Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Until We Meet Again

I hate to do this, but at this juncture, I'm announcing a hiatus for Apology to John Keats. I started this blog way back when I only had one humble online lit journal credit to my name and I've learned loads since. Though my journey isn't over, I haven't the focus to continue with this blog at this time.

The lone book I published as AJ, 19 Years 10 Months 24 Days, will forever hold a place in my heart. It was the first novel I wrote, and the first I formatted and saw through to publication. But it's not the avenue my work ultimately took. It was an amazing learning experience. It was where I started.

Perhaps I'll pick up blogging again someday. Until then you can keep an eye out for new releases from Matilda Loveshack.

'Til then.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Self-Publishing War, illustrated with sarcasm.

In the self-publishing blog-o-sphere, I’ve noticed a somewhat invisible (or perhaps not so invisible) war raging between self-publishers that use an assisted publishing service and those that take the DIY approach. I personally am in the DIY camp and will gladly explain why this is the best choice for me. I repeat, for me. However, I’ve received fire from the other camp in blog comments or conversations that go something like this:

Well, good for you miss technologic-mc-technology fingers. I don’t even know how to tri-fold a piece of paper into an envelope, you think I can figure out where margins go?? What should I do, just quit my life and get a PhD in graphic design? Have fun making really bad covers while I have professionals work on my book. Because I am an AUTHOR. I WRITE. My readers care about the STORY and that’s my job, the STORY part. I can’t just waste my time learning about indents when I have all these STORIES. And just like any good writer I get an editor. I do IDEAS not COMMAS. Besides, I get up at four A.M. eight days a week just to get all my writing done, where will I find time to format a 200,000 word book? Real authors ain’t got time for that! You’re the reason self-publishing sucks because you think you can do it all by yourself and publish horrible covers and badly put together Frankenbooks. Hope you can sleep at night knowing you are turning self-publishing into a laughing stock while I get people who actually know what they’re doing to package all my awesome authorly ideas! It’s your fault books like mine don’t get a chance.

On the flipside, I’ve read blog posts outlining why using a publishing service has been the right choice for an author. Inevitably there are comments below the post that read like this:

Ooh, it looks like somebody has money! I’d like to bring you down to the real world. I’ll only ever have fifty, maybe, MAYBE, seventy-five cents to put toward my book, but I’m glad you had fistfuls of cash handed to you to burn on publishing. You know you can publish a book for free, right? Sure I don’t have any money to spend on marketing, advertising, giveaway copies, promotional materials, book events or business cards, but at least I don’t have five grand to make up for just getting an ISBN and some cute impersonal stock photos for my cover. Because guess what? I’m a MICRO-PUBLISHER and it says so on my facebook page. I’m like a CEO. I do way more than write. I have to think about things instead of handing out some greenbacks for someone else to do the not-fun parts of self-publishing. It’s all your fault for turning self-publishing into a vanity fair! You just need thousands of dollars and ta-da, author! How about some blood, sweat, and tears, huh? You’re the reason books like mine get a bad reputation.

All right.
I don’t care what side you’re on, if you’re so defensive about how you’re doing publishing, you just make yourself look dumb. Because both the tirades above are right: either route done badly is a great blow to the “self-pub image.” But either route done well is likely going to be the best choice for that particular author. Time, money, and management skills are necessary in self-publishing, regardless of the means. And what matters most is the book. If you aren’t writing the best book you can, it doesn’t matter how you publish or how that guy over there is publishing. If the book isn’t the center of your focus and falls short in execution, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reviewers Behaving Badly

I've become just as suspect as anyone about the legitimacy of reviews. With authors paying for reviews, begging for five stars and dressing up as consumers to write inflated reviews of their own books it’s hard to trust all five of those shiny stars. But what happens when those seeming "authors behaving badly" are actually reviewers doing it themselves? Can a gushy, happy, joy-joy 5-star review actually be more detrimental to an author than a 2-star one?

From some personal experience, some fellow author's experiences and a little observation, here are some pitfalls authors may encounter even in honestly obtained reviews.

1. The Facebook Comment As Review
"Omg, my cousin totally wrote this book and it's amazing! I don't read at all, but I think everyone should buy this book because my cousin spent a lot of time and money on this and it's so cool that I'm related an author! 5 stars for Brooke and her awesome accomplishment!"

Ok, fine, if you want to put something like this on your Facebook page, knock yourself out but for the love of literary kittens do not post it on a distributor like Amazon or B&N or a review site like goodreads. It makes the author look like they have been soliciting reviews. I have no doubt the author (poor made up Brooke in this case) did NOT ask for an overzealous cousin to post this, but sadly some excited friends and family members do. Unless you have read the book and have more of an opinion as to why it's good besides knowing the author personally, keep things like this on Facebook, not on review sites.

2. The Skimmer Writes a Review

"This is a great time-travel piece. The characters find a magical creek and drink the water and are transported to the Civil War where they free slaves from an auction. I loved the narrator and her brother was so funny. 5 stars."

Well, that's great, but in the book, they go to the creek AFTER they get tossed back in time because it is the only natural landmark they have to go by. Then they find out they are in 1855 (the Pre-Civil War era) and a vigilante group of abolitionists plots to steal slaves from an auction. And the narrator doesn't have a brother, that guy is just her friend, though the narrator does lie that he's her brother so it doesn't seem so improper they are traveling together for the time period.

See the difference? I've had authors mention people recounting events in their books that never happened or are so skewed they make the story seem, well, stupid. Especially in fantasy, horror, or sci-fi when oversimplification can make even great books sound lame, it is pretty darn important for reviewers to know what they read. I’ve seen many readers at the library claim to “love” books they’ve only skimmed. It happens. But don’t write an incomplete review. It makes the author look like they don’t know how to tell a story and consumers will think the 5-star rating is unjustified.

3. The Stalker

"This was a great book. It was entertaining and the characters were likeable, yet had heroic energy that provided a wonderful escape. 5 stars."

What's so wrong with that, you ask? Well, nothing, the first time around. But when it's posted on Amazon, and B&N, and Smashwords, and Goodreads, and... well, you get it. I had an author friend who had an excited fan who actually created multiple accounts to put the exact same review everywhere the book was sold. I have a hard enough time keeping track of where my books are distributed... but a reader? My friend didn't know what to do because she never asked the guy to put the review up in the first place let alone in ten places. She was worried someone would think she paid a robot to put the review up everywhere. I know I like to look at multiple sites with book reviews and if I saw the same one twice I would be suspicious. The same has happened with excited fans posting multiple promotions for an author's book on all their social media until their friends become annoyed at them and, of no fault to the author, the author as well. Authors love when friends and fans help promote the work, but when done badly it makes the author look egotistic and amateurish.

4. The Silent Anonymous That Loved Your Book

Anonymous. 5 stars. There is no text for this review.

Hey look five stars! Click. No comment. Just a sad blank spot. As an author this can be frustrating. With any extreme review like 5 or 1 stars, the author wants a little feedback… What did I do wrong? What did I do right? I must admit that on goodreads I am guilty of just posting stars and no review. But on say B&N, the anonymous option leaves no feedback whatsoever for authors or consumers. At least goodreads includes a name, profile, and shelves the reviewer put the book on so consumers can tell what demographic the reviewer fits into to give some inkling of why they reviewed book highly in the first place. Anonymous doesn’t. I mean, sure remain anonymous if you want to give a bad review so the author doesn't behave badly and find you on FB or some junk, but a good review? Readers have no way to know why those 5 stars are there. Naturally I'm more suspicious of anonymous 5 stars than anonymous 1 star. (Which may be a good thing, considering so many anonymous 1-star reviews.) Sad but true.

 5. The "I Never Should Have Published Short Stories for Free if You Don't Get It" Reviewer

 "1 star, this was only like, 20 pages long!"

"I got this book for free and it's not even a book, there's like one chapter! 1 star."

"This book stops after the good part, WTF. 1 star."

"I liked this but it's not very long at all and I'm confused where's the rest lol. 1 star."

"If I open it and its less than 20 pages long, I'm just giving it one star."

 All right, so this isn’t a 5-star review, but an unfair review I think can sometimes be because of bad reviewer behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate when an author uses confusing wordage to promote a short story (“A short novelette of epic proportions!”) then charges $2.99 (or more!) for it. If the consumer is made to believe that they are paying for a whole book because the author is greedy then of course they should be mad.

But when the word “short story” is in the description, and on the title page/cover and the story is free… well, then give me another reason for a 1 star rating then the fact that it was just a short story.

I think authors have every right to publish their short stories as ebooks if they are honest about what they are doing, but that’s a whole other blog post.

6. Authors Behaving Badly As Reviewers Making Other Authors Bad In A Terrible Spiral of Bad

In an email: "Hey I totally reviewed your book on my blog 'cuz it was good and indie and stuff. Here's the link to the post so you can share it! Attached is my novella kind of about the same thing you wrote if you want to review it on your blog, just do it by October because I'm promoting the release of my new book "Best Book Ever" then. By the way you rock, let me know when you're next book is out so I can review it!"

 This has happened a couple times now that I've been including my email in the back of books/my blog/at the end of short stories. So I click on the link and there's a picture of my book from Amazon and some generalities taken from the sample chapters but when I click to view the whole blog, my post is buried under another 8 posts of other indie books and guess what? They're all amazing and happy and great. But the sad thing is, some of the authors really did share the link and review the attached novella and give it high ratings just because some random author exploited their desire to be reviewed. It’s a sick, sad, un-genuine cycle of reviewing badness and it makes my head hurt.

I understand we indies need to help each other out, but to me this good review in exchange for a good review is dishonest nonsense. It’s one thing if you actually like the book, but if you’re just giving a book 5 stars because the author threw some glittery BS to you in an email then you are doing other indies a great disservice.

 Go give an indie author you really enjoy those 5 stars and a thoughtful review before their anonymous cousin does it for you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


*WARNING: terrible, horrible, no good, very bad words. Read with the utmost caution*

I’m not sure there’s any way to explain my point without a long-winded back story, so please bear with me.
I basically live in a very conservative place. I understand that I have different views than many people I come into contact with, but I’ve never meant to be disrespectful or even antagonistic. I stand by my morals just as much as anyone, but I don’t feel the need to constantly push my agenda or get into arguments. Most of the time I “behave myself,” by not bringing things up when I disagree politically, spiritually, socially, whatever.

A big part of this is language. I don’t say “bad” words on my facebook page, and the first time I read some of the more “out there” writer’s blogs, I was shocked to see how much “fuck” was used casually, humorously, in anger, or just as any other word. I don’t care, but there would be people I know that would flip if they ever read something like that. The truth is I say fuck all the time, but I rarely write it on the internet.

Which is one of the reasons I started my pen name, Matilda Loveshack. I want to write about dark and dangerous things like horror, murder mysteries, psychopaths, dystopian futures, and yes, sex. I very clearly state that I write this kind of thing in my fiction under this name and if you do not like it or don’t want it near your children, I completely respect your decision to not read it. I feel like I stick as many little red flags into my work as possible to prevent anyone being subjected to content they simply do not want to read. I understand.
Well, of course, my book has been out for about two weeks and I’ve already had a bit of a falling out with some people I was close to, over the content of my book. (My zombie book, I might add.)

They were deeply offended and hurt that I would even think about writing something like this. Not the whole ‘murder and people eating each other’ thing. What was it that was so offensive? I had the characters saying “fuck.”
I’m not going to lie. Authors that fling around profanity on every page aren’t exactly my favorite. But when “bad words” are used realistically, I think they can add so much to the characters and tone of the story. Not only do I think that’s how people do talk, if you’re going to have all sorts of other R-rated content, why is “fuck” the biggest problem people have?

Well, this brings me to explaining something that I included purposefully in my book.
Along with fuck (and shit), I include one character using the word “crippled” and another “retarded.”

Now for those that don’t know, I was born with a physical defect and many people (public I know from working customer service, mostly) for some reason always use “crippled” to describe me. To my face, to my co-workers, my bosses, my friends. I’m the crippled one. The cripple with three jobs. The girl that does so good for being crippled.
For a long time, I despised that word. I got angry when people used it. But I knew one thing: I was not going to be victimized by a word. So I thought about it and realized that it wasn’t the word, it was that they were dictating how I should see myself when they used the word.

Basically, how I see the world and how they see the world do not line up. My experiences lead me to one conclusion about the word, and their experiences lead them to another. These “bad” words highlight a pivotal difference between two people, and that can be very isolating. It’s upsetting. I think it’s perfectly fine to say fuck. You think saying fuck is a deeply disrespectful and malicious action. Rather than sit down and figure out why one thinks one way and one thinks the other, these offensive words are simply labeled bad and no other thought is put into it.
So, before anyone yells at me for using these offensive words, let me say this.

The character in my book uses the term “crippled” in an antagonistic way. She is trying to piss off another character. She is not being nice and she would not be politically correct about it, though given her character she would probably not be PC anyway.  
The character that says “retarded” is 9 years old and it’s in a very emotional scene. She’s all worked up and ends up saying “fuck” a few sentences later even though she’s never said the word before. She’s basically taking the worst thing she could say to express her epic upset to the other characters. And for me, it worked.

In both these scenes I debated using different words, but put the original “bad” ones in because that’s how the characters would talk, especially in those situations.
I’m not saying that the way I used these words is better than how other authors might use them. Seriously, put them wherever the fuck you want. Nor am I saying that because of my experiences I have some special right to use these words or I’m using them correctly. I’m just saying I knew they were emotional words and after deliberation, I included them. Not to offend anyone. To be true to my work.

Another example. A photographer I follow on Facebook has been shut down a couple times by haters going on about how her tastefully done boudoir photos are offensive. She photographs women and couples of all sizes and really brings out how individuality is beautiful. Honestly, looking at her work made me feel better about my own body. As an artist, that’s what you want to do, help others figure out things about themselves.
But some random people go, “Oh no, confident sexiness, we are deeply offended, shut her down!”

It’s a problem. Because guess what?
The world is harsh. The truth is dirty. Life is offensive.

I will not be made to feel guilty for my expression of the world. Especially after I gave it careful thought and in no way made it a malicious attack on anyone I care about, or anyone that might be reading. I never say “Fuck you” or “Your retarded kid is worthless” or “cripples shouldn’t have jobs.”

If anything, I’m saying, think about this.
Why would this character say this?

What does that mean about the society the character lives in if they are saying these things?
What does it say about all of us?

Rant over J Thank you for listening.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Like zombies? Like books? Here's a zombie book!

I'm in the muddle of transitioning from one book to another, from winter to spring, and am in great need of some major organization overhaul. So until I can compose a real blog post, here's the obligatory Read My New Book post.

"The Corridor" by Matilda Loveshack. Now available in print on Amazon.com, on the Kindle in the Kindle store, and for download via Smashwords. Sampling enabled on ebook formats!
Questions, comments, or good zombie survival tips may be directed to my inbox at matildaloveshack@hotmail.com

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"The Next Big Thing"

1. What is the working title of your story?

Well since I have the proof of the book and it's set to be released at the end of February, the title is more concrete than a "working" title, but it is called "The Corridor."

2. Where did the idea come from for the story?

It began as a complete challenge for myself, to write a book in a year using the most outrageous plot points I could think of: Aliens and zombies. Well, it took more than a year, but it shaped up into much more than a trivial challenge and I'm most excited about it.

3. What Genre Does Your Story Fall Under?
Is "zombie" its own genre nowadays? Well, I designated it as horror for the record, though it has some supernatural and sci-fi elements.

4. What Actors Would You Choose to Play Your Characters in a Movie Rendition?

I'm going to politely skip this one. When I find people on the street that look like the people in my head I will herd them together and pay them in Subway sandwiches to be in my indie film. Til then…

5. What is the One-Sentence Synopsis of Your Work?

A truck driver, a conspiracy theorist, a linguist, and a Mormon missionary must make their way home through the zombie apocalypse along the lonely I-35 corridor.

6. How Long Did It Take You to Write the First Draft of Your Manuscript?

The whole process took about 2 years, so I will say a year to write a year to edit? Yes, that.

7. What Other Stories Would You Compare This Story to Within Your Genre?

Ohhh, I don't know. I'll be egotistical and compare myself to Stephen King. Some of the more off-the-wall stories in "Night Shift" have similar essence as to what I was going for.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this story?

Well, I was starting with zombies (and aliens) and I was sitting in a truck stop in Ohio while my husband was an over-the-road truck driver and I went with him. He went to sleep and I stayed up with my computer. I wrote the first line, "The shooting started at midnight." Then began the action at the truck stop. Everything else followed.
9. What Else About Your Story Might Pique the Reader's Interest?

There are goats and a kitten. As characters. They don't talk or anything, but I had fun bringing in some four-legged perspectives to the apocalypse.

Tag 5 other authors:
Well, here's where I need some help. If you are an author or have a blog, drop me a line! matildaloveshack@hotmail.com I need to get in touch with more authors and read more blogs. And I'd love to do author interviews to post here. Let me know! But two indies I do know and can link to: Kris Miller & Laurie Hartman.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

So, really, do you need to go to college to be a better writer? My musings.

Well, the problem with college, I think, is that everyone thinks you’re stupid if you don’t go to college, but people think you’re even stupider when you do go to college and choose to study creative writing. Or art history. Or any field in the humanities.

Now, I don’t know about master’s degrees. I’m talking about the good, old fashioned B.S. or B.A. Maybe someday I’ll attack grad school. But like many in my position, it was about all I could do to scrape up enough for an undergrad degree. So, let’s muse about that.

When I signed up for a Language Arts Non-Teaching degree, most people would say, “What, you’re not going to teach?” I would shrug. Nope, don’t want to teach. Then, I’d get a little swagger, a little head tilt, a little grin, and the belittling question, “Well, what are you going to do to make a living then?”

Well, my honest answer was, I’m not going to college to get a job. I’m going to college to study literature, as long as I get scholarships and work three jobs to pay for everything and not go in debt. Then I’ll go get a job that probably won’t need a degree. But since that’s not a very socially correct answer I would say, “I want to work in journalism.” That usually shut the nay sayers up. “Oh, I didn’t think of that. You could be a reporter or an editor.” Yeah. Or I could work at a grocery store and write novels in my spare time.

Right now I am also a part time library clerk working on my public librarian certification, which, coupled with my bachelor’s, does open up a few more job opportunities for the future. The only reason I’m not working in journalism is because I live in an itty bitty town 60 miles from anywhere in any direction and if I did take a part time reporter position at any of the small local papers, I’d still be working part time at the grocery to pay bills. Until I can have access to working in a bigger city, I won’t have the opportunity to apply to a job “in my field.”

At any rate, I never wanted to work in my field in the traditional aspect. I wanted to write books. So, here we are. Did I need those 5 years at college to write books?

I went into college right out of high school. The first years, I bumbled around and kind of just did whatever was right in front of my face. Short story class, I wrote short stories. Poetry class, I wrote poetry. Modern Drama, I wrote plays. You get the idea.

Like I said, I took 5 years to get my B.S. though I tacked on a hefty psychology minor. The first three and a half years I was pretty much input, output. Memorize whatever was needed for the tests, keep one or two assignments I thought were randomly interesting, and sell back most of my textbooks. Sure, I was being exposed to a lot of new and interesting things, and I was learning and growing, but it wasn't until the end of my junior year and the start of my first senior year that I started putting any of it together.

Still, it amazed me how many people in my capstone English class, by far the most deep-reaching in critical analysis of literature, would say things like, “Well…I didn't like that book... that was a bad book,” and “I liked this book a lot, this was a good book.”

Which I suppose is just evidence of the myth of college, that college makes you a professional. College makes you an expert. College is what you need to succeed. This is not true. You make your degree. Buying books on literary criticism are utterly useless if you don’t read them. Skipping or sleeping through modern novel class will never give you insight into the structure of novels. You can say Shakespeare class is hard all you want. Actually reading it is harder.

Do I think there are talented writers without school, right off the bat, from the time they start writing? Yes, I do. But no one can write more than one piece and not start to learn about what they're doing. In various writers groups I've been in, I'm always impressed at how many good pieces are shared, and one piece from someone who has never studied or practiced writing can be just as striking as a piece written by someone with an MFA in creative writing.

And I'm not exaggerating. In fact, sometimes the novice has better pieces than the “pro.” The interesting thing, though, is when a person starts working on the piece, you start to see where it falls short. Where it needs work. When the sparkle of the ideas fade, the structure comes out and authors either hit or miss with rewrites. So, in a way, I think it takes either talent or a lot of work to get to point A, but as writers, we need to study and practice to get to point B, C, D, and E.

To do that, you must read and write, a lot. Which is basically what you do in college. I was restricted to swift paces set by semester classes (or sometimes half semester classes) of 8-16 weeks where we would read 5-8 novels, countless short stories and other materials. One week, my heavy week in all three of my lit classes, I had 800 pages assigned Monday, due Wednesday.

This was great, it made me read things I wouldn’t have sought out myself, maybe never even found on my own. The downside of that is I had to read so much of what was assigned, if something sparked my interest, I had no time to explore it, savor it. If I spotted a spark and wanted to build fire, well, too late, we have a quiz on chapters 1-5 of the next big thing.

I was especially a sucker for this in my psychology classes. In each class I had to write a paper. I would get the idea approved and go nuts, purchasing used books on the topic, so after I wrote my paper, I could continue to learn about the subject until satisfied. Well. That never worked. I would barely get through half of one book before the paper was due, so I would scramble to finish the paper then toss the books aside to revisit later. The pile of books I had to read by graduation was phenomenal, and my interests had become more specific, so many of the non-fiction books I thought would be epic ended up being quite sub par because I hadn't done enough looking into them. As for the fiction, well, I've been dying to read The Bluest Eye for 5 years now, and it's still sitting on my shelf.

Now I'm free to read what I'm interested when I'm interested in it. Which is why I've once again pushed Toni Morrison back to read other books I feel like reading now. My interests still tend to be faster than my reading pace, but at least I do get to the books I want to read, and write what I want to.

My first year out of college, I knew I needed to practice writing novels. So I challenged myself to write a novel in a year. It took two, but I’m very happy with how much I learned on my own. In fact, I think I learned more about writing when writing on my own than when I was in school. But without the foundation, I might not have been in the position to make such strides.

Honestly, I feel that I'm just now reading fiction from both the feeling and thinking sectors or my brain. I can get knocked out with brilliance and also appreciate the technical aspects. In psychology and sociology, I'm retaining the concepts and putting ideas together into coherent arguments. It's great that I can finally hold my own in debates, even if they are just friendly, or on facebook. But it gives me encouragement that I can write social commentary books/essays, the goal I had in mind when I added that psych minor.

I’d like to think my bumbling years weren’t worthless. If anything, we all have the bumbling years, whether we’re in college or not. Ultimately, I think writing well takes time, and practice in that time. I had a lot of opportunities to challenge myself in college and produce pieces I may never have otherwise. Some were excellent. Some were absolutely terrible.

The thing is, however, I spent a lot of time writing my own work, working on pieces that had nothing to do with the assignments or papers I had to write. So in many ways, now, it’s a lot like in college. I go to work, I do my librarian certification assignments as I am required, But in my spare time I’m always trying to write my own stuff, read what I want, and better my craft on my own.

One last thought. In both college and now out “on my own,” I participated in writing workshops. I have to admit, these are invaluable for me as a writer. Our little group that meets at the library has been wonderful. Being able to share a piece and receive feedback from a variety of viewpoints is such a great resource. And listening to someone who has worked very hard and made an impeccable piece of work means you glean a lot of insight for yourself. And I learned just as much from college centered workshops as the outside groups, set up by people who simply love to write.

So I don’t have a simple answer for anyone who wants to know if they need college to be a good writer. Ultimately, I think you need to ask yourself this: Is your bookshelf (physical or digital) overflowing with books? Have you read most of them? If a friend interrupts a free afternoon of yours will they find you reading or writing? Do you read and write on your breaks at work, or in the doctor’s office waiting room? College or not, you have to actually do the things you want to accomplish. You must work at it to be an expert. Without the work, degree or not, nothing else matters, because you won’t hold up in the real world. You won’t have readers. Fancy letters after your name aren’t any good if readers put the book down.

So in conclusion, get busy! Go write something!