Trademark & You

guest blogger zack Riley here to speak on trademark & the fiasco of...

 

There has been a lot of talk lately about the #darkgate incident closely resembling #cockygate and some of you are already looking at me thinking… what?

Okay rehash in a few simple lines for a subject that is anything but; Feleena Hopkins, tried to trademark the word “Cocky” in the US for her cowboy themed books. Subsequently she threatened and scared many authors into yanking titles offline, but the backlash against her was enough for her to pull the trademark. But the damage was done. Hopkins as a self published author had just done the unthinkable and turned against her fellow self publishers. She will never be forgiven in some eyes and though I don’t publish cowboy romances, I don’t blame them.

So when extremely well known author Christine Feehan tried the same thing only months later with the word “dark”, to say Twitter exploded was an extreme understatement. (I may or may not have joined in the shenanigans… okay you bet I did).

The author has since updated her Twitter page to do a complete 180 after only a week since she made the original post;

Christine Feehan

To say that she is sorry might all be too late in the eyes of many after what she did, but the fact of the matter is that she’s behaved in a far more noble way than Feleena Hopkins did. I hope in the coming days the author world treats Feehan better for her frankness and apology. (That last line though – its a brave thing to admit you made a mistake like this one).

But how does that effect YOU?

 

Please welcome fellow writer and Twitter buddy Zack Riley, who’s my guest on today’s blog post with his words of wisdom on Trademark laws, what this means and how it affects you;

 

I’ll start by saying this is only educational and not legal advice and may not be 100% accurate to the law or specific laws in specific countries.

I’ll try keep this short as trademarking something is expensive among small artists/authors, and so on and only really matters once you truly establish yourself. If this doesn’t describe you then copyright protection would benefit you more as it protects the work you make, where a trade mark protects your logo or brand.

For example, a character can’t be trade marked unless it is a literal part of your logo. The purpose of a trade mark is to protect you as a creator from a competitor trying to confuse a customer from using a similar/same name so not to buy your work. It would be very confusing if there were two different K-mart shopping chains out there in the same location selling similar items.

A trade mark must be an established and constantly used on everything to keep it. In the case of the trademark on the word cocky, the author had used the series title of “cocky” and therefore pushed the trademark on the word. The way trademark law works though is having the word “cocky” not only blocks the word from being used but anything that sounds like it, effectively cock blocking the use of the word, pun intended.

This caused a huge uproar within the writing community attracting 27000+ signature’s on a petition to overturn the copyright, and in a court ruling by judge Alvin Hellerstein, found the trade mark not enforceable against authors as there would be no market place confusion among purchasers of romance novels. He called the term cocky, “a weak trademark that could only be enforced against direct, deceptive imitation.”

So why was cocky awarded the trademark? Probably the uniqueness of the name, and poor research into the overall use of the name. This also only covered her market, however unfortunately knocking off the use of a lot of other people’s book titles and ultimately failed because of the over saturation of the use of the term within the writing community.

Trademarks are only set within a set geographical area, such as the state of New York in the USA, meaning that someone in Colorado could legally use the same name unless the trademark is applied for all states and territories within that country. This means that someone in Australia or the UK could still legally use the trademark within those countries unless the trademark is again, applied to every country that the material is relevant. You need to still defend your trademark if its contested where ever its current. This can get expensive and there is a mountain of paperwork. If however you receive a takedown notice for breach of someone’s trademark, you should seek legal advice. You may not be in the geographical area the trademark is represented in or be outside the bindings of the trademark. There are many ways to protect your own brand and if you are not directly trying to deceptively imitate the trademark holder, you may have a case. Be mindful that sites such as amazon are located in the USA or the set geographical area of a trademark holder, therefore the trademark may apply to your work. Remember, you can always opt not to sell to that area if you clash.

Different rules apply to huge and established brands such as Disney, Pokémon and Harry Potter, for example, that protect the brands. In some countries trademarks do not need to be registered with the government, the same with copyright but if you can register your trademark then you have a better chance of winning a case.

In Australia the fees just for the application are $200 pre trademark at the cheapest option. In the USA I believe its $250, so if you are applying for more then one trade mark this can add up. To renew a trademark, its $400 in Australia minimum per trade mark so I hope you have plenty of cash.

So how do you protect your work the free way? Copyright.

How do you get Copyright? Simple, the moment it exists anywhere else but your mind, you own the copyright to it. You are god, you just have to prove it. So a date or place is a good way to do this, such as publishing a work online, there are many ways to go about this but you own the copyright. Advice for an author is to register an ISBN with your book and also send a copy of your book to the national library of your country.

So, what does copyright protect you from? Having your work copied, derivative works, fan fiction, and so on. Yes, I know fan fiction is a derivative work but for this example we will say fan art and toys.

Say you become an established brand and have artwork of a character in your world, someone could create fan art of your work. As the copyright holder you own the copyright to that art work and therefore can make a case for someone not to draw your characters or write fan fiction, shipping character A with character C instead of character B. You have the right to say what can and can not be said about your work and send a cease and desist letter if what is drawn/written is not to your taste. You also have the right to claim any/all money from derivative works based on your original work. For example, if you sell a Star Wars x-wing drawing or 3d model you printed then Disney has the right to stop and claim any/all monies you made from that venture. Obviously, some areas can damage fan bases and this is why things like Harry Potter fan fiction and artwork can be found. An example of a copyright being infringed is the song “Down Under” by Men at work and the rifts taken from the song Kookaburra where the rights are owned by Larrikin Music.

Be mindful (as seen a lot on YouTube) adding, “Copyright  and Trademark infringement not intended” or something similar to any part of your work is blatantly admitting that you have infringed on someone else’s work.

The use of a trade mark to protect your brand based on a title honestly doesn’t seem like the best of ideas. And from Cocky gate we have seen the fallout of this. A smarter option would have been to apply for a trade mark on a pen name. You honestly won’t see anyone else selling books under the name Stephen King or Tom Clancy for example. If it is really that saturated a market that you need a trademark for a book title or series title, wouldn’t it be better to pick a different name instead of throwing good money down the drain?

You can find Zack’s work through his Facebook page & on Twitter, especially if you like a good pun. Or even a bad one.

The Monster… WRITERS BLOCK!

Welcome one and all to my blog!

 

For All Hallows Eve (look, if you haven’t figured out I’m Australian by now here is you’re cue), I wish to present to those on the cusp and preparing for the dreaded thirty days of mayhem, trauma, and soul crushing despair, faced during the course of Nanowrimo, the kind of foe which every writer has come to know…

 

WRITERS BLOCK!

 

Scary, yeah?

 

*buffs nails* Nope.

buffy.gif

 

I’ve won Nano the last four years in a row and I am going to give you a crash course on how to get this DONE.

 

And in case that wasn’t enough, I plan on writing TEN NOVELS IN 2019. Two of them in Nano. Who’s a loon?? THIS AUTHOR! But I’ve done the dreaded math and guess what? I can do it.

 

Want to know my secrets? come closer…

come

 

 

  1. Writing Sprints.

 

If you are a writer you may have heard of these sprints.

The challenge is simple; set a timer of minutes, 5, 15, 20, 30, 60 and do nothing but write. No alt tabbing, no phone, no Twitter, you WRITE. You challenge yourself to get those words in, as many as you can. You don’t stop, don’t breath, don’t break for the bathroom.

 

I said WRITE!

sargeant

 

When I started I think I got about 100 words in my first 20 minute sprint. With six years of writing under my belt I can get in about 2.5k in an hour.

 

Where this can go wrong is decisions/plotpoints/and the dreaded block, but I’ll discuss this below.

 

If you are a pantser (you write the story with no idea of where it is going to go) you are going to THRIVE on sprints.

 

If you are a plotter I suggest as minimal guidance to do a one line/paragraph on every chapter which will at least give you direction.

 

Yes, this method is really intense, but with good practice it does work. My last record for an 80k book using this method was written in 25 days and subsequently picked up by Indie press, Literary Wanderlust. (AFTER A BUTT LOAD OF EDITS).

 

There are several discord channels with this as a function and everyone joins in. It becomes a team and group effort. I will also have a pinned thread advertising when I am going into a sprint for Nanowrimo 2019.

 

This can be very difficult to accomplish if you have people who need your attention in your life; kids, family, loved ones with special needs (including yourself). It does not work for everyone, find what works for you.

 

  1. Names

 

The hero’s weary horse reaches the cusp of a valley leading to… a foreign kingdom, surveying the twisting river called… called… the twisting river, wrapping around the castle of… of… a castle in the distance, and our hero,… who is our hero… he has a name… wtf is his name… Our hero, sighs in relief at having reached….

keyboard

 

Whether you pants, or plot, do the prep before you start by having a guide of name generators booked marked in your web browser so you aren’t wasting time finding the “right” name. Get ANY name and move on.

You can fix it later, you can find replace weird names you don’t like, just get something close and move on with the script. Here is a helpful guide on generators for you, just to get you through.

Book mark them. Thank me anytime. No really, please, I did a lot to find these.

 

  1. Description

 

Damien walked into the tavern, and it was a tavern… that had beer… and people drinking it.

 

Put a freaking X there and move on. Adding descriptive scenes can come later, don’t get caught up worry about it if you just feel the story tugging you along. Yes, I hate doing this, it bugs the crap out of me, but I’d rather let the flow of the story carry me along than worry about a thirty second scene in a second rate motel. Seriously, I’d only give it 2 stars, I think I saw a rat.

 

You can come back to these scenes, you can fix them later… which brings me to my next point.

 

  1. DON’T EDIT

 

I mean it.

no

Yeah, I’m looking at you. I know the sort. I see you… just like I’ve seen parts of myself.

The perfectionist.

Seeking the perfect series of words…

The first to take out the blade to carve slices out of their darlings…

knife

 

Leave it. I mean it. PUT THE SCRIPT DOWN.

 

I WILL SMACK YOUR DAMN HANDS IF YOU GO BACK AND EDIT!

 

Because you *aren’t* helping yourself if you are doing this while trying to Nano. You are worrying about words you will probably go back and change again later anyhow.

If you are one of those people who do that, and its where your comfort zone is, and you can’t stop it, I get it. But try making sure you can’t see what you wrote, scroll right up, do it consistently. Don’t put the past words in front of your face to tempt you to edit.

Resist the temptation – forge on. This is how you finish books.

 

  1. Writers block.

 

Oh yes, my FAVOURITE demon.

 

hands

 

But do you know what writers block is? For me, its like anxiety. Or depression. It was one a foe I did not have the tools to fight. Today, I’m going to loan you mine.

dice

See this beauty? You might not know but I am an avid RPG player (roll playing gamer – no, not the custom and dancing about in fields with a sword kind, the kind that sits inside and curses normals and fights a pretend zombie apocalypse).

And the games I generally play are not… *gasp* D&D… Dungeons and Dragons.

I play and run Cthulhu, All Flesh, Chill, Pathfinder-… yes okay so its like DnD but it isn’t DnD. Don’t @ me.

*ahem*

You get to do a lot of things with a pair of dice for varying reasons in role playing, and I’ve written more about it here, but for the purposes of this blog post lets keep this short;

 

You have a choice.

 

Your heros arrive at the gates to a castle where a friend is being held captive in the bowels, accused of a crime they didn’t do… but…how do you get it?

You have options. Put yourself in the characters shoes and think; a castle has a front gate, and a servants entrance… two choices.

I like to roll a D100 to give more extreme ideas of how much they go in one direction and succeed or fail but any dice with even or odd chances is fine.

Any wall you face you are at a point, don’t focus on what to do next, focus on the options available, put yourself in the place, and roll a dice for the outcome.

You don’t know where the story might take you, and I generally find myself somewhere far more interesting… like Alice down a rabbit hole…

 

 

At the end of the day the person who is stopping you accomplishing this is you.

 

I’ve seen shift workers write on phones while in the car on a lunch break.

 

I’ve seen Mums on a tablet during soccer practice furious getting out a few hundred words.

 

I’ve sat next to the room of a dying man, writing away all the  pain inside because I couldn’t not stop what was happening in that other room.

 

Ultimately, you are not fighting or writing or winning against me or anyone else.

 

You are finding out whether you have it in you.

 

And maybe you don’t this year, but maybe you will make the habits you need to improve your craft enough to keep going, and do it next year.

 

The whole point is to keep going. Keep writing. No matter what.

 

Find me here if you want to buddy too!

The Green Elephant

I want to talk about the elephant in the room.

The green one.

The one that sits behind the screen and judges.

Both their own self worth and what they have accomplished.

A few months back someone sent me a screen shot a tweet that criticized authors for talking about writing many words in short periods of time and that the writing is probably trash. As a prolific sprinter, and knowing that I tweet about it a lot to encourage other writers, I was hurt. The tweet in question said that it was doing more harm than good by pressuring writers, rather than encouraging them because when I sprint I get a lot down.

As much as two thousand words an hour.

But as much as my presence on Twitter has only been high in the last year or so, I’ve been writing for six years now.

When I come up with a story, sit myself down, and focus… I DO THE WORK.

I don’t have kids or family to care for, I’ve spoken about how I do this a lot in this blog post.

But that didn’t change a random stranger for judging all I’d accomplished.

Without ever actually knowing me.

So, I stopped tweeting my sprints.

I kept doing it but I toned right back how much I was writing, but I did say that I’d managed to write a book in nineteen days, I wasn’t going to let them take that away from me.

On the flip side I producing all this work that was… going nowhere.

And all the while I was watching others self-publish books, picked up by indie presses, get agents, have their books published… and the big names having their books adapted to TV and Movies.

I wont bore you with the self-absorbed rant about how my circumstances weren’t fair, suffice to say there was more than one.

But I still congratulated EVERY single one of those that I saw, every damn time, no matter what it was, because I wasn’t jealous of them, I was jealous that they were somewhere I wanted to be.

And then I came back to the green elephant.

That all the while I was jealous of others successes, all this time, there were people jealous of what I could do, and do often. Its ugly. I hate it.

And I refuse to lie about it.

Then I came across this song.

The whole line that caught me was “I want to be you…nique.”

Everyone says there is no one path to writing, to becoming successful, and they are absolutely right.

Everyone says there is no one path to writing, to becoming successful, and they are absolutely right.

And then today @BruceKnapp gave me a #writerslift for my sprints. That he used them to help him focus and that was all I needed.

I have no idea where my journey is taking me, but I can tell you one thing; I’m going to keep sprinting, I’m going to keep being vocal about it, and if I help you great, and if I don’t block me.

But I’m going to keep doing what I think its best for me, I’m going to keep writing and at the end, do you know what I’m going to have? I hope to have 10 FREAKING BOOKS WRITTEN THIS YEAR!

So I don’t know what you want to accomplish but I’m not going to let anyone stop me, don’t let anyone stop you.

Pit What Now? #BoostMyBio

I’ve done a lot of challenging, ambitious and straight up crazy in my writing life.

Like the time I was so desperate for editing cash I actually considered a letting a foreign prince fund my writing career. It fell out because he didn’t want to the whale I bought him as a token of friendship… but I digress.

To add to my list of “I’m not quitting” challenges I am going to try for #PitchWars

Here is the link if you don’t know WTH I’m talking about, and the link for this blog post run by the fabulous Audra Atoche and Jade Loren who have kindly set up #BoostMyBio for hopeful mentees!

 

BIO

giphy owl

 

You can find out about me here but to keep it short and simple; I’m a writer.

I currently have three self published works for a series I’m writing and self publishing called the Last Prophecy.

I also have a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust for my book Behind the Veil, which was picked up during a Pitmad event.

I’m also in the process of writing and releasing on #Wattpad a book called One with Rage.

My muse is an avid tormentor who will not shut up, even if I alternatively love and hate her for it.

 

My Pitch

giphy - lotr

As anyone who’s ever pitched will tell you, do not reach for titles that are beyond your writing, however I cannot think of a better way to slate this YA/NA Dark Fantasy other than an all female cast Lord of the Rings.

My mother read the book aloud to me twice growing up before I read it for myself, and as the years of writing have gone by I’ve written a story that is not the same but holds several similar themes.

Slay the Evercry

 

Pitch for Echo of the Evercry

Larissa wants nothing more than to closet herself in a library. But she must become a knight of the Fair Lady or dishonor her family name. She fails the graduating test, and instead finds herself among the ranks of the shunned Darkling, magick wielders who taint themselves to better understand the Fair Lady’s enemy; the Evercry.

When her warrior mother calls for her aid, Larissa must team up with the bully of her childhood, Valare, to take a mystical orb to her mother. But the Evercry seeks to stop her, a tainted soul consumed with magick, sending agents to take the orb… and Larissa. Larissa must relay on the girl that was her enemy to overcome their past and save her mother.

Lord of the Rings meets Sabriel/Abhorsen series, this is a predominately female cast dark fantasy about a Larissa’s journey within the ranks of the Fair Lady’s order, in a mystical realm where the order seeks to rid the world of the Evercry, a blight upon the world using the souls of corrupt mages as vessels for their chaos.

GENRE: Fantasy/dark fantasy

AGE: YA/NA

COMPS: LOTR x SABRIEL

THEMES:

  • great quest
  • sacred orders
  • item of magical power
  • female empowerment
  • oppression
  • suicide
  • abuse
  • matriarchal tones
  • magic
  • friendship
  • overcoming differences

 

We all have a 3.3% chance at getting a mentor according to Sarah Nicolas, its the kind of thing I could not have done a year ago, but I feel now I have a story worth pitching, and I wish everyone throwing their hat in the ring the best of luck!

giphy - odds

Write for You

Writing for You

 

I’ve been bummed lately. I’m not even gonna lie about about it.

 

“Don’t post about negativity.”

 

Blogging 101 – and today… I don’t care.

 

I’ve been stuck in a little bit of a rut and what I want you to know is how to conquer that because right now I feel like the world is at my feet rather than hanging over my head.

I’ve been querying a scifi romance series I love for several months now because I love it, and its gotten nowhere. Interestingly enough the rejections were nice, but I was better prepared for them because I’d self-published. My books aren’t for everyone, but in the process of querying I realised 2 things; I wanted to self-publish this series because I wanted the creative control of releasing it how and when I wanted because its important to the story line.

 

I also realised another thing; my muse doesn’t shut the fuck up, and its starting to annoy me.

 

For the third time this year I’ve written a book in less than a month and I’m set to do it again over the coming weeks. (We’ve been over this but if you want the inside how to here it is again).

The first time I did it I got a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust and I was thrilled. There was no greater sign for me that said; you can fucking DO this!

I don’t know when the book will come out and that’s fine because I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about this raging monster inside me piling up manuscripts that are going nowhere because I’m only actively querying one of them. Another I have with beta readers (another book written in less than a month, and I have high hopes for that one), but I have about 6 others I think I can get out in less than a month.

My problem is not that I can’t write, and believe me, I know how lucky I am in that regard, but what kind of an idiot would I be if I didn’t use everything at my disposal to use that gift to the full?

My problem is that they’re just sitting there and for some stories that’s okay, and for others… it’s not.

NO, my writing isn’t perfect; but I don’t need you to tell me that.

NO, my stories aren’t the right tone for everyone; but I don’t need you to tell me that.

NO, not all my stories I will seek to publish, some are fun; but that’s what I wanted to tell you.

I have one story I’m writing to keep my fabulous CP company finishing a manuscript with her, and do you know what? I love it. But I don’t think I’d query it, or even self-publish it, because I’m just writing it for me, and just for fun.

So, I’m going to publish it on Wattpad.

I’m doing this for three reasons, the first is that as the content I am working to publish, be it through an indie press or self-publish, is going to take time and that’s fine. I don’t mind as long as something is happening with the stories I love.

The second reason is that because my stuff will take a long time to get out there I want to publish a fun story in the interim so you can all actually read some of my recent writing, but also see my raw drafted writing form.

Thirdly, I see so many writers dragged down by rejection, trying ceaseless to sell their self-published work, and I think many of them have forgotten that this is supposed to be an enjoyable activity. The chances of getting a magical writing career get slimmer ever day. I wanted to do something just for fun, just to flirt, and just to see if I could. And the beauty of it all? I’m not going to care if they don’t like it or have issues with it.

I think there is a big difference between edited work and just a polished piece from a reader, and Wattpad seems a great place to demonstrate my raw writing.

So without further preamble I’d like to show you the Wattpad book I will start to release next weekend; One with Rage…

OnewithRagecover

Oresia is consumed with revenge.

Her father gave his soul away to enact vengeance on a rival family that killed his wife, leaving his thirteen-year-old daughter behind alone except for a blood bound blade.

In a world of technology and magic, the blade offers Oresia a chance at killing the person responsible for giving an illegal weapon to her father, even if it consumes her own soul.

Ten years later she’s worked hard as an executioner for crime families to get the name and location of the soulcerer who made the blade for her father. But when she seeks him out she’ll find out all she’s ever believed is a lie…

 

A fantasy/scifi magic romance, I have to confess that its absolutely full of violence, snark, flirting and probably down the line somewhere sex. And do you know what? Its just good fun to write. Not everything we write has to be a wonderful literary piece, you can set aside the big projects for the fun ones and that’s what I’m aiming to prove here.

 

Write for fun, write for you. Because at the end of the day that’s what you have at the end of every day on your writing journey, and I’d rather be happy than worrying about things out of my control.

Wouldn’t you?

Blunders found Beta Reading

I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading lately, and thought I’d do a quick five minute post on some easy solutions for frequent problems I’ve been running into in my reading;

 

  • Repetition
  • Tell not show
  • Character reactions
  • Action sequences

 

Of all the things I pull people up on these are the ones that I come across the most and today I wanted to give you the tools to help get around these things by letting you know what I use to avoid these horrible things.

 

Repetition;

 

When I first started writing the “Repetition Stick” from my editor started out as a light touch and ended up as a bludgeoning stick.

repeatedly hitting

I quickly found an excellent tool in Rhymezone.

It allows you to look up rhymes for poetry (yes, I write a lot of poetry, I have a project about that I’ll be sharing at the end of the year), but what Rhymezone also allows you to do is look up synonyms!

So all of a sudden the dark cave that’s super dark becomes the gloomy cave that’s inky depths stretch on into the dark.

I have also recently found Power Thesaurus which appears to be another excellent resource for these issues.

 

Tell not Show;

 

I recently beta read this absolutely lovely little story involving a scene scape and the author really captured my fascination with the ocean floor in one sentence and then lost it in another.

We hear this all the time; show, don’t tell!

HOW? What witchcraft is this!?

There are heaps of blogs out there but where this one crops up a lot is in scenery and action sequences, and I’ll get to action in a moment but for scenery what I recommend is a little writing exercise… that doesn’t involve writing!

Imagine you’ve crashed on an alien planet, there’s only one space suit, and you’ve got to go outside and see what’s out there. There are no windows, and no cameras, so out you go, and now you’ve got to tell the shipmates what you see…

forest

What do you see? Tell me, out loud, describe the above for me. Yes, do it, I’m not here to stuff around. You may think I can’t hear you, but believe me I am going to be sitting here listening. DESCRIBE IT TO ME, SOLDIER!

If you’ve just said you see an alien city, the first question from the shipmates is going to be; is their life? What does I look like? They will have questions. Answer them.

Chances are you struggle to find the descriptive words you want to use when saying it out loud, so now try writing what you see, as though recording for future generations, not missing a single detail, you are the first person to find the ruins of an abandoned alien city. What do you see?

 

Here is what I see;

Spires of silver strike the sky, the grasping clasp of the jungle wrapping around the throat of each building to strangle the life that doesn’t exist within.

 

You do not need to spend a lot of time on a description, even a single sentence will convey a landscape well. Picture what you want to convey, remove the story and characters and focus purely on the single scene.

 

Character actions;

 

This is one thing that I run into a lot, and its usually for a very fundamental reason; the writer is focusing on the plot, and not the character.

The reactions your characters have to the plot points, such as the emergence of a stranger in town, is both in dialogue and in reactions.

I was reading a romance once where a character quite literally abandoned her friends to follow a stranger down a dark alley, because he was hot. There wasn’t even a supernatural aspect such as feeling they were bound together. She followed him down a dark alley because he was hot.

rolling eyes

EVERY WOMAN’S SELF PRESERVATION INSTINCT IN REAL LIFE WOULD BE; LIKE, NO.

It made it completely unbelievable. I lost so much respect for the character, and while the writer made an excellent follow on scene out of it, I had already lost a lot of believability for the character and thus the story.

So, when you need your character to walk down an alley, look at why. Is it a shortcut? Would you do it? Ask around for better natural reactions, say to a spouse or friend; hey, why would you walk down a dark alley? Chances are its not the alley, but something on the other side.

This is true in dialogue too.

What people say to convey the greater story elements should be in character to their personalities.

You are not going to have a cautious self-protective friend let the protagonist walk down a dark alley after a stranger. But you can’t have her, go with them either, it’d run the moment with said hot guy.

So what to do?

“Call me when you get to your bus stop.”

“Take my pepper spray.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”

But above all, it shouldn’t be something like this;

“Wow,” she said, “he’s hot, go follow him and see if he’ll take you home.”

But especially from the over protective friend who wanted to get her friend a cab home with her.

Our protag is not a stray dog…

If you are questioning the actions of your characters but aren’t sure how to get it across, put yourself in their shoes, don’t force them into situations that aren’t feasible or you will lose a lot of believability in the characters, and that will lose you the reader.

 

Action sequence;

 

One of the easiest ways I see writers lose action sequences is with succinct specifics and order.

There is a lack of spatial awareness, as the writer becomes focused on telling you what’s happening that the details get missed.

A sequence I read recently (in my own damn writing), had a character the MC was fighting suddenly disappear for several moments. They vanished from the script while the MC fought someone else.

What were they doing? Standing there?

Think of yourself as a sports commentator if you will, you want to relay the sequence of events in tight punchy lines to better relay to the reader (who is a listener too), what you want to convey;

Player one kicks the ball to player two, who kicks it into the goal. The ball rolls as though shot out of a cannon.

Really? That’s it?

The sequence should be as follows;

Player one kicks the ball to player two. Player two kicks the ball hard enough it’s as though its shot out a cannon, and scores the goal.

This seems simple enough but check your actions sequence for flow and look at breaking them down into single action sequence.

Sometimes I’ll do this, especially with fighting, by watching videos of the action sequence and doing a small exercise in describing just what I observe, the same as the above section with the landscape. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but it does need flow through, so the action sequences make sense.

 

Ultimately, you’ll find that you make these mistakes, it’s the whole point of revising and editing.

But if you can teach yourself not to make them as you go you can make doing these things much easier. Sometimes its hard to tell, and that’s where getting beta feedback and good editors are going to pick these up for you. The more you can get this feedback, you can better focus on where you fall down as a writer and how to help improve not just that story, but you as a writer in whatever you are working on right now.

An Honest Review

There is a battle on Twitter at the moment.

 

I first witnessed it from several readers who were attacked by Indie authors for leaving anything but a five-star review. Authors… attacking readers.

 

What kind of a fucked-up person do you have to be to attack your own consumers? One reader had given four stars, and posted a glowing review, but took it down after the indie author not tracked them down and told the reader remove it, but abused them in the process. I see SO many cases of this happening and its, simply put, bad fucking behaviour.

 

Where have we forgotten that these are the people we are hoping to inspire and entertain?

 

I was flabbergasted.

 

The backlash of such actions has been the tendency for readers to not leave reviews *ESPECIALLY* for indie authors, because of this attitude. I’d like to pretend I was surprised. But I wasn’t.

 

This has been something I’ve witnessed from about five years ago when I started getting into reviews and noticed that one of the key readers for indie authors were other indie authors. Its very hard to get reviews, what better way (there is a better way, you nonce, read it here), than to help each other out? Not swapping reviews, oh no, against Amazon’s T&C’s, but you know, being kind to other authors struggling against apparently insurmountable odds and a slush pile that is the indie ebook market.

 

So, in order to avoid having their book trashed, regardless if it was good or not, indies started making their reviews nice so as not to rock the boat, and have their own books given insincere & low reviews. Harmless at first, many admitting that not getting five stars is okay, its opened the floodgates to authors expecting you to call their work five stars… even if its really not. The growing sense of self entitlement to a perfect review by authors, but predominately self-published and indie authors, (yes, I’m talking about YOU), is honestly, disgusting.

 

Books that have been poorly edited, books that have terrible covers, books with no rhythm or flow, books where, as much as I want to love every single storyteller, reads like a first draft where someone just said; hell I spent so much time on it, that’s ALL I’m going to put into it.

 

(Not only is it critical to have beta readers to give honest and helpful feed back (which I offer), but get your editing together, and if you can’t afford one, look at getting ProWritingAid and seeking assistance out on Twitter for editors who will do discounted cheaper rates for struggling authors. This should be essential for those querying too! If you are self publishing or even indie, don’t forget to have a marketing plan, effective to your books release, and there is an in depth guide here.)

 

NOT doing those things for your beautiful creation, I don’t have to tell you, is fucking lazy and a disgrace to the creation you have made. It dishonours you, your house, your cow… I digress.

 

But here’s where the curve ball comes in.

 

Readers want your diversity, your odd ideas, your fandoms, your creations. They genuinely want them AND… they don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel like quitting. A lot of them are writers too, after all…

 

So, in order to leave a good review, readers are going to great efforts to say something other than “1 Star – this was a dumpster fire” and other unhelpful and harmful reviews. These are really hard to hear, so many readers are making the effort to write details as to why they didn’t like it. They don’t want to hurt the author, (well, some do), for the most part if they leave a great review they are trying to do one of two things; help the author improve, tell other potential buyers the issues they have.

 

You know… WHAT A REVIEW IS FUCKING FOR!

 

So they take the time and effort to write something substantial. Helpful. Insightful.

 

I am 100% behind this, as someone who learned through some harsh reader feedback I’ve learned and grown as an author to try and become a better writer.

 

On the other hand doing so takes a lot of time an effort. Recently, an author was unnecessarily harassed for telling people they should be leaving reviews, and that it really doesn’t take that long, and was promptly roasted for her flippancy regarding posting reviews quickly. A gross overreaction that reminded me that with all the authors (traditional/indie/selfpub) out there demanding reviews; readers are getting sick of this shit.

 

They are tired of getting called out on their judgements, on their opinions, on their feelings about your story both good and bad. Wondrous and terrible. Uplifting, emotional, and lovely, falling right back to the terrible, poorly constructed, and glory seekers just copying other authors to make a buck.

 

They spend time to read about stories they want to love!

 

And we are putting them off.

 

What do we do about it? Yes, you, damn it, I am talking to you!

 

I think the Writing Community needs to tackle this as a whole, and it means no more lying. I was actually scared to post this article because of backlash and, obviously enough, made that the key decision to post it because I felt like that. I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for saying I didn’t like a book, and neither should ANY reader.

 

If you don’t like a book say so. Review on a separate account if you’re worried. There are so many ways to hide your identity so you aren’t attacked, and can separate it from your author profile, but most of all this must stop!

 

There’s hurting an individual author, and then there is the widespread damage this is causing the very people we sought to entertain. People who are being alienated from genuine self & indie writers because of the poor behaviour of more than few. Not a few. Many. I know many writers who behave like this and I say enough.

 

I didn’t give out 1 or 2 star reviews, for those same reasons – I will be doing so from now on. I will stand by my convictions and base each story on its individual merit.

 

But with the way people feel about what is meant of a 1 star review, right up to 5, what am I going to be basing my reviews status on? Jonothan Pickering joins to my blog as we knuckle down and go through what is going to warrant a terrible book to a great book, in our minds.

 

ONE STAR – Very poor

 

EJD: This book needs serious work. It read like a rough draft that was hastily published for the thrill of having a novel. Whether the work has a redeemable story line or characters is immaterial. A work of this caliber could be improved with the judicious application of an editor to help improve the writer, and perhaps recreate this book to better standards. Things that would warrant a one star but aren’t limited to;

  • No editing
  • All tell (no show)
  • No flow
  • Could not read/did not finish
  • Haphazard, disconnected, made no sense, full of plot holes

 

JP: A book that simply isn’t ready for publication. Riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that could be resolved simply by running a spellchecker. Disjointed plot that reads like a stream of consciousness, which is fine for a first draft that will never see the light of day, but is a far cry from a polished and readable story.

Significant improvements need making, up to and including entire rewrites now that the skeleton of a story is on the page. Major proofreading and editing passes necessary to make the text readable.

One star books are VERY rare for me as I can usually find some redeemable quality in a story that somebody had passion enough to write. However, there are rare instances where a book is so far from being ready that I feel the author has just done themselves a disservice as a writer and I find myself getting frustrated at them for not doing justice to their own creation.

I’m one of those readers who feels compelled to finish every book I start, but these books severely test my patience and inherent resistance to DNFing.

 

TWO STAR – Poor

 

JP: There’s a kernel of something in a two star book that piques my interest, or certain particulars that I think the writer did well, but overall is still lacking. This could be for any number of craft reasons; one dimensional characters; plot holes; unconvincing dialogue or just being plain dull through lack of dramatic conflict and stakes.

The problems are fewer and often more particular to specific craft issues than the shotgun effect of problems that litter a one star book, so there’s often no overarching solution to improving these stories. One book may have skillfully inserted nuggets of lore and worldbuilding while avoiding lengthy exposition but still needs work on upping stakes and fleshing out the characters. The issues may lie entirely elsewhere in a second story.

 

EJD: A book like this has the makings of a good story, but for whatever reason fell short. This could be based on any of the one star ratings issues, but there was a semblance of something in the story I liked. Work like this can easily be revisited by a serious developmental edit, to bring the characters and story to the level where it can be a really great tale. It also means that there should be a series of secondary edits and beta reading done to ensure this is a properly polished story.

 

THREE STAR – Okay

 

EJD: I liked it. I’m not running around the house naked about it, but I did enjoy and finish it. A rating like this to me represents time well spent. If there are aspects or elements for improvement, I’ll mention them in detail when and where I can. If I give an author 3 stars, I think the most important thing that they know is that they tell a good yarn. They are on their way to becoming if not a great, then a good writer, and I think this should be a form of encouragement, but also a notation on where they can hopefully improve.

 

JP: A good, solid book. Well done author, I enjoyed your story. I’d say most books I read are three stars – something enjoyable and well worth reading, but not exceptional. There may be some issues here and there, but nothing major enough to ruin the experience of reading a good story. Honestly, if I give your book three stars, it’s something to be proud of.

 

FOUR STARS – Good

 

JP: An exceptional book. I will rave about this story and recommend it to the world. Some of my favourite works of fiction are four stars and I guess this is the part where my rating system begins to majorly digress from many others. “If they’re your favourites” I hear you say, “why not give them five stars?” I’ll get to that in the next section.

A four star book for me is a book that pulls me into its world, where the characters truly come alive on the page, where I feel emotionally invested in their lives and goals, a reminder of Carl Sagan’s assertion that books are “proof that humans can work magic.”

 

EJD: A seriously good book. The author tells a tale that keeps you flowing with the story, solid believable characters who the reader someone they can lose themselves in. If there are any issues, they are usually minor, based on preference, and should only ever be considered my opinions and thoughts alone. Not every story is perfect, nor does it have to be. For me, a four-star review represents a tough element at play, because I swing from just liking to absolutely loving. Whatever the reason I give for not making it 5 has usually bugged me enough I felt compelled to say something.

 

FIVE STARS – Excellent

 

EJD: This book picked me up from the first line and carried me along until I got lost and my legs fell asleep on the toilet. Graphic I know, but I want to enforce the idea that books are portals to worlds the reader falls down, like Alice, chasing a plot bunny to the ends of the book with a host of wonderful characters who enrapture the reader into obsession. These are true storytellers. Whether innate talent or years of crafting their writing style, whatever it is that they have inside their books is pure magic. Even if I call umbridge at any perceived flaws, it doesn’t matter in the face of my delight with the work. I’m highly likely to reread this book, and others by the same author.

 

JP: This book is a gamechanger, possibly borderline genius and represents a turning point in the cultural zeitgeist of a genre. Again, these books are incredibly rare and represent literary gold dust. For me there needs to be a distinction between a very well-written, four star story and something truly extraordinary that will go down in history as leaving an indelible impression on, or even entirely changing the way we view literature, culture and society as a whole.

 

E. J. Dawson .COM

 

Being a writer isn’t just about editing or getting beta readers or a good marketing plan.

 

It’s learning to capture the audience and entertain them. If that means taking a few bad reviews to learn where you need to improve from impartial strangers who aren’t going to lie to you about your book, then do it. Learn, grow, create again. There is no limitations on one story, one ending, one finite piece of you, if you truly are a storyteller. And there is nothing like having another idea, writing it down, and have your peers tell you that you are improving, you’re getting better. You aren’t just making magic anymore… you are flourishing.

 

Its by far the best compliment a reader has ever given me, and I highly recommend it.

 

So now I’m asking you, will you be honest about the books you are reading?

 

Will you let someone tell you that your book isn’t that great so you can improve?

 

Because the story that you are telling isn’t just about you, its about the life you lead as a storyteller, and just like the characters in those stories, you need to learn to grow and improve.

Beyond Beginners Marketing

I was recently speaking to a friend about what else she could do beyond the basics of getting her marketing plan ready, and what it was to actually have one. There were things I knew, information I’d learned over the years that I’d kept to myself.

Another Twitter user asked for some pointers, completely separate, and I thought about sharing my secretes with them too, before I asked myself why the hell was I keeping this to myself? If your book is good, and you do all the right things, starting with this helpful beginners list to self-publishing, then you will find your audience. It takes time, but this is a great way to start. You should also look at reviews, and your idea of what success should be.

There is a secondary stage to that list, that I wanted to talk about today here.

Marketing companies are very expensive because marketing takes a lot of work. More so sometimes than editing or even writing the damn book to begin with. So today I’m going to cover tools to make it easier, and what I use to help.

Ultimately, you should be using these tools and the ones within the above links in tandem to create a detailed and set out marketing plan that follows the correct trends. Whether or not you use all of these or only some, is up to you, and what you are comfortable with, but my recommendation is to spread yourself across all of them for the best impact.

 

  1. Social Media Tools

Making posters and social media content is intimidating, and I’ll be honest, you are going to stuff it up. Imagine asking someone who creatively writes to create an attention grabbing poster. Not everyone can attune themselves to that sort of imagery and this is where there are some tools that are helpful to use in your social media platforms. Some of these have small fees, and its worth paying them to get some better images and access.

Canva: IS GREAT! Free to use, browser based, you can pay for a higher membership which gets access to better and more importantly commercially free pictures. Don’t just go to any photo/image site and copy or download images. If you are using them for marketing always check what the rights are, and buy them if you don’t have them and it’s the perfect image.

Canva comes with a host of premade social media images that allows you to just change the text and images until you get comfortable with how you are marketing yourself. Don’t forget to check out what other people are doing, and get feedback on how they look.

Book Brush: This is an excellent if somewhat more advanced tool, the same as Canva, browser based and has a fee for higher level of use. What the real appeal here is that they are specific to books, and have a range of templates as well as 3D images you can put the cover of your book on. There is even one for a cover reveal as well, which is  great tool to use to help drum up interest in the book.

 

  1. Timing

You are ready! The book is edited! You have a great cover! You’ve done everything you need to! Its all a go!

So when should you really publish?

Timing is everything, they say don’t release a book in the last quarter of the year, unless you’re a horror/thriller (for Halloween), and of course Christmas themed books. There can also be a slew of health and non-fiction diet books to get rolling in time for the new year.

The timing for all genre’s is different, but some are obvious; romance on Valentines.

Others aren’t so much, and its a good idea to find when certain books throughout the year are released for your genre.

January to June tends to have much of the heavier reading of the year, preparing for the summer season. Then there is the summer reading itself, good for lighter books/holiday reading.

Pick your time, observe the trend, and spend your time working towards that goal.

 

  1. Book Tours/Blog Tours

You can find many services willing to offer book and blog tours to help promote your book.

I can’t list a single service here because not only are there hundreds of them, if not thousands, you have to pick what’s right for you.

Google them, find the ones that fit your genre, make sure they are on Alli’s safe list (or at least not a scam) and check their prices out.

You can also contact a slew of authors on twitter who do this gratis for other indie authors, such as myself.

Its good to remember too, not only should smaller platforms like mine not be overlooked, but spending more money doesn’t equate to more exposure. Don’t sink all your funds into one avenue, use multiple ones, and record how well they do for next time.

 

  1. E-newsletters

The above goes for e-newsletters as well. You an spend hundreds of dollars advertising your science fiction drama… to a very small audience who are actually only interested in epic fantasy.

Make sure you look at the content of these services, because when you google them there are hundreds of them all promising sales and it can be overwhelming. Don’t fall for every one, look at what they are advertising, and if it isn’t a good fit for your book, discard it.

The trick to note here as well, is that many of them are booked out for months because books are released very far ahead of schedule. It takes a lot of planning. Which is why you need to plan the books release well in advance in order to make sure you can actually get your book listed with these services at roughly the same time.

Take the time to use both book/blog tours, and e-newsletters, to time their release together to get as much exposure as possible. The more your book trends, and is bought, the higher up the ladders it will climb, gaining it more attention.

 

  1. Pod/Youtube Casts

There are heaps of these around the indie market by indie authors for indie authors. You can ask around, many will do interviews, but also see which ones are just to talk writing rather than just interviews. You are there to promote your book, but not everyone wants to hear just about that.

Its still a good way to gear up attention for your book, especially if the listeners/watchers like what you have to say, which will then give you the opportunity to pitch it, normally referred to a “plug” at the end of the cast, where you can talk about your book and when it’s out.

The advantage of these is that not only are you self promoting, and getting your work out there, you’re also networking, a useful tool that gives you a lot of visibility.

 

  1. Advertising on Amazon & Goodreads

My impression of this is that its better to do these things again close to your release date but they can be very expensive. If you have your plan down pat and can afford to do it, it can be quite lucrative, but not always.

I’m hesitant to advocate it, given it doesn’t work for everyone and I’ve had reports of both abysmal and successful runs with these advertising platforms.

The same can be said of many of the book promo sites out there. You can pour as much (or little) money as you like into those sorts of avenues, but without all the groundwork, and a good book, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

 

 

These can all seem super intimidating, and they are, but its important if you are an indie author that you do you and your book a favour, and make a marketing plan.

This does however take time.

You need to plan for months in advance and if you are impatient, and don’t think some of these through, you’re liable to have your book reach a quick peak, and then fall rather flat.

Incorporating all of these methods into your book, will help get it the attention and love that you want, and find it some forever homes in the hearts of readers.

With so many indie books available on Amazon, a veritable ocean, your single drop needs to have a ripple, and your marketing plan is that ripple.

 

The Story & I

The St

Sixteen weeks ago I was curled against the wall sobbing that there was no point being a writer anymore. I had to stop working on the Last Prophecy series and I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this. I wasn’t just tired, I was well and truly beyond weary. Exhausted.

Five years ago I met with a doctor who’d taken a series of blood tests. The original tests were supposed to have been done with my regular doctor, but the doctor suddenly wasn’t at the clinic anymore. So a stranger told me that I probably wouldn’t have children without IVF aid. Even that wasn’t a sure thing.

My life stopped.

I’d never had an overwhelming desire to have children, but when the option died, a part of me did too. I was torn apart, and I spent years being vaguely misplaced, only regaining what I’d lost inch at a time.

My husband was understanding, adoption had been something we’d discussed before.

But I felt useless. As though the complications of my womb were a manifestation of my personal failing. I didn’t have a job or career I loved, I became purposeless. My life lost all its meaning.

If my mother taught me any rule that was of value, it was this: what do I DO about it?

What I’d always wanted; to be an author.

The answer was the easiest one I’d ever made. I was yet to know how much harder it would to be do.

I’d never done much about my writing, I’d written two or three novels, each of them I knew wasn’t worth publishing. Writing had only ever been something I did when I was bored and had the itch to pen story to paper.

Now it became a necessity. If I wanted to have a purpose in life that wasn’t a family, I needed to do something about it now.

One afternoon I went online, and to a random website for a story prompt idea. I was going to write something new, fresh, different.

I ended up after half an hour of random generators with a story about airships and desert chases. I started writing a tale about a navigator in a fantasy world, with corrupt government officials, conspiracies and a haunting darkness. I was 30k words into it when I started to realise it wasn’t a standalone story.

Cut to a month later and I’d outlined a 21 book/novella series. All based on a poem I wrote. I knew immediately to start research into self-publishing, I didn’t even consider traditional. No publishing company wanted this monster of a project. But I wanted to write it, because it gave me the purpose that had been taken away.

I wrote the first novella, asked around a few friends for an editor and found Scott. He was open to editing my manuscript at a rate I could afford, and so I gave it to him.

Thus began a learning curve of writing and editing I wouldn’t forget. Scott was kind, helpful, and deeply intuitive about my work and how to phrase to a novice writer where to improve. Sometimes it was hard, things didn’t work, needed to be rewritten, but we worked at it together.

After a while I published The Hidden Monastery through Pronoun. I’d written the following novella, The Last Prophecy during Nanowrimo, and Pronoun offered winners a chance to self-publish through them.

Pronoun was a platform that took care of the self-publishing process for you, making it easy, simple and a service I happily would have paid for if I’d known they were going to shut down.

I published the other novella with them, the Last Prophecy, and then my first book, The Well of Youth, in October of 2017. It was my birthday, which also happened to be International Independent Author Day. I felt like I was finally making progress.

A month later I got the email stating Pronoun were closing down.

After years of work the world tilted. I wanted to give up. I was in a very bad place emotionally and physically, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my husband.

I decided to keep going, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I kept applying myself to the craft of writing, Scott kept raising the bar of what he expected from me in his genteel way. I learned from reviews where my writing was falling down, and where it excelled.

I worked hard at it, isolated from the world by circumstances outside my control, but it was also self-imposed. I didn’t feel good enough around people who were building their careers and family, their very lives, whereas I may as well have been starting from scratch.

Over these years I watched as people became vaguely mocking of my “hobby”, mostly because I was self-published. As though it were merely an exercise in vanity. But it wasn’t a hobby to me, it was far more than that. I was determined to prove I wasn’t in this for a stint, or for attention. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write full time.

In anger I started a book that originally was to be sold quickly, and all of it went on hold when the plot flowed out of my hands into something greater, that would need more time and consideration. I couldn’t even let myself write a romance just to make money. It was selfish and vain, and I hated myself for it.

And so Queen of Spades went into the time consuming process of writing the entire trilogy, and even now is going through rewrites so it can be better. Just be a good story. That was what I wanted. To write good stories.

There were knocks to my goals, setbacks and delays, the worst of which was earlier this year, the whole drive I’d had to make myself an author went cold. I couldn’t afford to pay Scott while we were trying to buy a house. It wasn’t fair to keep Scott waiting, and I knew that the Last Prophecy was going to be put indefinitely on hold.

In a fit of freedom and rage I started another project.

An idea popped into my head, and I just ran with it. I had no goals, no expectations, it was just the story and me.

Along came a woman, fighting to escape a past she couldn’t control. She was out there to show others what mistakes not to make. She was intriguing and compelling. She was a coward, and I couldn’t stop writing her story.

Twenty-five days later it was done. I was exhausted but pleased with what I’d created. I sent it to my mother, who said it was the first thing I’d written she actually liked. With that cheering thought, I kept at it.

Using ProWritingAid, I went over and over it, eliminating mistakes, smoothing it out, reading it aloud to an empty room to get the tone and sentences right. Every word I fell more in love with it, I felt I’d created something real, something special. But all those years of failings made me hesitate, uncertain.

I gave it to a friend to read. Renee said, you should pitch this on Pitmad. I had two days to get ready for the event, and spent hours pulling together every inch of the savvy I’d built up over the last few years to get my synopsis and query letter ready, and to put together the most important thing; the pitches.

I put the tweets up on a timer, as an Australian its always out of hours for us, and went to bed.

I woke up and two agents liked the tweet.

I submitted the synopsis to both.

One came back with a full request.

I sent it, having been over the script a few more times in preparation for beta readers. I already had Violeta working on the cover, expecting to be rejected from the publishers I’d pitched to, but hoping I could self-publish this if they didn’t like it.

They did more than like it, they offered me a publishing contract within weeks of it being written.

I signed a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust a few days ago.

This isn’t about my ability to tell stories. This is about my ability to work hard and consistently. To apply myself to the craft of my writing. Fear of failure is not a demon you beat once and move on, you confront it again and again, each time a newer twisted version of the exact same one you handily thrashed last time.

All the while it tells you to give up, and that there is no point.

But it can’t take away those years of work.

Nothing will tarnish the fact that I made it this far.

No one will be able to take away all that I’ve managed to accomplish.

What it took was hard work, the willingness to improve, and to keep going. For as long as it takes, that’s what I’ll do, and if you take away anything from this blog post, then I hope you don’t quit too.

 

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