I know everything is stressful right now and we all have stuff we need to focus on but I’m taking the wins, the little ones, and this is one of them.
The cover for Queen of Spades; Awakening is on All Author and up for cover of the month!
Massive shout out to Violeta who worked so hard getting the trilogy of covers just right for me. For those of you who can, get her to do your covers she is amazing!
If you’ve got the time please give it a vote, I’d appreciate it!
I’m not brave.
If I were being honest with myself, I’m a coward.
I fight when I know I can win and I’m defensive when I know I’ll lose.
That’s a hard thing to admit but this week its been so important to be able to say and here is why; you are rarely the presumption you put upon yourself.
Discussing the motivations of Letitia to my mother she criticized my analysis of the heroine of Behind the Veil.
“Yeah, Mum,” I replied. “Its because she’s a coward. She’s afraid and hiding behind self-preservation so she doesn’t have to face the truth.”
“No, she isn’t.” My mother cuts me off, and she’s adamant, she doesn’t give a shit it’s my story, she has her own theory. “Letitia’s so very brave. She’s willing to face what she’s most scared of, what terrifies her beyond all other things, in spite of her fear, that’s what makes her brave. No one else can do this but her, no one else risks as much as she does, and she does the right thing. She’s the bravest one of them all.”
I’d never heard my mother talk about a fictional person I created with so much emphasis. Or felt like my cowardness, my excuses, my depression and anxiety, mattered so little. It wasn’t because it didn’t matter. And it was because I was brave.
Bravery isn’t when you know you’ll win.
Courage isn’t there for the confident.
And valour isn’t for those who don’t doubt themselves.
But that didn’t change I was all of those things. And none of them.
I was a coward.
I kept a 9 to 5 job under the conviction that’s what it was to be safe. I wanted to be me, but I had to have someone else’s approval.
I was the lion in Dorothy’s story.
I was hiding behind the shadow of social media’s self-importance to pretend I had something worthwhile.
When all that time I had something more.
Do you know I’ve written over twenty books.
When I do a tally, novellas included, its closer to twenty five books now, but that’s not important.
Do you know I found within me the strength to self-publish three when I had no idea what I was doing?
And do you know that they sold well?
Being brave and courageous is never about the moments you’ll know you’ll win.
They’re about the moments you think you’ll fail.
I just quit my job without another one to go to because without details I thought I was doing the right thing. It turns out that wasn’t the case and I still don’t regret my decision.
I could be scared, terrified, left wondering if I’ve made the right choice.
Like Letitia, the coward. Except according to my mother she isn’t.
I’m a coward.
But I’ve let go of convention to do something I never thought was possible. I gave up security to find myself, and the part of me that knows my stories *MATTER*.
I was brave when the lights went out, the beasts are coming, the darkness has my soul and I don’t know if I’ll ever escape, if I’ve given the light up on a dream that will morph into a nightmare reminding me of all the stupid decisions I’ve ever made.
That’s what bravery looks like.
That’s what it is, to be a coward… and follow your dreams anyway.
The next time you’re scared, the next time you’re letting fear hold you back, you remember this, the grit in my teeth, the panic failure is at my door, and still is, the dread I will drag my life down into fiscal regret and half imagined dreams…
…and despite all this my stories matter. No one can take that away, from me, or from you, so while I’m down here, I’m smiling, because I have something no one else has, not hope or false promises.
I have conviction.
I am a coward…
…but I am still here.
Hilariously enough this post is not about games, one of my favourite past times.
This is about the miserable blog post I drafted last night about finding the strength within with a good cry and some sobby youtube clips because my last week has been awful. On one day I received three agent rejections and two job rejections. So I wrote this post at 2am last night feeling very sober and sorry for myself and I got up this morning and thought… fuck that noise.
You have your own songs and movies and stuff you just curl up into a ball and feel fucking miserable and like none of this is going to be worth it and that’s not what you need when you want someone to help pull you up.
I’m all about making these blog posts as useful and helpful as possible and sometimes it doesn’t work and other times I’m surprised by the responses I get. If my little snippets of aggressive positivity, especially with these songs, helps you get up and do something today, then that’s a freaking win.
Here is my list of the BOSS songs I put on my playlist;
(… you’re going to find out pretty quick how much I love my bass and metal…)
[Hardcore] – Stonebank – Stronger (feat. EMEL) [Monstercat Release]
TheFatRat, Slaydit & Anjulie – Stronger [Monstercat Release]
These are really techno but I find that are a great motivator to just get up and do something!
Opening Black Lagoon — Red Fraction (full version) by MELL
Black Lagoon – “Red Fraction” | AmaLee Ver (English Version of the same song)
I’ve included the Black Lagoon opening song for the anime, and while it’s Japanese if you struggle to listen to it (I know some people have trouble liking songs when they don’t know the language) then there is an English version which I thought was very good too! This is an absolutely kick ass song and a kick ass anime.
David Guetta – Titanium ft. Sia (Official Video)
I know its far more mainstream than the other songs but this one is still great, and I’ve loved Sia since she did Breathe.
THIS is the song I really return to when things are crap. I discovered this band purely by accident when they did a song called Ari Ari but this was the song that made me become a Patreon. It’s an Indian metal song but the guys and the message behind the song is just pure and they are really lovely, not to mention the song is metal.
INDIAN FOLK METAL (Bloodywood – “Jee Veerey” ft. Raoul Kerr)
This is by no means all the songs listen to or we’d be here for eight hours.
What these songs are is the capacity to just get on with it. They have messages within them that you just put on headphones and dance your damn heart out. Clean the house and make everything as perfect as you can. Do something no matter how many other times its failed.
You become stronger when you are at your weakest.
You become brave when you are most afraid.
You get up because you’ve been knocked down that many times you know you can’t stay where you are and there really is nothing else to do but keep trying while you are still alive.
However you need to get there, a song, a movie, or just finding someone else who understands, who can give you a hand… or post you a song that somehow makes a difference.
I hope my strong songs make a difference to you today, and you can do this, because you’ve lain in darkness too long.
Rather than respond directly to a series of tweets that were recently hurled at me about why I would need editors, critique partners or beta readers before selling my novel to unassuming readers, I’m going to explain why I do in great detail.
And to do this I have gotten up at 5am to trawl through notes made to me about my work over years of novels to show you all how badly I stuff things up. It’s enough to see that I made a mistake, and sometimes disagree with the advice and this is the beauty of advice and reviews; you can choose to take what you want from it. But it is never okay to attack readers for their opinions and its never okay to demand more from them, when they’ve already paid for your work, and taken the time to review it.
So I want to use a magnificent piece of feedback from someone very close to me for some of my earliest work and move through to samples of my later work.
I’ve put the actual text from my manuscript in italics and the feedback in bright red;
The Well of Youth – written in 2016 after 4 rounds of self editing, 1 round of professional editing;
‘Tomorrow come here. We need waste no time anymore. I bid you and the dean good afternoon.’ Andy didn’t react to the dismissal, he had already got more than this afternoon could have possibly had hoped for given where he started the day.
I think ive gotten a bit lost, has he actually accepted? cause I know he goes, but the commander doesn’t know that, maybe he should say be here by that time if you wish to participate and then scream TALLY-HO and run out the door. Or something.
This was not the first comment of that nature, nor would it be the last, and I loved the way this beta gave me feedback, it was always jovial and her other comments made me wet myself laughing in reactions. She doesn’t know it but she’s the reason I leave those sorts of comments when I give beta reading, because I think its important to note when you evoke a good response from a reader.
(Re-reading this old work for me is an absolute cringefest of mistakes and wording, BTW, I would totally rewrite that entire sentence if I could, but I promised it raw and that’s what you are getting).
Queen of Spades – written in 2016, betaread x 3, self edited x 3, edited, revised and rewrote whole book in 2019, x 4 rounds of self editing, x 2 beta reads (this book had a lot of work put into it!)
Six hours passed and he came and got her, and by then Ayla was ready for the sleep, passing out fully dressed on the bed still warm from his body.
Ayla woke up hours later, curled around his scent, breathing it in.
“The Nuria is here,” Leith said over the comm.
Ayla was quick to get up, put her clothes and weapons back on, and hurry to the bridge.
Ayla passes out fully dressed on the bed and then wakes up and gets dressed???
Just a simple series of actions that were completely wrong/out of context but it does point out a very easy and fixable flaw that I hadn’t noticed DESPITE READING THIS STUPID BOOK MORE TIMES THAN I CARE TO THINK ABOUT!!! ß this still makes me mad, in case you couldn’t tell, and I absolutely love that the beta reader in question picked this up, and couldn’t be more grateful.
Here is an example of something that was said to me that I haven’t got entirely in context but was something of this nature;
One With Rage – written in 2019 after 3 rounds of self editing only
Spray; I swear to god there are other words out there for water Eleanor
Repetition is not your friend and I am terrible at it and its one of the first things I have to address with editors (I am still so sorry to you all that I do this), but its ALSO one of the first things I pick up when beta reading work. Repetition is monotonous if not done with specific tact and it can pull the reader from the vision.
Running a comb through her hair, with a spritz of mousse, she was scoffing the pancakes at the briefing room, having been the first to arrive.
Is she doing her hair and then going to the meeting room and scoffing down pancakes, or is she sitting in the meeting room doing her hair WHILE scoffing down pancakes? It’s not clear which.
Another case of scene transition that did not work well and I pick this up when beta reading other people’s work a lot but also it occurs in my own work as well. I knew what I wanted to do with that scene, but I completely stuffed up the way about it. A quick fix of breaking it into a couple of sentences only took moments to fix what was otherwise a very awkward transition scene.
Having used these very upfront and glorious examples of how badly I have made mistakes I want to extend these mistakes on to greater overall feedback I have gotten from some of my stories and I’m going to start with the most painful one first.
The Last Prophecy Series novella
I wont go into detail as to what was said but I felt like I was being chided by a loving grandparent when an editor told me an ending of my novella needed a lot of work. This is the part where people think editors are some sort of villain there to change your idea into their own idea and its not.
The story in question had reunited characters far too early for the overall series (which is HUGE). The story itself and the ending was all over the place, and I hadn’t given the reader a sense of closure by the time they got to the end. He was kind, honest, and careful but he made it clear I wasn’t just doing a reader a disservice, I was doing it to myself.
That hurt a lot.
It was the BEST lesson to date I have had that I can do better, that someone knew I could do better, and was brave enough to tell me that. I took what it cost them to say that very seriously. I went back and rewrote the entire ending, pulled apart the start to add other characters and what it ended up doing was giving a much more fleshed out character for the following book, so much so that by the time I got to the book the editor was very happy with the story overall and had no major changes.
Why? Because I’d learned the lesson the first time, and used the novella to improve my writing craft so when I wrote the following book it had a far more solid plot.
Queen of Spades – Awakening & Darkening
I originally queried Awakening and I had my first full request from a New York agent and I was SO excited that he liked my overall story, but in the end he didn’t like the world building or the concept of Ayla’s power and it wasn’t enough.
Given this was my first foray into querying outside of Pitmad I was pretty upset – but I went back to beta readers to clarify and work on exactly that to make it better.
I also decided to fork out the money to get a professional editor and a wonderful CP, both who have been incredibly helpful.
But both found many mistakes even after all that, and when it came to book 2, my CP said to me that overall I spent too much time in Ayla’s head, and she was absolutely right and I will be working on fixing that.
I don’t wish to talk about one of the major changes I will be making to Behind the Veil but the editor recently got back to me and I want to sum up our conversation very succinctly over a series of emails;
Ed: I think this might need to be tweaked, and it’s a big tweak, what do you think?
Me: … actually that is dead on, you are absolutely right, I will fix all that, this is how I think I’ll fix it, what do you think?
Ed: Sounds good
They spend hours, many of them unpaid, to make your story the best it can be. At the end of the day few of them get a kick back unless you sell well, and you will not sell well without help.
I am often pulled between the self pub/indie author/trad press options before me because I want the freedom for some of my stories, but I also know they need improving, each and every one until the day I stop writing (which will be when I am dead).
I have chosen all three because I want people to love my stories as much as I do, but I am not going to expect random strangers to fork out $0.99 to $20+plus for a book I didn’t spend the time, money, and effort making it the best it could possibly be.
If you are struggling for editing money, ask for beta readers and look at traditionally publishing or trying with smaller presses. Get feedback on your work, learn how to best relay your story to your reader.
If you can afford it and want to take the financial risk, find a great series of people to work with and organise for professional editing and self-publish.
Because in the end no matter your lofty goals, these people aren’t here to tear your ideals down, to make huge changes to your story, they are helping you because they love those things about it, it’s the nitty gritty detail that needs smoothing out. That needs polishing.
It doesn’t matter how often you write, if you just want to get your stories out there post them for free via a website. But don’t attack readers after they aren’t happy with a book they paid for. You made money off their time, they read your whole work, and if they didn’t say something nice about it that might just not be their taste. But if many readers leave less than savoury reviews, don’t attack them.
Ask yourself this really fucking hard question; did you do your best?
And that isn’t about writing the damn thing, or self-editing, its about getting that outside opinion to make your book be the best it can be for everyone, not just for you, and especially not if you want people to hand over money for it.
Don’t do that to readers, its not fair, and you aren’t just cheating the reader, you are cheating yourself.