Going Full-On

I’ve written before about moments in my writing “career” where I’ve felt dejected and full of self-doubt. This is not one of those posts.

I have a strong tendency once I get past my initial doubts where I go full-on confident.

man-1902765_960_720You see, there are times when I don’t give a damn what someone else thinks. I know I will succeed. I have no doubt. I believe in myself when no one else will.

I’ve never been given anything. If I wanted it, I had to work hard for it. My family didn’t have money. I started working when i was 13 or 14 as a newspaper carrier for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, OH. I got up every morning before the sun and delivered the daily paper all along my street.

Not having money taught me to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and suck it up. I didn’t always enjoy the jobs I had, but I dealt with it and gained strength from it. Everything I gained is because of determination.

I can’t tell you how many times my stories have been rejected (Well, actually I can. My stories have accumulated 74 rejections since 2014 with only 4 acceptances). Many for good reasons. It’s ok. I know they’re good. I know they belong somewhere. So I continue sending them out.

The thing is, I can’t let those get to me. What’s the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” I feel that way about my stories. They weren’t right for some places but a perfect fit for others. I gotta find that fit.

So for those who reject my stories just know, you’re gonna be part of my success. You will push me to prove you wrong. It might not be the most healthy attitude, but it keeps me focused.

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Eclipse Comic Con Recap

This past weekend (Aug. 10th-20th) I participated in the Eclipse Comic Con on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Tied in to the upcoming solar eclipse that crosses the United States on Aug. 21st with the point of longest duration just minutes from Carbondale, this event had a lot going for it.

Eclipse ComicConI’ve not done too many local events since I released my first book. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in art and blues festivals out at Blue Sky Vineyards in Makanda, IL but this was my first big local event and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was set up next to another local author, Amy Hale, who I’ve met at Contamination in St. Louis in 2016. However I hadn’t really gotten to know her until now. We had a blast all weekend as we engaged new readers and got to talk with each other about our books and our journeys as writers. Her and her husband John are good people and I can’t wait to meet up with them at Penned Con in St. Louis.

The Con itself was larger than I expected. There were comic vendors, memorabilia booths, and I think five to six authors selling books or comics. We even participated in a panel on writing during the Sunday session. Authors Amy Hale, Kenny Sills, Cathy Jackson, Todd Black, myself and moderator author Brian Morris spoke about writing paths and fielded questions from the audience.

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My setup at the Eclipse Comic Con. My friend and cover artist Dan Brown was a few booths away working for our local comic shop and snapped the pic for me.

I knew going into the event I needed to sell 10 books to cover the cost of my table. I had that done within the first 2 hour of the event! That kind of early success calmed my nerves and helped me to enjoy the event quite a bit. Sales on the first day were more than expected, though on Sunday they cooled quite a bit. I’m ok with that since I was able to cover my costs and get my books in the hands of readers from all over the country as visitors to the region for the eclipse were in high attendance at the show. Because I live 15 minutes from the campus of SIU, I didn’t have hotel or travel costs making this Con a no brainer for me.

I heard by the end of the Con that organizers were fairly certain they’d be doing the event again next year. I certainly hope so. As a reasonably priced event with lots of potential growth, I’d easily add it to the list of events I plan on attending next year. Even without the eclipse drawing visitors to the region, I think the area can support such a Con.

 

Review: “Twilight Madhouse Vol. 1”

OK, so let me start with the obvious. Yes, this is the anthology with my story Achievement Unlocked. I have not read the stories until the book was released like everyone else. I will not include my thoughts on my story below (Umm…it rocks!) but what follows are my impressions of the rest of the stories.

Review: Twilight Madhouse Vol. 1

This is a new horror anthology from Schreyer Ink Publishing. (This review and it’s format is based off their post about reviewing anthologies by the way).

1st Story: “Cracked Reflection” by Joanna Michal Hoyt

I gotta be honest, this was my least favorite story of the bunch. There was a ton of description and the setting was evident, but I couldn’t get into it. The story takes place between 1916 and 1919. As the editor notes in the introduction, it was “a time when madness was thought by some to be an illness of the mind, and by others to be a religious affliction. Who is mad her? Who is sane?” I might be the mad one for not enjoying it like I hoped.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 

2nd Story: “The Decent Thing” by Dex Fernandez

This is a slightly disturbing future tale. At first I thought the story was about animals (I know, sometimes I can be slow to catch on!) but as I read, I was caught up in the dark tale. Such a sad state of affairs and hopefully not a future we will see.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

3rd Story: “The Eryxian Talisman” by Cameron Smith

I loved this one! And it does feature an animal for reelz! Cameron Smith weaves an excellent tale of shape shifting with a twist. I can’t but help feeling sorry for poor Maggie as she seeks a new life. Cool story!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

Twilight4th Story: “Achievement Unlocked” by yours truly

I’m not gonna give an opinion, just a brief synopsis. It’s a story about a gamer who gets bored with video games and decides to try something more. It’s one of the shorter pieces in the bunch.

Rating: NA (I gotta be fair)

 

5th Story: “Pick Your Poison” by Colin Douglas

Such terrible choices we have to make at times. This tale explores the choice a mother must make and the consequences of the decision. Not an easy one to read because of the content, but a well written and entertaining story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

6th Story: “POE 103” by Ken Goldman

An awesome ode to Edgar Allan Poe written with style and attention to detail. I loved the feeling of this story. It evoked Poe through the language and frequent quotes. It explores what happens when someone spends their life studying a great figure of literature. Awesome story I cannot recommend enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

7th Story: “Death to the Diddlers” by Karin Fuller

Wow. Talk about making someone squirm! This was a quick tale, maybe just a bit longer than “Achievement Unlocked” but it was powerful and slightly disturbing. Nice twist in the story too.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

8th Story: “Spectrum” by D.R. Perry

I genuinely felt sorry for the girl in this story. She had it bad. It made me think about how many people really have situations like hers. I wanted to help her so much.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

9th Story: “The Other Side of Night” by Max Shepherd

Umm…so, yeah. This story. Really, really well written. It features two siblings; a sister and brother, and explores a difficult circumstance. I thought it was an excellent examination of loss and the havoc it wreaks on the mind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

10th Story: “The Werewolf, the Vampire, the Demon, and the Girl” by L.J. McLeod

Rounding out the anthology is this story featuring a werewolf, vampire, demon, and a girl on Halloween night. It’s an entertaining read as the three monsters stalk the same prey. Fun way to end the collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Overall, I was impressed by the varied collection of stories presented here. Obviously I knew my story and had a special connection to it, but read within the whole as part of this overall compilation I saw the theme of madness running from story to story. I was exposed to other authors I hadn’t yet read but look forward to more from them.

Look for more from Schreyer Ink Publishing as they look to release at least two more volumes in the “Twilight Madness” series. You can get this anthology here.

“Self to Younger Self, Come in!”

Have you ever thought about what you’d tell your younger self if you could? Or if your younger self would even listen?

I have.

I’d tell my younger self not to be afraid. Risks are the ultimate double edged sword. If it pans out, you have the opportunity to achieve something great. If it flops, there’s a possibility of physical or mental pain.

There were so many times when I was younger that I’d not do something out of fear. Opportunities would present themselves but instead of taking that risk, I’d shrink from it and who knows what awesome things I missed out on.

That’s funny to say as a former skateboarder too. The entire act of skateboarding is a giant risk. In order to improve or learn new tricks I had to risk injury. Though I skated for well over a decade, my progress stagnated and I never became a great skater, just an ok one. Most of that I attribute to my younger self worrying about failure in a physical sense and not pushing myself harder. I was afraid of the negative consequences of the risk.

JayanddDoug

Me (on the right) and my friend Doug.

Heck, I barely made the connection with a girl who would later turn out to be my wife of over twenty years now and the mother of our son. I knew my wife when I was in high school and I worked with her at a local fast food restaurant. I knew she liked me but I was afraid to talk to her, afraid of possible rejection. That was a risk too high for me. If it wasn’t for my friend Doug having break the same time as her one fateful day, who knows what might have happened? Without any urging from me, he got her phone number and gave it to me, telling me she wanted me to call. I did. We set up our first date and over twenty four years later, we’re still together. But I might have missed it entirely because I was too afraid to say anything.

Fear is tough to overcome. But if we risk it, if we just try, we might end up with something amazing. Or we might not, but the point is to try. Failure is not the end, but another beginning. My younger self didn’t understand that. I like to think I do now.

Review Circles for Authors

Are you an indie author or an author looking for more reviews? Well, let me help!

I’ve created a private Facebook group to address this and hopefully help us all as we work on our promotions.

Let me get this out there to be clear: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW EXCHANGE! We will NOT review book for book. You will not be expected to review a book from an author who is reviewing you. That would make for a dishonest review (or at the very least, the temptation to leave a higher review since you’d expect them to give you a higher review). I don’t like how that works and I don’t condone it.

In it’s most basic form, it works like this:

Review Circle

 

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

All authors will be expected to buy the book they’re reviewing as long as it’s $1.99 or less. If it’s over that price point, I want the author to gift it to them or send the reviewer a free copy.

I prefer reviewers buy the book to give the review the “Verified Purchase” tag. But I also want people to stick around and if they gotta keep paying more than $1.99 per book for something they may or may not normally read, I feel it’s asking too much.

Reviewers will have two weeks to read and review the books. All authors participating must not argue with the review received. These are honest opinions and if your work isn’t up to par, work on it first.

All reviews are honest. If as an author you get a review lower than what you expect, please do not argue with the reviewer. By submitting to the Review Circle, that’s the chance we take. That’s what an honest review is. This is not an opportunity for us to hand out five star reviews “just because.” It’s meant to help each other gain honest reviews of our work. Honest doesn’t always mean pleasant. Again, please do not argue with the reviewer.

Reviewers, though you are tasked with leaving an honest review, please be courteous. We’re not trying to discourage our fellow authors with negative remarks. You can voice your opinion in a thoughtful and constructive manner. Please do not crush your fellow authors.

For the book you’d like to have reviewed, please make sure your book is well constructed and edited, preferably by a professional. This is not a Beta reading circle. We are working under the assumption your book is a final product. What we read is what any reader would read. Make sure it’s the best representation of your book.

Try to keep all books requesting a review under 350 pages or less. Since this is a fairly quick turnaround of two weeks, longer books won’t work well. If your reviewer is OK with a longer book, go ahead and submit it. If not, please consider a different book.

By participating in the Review Circle, you must be ok with reading various genres. I will try to assign reviewers according to their tastes but I can’t guarantee it’s gonna be in your wheelhouse. If that happens, please keep an open mind and review the book on its merits as a story, not on if you like the genre. We can all learn when reading outside our specific genres.


So that’s it. I’ve run something like this in a Facebook group I’m part of, but I think it’s time to branch out and start a group based solely on this premise. If you’d like to join and are ready to be reviewed while offering your honest reviews, please send over a request to join the Review Circle for Authors Facebook Group. Thanks!

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Hey everyone, I wanted to share a few reviews with you today. I’ve never commented like this on reviews so let me know if I’m committing some faux pas.

For writers and authors, reviews are the lifeblood that pushes us forward. They can also make us cringe and get all defensive, though retaliation is a horrible thing to get involved in. It’s much better to suck it up and deal with the review as a learning tool, as a means of improving your craft. You gotta take the bad with the good and balance it out.

Anyway, here are three reviews I received recently for my book The Selection.


File_001I loved this review! So many great comparisons. I’m a bit humbled by them to be honest, but there’s a lot going on here that makes me think I nailed the feel and tone of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 


File_000 (2)This review further emphasized to me my tone and feel of the book was what I hoped it would be. It’s so tough to know how people will react to your work until you start seeing the proof in the reviews.

 

 

 


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So this was my latest review and I love the honesty. The end of The Selection is pretty tough to take and I wanted a big hook to make the reader want more. So far, for the majority of readers it has gone over like I wanted. There are some who don’t agree with how I ended it and that’s perfectly fine.  I wouldn’t argue with any review that said the end sucked (or about anything in the book for that matter). That’s the opinion of the reader and I respect that.

 


 

There you have it. Three of my most recent reviews. I’m still in awe every time someone reads my work and feels compelled to leave a review. It’s fulfilling to know what I present to the reader is being accepted and enjoyed.

If you want to see for yourself what all the chatter is about, you can get The Selection on Amazon for only .99 now through August 31st. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free to read. When you do, please consider leaving a review. Honest reviews are the best ones, even if you hate it.

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Rough Writing

This post is one I originally posted on Facebook at the end of July and was one of my most viewed posts ever! It’s a deeply personal account of a tough moment in my writing “career.” I’ve posted about it before but this seemed to resonate with many writers and readers. Here ya go!


Last year, I learned a valuable lesson in regards to my writing.

I wanted to turn one of my four NaNoWriMo novels into a publishable book. I choose what I thought was the best one and revised it then hired an editor to look it over.

When I got the edits back, I was also given a brutally honest assessment of the work. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but man it was so helpful and so spot on. I cannot thank that editor enough for opening my eyes to the problems it had and how far from being ready it was.

Then, a few days later, I attended a writing conference where they were doing a blind reading of submitted stories with a panel of agents and small publishers. Anyone that wanted to could submit a three page sample of their story and they’d read it out loud for the entire conference to hear. Once it got to the point in the story where that agent or editor would’ve rejected the submission, they were to raise their hand. Once a majority of the panel rejected it, they’d stop and offer a critique of why they rejected it (or if it went the entire length, why they would’ve asked for more).

I submitted my three pages. So did about a hundred other writers. They only read five submissions but guess whose got read? Yeah, this guy right here! It was the same story I had my editor work on. Already feeling bummed about the comments received so far, when they started reading mine I was in shock but also curious.

boy-859364_960_720When they got to the second page, hands started flying up. I sipped my Diet Coke like nothing was going on but inside I was crushed. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Their feedback was brutal. Much like the editor I worked with, they didn’t hold back, however this was in front of a room of over a hundred writers! Fortunately the only person that knew who’s story they were critiquing was myself.

Those combined experiences with that draft made me question everything I was doing. Was I good enough? Do I have a clue about what I’m doing? Was I mistakenly claiming the title of “writer?” Should I give up?

My drive home from that conference was a dark, lonely drive. However, when I finally pulled in the driveway, I determined to use this for good.

I vowed to get better, to try harder, to continue progressing in my craft because I love it. I enjoy writing and it’s a part of me now. I chose to take their criticisms not as a personal attack, but as my alarm to improve my writing. I had skill, but it needed work.

It was a tough lesson to learn, but in the end the most valuable thing to happen to me.