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.

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?

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.

 

Kindess Costs Nothing

 

Kindness

The Writing Community on Twitter has become the largest, fluffiest blanket of love and communication on Twitter. Ask any writer or creative and all sorts and they will assure you that the community on Twitter has made them a better writer.

With people posting success and losses, times of trial and celebration, there are any number of people to reach out to for help, encouragement and support.

But for such a bunch of talented people, my goodness are some of them completely feral.

Forgetting that there are accounts that are nothing but serial retweeters, follower hoarders, and pedophiles floating around, there are legitimate accounts where if you say the wrong thing to them, you may as well close your account.

With the surplus of people using Twitter as a means to communicate and find other writers, some accounts have gone from a few hundred followers to tens of thousands overnight. That’s good though, people should be posting content that’s engaging and encouraging.

What’s not is when things get messy.

You’ve got 280 characters to express an opinion and if you don’t hit your mark just right you can be torn to shreds.

Time and again I’ve witnessed the owner of a big account (one with LOTS of followers) not agree with something that’s been said by a smaller user on their feed, which is fine, we don’t all agree on a host of subjects. What’s not is then having those said thousands of followers absolutely destroy the offender, even if what they said wasn’t that aggressive to begin with.

What this then devolves down to is targeted harassment.

Not cool, Writing Community.

You know that, and if I asked you, most of you would put up your hand and say; yes, I’ve been bullied, and I’ve been bullied online too.

This blog post, I’m shouting out the #WritingCommunityMum, Emma Lombard, who loves to look after new twitter users, and even has great advice for older ones! (I still don’t know why I should put a dot before I @ someone…)

Emma’s newest blog of her Twitter Tips for Newbies series includes a detailed post on bullying, but we’ve come together to give you a few tips on how you can handle these situations;

 

  1. Should I really post that tweet/reply?

 

Emma: I avoid confrontational situations but even then, I sometimes hesitate when I’m about to send a reply, especially if it’s one that is laced with my own sense of humour. Not everyone will read into that humour, no matter how many emojis I add. I’ve caught a couple of tweets that could be misconstrued before I’ve sent them out, and a couple after the fact – in which case, I have chosen to delete my response and re-word it for clarification.

 

EJ: If I have even the smallest doubt about what I’m about to post it goes in the delete pile. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Standing up for yourself shouldn’t be about tearing someone else down. Defending your statements should be about you and what you want to say, not about others and their flaws.

 

  1. Someone was rude:

 

Emma: Despite my very best efforts to be polite to people on line, I still had one snappy belligerent reply of “Whatever!” to one of my comments once. I was about to try and clarify what I had meant and that I had not intended it to come across as rude – and I was about to apologise too, when I stopped myself and realised that I wasn’t going to win that one. My mantra in these cases is no response at all. No explanation. No apology. No like. Just scroll on past and shake it off. How many of us post stuff that we know never gets seen because it is lost in the Twitterverse void without a single like. If you don’t reply to someone, there is no way for them to tell if you are ignoring the comment or if their comment was simply swallowed up, never to see the light of day.

 

EJ: Ignore it, leave it unliked. You don’t actually have to respond to those tweets you think are going to cause trouble. I’ve had the most random people walk into one of my threads and start shouting for attention. The best way to get rid of them is to not respond at all. Engaging these people validates your acknowledgement of what they are saying.

 

  1. They have a big account, but I don’t like what they are saying

 

Emma: When I was new to the #WritingCommunity (with all 36 of my followers!), I was in awe of the accounts with huge follower numbers! I marvelled at what they must have done to grow like that. As I became more experienced, I realised of course that there are so many ways to gain huge followings, and not all of them are healthy or good for the followers or the followees, like blind following without screening followers and allowing hundreds of bots to follow you. As I now find myself in the supremely fortunate position of having 13k followers, I have realised that having such traction and such a wide reach online actually comes with a weight of responsibility to speak and act appropriately even more than ever. Just because you followed someone with a large following, doesn’t mean you are obligated to stay following them if you see behaviour that makes you uncomfortable. You won’t necessarily be able to get that person to see reason – in fact, I’ve seen too many folks try and get burned in the process, so I don’t recommend it – but you do have the power to quietly remove that person from your feed.

 

EJ: This isn’t facebook, just because you went to high school with that twit who joke asked you to prom doesn’t mean you HAVE to be friends. Fuck that. Unfollow them, mute them, block them if you want. I have a few dozen accounts I’ve done this to, mostly because I’ve found whatever they are saying offensive which is more about their platform, and their message. This is your platform, you are choosing to spend time on it, spend it with people who validate you.

 

  1. I said something that was misconstrued and now I have a whole pack of people after me. What do I do?

EJ: If you did make a mistake, apologise, sincerely. Most people react well to it. Anyone who doesn’t accept and decides to verbally attack with name calling is someone you can and should block. Some of these people are treating the anonymity of social media as mask to cover their poor behaviour. Eleanor Roosevelt once said people don’t remember what you said or did, they remember how you feel. If you don’t feel good, hit that block button.

Emma: If what you said was well meant but was just misunderstood, the best way I’ve seen folks handle this is to give a quick apology for the misunderstanding and then move on, no longer engaging on the thread. It would be wise to mute the conversation so that you are not tempted to be drawn back into the conversation. When that mob mentality sets in, it is near impossible to try and get people to see reason when their blood is up. Depending on how ugly it gets, you might also see a truer reflection of some of the people you are following and this may be the decider for you to unfollow, soft block or hard block a bunch of people. It’s okay to do this in order to keep your feed full of the content and types of folks who you want to see. It’s all part of the continual job of Twitter housekeeping.

 

  1. My friend is being attacked online. Should I dive in to defend them?

 

EJ: Diving is a hasty word, it relies on not taking into consideration what’s going on, or things that fall outside that thread. I saw an agent and writer get into a massive fight, but because they kept retweeting the other’s response with a comment, it got very messy. I was asked via DM to block someone who was racist. In both instances I looked at or round the offending tweets, and decided for myself. If you have a good friend, and they are being attacked, it’s good to come and support them, but you are also making yourself a target. As long as you’re ready for that, and what else comes of it, then you can do it. But sometimes you can’t talk to these people and butting in can make it worse. So don’t dive in. Make a clear and level headed decision, and if you think you should come to their defence THEN cannon ball that shite.

 

Emma: I’ve seen this happen a couple of times to folks I know online. I personally never dive into the conversation publicly but I rather contact my friend privately via DM (direct message) to offer support. I check that they are okay and then gently suggest they disengage from the toxic conversation.

 

  1. This all sounds too hard and not worth it – I think I’m going to give up Twitter.

 

EJ: Twitter is a great platform, BUT ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE. It takes a lot of time, a lot of tweeting, and vigilance. You’re in a sea with a lot of other boats, some of them are friendly, others are not, no matter how nice you are. Some you’ll run into one by accident, other’s you’ll leave far behind. At the end of the day its still your vessel. How you use it is up to you. People take breaks from it all the time. Consider doing that if you feel harassed, and check in to keep it active but keep a pinned tweet saying your on a break. If you come back and its still not for you then dump it. At the end of the day its an app on a phone. It doesn’t define you as a writer.

 

Emma: The best way to navigate Twitter is to educate yourself about how it works and what functions you have at your disposal to mould your Twitter account into a place that makes you happy to come to. You can do this by searching online, or asking others in the #WritingCommunity for help to understand a particular aspect that is stumping you. Yes, EJ’s blog covers how to manage the nastier side of Twitter (which is actually super important to know) but there are also so many folks out there brimming with goodness and a desire to support and uplift other writers. Don’t be afraid to take control of your own Twitter feed – it all starts with who you decide to follow, or unfollow, in the case of when it goes wrong.

Happy Tweeting!

 

 

Ultimately, whatever you put ANY effort into, be it work, career, home, family, friends or a social media app, needs to be worth that time. If you don’t feel good, or are still uncertain, reach out for help. Its not the end of the world to mute or block someone. No one is calling you on your decisions, and if they do, remember that its your account, you can be an ass, or you can make genuine and life changing connections.

 

The #WritingCommunity has so much to offer, and it’s a shame to lose it for a few people who aren’t being kind. There are enough internal doubts and external negativity to what we writers do, that we don’t need the pressure of a stranger’s inflated ego making us feel bad. Kindness costs nothing, and if someone isn’t kind to you, don’t be afraid to remove them from your life.

The Big Bad Betareader

 

 

It’s scary, I get it.

You’re asking someone who is potentially a stranger to put their grubby paws all over your creation. To dirty it’s walls with comments on the plot. Smear mud on character development. Wee on info dumps. Put a massive turd in that unforeseen plot hole.

And the way you think about a betareader and their feed back is wrong.

You’ve asked them to read it as they would a novel, but you’ve also given them a much harder task, to find the mistakes. To do so, they have to look for them, they have to assess and point out its flaws. It makes the process intimidating.

So you take it to someone you trust.

To be kind enough to say the right things, not be too cruel, not pick on your work or show you how much it needs more put into it.

Because you already feel like you’ve birthed this idea, a monumental effort that left you gasping with tears and laughter and probably too much wine. I’ve been there, many times.

But you aren’t helping yourself if you give it to someone who will be kinder to your darling.

Give it to a stranger.

The hard part is picking the right stranger.

A lot of different people will offer different levels, but here is how I tackle scripts given to me. It comes across as more of a developmental edit, however I feel this is what beta readers need to do, as getting an editor who will also cover development can be very tricky. I’ve read many stories that were well edited but didn’t appear to have had any developmental editing at all. This can really put a reader off, and it needs to be more openly addressed.

I always want the scripts in Word so I can add comments and read it with ease, and this is also why I only ever accept shorter sections of a body of work, I don’t want anyone to think I’m nicking ideas. Don’t give your full book to a random stranger, it shouldn’t need to be said, but for novices this can be a harsh lesson. People do steal books, they will take your general premise and run with it. Research your beta before you give them the script.

After I’ve added all my notes, I will email the word doc back to the writer, and give a short summary of what I thought, probably emphasizing key points that I talk about in my comments, but especially anything I believe needs a lot of focus.

This is what I feel a beta reader should do, but its more complicated than that because how you critique someone matters. For writers just starting out, and its their first script, the easiest way to hurt someone is to say something negative in an insensitive manner. It’s also hard to tell people their writing needs serious work.

The points below aren’t just for betareaders, they are for writers too, because more often than not they are the same, and you should understand what goes into a good beta read.

 

  1. Always point out the good stuff

 

Every story has something going for it. Every story I’ve ever read had that original spark. Whether it was clearly evident in well written prose or deeply hidden under layers of badly constructed sentences, it was still there. A lot of beta readers wont necessarily do this, they point out the books flaws, its what they were asked to do.

I point out bits I like because as a struggling writer there is nothing quite like hearing that someone liked a very specific thing.

This is a fundamental part of the beta reading process because you aren’t just complimenting the writer, you are building up their confidence. So when they get that great review they don’t doubt it.

We look at a lot of our reviews and either don’t believe good ones or get completely bummed about bad ones, and this is not the right attitude. You need to have confidence, but you also need to learn where you can improve. Accepting both is a long and hard lesson. Beta reading really helps with that.

Plus, when you’re dropping a lot of truth bombs that can get them down. A nice comment is like finding the cookies to cheer them on.

 

  1. Don’t be useless

 

Yes, I know it’s a lot of effort to read someone else’s work thoroughly, however if you’re going to tell them something is wrong don’t just say that you don’t like something. There is nothing more useless than getting a message from a beta stating: I didn’t like this.

Didn’t like what? What the character said? Did? Reacted? WHAT?!

Be specific.

This was a weird thing for the character to say.

Okay great, but why? What’s the reasoning? When I leave these sorts of comments, I try to phrase it as per the below;

I thought the characters reaction was odd, because earlier on he said X, and this isn’t in keeping with that kind of philosophy. Perhaps amend to say Y, or try having him not respond at all since he disagrees.

This has the dual purpose of pointing out errors, but also offering a reason, and subsequent solution. It also allows not only for the writer to examine that one instance, but also gain a better understand of their characters as people, rather than puppets pushing along the plot.

 

  1. You are not the Grammar Police, but you are an informant

 

YOU. ARE. NOT. THERE. TO. EDIT.

 

Unless the writer has specifically said, hey, can you check the editing for me, leave it alone. I know it might be tempting, and I might point out a couple of serious flaws, but after the first couple I let it slide. This isn’t just about you not being there to edit, its to save you time too.

If I’m working with a draft I may say something really obvious if I see a few really bad mistakes. For the most part I stick to the following section;

  • Repetition: similar/same words too close together
  • Info dumping: too much description
  • Terminology: for words that are actually other words ie. Their/they’re

There are other things you can do as time affords, but these are the ones I focus on because it interrupts the flow of the story, which is what I’m interested in. You could do more as a beta reader, but ultimately, if the editing is poor, its worth stating so at the end or in your summary.

 

  1. Never rip the script

 

This shouldn’t need to be said, but part of what prompted this post was a tearful tweet I saw about a so called friend who tore their story to shreds.

You goal here should be to point out flaws, absolutely, but in a constructive manner that helps, and getting frustrated at what you might see as an inferior piece of work is the last thing a writer needs to hear. They are asking for your help. They are trusting you with a sliver of their soul. Don’t be an ass.

There are gentler ways of suggesting to them that the script essentially needs to be rewritten and these are ultimately about overarching plot points.

I’m going to tear myself apart for your example today.

When my editor told me one of my novellas needed to have the ending completely rewritten, he phrased it roughly (and more simplified) like this;

 

This ending is part of different story, one that should come perhaps later in the series. The focus should be on character X, and why she’s doing Y. The ending doesn’t serve either of these purposes, and ends up becoming less about her journey and more about Z. I also believe this other character is not coming across as you intend, and his character needs fleshing out to convey your intention in these ways. It would also be great to reduce the amount of time the MC spends on thinking, and give her more interactions with the rest of the alphabet, as these side characters are rich and have a lot of potential.

 

Believe it or not, he was far more eloquent than this, and I knew as soon as he said it, that he was right, and I pretty much rewrote the entire book.

Remember you are trying to help the writer not make them quit writing.

 

 

Finally, this isn’t a point, and shouldn’t need to be said, but it is for the writers waiting on betareading.

If someone beta reads for you, it doesn’t matter if they told you things you didn’t want to hear, THANK THEM.

I’ve done a lot of beta reading over the last 3 years, and I am amazed at how often I barely get a thank you back, or any response at all.

This is gutting. I have spent hours I could have been using on my own work, and having someone not bothering to respond to that work is awful. You never ask what it costs the beta reader to help you instead of themselves, or worrying about damaging your relationship when they do give their honest feedback. Being truthful to people whose writing journey you care about is fucking hard.

You are NOT going to like everything that they say, and this is why I always advise writers to get a second opinion. A third, fourth, however many it takes to help sort it out and be the best story it can be.

If you are a writer querying agents you NEED their feedback. You need that honesty if you are going to improve, and if you are seeking a betareader you want to improve.

Remember that when they tell you something you didn’t want to hear.

They are there to help you.

from

1 Book in 25 Days

I wrote a book in 25 days.

Lets cut straight to the facts as they are;

  • I don’t have kids
  • I live in a rural area
  • I have a short commute
  • I worked fucking hard at it

 

I love the book, I think it’s a great stand alone story and for me that’s a rarity.

It sprung into my head after I halted work on the Last Prophecy series because buying houses is expensive and the budget said no to editing. Hell the budget said no to my damn haircuts, but we negotiated over vodka. I gave up desserts for it as part of keto.

Scott, being the wonderful and supportive person he is, rightly pointed out it’s just a delay so those of you who’ve stuck with me this far, I’m sorry. I’m still writing the stories, but the release dates are totally out of my hands.

Instead I’ve done some beta recommended rewrites on Queen of Spades the last month, and this other idea I’ve titled Behind the Veil.

The book wouldn’t shut up. It wouldn’t go away. I sat down and wrote it with no idea what was going to happen. I don’t think it’s a steaming pile of garbage but the verdict is still out from the first beta reader.

So, how did I write it?

 

  1. Writers Block

 

When you don’t have an idea what happens next you need to think quickly and keep typing, keep writing, keep the momentum going. I’d start a chapter with a bang and finish it on a cliff-hanger of a comment which dragged me back into what happens next?

It kept the story moving briskly and my pace was very high. There was more to it than that but I’ve written articles on how I do this before.

 

  1. Sprints

 

Fellow writer Zack Riley runs a cosy little discord channel that allows me to do writing sprints. I normally run for an hour, and will do several hours all in a row with 15 to 30min breaks.

The sprints have a bot timer so you have a prompt to keep you on track. You start a sprint, add yourself & your word total, and go when the buzzer hits. There is no TIME to stop and think, you’ve got to write as many words as you can and you are only challenging yourself. It takes practice to do it on command, (I’ve been doing it for 5 years) but after a while you can just sit and work on the story.

When I started I’d be lucky to get a couple of hundred.

Now, on a bad session, I’ll get 1200 words or so. On a good one I’ll get 2.5k words.

 

  1. Outline

 

There wasn’t one. I just wrote Letitia’s story as hard as I possible could. I kept the story going as much as I could. Letitia may as well have been possessing me for how this story spilled out on its own.

I like to credit my imagination, but I read a lot of horror, I’d just never written it before, and it was exciting to be doing this for the first time.

You should have some idea of where it is going, just don’t be afraid if the story turns into something else, if its pressing you to write it, then its exciting, not just for you but hopefully the reader too! If its becoming boring and predictable to you, how is it going to feel to the reader? Try just letting yourself go, and sprints is a great way to do that.

 

  1. No breaks!

 

No capes, no breaks.

I would get up in the morning and write, I would write at lunch, I’d get home and write, and I’d write for as much as ten hours on a weekend. I felt invigorated and refreshed by the constant appeal of not knowing what was going to happen. The story that was whispering in my ear, kept me coming back, even dreaming about it. By the end of it I just wanted to go back and edit it because I was in love with it.

No games. No TV shows. Nothing but writing and reading breaks (with the odd Armello game with Zack).

It meant I watched a couple of movies with my husband. We live alone, and we’re far from friends, so my time was able to be utilized to write, and knowing it was important he was incredibly supportive and reminded me to eat.

 

  1. You can do this too

 

I am lucky in that I don’t have kids or other commitments that consume too much of my time. I live in a rural area I’m new to which means I don have many local friends.

But I work 40plus hours a week.

I have a dog that needs walking twice a day.

Hubby & I share the housework evenly. Sure he might have cooked more, but I do my part.

It was how I utilized my writing time. Rather than socialize on Twitter, I told people I was writing.

Rather than stuff around doing other things I focused solely on what time I sat down at my computer and how much writing I could put into that time. It wasn’t something I could do when I started five years ago.

All of this takes years to balance and even now I feel overwhelmed and overworked some days.

You can do this too, remember what time you sit down at a computer and ask yourself what do you want to get out of that time.

Do the writing sprints and get better with practice.

Take the story other places, let it guide you, learn to listen to it.

 

 

 

At the end of this all I want you to take away is that you could do this.

You could write a book in 25 days.

Ask yourself how you are utilizing your time, and what you want to get out of it.

Learn how to do writing sprints and how to fly by the seat of your pants. Even if you plot, you really just have to know what you are writing next, sit down, and do it.

I had to give up on a part of my life that had never made me happier. The Last Prophecy series is my calling to write. But while its on hold, and while I can write like this, I know a two very important things;

I’ve never been poorer, & I’ve never been happier.

I’ll write my own stories, my own way, and every time I figure out a new way to do it I’ll share it with you.Choose to be happy.

Letters To Writers

For 2018 Nanowrimo, a writer friend of mine decided she was going to do something different for her project; she wrote letters. She picked people she loved, people she resented, people who hurt her and she wrote every single one a letter. And then with a private website and password, she invited the people who’s letters she had written if they wanted to read them. She also invited them to respond, if they’d like, no matter what she’d written.

I was a little unsurprised I had a letter.

We had roleplayed for years together, discussed many creative topics, but along the way there were other things too, and I had no idea what she had in store for me. I considered shortening these to a few key phrases and decided not to, because it would devalue the letter.

I would also like to ask that you read all the through, because at the end I’m going to ask something of you.

 

Dear Eleanor,

Where do I begin? You’ve been such a huge influence on my life that the task of summarising it all in a letter, while simultaneously giving each section the time and attention it deserves, is a little daunting. It doesn’t help that you’re a fellow author. Maybe that’s where I should start.
You are, without a doubt, the first woman I’ve ever known personally that I have looked up to. That might sound harsh given that my mother exists, but that relationship is what it is. I lover her, but I don’t admire her. I admire your writing ability, but more than that, I admire your storytelling ability. They sound related, and to an extent they are, but they’re also vastly different. I am proud to say that the tattoo running down your back is, in my opinion, an apt description. Writers put words on the page. Sometimes they do it for themselves, sometimes they do it at the behest of others, but overall that is all they are paid to do. Storytellers bring words to life. Whether written or spoken, storytellers use words to bring others into another world. Storytellers are empaths and hypnotists. They steal you away from your own world and put you in someone else’s head. You are all of that and more.
Your co-workers might have called you ‘Wikipedia’, but you know what? Fuck them. Not because they’re obviously jealous of the wealth of knowledge that incredible brain of yours can hold, but because you need that knowledge. Being called Wikipedia isn’t an insult, it’s an achievement. What use is an ignorant writer? None, to anybody. Wikipedia is the repository of human knowledge about our universe. Each page of each novel you write is another entry in yours. I’m more than simply astounded by your incredible wit and knowledge, I’m jealous. You seem to know such a variety of information about every subject, and you won’t stop using it to worm your way out of every damn situation I throw at you as a GM.
I knew from that start you’d be a nightmare player to deal with, and I was absolutely right. I looked at every problem, every conflict, from multiple angles before I let you loose on them. Yet you still managed to outsmart me every time. There was always some legal loophole you knew about, or a trick with casement windows. Your personal repository of information is more than impressive, it’s downright unfair. It’s the entire reason I keep meaning to read more of your books. I’m more than a little ashamed about the fact that I never get around to it. I must have read the first five chapters of Hidden Monastery four or five times now. Life just keeps getting in the way.
I might be shockingly terrible at keeping up with your books, but I think I might have finally figured out why. As incredible as it would be to read your stories, to go visit the world that exists only in the Last Prophecy series, why would I ever settle for reading? Why would I read someone else’s account, listen to their adventure, when I have been an active protagonist in your story and fought your villains head on? Why read about anything you can go visit yourself?
I might not have been all that successful at times, and I had an almost comical habit of getting kidnapped (I still blame you for that. I’ll get my revenge somehow, someday.) but I have never felt more awesome and powerful. It was like living the most coherent and clever lucid dream. I don’t know if I could ever replace that magic with the written word. Or, maybe I’m a selfish little shit who doesn’t devote nearly enough time to supporting her friend’s projects. Obviously, I like my version better.

You are, without a doubt, the older sibling I never had. Maybe it’s because you have sisters of your own, but you seem so adept at guiding me through life. I never had anyone like that growing up. I had my mum, of course, but she’s always had her own problems to deal with, whether it be her mental or physical health. I don’t blame her for not being available, but I do sometimes wish I’d had older friends around that I could have looked up to instead. Well, I guess better late than never.
In the past, I’ve been the ones my friends came to for advice. I don’t know why. Maybe back then I talked a lot less, made me seem like I was a good listener. I still am a good listener, I just don’t have as many people around who are comfortable about opening up. I’m glad I’ve had you around to open up to. I know, for the most part, it tends to be for writing advice, but even then you could have told me to bugger off and you never do. You’re always there to help, no matter what it is or how busy you are.
There’s one incident in particular I should probably call to your attention, because I think your advice and perspective was what finally woke me up to what was going on. A few years ago I talked to you about some of the problems Lauren was dealing with. One of our mutual friends was making her feel miserable, and after talking to you I realised he was also being abusive. I thought he was just a self-obsessed idiot who couldn’t see her point of view. It wasn’t until a year later that I realised the situation was so much worse. I obviously won’t go anymore into that because it’s Lauren’s business, but I would have stayed blind if it weren’t for you.
To carry on from that, my experience with Lauren’s situation, and the advice you gave me then, helped prepare me for my own. Another letter in this book tells that story. Which I suppose I’ll have to trust you to read because you’ve never judged be before now… (Who am I kidding? You’re going to smack me and call me an idiot… but then you’ll probably name an RPG villain after him and let me kill him, so it will be fine in the end.) Anyway, there’s not much point in repeating it here. What I will say, though, is that it’s incredible how difficult it is to perceive these things from the inside. It took distance and a whole lot of perspective to realise what that person was doing to me. I don’t think I’d ever have figured it out without the variety of examples you provided me with when I was talking to you over Skype that day. And without the self-confidence you’ve restored in me, I don’t know if I could have stood up to fight any of those battles.

More than just an incredible storyteller and advice-giver, though, you are my friend. I value that more than all of the rest combined. Those features are what make you an incredible example of a human being, an overachiever, someone the world should know about. They’re not why I love having you in my life so much. I haven’t even begun to cover your compassion, humour and vulnerability yet. Oh yes, we’re going through all of that still. I’ve got at least another five hundred words to wax lyrical about you. I’m not going to waste them.


I’ve talked a little about this already when I mentioned receiving advice from you, but I feel the topic does beg its own paragraph. On top of everything else, you are an astoundingly kind woman. I don’t think a lot of people realise it at first because they get too intimidated by your powerful personality. Anyone who does get close enough, however, can see the heart inside the oncoming storm. (Yes, I did just compare you to the Doctor. You are the only person I could ever find worthy of that comparison. I mean, come on… the knowledge of all these concepts completely alien to me, taking me on wild adventures, talking your way out of just about any problem but being more than willing to fight when it comes down to it? I just have one request. Don’t make me be Amy Pond.) Someone who can get as angry as you do about things could only do that by feeling an incredible amount of love.
You’ve demonstrated this quality to me countless times, so it’s not like anyone just needs to take my word for it. You took me, and especially Emily, under your wing right from the start. Like a mama lioness you were ready to defend us against the world if we needed it. We rarely did, or we let ourselves think we didn’t, but I want you to know the effort is always appreciated. So is telling us that, day or night, if we ever ended up stranded or in trouble we were to call you rather than suffer. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had someone I could rely on like that.


And, of course, it wouldn’t be a true exploration of the wonders of your personality without your sense of humour. For someone so clever and confident you tell jokes like a cheeky schoolgirl who’s just realised the teacher isn’t looking. You laugh like you’re just happy to be part of the group. Sometimes it makes me wonder if you used to be just like me, and then through some incredible power of metamorphosis you managed to turn into a superhero.
Just like a good superhero, sometimes you really do seem invulnerable, beyond human. You do too good a job of holding yourself up, pretending everything is fine. Even through all the stress you’ve dealt with over the past few years, and the heartbreak of losing your father-in-law, you carry on like it’s nothing. Maybe it’s because I don’t see you often enough to see that side of you, or maybe it’s because only Lucas and your close family get to see it. Either way, to me you are invulnerable and immortal. Occasionally I read posts about you crying, or you tell me about it yourself, and it just seems impossible. Of course, I know you’re human. I’ve just talked about the incredible capacity of your heart. I guess I fall too easily into looking at you as someone incapable of showing weakness.

Next time you visit those of us you left behind on Earth when you ascended to godhood, I’m sure everything will be exactly the same as it once was. I have no doubt that we’ll pick up exactly where we left off the last time we spoke, discussing novel ideas, roleplaying plans, and the infuriating reality of being a woman in the modern world. I’ll enjoy teasing you about your overused turns of phrase (Get it? Turns!) and you can wind me up about that time when, supposedly, drunk me tried to lay claim on your husband. At least I know your relationship is secure enough that both of you can continue to wind me up about that. (I almost died the first time he came to give me a lift and said, “I’m here, honey.”)

It’s incredible how big an impact you have had on my life. I’m so fortunate to have you in it, eternally blessed by your friendship every day that it lasts. And I have no doubt that it will last many, many more. It would take a miraculous feat of stupidity for me to somehow lose your friendship, and I don’t think even I’m capable of pulling it off. So I guess we’re stuck with each other for the foreseeable future – me with your infuriating intelligence and you with my peculiar penchant for wanting to date your villains.

All my love,

Lorna

 

 

 

It was Christmas Day that I read this letter.

I was blown away. The day had actually been a very ordinary day for me, and this was by far one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received. I sat staring at the screen, disbelief o the tip of my tongue. To add to it, another friend of mine came along and said to me that I’d been there during a very dark time, that I was incredibly kind, and that I had helped them a lot. He doesn’t normally say these things, not quite so eloquently, and in such detail, and I couldn’t believe how many years had passed and he hadn’t said a thing, but wanted to now.

I didn’t believe it. I was sitting there, unable to deny or escape the truth of what these two wonderful people where saying about me. I was crying, this can’t be true, this isn’t true. It threatened to shred away so many doubts, so I showed my husband, asking why I was sitting there on Christmas day blubbering like an idiot. He just said; well of course its true, they wrote it.

And it was only fair to respond in kind, to tell Lorna how important she was to me. To make sure my friend knew that he’d been there for me too. So I wrote letters back, especially to Lorna, and after I’d given it a lot of thought, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

 

Dear Lorna Honey, (sorry, couldn’t be helped),

 

I was wordless. For weeks. I kept coming back to this and wondering over and over how was I ever to respond? You have beyond humbled me, and at first I thought I did not deserve such praise.

Reading through the letter again, I have a response for every paragraph, every sentence, every word.

I can’t not, so I’ll take you down a memory I don’t think you ever saw.

I started writing books as a little girl, and go figure it was Disney princesses with no prince, I loved Aurora and the Wicked Queen’s evilness (indicative much?). I read Enid Blyton and made my own Faraway Tree in my head. And in a very big way I have one very special woman to thank for that. I know your mother has had her challenges in life, and she’s not necessarily into the same things as you, but I was lucky in that regard.

My mother read aloud to us all the time. Nearly ever night. I can’t count the books she’s read to us, it’s a library full of them. Hundreds at the very least, Lord of the Rings twice, and I boast about that but it also doesn’t express how rich my childhood was with fiction. I devoured books, and when we moved to a big city I found Goosebumps and horror in my local library. When I hit my teens not even my father’s books where safe, and one bored afternoon I picked up Terry Pratchett because the covers were weird. I think I tore through them all in a matter of days. I read to Kill a Mocking Bird in one night at school, and the teacher had us open our books to start reading in class the next day and I put my hand up and said I’d already read it. She didn’t believe me, until I threatened to tell the ending to the class. She looked flustered, didn’t know what to do, to her it was just a book, but it wasn’t to me. All my classmates stared at me, and that’s when I knew I was different. Truly different. It was the first time I was okay with that, and I was already fifteen.

After that, my weird reading and writing quirks were made a mockery of by most of my year level, and it made me a much different person than the one you know now, for a very long time.

Yes, in some ways I think we were a lot alike, and I wish there was some sort of clock where I could reset time and have gone to school with you, because I like to think we could have been besties. Because all the while you were complimenting me in that letter, you talked about times that were so dark and hopeless for me. Running those games was one of the few things that grounded me, and I am SO very glad you two walked into my games. You talk about my confidence, and I have to tell you the first time I walked into game shack I hid behind Lucas. I’m not good at making new friends.

But when we all sat down together, that game just worked. It was by far one of the most magical roleplaying experiences, but come to think of it, most of the games we’re in weren’t just amazing because of me, and as the saying goes it takes two to tango.

I saw so much of myself in you at first, and then I realised how horrendously wrong that was. At your age I was alternatively shy, confrontive, aggressive, and superior with my knowledge. I didn’t know how else to be because I was always ostracised for being me.

Yet there you were, doing you, with far more kindness and compassion than I had at your age.

And I’ll tell you the biggest secret of all. I envy you.

I wish I’d made your choices, I wish I’d been braver, I wish I’d started this journey sooner, and not wasted all that time and energy on fruitless things that didn’t matter.

You are such a beautifully complex person that no Dr’s companion does you justice, you’ll be a doctor in your own right one day.

Because I’ve seen you plan, I’ve seen you set your sights on what you want, and I know that you’re going to make it. It might not feel like it, but you are doing all the right/write things. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

My experience might have overwhelmed you at first, but I’ve got a lot of years on you, and I suspect by the time you get here your knowledge will far outshine mine, but most importantly, your achievements.

So now to the hard part.

I didn’t read the other letters. I didn’t have to. I knew there was something going on you weren’t telling me. And I’m sorry I was wrapped up in other things and couldn’t be there for you. That is all.

I have always tried to answer yours and Emily’s questions carefully, and with the due consideration they deserved, knowing, or at least hoping, that you would make the right choices. I was never afraid for you because even if you made the wrong one, you would still get through it, because you are unbreakable. Bend perhaps, sway maybe, but I don’t believe you can ever be torn down.

You will never be judged by me for mistakes you have made or decisions you regret, because I have all those and more in spades. And you’ll keep making them, friends, family, lovers, there are a host of bad decisions out there waiting for you. You’ll make them in anger, and frustration, and perhaps regret. But this is the way it is. This is where my experience comes from. Kindness is not an innate talent one naturally takes unless you are already predisposed to be like that. Kindness, compassion, and support are learned because you have suffered, you’ve seen it, and you want it to stop.

You will never be able to fix every problem. Finish every story. Read every book.

Things will slip and slide, life will get in the way.

I have weakness as do you, but we have strengths too.

You are so very brave. I was so proud of you when you finished your degree. More than you will ever know. I thought to myself; she did what you always wanted to, what you should have done. I should have followed that little girl’s dreams of being a writer, and instead I believed I needed to get a degree to get a job.

And here you are, getting a degree in writing, conquering Nanowrimo ingeniously, working on your creatively talents with the relentless pursuit I can only admire, and envy.

You fight standards and expectations and forge your own, you are a warrior in your own right. You are a dancer with words and expression, a fire I want to see burn on until I am gone. You are the person I wanted to be, and so if anything you said about me rings true, know that I see it in you.

I hope one day a young woman, bright and intelligent, writes you a letter like that, so you understand what a profound difference you’ve made on my life.

Never give up on you, because you are so beautiful inside, and you have so much yet I hope to see.

With all the love in the world,

Nor

 

 

Afterwards I decided that I needed to do something more. I couldn’t just let these letters lie, I needed to spread Lorna’s message, about how much we admire and love other people and you never know when that’s going to tear down walls of lies inside a persons own mind, or give them the courage to keep going, or save their life.

So I’m asking you to do it. Write someone a letter, with all the words of a creator, a sorcerer over a cauldron concocting fairy tales and stories among the stars, write a letter to someone who needs your magic.

To another author you admire, a painter who you love, and it doesn’t matter if they are famous or not, a person you’ve met in real life or not. Write them a letter. Tell them what you meant to them. There is not enough love and caring in this world and if you can take the time to read this far then please, take the time to tell someone else how important they are to you. You will never ever know how desperately they need to hear it.

creativity is intelligence having fun.

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