that you have no respect for the person who waits. You are saying that your time is more important than the person’s who waits. They have to give up their time for you, but you are saying you don’t honor them enough to give your best effort and be on time. Again, it shows a lack of integrity.

3. Change is inevitable. Remember that people do not like change and worse, don’t like to be surprised with it. If something is expected of you and you decide to change without telling anyone, people will give you attitude and negativity (in most cases). Be understanding of others and tell others when change is happening. This is respect.

4. There are two kinds of professionals. The first is one who earns money at a job comprised of a majority of amateurs (those not making money). The second is an expert in a particular field. Don’t presume because you earn a dollar that you are more of the second kind of professional than the first.  And remember that a true professional, doesn’t need to remind others. Others will naturally gravitate to a professional. This is trust and respect.

5. If you make a mistake, apologize. Do what you can to make it right. Accept that mistakes will happen and be honest and up front about them. Do not lie. Ever. EVER. Once a lie has broken free, others tend to follow. Honesty is a a mark of character and shows respect. Lies cheapen your integrity and ruin your reputation.

6. Use manners. A professional knows that behavior matters. Don’t assume things about people. We all learned what we need to know by first grade: Please. Thank you. Yes/No sir/ma’am (especially to those in positions of authority, elders and customers). How you treat people speaks volumes about you as an individual. You do not have the right to be rude. Not if you are attempting to be professional. You do not have the right to say whatever you feel, however you wish, if those words are vulgar and denigrating. Courtesy is respect. You don’t have to “like” someone to give respect. Civility and respect are twins.

7. Emails do not replace letters unless specified. Even then, bad language and poor grammar show a lack of professionalism. Use your words, not your abbreviations. No one speaks that way in “the real world” (unless you are planning to work on skates or in headphones). Again, show your character, not your ass.

8.  As above, so likewise go phone manners. Remember that half of what is conveyed over the phone is tone. Much can be endured if spoken clearly, honestly and with courtesy.  Use words like “yes” instead of “yeah,” and demonstrate an ability to use the words you claim to love. Be professional.  Respect for others, patience and positivity, will demonstrate your professionalism and leave a marked impression long remembered after the call is finished. That is perception and true or not, you are the way you are perceived to be. That is reputation.

9. Attitude is everything. If you are surly, disingenuous, apathetic or angry, the negativity will eat into your contact with others. It will brand you as someone with whom dealing is undesirable. You will lose your value, and your reputation will tarnish. Once tarnished, forever tarnished. Practice being positive. Smile. This is strength of character and people naturally gravitate to strength

10.  Most of all, above all, and always, do the right thing. Do the Right Thing. When the moral dilemma bars your way and you are tempted to take the road around, make a shortcut, go cheap, tell that little white lie or turn a blind eye — don’t. Just Do the Right Thing. It’s like stopping at the red light in the middle of the night with no one around. Integrity is doing the right thing especially when no one is watching. That’s strength of character.

These 10 tenants are what it means to be professional. Take them to heart. Make them a part of you. As a writer, attempting to be seen and valued as a professional, you’ve got to BE professional. Whether writing letters, making phone calls, going to conferences,  appearing at book signings, doing a one-on-one consultation, be professional.

Unlike the termite inspector who shows up an hour late, or the food delivery truck that just doesn’t show up at all, or the person on the phone who is unable to speak for popping gum, or the surly customer service rep who is annoyed that I bothered to call, or the shoe salesman who is aggravated because I want to try on more than one shoe, or the email from the customer service rep who wants to ” <3 my order bcuz she’d B cray not to”…unlike any of these so-called professionals, I want you to truly BE professional. Because you can.

Before I go I need to add one more tenant.

11. A real professional is always learning and improving. No one knows it all. No craft remains static. You continue to learn and grow or get left behind. A real pro studies and grows within the profession.  A real pro is open and receptive to new ideas. A real pro listens and learns. Never be so smart that you forget you don’t know it all. This is wisdom.

Where are all the professionals? It seems that they are missing. Sadly, I find them drifting, or disappearing. It angers me. I’m tired of dealing with unprofessional people. Insist on professionalism. Give it. Command it. Demand it. Live it. Raise the bar. Be the bar. Set a standard. Maintain it. Represent it. Become it. Whatever it takes.  That’s being professional.

Then hopefully, we won’t ever ask “where are the professionals” again.

Professionalism

 

New Book is LIVE!

I’m so pleased to announce that my new book, By Light Betrayed, is now live! Bookstand Publishing, my publisher, has listed me in their New and Notable area as a new release (I’m also listed in the Poetry bookstore). You can view the new listing and make your order here.  Amazon has the hardback listed but not the paperback at this writing. Things take time to show up.  The ebook will come in about two weeks. When it is released, you can get it on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and other digital readers. The problem is, if you don’t have a color reader, you won’t see my luscious color photographs!

There’s a bonus in this book, too. A fiction excerpt from next year’s novella! So you get a triple whammy of dark, vampire poetry, color photographs, and some fiction. I wanted to give you more than “normal” because this is my last book of poetry.

So, to give you a taste (oh I did just say that!) of the book’s flavor, here’s a link to my You Tube chanel and the book trailer. Stop by and be seduced!

And thank you for your support. Without it, there wouldn’t be this second book.

All right, this is October, time for a few scares and thrills. By Light Betrayed is your ticket to the secret heart of the vampire. Come with me into forever….

New Release!

New Release!

Summer’s Last Days

There are eight more days until the Autumnal Equinox. Eight more days before summer picks up her green dress and slips into tomorrow’s fog, her prickly heat becoming a memory, her summer revelries leaving behind empty ice cream cones, torn movie tickets, and frayed beach towels. Ah, Summer you have been a she-beast for some with your brutal heat, vicious storms and shaking, boiling, trembling in the Earth. You’ve been cursed and praised, celebrated and bemoaned. However, Summer, your official days are numbered!

Already Autumn’s shadow peeps around the corner. Dried leaves skitter across the driveway. Squirrels scurry to hide and store with an unconscious urgency. The air tingles with delicious hints of something sweet and cool, whispering to the trees of the upcoming Harvest Ball. The “dog of summer” begins its transformation into the “wolf of the mystical.” Autumn, with all her gloriously rich earthy gown, is lurking.

Just a taste of autumn on the wind and my heart races. This is what spring fever is for many, only my spring comes in the twisting umber, crimson, and gold of fall. I am a creature with the blood of ancient druids singing in my veins – or so it must seem as I begin to suffer the insomnia of a changing season, sensing the teasing wisps of cool nights and heavy morning fog. I suffer palpitations of eagerness, welcoming the dry crackle of autumn’s majesty. I bow to her as her lady-in-waiting.

Eight days. Time to lick that last ice cream while slouching on the back porch or deck. See that summer blockbuster. Take a final walk in the park in your short sleeves. Enjoy your sandals. Summer deserves to be enjoyed and then remembered. Take a few more photos. Tell each other what you did on your summer vacation again. Laugh and wince about the sunburn at the pool party. Have one more slice of watermelon.

For me, the sweaters are unpacked and cleaned. Soup stock waits in the freezer. Halloween beckons. Leaves dance! Owls and bats replace the lightning bugs and butterflies. Ice tea fades (though it rarely crosses these lips) in favor of hot chocolate and pumpkin spice. Soon the scents of apples and cinnamon will tantalize the senses.

I hope you had a memorable summer filled with laughter and memories. Speak of them to one another and make the moments indelible. Tick tock. Time is short. I may have one last root beer float just because it reminds me of the summers in my youth.

And then, I’m going to watch the lengthening days turn to early twilight, grab a mug of some apple cider, maybe do one more binge watch of last season’s favorite TV show.

Eight days of Summer’s last hurrah. Have a Coke. Look, there she goes, Miss Lazy Days, sultry and hot. Until next year, my lady.

I’m so excited! Queen Autumn approaches!

pre-autumnsm

 

 (For those who live in the more Southern climes, I realize that the change of season may not appear to you as it does to me. I trust the sentiment of a “virtual season” will resonate with you, instead)

Cover, Peeks, Books, oh my!

Did you catch the big cover reveal yesterday of my new book? Yes, yesterday I posted on my Facebook Author page a nice large picture of the new book cover, By Light Betrayed, Poetry of the Vampires. For those of you not on Facebook, here’s a link so you can peek. Pretty snappy, no? I also put it on my Facebook and Twitter covers. Nothing like a little overkill on publicity, right?

The new book presents dark poetry from the vampires, COLOR photographs by me and includes a very special treat: An excerpt from my upcoming vampire novella, Midnight Assassin, due out next summer (if not earlier). This will be my last book of poetry, and it is totally different from Paper Bones (for those of you who so kindly read it) because it ventures into fantasy, exploring the more gothic and macabre side of the night. Ready to be chilled, thrilled and seduced? Then you will like By Light Betrayed.

For anyone who has been checking in here, I posted a poem from the new book a couple weeks ago. You can see it in Sneak Peeks, but hurry. It is going to disappear soon!

I’ll keep you posted on the day you can order, but it will only be a couple weeks, so great ready!

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Yesterday’s #MondayBlogs post about Self-Publishing bears the Bar Sinister has been generating wonderful feedback. Thank you to those of you sending me contact messages and on Facebook. I am grateful for your readership and support. Together we will help uplift the quality of the Indie author.

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Some personal news: Do you participate in National Novel Writing Month every November? It is coming closer and time now to prepare. Well I’m a Municipal Liaison for the Charlotte, NC region(one of two) and I’ll be on the forums. If you are in NC or just a part of NaNo, I hope you’ll say hi. You can find me as “poetphoenix.” I’d love to hear from you and I’ll be happy to help you achieve that book goal if I can!

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Currently, I’m reading Hidden by Benedict Jacka. I hope you have a good book on the table, a cuppa Joe or a huge mug of tea, a comfy chair and silence to read your favorite author’s latest creation. OH but don’t forget to buy the latest books by some Indie authors that you follow on Twitter or Facebook, too!  Do it because that’s how you support the author. Encourage them to do the same (and maybe they’ll pick up your book, too). Read, support, write, repeat.

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Don’t forget to check in to the End the Silence campaign. The contributing women have wonderful stories to tell and offer interesting perspectives. They would welcome your comments.

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Thanks for stopping by. Let me hear what you think about the new book cover! And let me hear from you when you publish, too. I support Indies.

As always I remain, yours between the lines!

Why Self-Publishing bears the Bar Sinister

In heraldry, the “bar sinister” – a black diagonal bar across a family’s heraldic shield – proclaimed that the person was a member of the family but a bastard, or having no legitimate claim to titles, lands or fortunes.

 graftonsm

 [The English Duke of Grafton's shield with the "bar sinister" (Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton, was the 2nd illegitimate son of King Charles II by Barbara Villers, Duchess of Cleveland)]

If Indie published (the new term for “self-published”) authors were to have a heraldic shield, they would have to bear this bar as a stain on their family tree because self-publishing remains a stigmatized form of becoming a published author.

I know, not fair. But why is this true?

First, let me give you some basic information. In 2008, for the first time ever, self-publishing overtook traditional publishing in volume. This was possible because of three innovations:

– the internet, because people had access to more information than ever before

– digital printing, allowing people to have access to magazines, news and, later, books

– print-on-demand publishing, eliminating the need to print and store books in massive quantities, enabling bookstores to reduce stock and the author to effectively publish on the internet and get smaller numbers of print books for sales.

These changes made Indie publishing more economical and immediate. And that’s when the need for the “bar sinister” arose.

You see, everyone has a story to tell. When digital and self-publishing became “easy,” so out came every Tom, Dick and Harriet author with every conceivable truth, lie, and fable imaginable, and the market began to see a huge glut of books in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, no one told them that to be a professional, Indie author, you need to look the part, despite – or in spite of – the ease of digital and print publishing.

Yes, you heard me right. Indie authors glutted the market and most – not all, by any means – but more bad than good flooded the world. Because the world made it easy for every single person to write and publish a book. And it seemed like everyone did. And traditional authors – most of them – laughed in derision.

Hence the applied bar sinister. Editors of respected magazines who had upheld some very high publishing standards were appalled at the poor quality of published material. Agents were greeted with unprofessional, rude, uneducated-in-the-writer-ly- way letters and, thanks to the digital area, emails that curled hair and forced grunts of disgust.  Publishing houses reeled in shock at the sudden and unwelcome glut of books that frankly, were poorly put together, with childish covers and without edits for grammar or plot, whose stories would never be considered in the traditional sense.

So, the self-publishing world earned a bad name. Words like “vanity” and “subsidy” publishing became the by-words for people who went their own way. Publishers, agents, editors and even college professors, jumped on the bandwagon to smash and bash the newly self-published.

And they – we – deserved it. We deserve it still. And that is why the Indie author must bear the bar sinister.  Why? Because the quality of self-published books is still below what it should and could be!

I understand that you have story to tell and you want to tell it NOW. But having a tale to tell does not alleviate the need to tell it well, to understand the correct way to speak and to write, to take the hodgepodge of ideas and organize them into a coherent, mystical plot, to present your book in a customary format, established by respected guidelines and to finally put a carefully, thoughtfully, designed cover on that wonderfully worked book so that people will gasp and say, “oh I must buy this!”

Oh sure, you can publish that story of yours without all that I’ve mentioned. And what will that earn you? A sideways glance from authors everywhere as others – best-selling, award-winning, highly successful authors, agents, publishers, magazine czars – look at your work and proclaim quietly, “oh, another self-published book.”

That is exactly WHY Indie authors must bear the bar sinister, the bastard of the family! Because we, as a group, don’t seem to care enough to make our books the most well-prepared, professional things out there. When I set your book down beside a traditionally published book, I don’t want to be able to tell who is an Indie and who isn’t. And yes, right now, that matters a great deal. We are in competition!

If you want Indie authors to be able to have the same respect as traditionally published, best-sellers, we have to take enough pride in our work to study how to make a good book, no, a great book. Our books have to  be formatted according to style guidelines, they have to have front matter, body, and back matter that is appropriate. We have to be sure simple things are done correctly (like not saying Forward when we mean Foreword), that our covers are high quality and our grammar and style is appropriate for our audience (don’t give me a 12th grade reader for an adult mystery-thriller).

When Indie authors everywhere adhere to things like the Chicago Manual of Style, when they study their craft and learn the correct way to format a story, write dialogue, develop plot and character, when Indie authors care enough to present covers that don’t look like cookie-cutters from someone’s family photo file, then we will achieve the respect that we desire and deserve. Then no one will ever put a bar sinister on our shields again!

We have a long way to go. It starts with you and me. Yes, it will be more expensive because you are going to pay for an editor or a book cover designer. Yes, you will pay for webinars and college classes to learn how to write. You will buy books which you will actually read and you will learn what you haven’t been doing. It won’t be easy, convenient or fast. But it will make you good at your craft – writing.

And only then you will publish your stories and we will sit back in awe, never knowing whether you were an Indie or not. We won’t be able to tell. The publishers won’t be able to tell. We’ll make them blink in surprise. And slowly we’ll stop labeling “us” from “them.” No one will be able to tell and they will stop trying to separate us.

Let it begin with, “I don’t want to look like I’m self-published.” That’s what I said. And I’m winning awards and garnering acceptance. I want the respect that comes with being a published author. I don’t want to have to label or classify myself. Do I say, I’m a white woman author? No, of course not. Neither do I want Indie authors to feel a need to identify themselves with a label.

Study. Learn. Strive to be the best, better than the others. Do not lower the standards by which we, the Indie, strive to achieve. Help us lift the bar sinister, the stigma, that comes from self-publishing.

When the Indie author will no longer bear the stigma of a digital, economical bastard, we shall stand as kings and queens, equals among all, but a proud Indie in an Indie kingdom.

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 For further reference on this opinion read:

The Chicago Manual of Style

How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki, http://www.digitalbookworld.com

Joel Friedlander, award winning book designer and blogger, thebookdesigner.com, practical advice

What Your Friends Can’t Tell You About Your Self-Published Book, Deborah Plummer, Huffington Post, The Blog

10 Tips to Make Your Self Published Book Look Professional, Sarah Juckes, Alliance of Independent Authors, Nov 2013

10 Reasons Why Self-Publishing Books Don’t Sell, Kristen Eckstein, thefutureofink.com