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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Eithne Ni Anluain Blog Tour!

Hello again, all! Been awfully busy around here, but I wanted in on my cover artist Eithne Ni Anluain's blog tour, so I just had to drop a few less-important things and post about my dear, dear Eithne!
I met Eithne - never personally, but we're internet friends - a couple years back when I held a cover contest on deviantart for The Unbound Series Book 1: Hazy Shade of Winter. There's something mildly insane in trusting a bunch of strangers to first create and then decide upon the image that will grace your cover, but when they're also a bunch of talented artists...well, it's not all that crazy, after all. Eithne, a gifted "computer artist" and freelance illustrator, created a cover that absolutely floored me, and when she won, I confess I was thrilled; her talent begot a book cover that itself has actually motivated a great many people to pick it up, story be darned.
When it came time for me to think about a cover for Book 2: Sun is Burning, Eithne was on board. It took her only a few days to put together another amazing image, set the type, and sort out the dimensions...all for substantially less than I'd pay another similarly-talented professional.
Eithne is a dream to work with, and aside from the myriad book covers she has done - one of which was for my mother's book, The Very Name of Christmas - she also dabbles in fantasy at its finest. (I have one of her works framed and hanging in my bedroom; aaaah, digital art!)
She's been featured in a number of photoshop magazines, interviewed by all sorts of industry moguls, worked for publishing houses, and her work can even be found on the cover of Suspense Magazine...not just on dozens of books! She illustrates stock photography, yes, but she can also do her own model photography, design sets and props, and find costumes and models. Her clients range from mainstream and fantasy NYC and London publishers, to mainstream and specialized magazines and motion picture houses.

The best thing about Eithne, though, is that while she creates amazing fantasy art, ("A rock is just not a rock, it’s a hiding place for faeries!") she as a person is one of the most down-to-earth, REAL people I've ever met. She's as Irish as Irish could be, loves canines, her parents, and nature, and she never fails to make me laugh or feel like her one and only customer, bless her Irish heart.

If you get a chance, please visit her website. She's a gem and an angel and a heckuva gal, and it's absolutely worth your time to get to know her and her work! Thanks for all you do, Eithne! Looking forward to commissioning cover number 3!
Jess

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

My lovely fellow author Trish Dawson contacted me and asked if I’d like to take part in this thing called ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’. Thanks, Trish! It is designed to raise awareness of our work, or work in progress. We do that by answering ten questions about it. We graciously thank the person who nominated us, and tag other authors whose work could well be that NEXT BIG THING.

Let's get started!


Q#1: What is the title of your book?
Benedictus, the third and final installment in the Unbound Series.
Q#2: Where did the idea for the book come from?
The fleeting image of a band of angels flying overhead as they prepare for war. (Sweet, huh?!)
Q#3: What genre does your book fall under?
Crossover/Young Adult (read: adult, but YA appropriate) Paranormal Romance.
Q#4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
For Jude: Emilie de Ravin, and for Sam (albeit the 10-years-ago version of him): Sean Patrick Flanery.
Q#5: What is the one sentence sypnopsis for the book?
The demons take their revenge. (If you've read book 2, think of the epilogue!)
Q#6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-pubbed, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer. ;)
Q#7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still working on it!!!
Q#8: What other books would you compare this story to, in your genre?
Fallen meets Twilight meets Save My Soul meets Hush, Hush meets Somewhere in Time.
Q#9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Feeling like a misfit as a teen, and being fascinated by the idea of "writing" a "religion"!
Q#10: What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest?
Even with your "soulmate", relationships are a process and require effort, growth, and patience...but that doesn't mean they aren't chock-full of romance, action, and passion!

I’d like to pass the torch to a deserving author, and let her tell you all about her work. Her post will bear the same title and will be live shortly. Here she is:
Adrienne Monson Torkildson

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eccentricity

Our little family is, I believe, what is known as "eccentric." We are the sort of people...

But I digress.

I had lunch with a dear, dear friend today, and we discussed how difficult it was as a young person and teen to be "different" from other young people and teens. Oddly enough, I thought that as I aged, it would all be made up to me: that people would welcome my idiosyncrasies as just "who I am" and not attempt to imagine my motivations...and that, though my likes and dislike differ somewhat from others (particularly in reference to my religious affiliation), those likes and dislikes would at least be tolerated. I have been proven wrong - repeatedly - by the under-40 set. That makes me sad...for them. But frankly, the change was not in how people handle my oddities. It was in how I handle the naysayers...which is to say, not at all.

They can kiss mine. I like what I like, and I do what I do for me and mine, and not for any other reason.

That said, I see similar oddities in my children...ostensibly because they're being raised by a - to put it kindly - rather eccentric woman (and incredibly tolerant man). Example: Thing 1 has recently developed a love of chess...and can now beat his parents.

At every game.

Example #2: Thing 2 has an obsession with all things macabre. I mentioned on facebook today a conversation I'd overheard between 1 & 2 in which they were "playing house" and Thing 2 explained that "Mommy died from drinking poison, so I buried her in the front yard under the tree so she would always haunt us." ................................ OH...KAAAAAAY. Someone is always dead, dying, injured, abused, neglected, unwanted, or freakish. REALLY. (Telling grandma one day about her imaginary mermaid: "All of her family DIED. Her mommy and daddy and all her brothers and sisters and grandmas and grandpas...they all DIED. So now she's all alone and she's so sad and no one can do anything to fix it." From grandma: "Could you adopt her?" Thing 2: "NO. She's never ever going to have a family and no one can ever make it better.")

Yup, them's my kids: wonderfully wacky and true to themselves and their own interests, even if chess is considered nerdy by other kids and adults everywhere stare horrified as they listen to morbid tales. I love them both.

But other people won't. Grade school is here, and kids are sooooooooooooo very mean. What happens when you're the top-performing kid in your grade - and younger than most! - and you have to fight not to roll your eyes when your church compadres can hardly read, but you can read the King James version of the scriptures with feeling and without missing a beat? Small boys in ties yank yours with incredible force and chuck your glasses across the room while you cry in a corner. (No, the latter part of this hasn't happened...yet.) What if you draw violent images of a woman with her chest ripped open, blood gushing from the wound, tears streaming from her eyes...and she's a sparkly pink-finned mermaid with a bejeweled pink crown? Elementary teachers recommend your child for psychological counseling. (Again, the latter portion of this scenario is a fabrication...so far.) And then it'll get worse. Then they'll be teens, and what if, like their MOTHER did, you decide to wear your own mother's hippie mumu from back in college that you're delighted to finally fit into, so you wear it to HIGH SCHOOL...in 1996? You get called every conceivable name, and people quite literally point and laugh as you walk by...and then someone throws a banana at you, sending additional people into peals of laughter as you scoop brown smush from your dress. (BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.) And why? Because I was different. I was misunderstood. And it SUCKED.

I'm still different. I'm still misunderstood. It still sucks...just not for me. Oh, I get a little sensitive about the whole thing from time to time, I confess, but the bottom line is I now realize that the banana-throwing type is missing out...on me, and on so many other "freaks" like me. That sucks.

But what sucks most of all is when I think about my kids. I love them more than life itself. I would give anything - ANYTHING - to spare them the pain that comes with being made fun of, with being gossiped about, with being judged and criticized and misunderstood. BUT I CAN'T. I won't be able to keep them from that (because we ALL go through it at some point); all I can do is help to build their self-esteem and self-confidence enough that they can withstand it. I don't want them to change. I love who they are, whether other people think that's "weird" or not. I love my Stephen Hawking and my Tim Burton. Period. And I want them to STAY Stephen Hawking and Tim Burton, so long as that's who they want to be. I just wish they could always be loved and understood.

And then I flipped the coin to the other side, and saw the strength they'd develop from managing others' lack of understanding and poor behavior while still sticking to their guns and being who they are and becoming who they most want to be. Rated my books a 1 star and said I was the worst, most juvenile, most incompetent author on the face of the planet...and ugly, to boot? Eh. My books are true to myself, and I'm proud of that...so I probably just wouldn't hang out with that rater. (That said, my thick skin has also offered me the fortitude to take that criticism, assess its real value, and incorporate required "upgrades" into my life and being while discarding the bunk.) It's an amazing quality to have developed, and so when other, unrelated crises crop up on my life, I have a tendency (okay, I vent, shoot me!) to roll with the punches and get on with things. It's not the end of the world. That's a pretty comfortable way to function when I see other people, whose lives have always been (for all outward appearances) a cakewalk, encounter major difficulties and fold like a sheet of origami paper. It's incredibly sad, and really, really painful to watch. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the toughest thing since Grandpa's jerky, and I'm also not trying to tempt fate by saying this, but the fact is you can throw a lot at me and I'll probably come back swingin'.

So long as I keep an eye on them, then, and can be certain to keep the communication lines open , I think that, difficult hard as hell as it may be for them (and me) to let them suffer because of their innate differences from others, I truly believe they'll be better for it. Stronger. More resilient. More accepting of others, more open to new ideas, people, and thoughts, and more true to their own, self-chosen identities. I learned (by osmosis) the above from my own parents, by the way; they were ultra-attentive and always willing to lend an ear without criticism, so as a teen, I felt comfortable enough to tell them that I had had suicidal thoughts and wanted to see a counselor. God bless my dear folks for it.

We have an eccentric family. I'm proud of it, because it means we're being true to ourselves, and that's the only way to truly progress: understanding who you are and developing that person to become who you want...every day of your life.

What does this have to do with my authoring? Please note: I AM NOT JUDE. I don't read my books and think of myself as Jude. She is NOT a Mary Sue. (Fanfic reference; please ignore my nerdiness.)

That said, we're told time and time again to write what we know. (Aren't we, Anne-with-an-E Shirley?) I guess I have. I know what it's like to be different, I know what it's like to learn - over time - to cope with that. I also know what it's like to let go and BE different. And after the junior high and high school (okay, and a bit of college) experience I HAD, I am DYING to present that journey to others suffering what I did, without being preachy (mostly), so maybe they can just skip to the end. (I do realize that you have to acquire that knowledge over time and through suffering, but maybe just a preview???)

Jude's story, therefore, is also a coming-of-age story: she's an eccentric, and is ridiculed for it. By the time the series ends, my goal is to have her be an eccentric...not who is loved for it, but who herself loves it.

And so where my book started as a cathartic thing, then changed to a teenage self-help story, it continues to morph...and is now an instruction manual for my kids.

Speaking of my kids: EMBRACE YOUR INNER NERD, THING 1. EMBRACE YOUR CRAZY MORBIDITY, THING 2. Should either of you decide to embrace something else tomorrow, so long as it's legal and safe, I'm right there with you. I love you both, and you amaze me every...single...day. As Polonius would say, "To Thine Own Self Be True," and I concur. Love, Mom

Friday, May 25, 2012

Indie Authors and Criticism

Ran across a couple items the last few days - and faced a conundrum - all to do with reviews and criticism. One was a review that's been passed around betwixt indie authors by a blogger, but it's not the review that was interesting, oh, no...it's the author's response. On her behalf, I am MORTIFIED, and again, not by the review. The review stunk. It was a 2 of 5 stars, and it was very honest, direct, and cited examples about why the book received a 2 instead of any other number of stars. (Apparently the book just sucked.) Now, keep in mind we all have our different ways of rating things. 5 stars for me is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. 4 is one I liked, but little things about it bothered me. 3 is decent and recommendable, and so on. For an author friend of mine, Adrienne Monson, 5 stars go only to her FAVORITE EVER books...meaning about half a dozen books in the world. If it was REALLY REALLY good - just not her favorite - it gets 4 stars. If it was a good book, but not one she'd re-read a bunch, it's a 3...and so on again. (In other words, we all do this differently!) That said, 2 stars still isn't great. The reviewer gave an author 2 stars, and she jumped on the comments and LET RIP. She was rude, foul, self-important, and just plain angry. She came across like a Tasmanian devil on speed, and JUST...KEPT...GOING. 100-some comments later (from her, of course, and from people telling her to shut up because the hole she was digging for herself had become a grave), she finally pulled some of her more-inappropriate comments...you know, the ones with strings of 4-letter words attached. I was truly appalled.
So then while perusing Goodreads, I just had to check out a 1 star review given to another book that had virtually all 5 stars. It was well-written, cited examples, as well, and was just plain honest. This time it wasn't the author who blasted the reviewer...it was the author's friends. LOTS of them. "How can you say something that mean?" "Don't you know she's a first-timer and that sort of review hurts people's feelings?" "What are you, a professional critic, you $*%&^$#?!" (I kid you not.) (And on a side note, none of their retorts were well-written.) They ripped her stem to stern for not enjoying a book riddled with poor grammar, typos, poor formatting, and plotless...with flat characters, mind you. It was unreal.
Finally, I recently faced a conundrum: what do you do when you're asked by another author for a review exchange, and they give you 5 gushing stars...but their work is shoddy at best? I confess, I completely caved and gave the author 4 stars, even though it was painfully tempting to offer 1 or 2.
I have regretted that review every moment of every day since I gave it. It was a lie. I am a liar. And not only am I now a liar, everyone who sees that review will see my name tied to it, and likely assume that my indie books are on par with that author's indie books. What was I thinking? Why did I cave??? UGH!
So there you have it...the background for this:
Dear Fellow Indie Authors:
If you're going to put yourself out there, PLEASE make sure you're offering your best work. And if your very best work SUCKS, PLEASE print your own copy and DON'T try to market it. If you don't know whether or not your best work sucks, pay to have it looked over by an editor. If it only sucks a little, pay that editor to help you fix it so that it's your best work. Then pay a proofer to fix your terrible horrible awful grammar, misspellings, and typos. (Didn't you know that the vast majority of us give up on a book half a dozen typos in? We expect it in a proof copy, NOT in a book we paid for!)
Assuming you've done all that and put yourself out there, BRACE YOURSELF: not everyone has the same standard for reviewing, and not everyone is going to love your work. In fact, if you have 200 5 star reviews and NONE that are something different, everyone will figure out that you roped all your friends into perjuring themselves for your sake. If you're willing to expose your work to the public, you have to be prepared for the public to reject it...nay, to HATE it. You don't deserve an A for effort, you don't deserve 5 stars for a NaNoWriMo project that you uploaded to lulu without editing, and you don't deserve the pedestal you've placed yourself on just for "writing a book." Grow up. Bad reviews come, and if you don't learn anything from them, you'll never, ever improve (since it's clear you never put in the work for improvement anyway).
Furthermore, dear Indie Authors, you're MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD. And thank you very much, I don't need any help making myself look bad! I WOULD appreciate the opportunity to appear credible, however, and when your work stinks, I am painted by the same "Indie Author" brush just by virtue of having self-published.
When bad reviews come - because they will - shut up. Please. Just smile, shrug, and either dismiss them as personal preference or go back and revise (you CAN; you're self-published!). Either way, you'll look more like a professional and less like a putz.
Affectionately,
Jess

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack.

Amazing how quickly an author will give up on their blog with they've got a world of other poo on their plates.

Hi, all. How are ya? I've missed you. Allow me to recap the last 6 months, if you will. Here goes nuthin':

  1. The school year ends this Friday. Summer, here we come.
  2. We have more chickens. I'm hoping they're girls, but it'll be a little while before we know for sure. We also have a new coop, since the one my brilliant husband built was not built with treated wood and warped in the rain/wind/miserablehotsun.
  3. We will be eating any of the chickens that are male...and maybe very soon, if they either begin to crow or WON'T STOP BITING MY ANKLES!!!!!!! (It's just two of them that try...and they're both soon to be toast if they don't quit it.)
  4. I came out of the proverbial closet a few months back in support of medical marijuana. There are many, many ways to take it - read: it doesn't have to be smoked, and you don't have to get high! - and it turns out that it's a virtually side effect-free medication that mitigates almost EVERY SINGLE fibromyalgia symptom I have. I don't advocate its legalization, I won't protest that it's safer than booze - even though it is - I just "came out" because I live in CA, and it's a) "legal" here (medicinally) and b) being widely persecuted in the area where I live, meaning it's VERY difficult to attain the NON-smoking versions...not to mention from a reputable establishment where I feel SAFE. Yes, I use medical marijuana - generally TINCTURE, to be specific - but other than being generally pain-free, migraine-free, IBS-free, panic-free, and my short term memory returning (woohoo!), I'm not "pushing" it on anyone, only asking that if you live locally, you'll support safe access to safe medicine from those of us who sincerely benefit.
  5. My Mom's book, The Very Name of Christmas (by Martiele Sidles), will be OUT THIS WEEK! Her website is still heavily under construction, (www.theverynameofchristmas.com,) but you'll be able to buy a copy from amazon, smashwords, kindle, and the like very, very shortly! What is it about, you ask? It's the long-awaited sequel to Charles Dickens's immortal A Christmas Carol, and it follows Tiny Tim - now Dr. Tim Cratchit of the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital - after his college education (funded in part by his dear old Uncle Ebenezer, of course). They say that no one recognizes a prophet in his own land, and as a teen, I had no interest in reading my mother's book. As a self-publisher, though, I wanted to have a look-see, and my mother has allowed me to go ahead and put it in print. I can honestly say it's a PHENOMENAL work, and coming from a daughter, I think that's a double-compliment; under normal circumstances an author's child might roll their eyes as Mommy's work. It's 5 star all the way; a Dickensian-style literary masterpiece. Hang tight. If you're a close friend or family member, you'll probably be getting a copy from me for Christmas!
  6. Oh, yeah...I have a second book out. #2 in the Unbound Series, to be exact, and it is entitled Sun is Burning. It's available from smashwords, itunes, B&N.com, diesel, sony, kindle, and, of course, Amazon. The reviews (for both books) are really rolling in. Check 'em out if you get a chance. Even the bad ones make me happy! :) (Not that there are that many, but it's always nice to know that people feel strongly one way or the other!)
Hoping to get back in the game here, people. You know: chicken updates, self-publishing info, books, books, books, and all that rot. I wouldn't mind a little encouragement (blog comments are always welcome!), and if you've read Hazy Shade of Winter and/or Sun is Burning, please do me the great favor of rating and writing a quick review...on goodreads, amazon, smashwords, barnes and noble...anywhere there's a place to review it...but please be HONEST. (How can we authors improve if everyone just tells us "Good job!"???)

That's all for now, friends. Enchiladas for dinner, and I've yet to thaw the chicken! (I suppose I could just go grab Ankle-Biter, but that's a lot of blood and guts to clean up on a Tuesday afternoon...) More soon! Jess :)