Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG: Making Time & Space, Plus Damyanti Stops By

It's the first Wednesday of December, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brain child of Alex J. Cavanaugh.


All are welcome to participate. Just click on Alex's name above, sign up on the list, and post about your writing insecurities. There's a convenient optional question in case you're just not sure what to say, but want to take part.

Thank you to this month's co-hosts!

Be sure to visit, Alex, the co-hosts, and some of the other participants, so you can meet some new folks!

Last month was busy, and this month is shaping up to be the same. To get back to previous writing levels, I'm trying to guarantee myself one solo writing date out of the house per week at a local cafe, plus a writing date with friends, hopefully also once per week. A guaranteed two days per week is all I can do right now, but I get a ton done when I make the time. 

My office had also become crammed full and messy due to having to move things to have windows put in. Plus, I came off several appearances, and had just shoved my stuff from each engagement into the office and hastily packed what I needed each time. I find I avoid my office when it gets in a messy state like this, because it overwhelms me. I freeze up, because I feel like I can't get anything done until I clean/tidy it. I've now tidied it up, and am looking forward to getting back in there.

So my insecurities this month involved making time and making space. Now that I've completed that, I'm optimistic about getting some writing done!

Now that we've discussed my insecurities, I've got a guest post from Damyanti, delayed from what was to have been an earlier posting. It's about writing crime fiction, and her journey to publishing You Beneath Your Skin.



On Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X8WCKH6/
It is not easy for me to speak about my journey into fiction, because I never imagined I’d be a writer. And ten years ago, if you’d have asked me if I’d be a crime writer I would have laughed.

I’d started writing by then, but I thought I would write realistic, literary stories.

Always been a compulsive reader—it is hard for me to survive without reading—even on days I don’t have time to eat or sleep—I read a little, of something. It is mostly reflex action. One of the reasons I write fiction is because I’m insatiably curious, and curious about people. Reading does not always satisfy this curiosity. I want to know what makes people tick, to figure out why humans do the mundane and extraordinary things they do. In my writing, my effort is to render the mundane extraordinary, and to examine the unusual and make it familiar.

Stories come to me from characters and my urge to understand them-- and in so doing, in a curious, intangible way, to understand myself.

Some of my first crime stories began as attempts to make sense of human nature—I wrote about a voyeur first, ( we had a voyeur in our neighbourhood) and then another story about an unrequited lover avenging the death of the woman he’d been devoted to. Yet another was a traditional woman, a forensic expert, who realised that the long-distance online relationship she’d been having was with a fraud, who’d been cheating her for money. She avenges this by shooting him and burying him in her backyard. I proceeded to write about a husband taking care of his moribund wife—we do not know if he mercy-kills her in the end, but we suspect it.

The turning point came with reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This was literary writing, but it described horrors we humans are capable of. It made me think of writing about the characters who had haunted me over the years. Anjali, specifically. And she appeared in Delhi, a city I’d spent many years of my life in, and one rather infamous for crimes against women. As the novel evolved, and I worked with Julia Bell, my mentor from Birkbeck University, I realised I had a crime novel on my hands.

I studied under various tutors, understood POV and characterization, plotting and dialogues, and the novel kept changing shape and size, morphing into the being it is today.

Engaged in telling the best story I could, I found acid attack as a plot point, and being the obsessive sort of person I am, I wanted to meet at least one acid attack survivor before I wrote the draft. That changed many things, because having met acid attack survivors, heard their stories and held their hands, it was impossible to turn back. I was still writing a crime novel, but you cannot reduce horrific pain and devastation into plot devices—you must either write about them exclusively, or if they fit into your story, write about them with the greatest respect and as much authenticity as possible.

Book Launch with Acid Attack Survivors

This is how You Beneath Your Skin came about. The framework is of a crime thriller, and it can be read as one. But my years of supporting Project WHY has somehow trickled through—the alleyways I’ve visited, the people I have met there. The acid attack survivors and their pain has seeped into the story as well, and all my proceeds of the novel go to Stop Acid Attacks and Project WHY.

Writing a crime novel, here’s what I have learned:
  • Characters are everything. Many readers have written to me about how much they cared about the characters, how pleased or disappointed they were for these fictional people—Anjali, Jatin, Maya, Pawan, Nikhil. How the novel stayed with them. So I believe characters must be 4-dimensional, unique, independent beings.
  • Setting. No one thinks of New Delhi as a cold place, but it gets close to freezing in winters. For the last few years smog has been a huge issue—New Delhi now has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most polluted city. All that grime and dark lent well to You Beneath Your Skin. When writing crime novels—whether cosy or hard-boiled or literary, the setting needs to be a character, and be used for the plot. In You Beneath Your Skin, the smog and traffic become effective blocks against the protagonists.
  • Motivations are important. Whether you’re writing a traditional whodunit, or a literary whydunit like my novel you must know what motivates each one of your characters. Who is doing what is important, but the novel becomes stronger if the reader knows why they’re doing it.
  • Pace is crucial. Not imposed pace, but pace that comes from all the story questions raised. Each chapter must end on a story question or a revelation that leads to more questions. The plot must follow this path: Incident> Insight> Decision> Consequences> Insight> Decision> Consequences.
  • You can’t be didactic. You Beneath Your Skin raises many issues, but that’s because New Delhi is a very complex city and all the issues are part of its fabric. In a crime novel, story trumps everything—if you raise issues, they should be a corollary of the story, not its main thrust.
  • Research. Make your novel as real as possible. If the details are right, the reader sinks into a fictive dream, believing all of that happens in the story is real. That’s what you need in order to keep them turning the pages.


Writing crime fiction is not for everyone, but it can be a very rewarding experience. It leads to tons of fascinating research, a deep insight into human nature and the thrill of creating scenes that lead neatly from one to the other.



About the author: Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and supports Delhi's underprivileged women and children, volunteering with organisations who work for this cause. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. She has recently been shortlisted for The Fay Khoo Award in Penang, Malaysia.

You can find her on her blog and twitter.  

Her debut literary crime novel is an Amazon bestseller, and all the author proceeds from You Beneath Your Skin will support the education and empowerment of women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

What about you? Do you read or write crime fiction? What kind of crime novels do you read or write? Why or why not?

What are your insecurities this month? Do you find that a mess keeps you from writing?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

My First Royalties: Why It's a Big Deal

This week, I officially received my first ever royalty payment!

And it's a big deal.



See, the very first time one of my stories appeared in a publication was April 2013. The first time a story of mine appeared in a publication for which I was supposed to receive a royalty was April 2015. It's been four-and-a-half years since I sold my first royalty-based story, and I've just now been paid.

It wasn't for that original royalty-based publication. It wasn't for my second royalty-based publication. (Or the third, which was in the same book). It wasn't in the fourth one, which never saw the light of day, and for which I've just recently gotten the full rights back so it can be published for the first time.

Nope. Six years after my first publication, I finally received a royalty on my fifth royalty-based sale. It took that long for me to find a publisher honest enough to make that happen.

The timing is interesting, because there's been quite a bit of drama in the horror community in the last week, due to a publisher who has spent years cheating their authors. In my case, all these publications were short stories. But for those people published by this publisher, they were both short stories and novels.

I'm not going to name the publisher here, and as Dr. Phil might say, I have no dog in this hunt, but if you'd like to read about it, you can click HERE.

My point in this post is to put information out there for newer authors looking at submitting to publishers. This is why when I post links to open calls I put a disclaimer asking that people do their own due diligence before submitting. A search online might show issues that have previously come up with those publishers.

Then again, it might not.

There's only so much we, as authors, can do to protect ourselves. It's considered bad form to bad mouth a publisher. The fear is that outing your grievances publicly will get back to those publishers and/or find their way to possible future publishers, resulting in being blacklisted. So we keep our mouths shut. In doing so, we protect ourselves, but then people considering these publishers have no way to see that there are issues. Right now, that fine line still exists. The above mentioned publisher is an exception, because this situation broke out in a big way online. The author who first spoke out about it WAS, in fact, mistreated and maligned because he stepped up and aired his grievances. He ended up being "lucky," in that others with the same grievances came out with their own after things had blown up and it looked like he was done with publishing for good.

While I can't tell you what to do in the future, you have options:

1. If the royalty is small enough, you can let it go. 

This is what I did with the first royalty paying publication. In that case, it likely wasn't dishonesty, so much as lack of income. The contract stated royalties would not be paid out until they had reached a minimum ($10). The publisher did a lot of other things for their authors, and I was happy with what I got for it. They ended up going under.

2. You can contact the publisher with a polite inquiry. 

This is what I did for the second and third publication. I wasn't the only one. Several of the other authors published in the same anthology contacted the publishers. We followed up multiple times. Though we were repeatedly promised we would be paid, including multiple emails to all of us in the publication saying the payment was incoming, we still haven't been paid. The book was published in April 2018. There was no minimum payout involved, and we were to be paid quarterly. But so far, zilch.

3. Report it to professional organizations you belong to and/or Writer Beware.

I haven't done this yet, because the publisher I've been cheated by is local, incredibly small, isolated from the larger community, and run by people I know personally, which further complicates the issue. I've spoken with the other people impacted privately. I'm not dismissing the possibility for the near future, though. As a member of the HWA, I can report it to them. SFWA, MWA, and RWA, plus other organizations, offer this to their members, as well.



4. You can call them out publicly. 

This one's completely up to you. You have to take the possible damage to your career into consideration. It's easier to do when you have the backing of other impacted authors. It's also easier to do if you're somewhat established. Someone like Stephen King calling out a publisher publicly would likely go differently than someone like, say, me doing so.



I have to state, as I have in the past, that my experiences with publishers have been overall positive. I've met some truly wonderful people, who care about the writing community and always do right by us. I'm able to call some of these publishers friends, which is wonderful. Issues like the ones outlined above shouldn't keep you from diving into the publishing world. Just be sure you go in with the understanding that there will be bad experiences mixed in with the good. Royalty-based publications aren't the only ones who don't pay. I've had three publications not pay me when they were supposed to pay a flat fee. Two of these went under before I could query them, so that money's never coming in. The last one has been queried about the payment, so we'll see how that goes.

It's important to keep track of your publications and expected payments so you can follow up in whatever way you deem fit if you don't get paid. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself. You can be polite and still ask for what you're owed. Many of these small presses are run by one or two individuals, so mistakes or delays might happen. Only you know how far you're willing to let it go before pursuing your payment.

To end on a positive note, even the situations where I've been cheated in some form were ultimately worth it. They taught me valuable lessons concerning the publishing world, and I'm sure I'll learn plenty more going forward. In addition, I enjoyed getting to see my stories in print, and for those same stories to get in front of new people. I still love the world of fiction publishing, and refuse to let the few bad experiences destroy it for me. I hope that the information in this post informs without deterring. We all have our place in publishing.

Now for some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Stormdance Publications is seeking submissions for Grumpy Old Gods, Volume 5. 3000 to 4000 words. Pays in a royalty split. Deadline December 1.

Slice Magazine is seeking short stories, flash fiction, essays, and poetry with the theme Persistence. Up to 5000 words. Pays $100 to $400, depending upon submission type. Deadline December 1.

Speculative City is seeking horror short stories, poems, and essays for their 7th issue. Up to 5500 words. Pays $20 to $75, depending upon submission type. Deadline December 2.

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, and more. Pays $50. Deadline December 15.

Malefaction is seeking stories with the theme Femme Fatale. Up to 2000 words. Paying market. Deadline December 16.

Have you had experience with not being paid? What actions did you take? Do you have recommendations not mentioned here? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Images:

Nosmoke (dollar signs) by OCAL clker.com
Shoosh Shoo Smiley by OCAL clker.com
Writer Beware logo from their website
Megafonim by OCAL clker.com

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

IWSG - Picking Up Steam

It's the first Wednesday of November, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, helmed by Alex J. Cavanaugh!


Our co-hosts this month are:
Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! Be sure to stop by as thanks for hosting!

The last couple IWSGs I've really been struggling. My writing wasn't going well, submissions weren't being picked up, and it was taking me a long time to turn stories back around after rejections. It felt like I'd never get back to writing again.

Then suddenly, the words and ideas and enthusiasm were back! I've been getting much more done, and am feeling closer to my old self. So this month I'm just celebrating that! The insecurities are still there, but I'm so happy to be able to write again. And to care about it instead of looking at it like it's a job I'm failing, but have to do.

The optional question this week is: what's the strangest thing you've ever googled while researching a story? 

Wellll...I write horror. I've researched things like the effects of poisons, deadly flora and fauna, Christmas songs, how long certain injuries would take to heal, what damage tools might do to various body parts, laws in different states, what it feels like to drown, serial killers, acids and bases, odd phobias, the symptoms of the "date rape drug," etc.

I can't update my stats tonight, because I'm switching everything to a new computer, and I'm working off that computer right now, but I haven't moved over my spreadsheet yet, and it's late! So next month I'll have to do this month's stats and next month's. (I took last month off from doing it since I was in the doldrums.) I will give you a sneak preview: I got a couple acceptances and one story has been short listed. Yay!

Coming up this weekend, I'll be doing a reading in Denver!


Links will have to wait, too. I just got back from a trip at 9 PM tonight, cleaned a week's worth of cat boxes, caught up on some day job work, and I really, really want to go take a hot bath and go to bed. I hope to post some photos next week from my beach vacation! As well as some foibles that accompanied the trip.

How have you pulled yourself out of the doldrums in the past? How is your writing going? Are you submitting? Any news? What's the strangest thing you've ever researched?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Share the Love, a Reading, ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo, & Links!

Hello! It's Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. Although I recently had an epiphany that it's not the day, but the month leading up to it. When else is the macabre so acceptable to everyone? I'm also a huge fan of fall, so horror + fall = AMAZING!

I've got a reading come up in Denver:


And look! Our reading is #13. How fortuitous!

Each Halloween I put out a table full of books for all ages. For years I've been saving friends' signed books on my shelves after reading them, feeling like that was the way it should be, but then I had another epiphany (so many epiphanies in this post): shouldn't I be sharing their books out instead of keeping them on a shelf? So this year I'll have a bunch of books by friends. From here on out, if I attend a signing I'll just have them sign their books instead of personalizing them. That way, people get a signed book for Trick or Read.

Last weekend I went to MileHiCon. Friday I did a reading of a story I haven't yet sent out for publication. Saturday I participated in something called The Reading Game. Like The Dating Game, TRG has three options (authors) behind a screen, and one player (reader) asks questions until they decide who to "date." The chosen author then gives the reader a book/books. Third time was the charm, so after being up there three times, someone chose me. Woot! Sunday I did a panel on Wry Characters We Love. All in all, it was a good weekend, full of walks, food, friends, and that contagious creative energy that comes from writing events.


With November just around the corner (okay, it's not a corner, it's a step away), many of you will be doing NaNoWriMo. I'll be doing my usual ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo, so here are my goals for that:

1- Finish Nuts!
2- Finish one short story per week in November
3- Get all previously written short stories edited and on submission

That should be plenty for the month, I think.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Shooter Literary Magazine is seeking short stories, essays, poetry, etc. with the theme "supernatural." Pays for publication. Deadline November 17.

Claw & Blossom is seeking prose and poetry with the theme "ring." Must contain some element of the natural. Pays $25. Deadline November 25.

Bronzeville Books is seeking short speculative fiction stories with a "twisted love" theme. Up to 3150 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline November 26.

Ninth Letter is seeking short fiction, poetry, and essays in varying windows through February 28. Pays $25 per printed page.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking short stories with the theme "lost love." 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays for publication. Deadline November 30.

Black Beacon Books is seeking mystery short stories and novellas. 2500 to 7000 words for short stories, up to 25,000 words for novellas. Pays for publication. Deadline November 30.

Jay Henge Publishing is seeking short fiction for three anthologies: Sensory Perceptions, Whigmaleeries & Wives' Tales, and Sunshine Superhighway. Flash to 20,000 words. Pays $5/1000 words. Deadline November 30.

Do you keep all fellow authors' books, or do you donate/sell them? Do you do Trick or Read? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.



Friday, October 11, 2019

Horror List Book Review: Invisible Man


I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)


It's been almost a year since I last reviewed a book on here. Back in January, right before everything went chaotic in my life, I reviewed Naomi's Room. As with everything else, I'm trying to get back to my old normal.

This week I'm reviewing Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.


I'm going to be honest. When I saw this title on the list, I thought it was THE Invisible Man, which is actually by H.G. Wells. But this book is on a list of scariest books ever for very different reasons than Wells' story.

Ellison's Invisible Man is a stark look at society, individualism, identity, and, most obviously, race. The examination of race is split between two different areas: the deep South and Harlem.

I wish I'd reviewed this after first writing it. It's been probably about eight or nine months. I read it just before things went upside down. I remember the raw emotion I felt while reading this gorgeously written book. The frustration, the anger, the sadness, and a host of other emotions. But I don't remember specific examples I could pull and more precise reviews to give you.

The "horror" of this book is the way people treat other people, the things that happen that are looked past or ignored. The way we train others to be, and are in turn trained to be. The wrong we can do, and the wrong that can be done.

If I remember right, we never get a true name for the main character. This is part of his invisibility.

All I can tell you is that everyone should read this book. Written in 1952, it flows in a beautiful arrangement of words that belies what we're reading about. To close, I'll put the opening paragraph of the prologue here:

"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids--and  might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me."

I rank this right there with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Handmaid's Tale" for commentary on society and a vivid, depressing look at the resilient and downtrodden in our society. The invisible, as it were.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

HorrorAddicts.net is seeking horror stories set in the Victorian era for Dark Divinations. 2000 to 5000 words. Pays $10. Deadline October 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking flash mysteries. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline October 31.

Utopia Science Fiction is seeking optimistic SF. 100 to 6000 words. Pays $15.

Mura Magazine is seeking poetry, flash fiction, and visual art. Less than 1000 words. Pays $1 CAD/100 words.

Czykmate Productions is seeking horror flash and short stories (plus graphic art). Pays $2.

The Bronzeville Bee is seeking speculative fiction, crime, and YA short stories. Up to 3000 words. Pays $.05/word.

Have you ever read Ellison's Invisible Man? How about the other books I mentioned? What are your thoughts? Do you find the subject matter chilling? Any of these links of use? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.




Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG - Read to Write

It's Octooooooooooooooooooooober!

Oddly, it's been in the 80s here until today. I'm ready for fall weather.

It's also the first Wednesday of October, which makes it time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is all about seeking and giving support from/to fellow writers. Anyone can join. Just click on Alex's name to sign up. Then post the first Wednesday of each month and visit fellow IWSG'ers.

The co-hosts this month are  Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard,Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

The optional question this month is "It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another writer. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Personally, I believe writers should be readers. Being a writer is a constant learning and growing experience. Unless you're only reading one author for all time, it's highly doubtful you're going to write just like them. On the other hand, you can learn a lot from other writers and your responses to their work. You can learn just as much about what not to do as you can learn about what to do. I find that an author doing something wrong can make me see the errors in my own writing.

I'm currently waiting on some submissions to either get accepted or rejected so I can start putting together my next collection. I like to put some new stories in with old ones, and am thinking of doing more new ones this time around, but I want to see what I have available first. So no submission stats this month!

In lieu of my usual posts, I wanted to share S.A. Larsen's recent release!

It’s finally here!
New cover. Completely rebranded. Same corpse-raising middle grade adventure.
MOTLEY EDUCATION: The Urd Saga, book I
by S. A. Larsen
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 354
Ellysian Press, September 10, 2019; Second Edition

"A deftly crafted ... and entertaining read!"
Midwest Book Reviews - Children's Watch 2017
Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted Terms of Enrollment
Signed: Ebony Charmed

Ebony should be excited about entering sixth grade to further develop her skills. And she would be. If only her lame abilities let her see more than three ghosts.

Struggling to live up to her gifted family, Ebony is horrified when she is branded a Seeker: someone who is neither Sensory nor Luminary. To top it off, her Deadly Creatures and Relics project – transforming a measly stick – seems destined for failure.

But there are doors to other worlds where creatures have been watching her. And when the truth emerges that her project is more than a stick, she knows she must act. Along with her best friend Fleishman and his pet lizard, Ebony finds herself wedged between prophecies and quests. Oh, and saving the entire spirit world from annihilation.

Ebony is not ready to be a hero. But a dark presence has already stolen more than one local kid. And this time, her failure is not an option.

*FIRST PLACE WINNER, CHILDREN'S CATEGORY, 2016 NEW ENGLAND BOOK FESTIVAL!*
*Bronze Award Winner, 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction*
*Winner - Purple Dragonfly Awards 2017, Honorable Mention; ebook*
*Gold Medal Award Winner - Literary Classics Book Awards 2017, Grade School Fantasy*
*Gold Medal Winner - 2017 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards, Children's Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Order signed books from The Children’s Book Cellar via message.

About the Author
S.A. Larsen is an award-winning author, childhood apraxia of speech advocate, and Maine-iac ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. She also has a soft spot for the strange and misunderstood, which might explain her love for dipping plain chips in ketchup. Her favorite stories push the boundaries of our world and open harbored emotions to inspire and challenge the heart. She's the author of Motley Education: The URD Saga Book I (Ellysian Press, 2019; second edition), a fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers and Marked Beauty-her debut young adult fantasy-romance (Ellysian Press, 2017). When she's not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she lives in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children. Visit her cyber home at salarsenbooks.com, find her on Twitter @SA_Larsen and Instagram sa.larsen, or on spookymiddlegrade.com, where she does most of her spookiness brewing up all sorts of creepy ideas with a group of #SpookyMG authors. Stop by for a visit . . . if you dare.




What are your insecurities? Do you think writers should also be readers? Isn't S.A. Larsen's new cover great? Have you picked up your copy?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Guest Post: Down & Dirty Social Media Tips

Today I'm welcoming Jennifer Lovett Herbranson, author of Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who'd Rather Write. Jennifer is a marketing whiz. She's used it in her military career, and has long helped with social media aspects of marketing for Pikes Peak Writers. I highly recommend her book. As a preview, she's given us some social media basics.


My down and dirty social media tips
  •  Pick one. Instagram is hot right now and about as happy a place as you can find on the Internet. Use up to 30 hashtags but rotate their usage so you don’t seem like you’re spamming those categories.
  • Stories. Best use of Instagram right now is Stories. If you’re a storyteller, these are made for you! Post one a day or every other day.
  • Groups. Best use of Facebook right now is Groups. Organic reach on a Facebook Page is abysmal unless you pay for ads. However, with Facebook’s algorithm change, they are prioritizing friends, family and groups. If you have a street team or want to start one, use Facebook Groups to do it.
  • Tweet away. If you’re looking for industry professionals to connect with, get on Twitter. #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is a quarterly agent ask for specific types of manuscripts. Check them out. They just might want what you’ve written.
  • Content calendars will save your life! I know planning is a pain but if you do it, you’ll give yourself so much time back in your day for writing your book. Use paper and pen or a scheduler like Buffer to help you plan that content.
  • Email is gold. Yes, it is. 25-30% open rates can’t be beat anywhere. Just don’t spam your subscribers with crap. Give them good progress reports, updates and fun news about you, your public persona and the world you’re building. 
Check out “Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who’d Rather Write” in ebook and print on Amazon. Jenny gives you permission to throw the traditional marketing playbook out the window and develop your own using these principles:
  • You do not have to be on every social media outlet.
  • You do not have to post every single minute of every day.
  • You need a plan. Plans create efficiency. And effective plans grow your readership and give you time back in your day.
Get it on Kindle Unlimited at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X99T2G4

Follow Jenny!
On Instagram @writernationjen
On Twitter @writernationjen
On Facebook @Writernation








What do you think about these tips? Interested in the book? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think It Is

I attended a RMMWA (Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America) meeting last week on human trafficking. The information was eye opening. Some of it I knew, but much of it I didn't. So I thought I'd pass it along since I keep talking to people who say they're including some aspect of human trafficking in their books/stories. Be aware that it's a heavy and depressing topic.

The presenter was Brittany Austin, from LCHT (Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking.)



Her initial definition of human trafficking: A severe form of exploitation for labor (including sex) through the use of fraud, force, or coercion. 

There are three categories:

1. Those under 18 involved in commercial sex acts (probably the one we hear most about).

2. Those 18 and over involved in commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.

3. Those forced to perform labor and/or other services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion (the one I think fewest people consider when thinking of trafficking.)

An incident must involve one of the following (not one from each category, just one of any of these) to qualify:

Action: Recruit, Harbor, Transport, Provide, Obtain
Means: Force, Fraud, Coercion
Purpose: Commercial Sex Acts OR Labor or Services

Some examples that you might not think of in terms of the means are things like threatening to deport someone, threatening to hurt a family member, or even using a type of blackmail where you threaten to reveal something private and/or embarrassing.

**Sex acts can include stripping and other similar acts, not just prostitution.**

Trafficking often uses a person's needs that are not being fulfilled to coerce them. (Examples: "I'll be the mom you've never had," "I'll marry you so you," "We'll be your family.") Teens/kids will do something to help their single mom, as another example. Those silly ads we see on lamp posts that offer excessively high pay for a mystery job are often targeting youth.

Some simplified examples of how they use a person's needs to get them to perform labor, etc.:

1. Someone suffering from abuse/neglect will fall for the offer of a relationship of some sort.

2. Someone who is homeless will fall for offers of food, shelter, and family.

3. Someone with a marginalized identity can be coerced with acceptance.

4. Someone with an inability to access the job market can be coerced with offers of income.

**Marginalized communities are especially vulnerable**

Immigrant labor force makes up 22% of Colorado's labor force.

Many people know or have some manner of relationship with their trafficker. Interfamilial pimping is a big thing. Arranged marriages can also be examples of human trafficking in some circumstances.

Trafficking tends to come across as being about young females, often white (the white slave trade, etc.). This is what is most often depicted in fiction. However, it is young and old, male and female, white and people of color. It can be anyone.

Sean Crumpler was a human trafficker caught in Colorado. He ended up sentenced to 50 years. He had ten to fifteen LGBT+ boys between the ages of 16 and 21 in his home. Some of them had disappeared from California. In exchange for food, shelter, and gifts, they had to capitulate to his sexual needs.



Ski resorts, agricultural areas, and construction sites are places where immigrants are often recruited directly from their country and brought up to Colorado to be forced into a type of indentured servitude. Often, they get here with promises of a job and somewhere to stay, only to discover their wages are garnished for the transportation, the building they're required to stay in, food, etc. As they continue to work there, they continue to rack up dues, never making enough money to be able to escape. In one local case, the only time they were allowed out of the disgusting building they were being kept in was for work and church attendance on Sundays. A nun noticed their degenerating conditions and reported it, which is how they were found. Not only were they being held due to debt, but their families were threatened. When the perpetrator got out, he kept good to his promises, and traveled to Mexico to go after family members.

Something I've dealt with personally is teens that answer those mysterious ads promising tons of money. They are then transported somewhere for "training," only to discover they're now far from home, often unsure of where they even are, and that they owe money for the transportation and training after the fact. These are the teens you see knocking on doors and selling things like magazine submissions that are not for a local school (for example). They are typically being dropped off in neighborhoods, and must make a certain amount of sales if they want to eat that night. They will be picked up many hours later and taken to a hotel room or similar place, where they all stay in one room. They often have no means to try to reach out to family (or have no family to reach out TO). I've seen these kids selling in my area before, and when I looked up the company they worked for, this exact situation was described. All I knew to do at the time was ask the boy if he was okay. I wish I'd known more about this and had offered to call someone for him or get him to safety somehow.

Here are some red flags and indicators:

- Unexplained injuries
- Evidence of prolonged infection or untreated injuries
- Repeated bacterial, yeast, STI infections
- Dental issues
- Exposure, repeated motion injuries
- Cardiovascular and respiratory problems
- Tattoo branding (there are Denver tattoo parlors that have contracted with people to brand the people they are trafficking, and this likely exists all over the U.S.)
- Evidence of sexual trauma
- Not making eye contact
- Individuals not in control of their own identification documents
- Someone claiming to speak for or on behalf of a victim
- Individual has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story and/or exhibits a loss of sense of time or place
- Individual claims to be visiting, but has no real understanding of where they are or even where they're from
- Youth having relationships with older unexplained adults
- Individual with no idea when his/her last last medical/dental checkup was
- Individual exhibiting PTSD symptoms
- May be in crisis or downplaying injury/illness
- Confused/out of it

Some additional facts:

25% of children worldwide are victims of modern slavery

Women and girls make up 71% of modern slavery victims

Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor imposed by private actors.

In Colorado, you can call 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724 to report suspected human trafficking. LCHT.

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance: 303-861-1160.

You can visit the website for the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more information, including stats in your own state.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be called at 888-373-7888 or texted at 233733.

Now for some links. Please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Dragon Soul Press has a number of anthologies open for submissions. The one closing soonest is Organic Ink: Volume 2. No theme, just poems. Pays in royalties. Deadline September 30.

Backpacker is seeking off-the-trail stories from true lovers of the wilderness. There are many categories freelancers can break into. Pays $.40 to $1.00/word.

Funicular Magazine is seeking "quality fiction and poetry that shocks, surprises, moves, and tickles us." Pays $25/piece to $10/printed page, depending upon submission type.

Flash Fiction Magazine is seeking flash fiction of 300-1000 words. Pays $40 per story in their anthology, but nothing for those published online.

Dream of Shadows is seeking fantasy and horror short stories. Up to 1500 words. Pays £20 per piece.

Did you learn anything new about trafficking? Did you know how widespread it was? Any submission links of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.






Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Releases!

Really, NEW should be in quotes. I haven't updated available stories recently, so figured that now was a good time, because one of them is available to read online for FREE!

You can click HERE to read "Dearest" for free at Tales From the Moonlit Path.

Before that came out, I had the following releases:

My story "Where I Woke Up" is in The Desperate and the Damned. A woman wakes up in a house with no escape. Even worse, she has no memory of who she is.


"Tent City Horror" is in the second issue of the newly  relaunched Sanitarium Magazine. What happens when a creature stalks the homeless populace in a tent city? And who might be responsible?



Finally, "Shelter From the Storm" is in Vagabond 002: Apocalypse Edition. Finding shelter in a post-apocalyptic world filled with caustic air is tricky. Especially when something dwells beneath the sand.



Now to get update the website. Oy. I'm falling behind!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG - Kkkkkkk, brrrr, ding (Modem Noises)

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(Unfortunately, I'm using hotel wi-fi since I'm on a trip, and after waiting ages for the picture loading page to load, I've given up, so no image!)

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a venue for writers to both seek and give support to other writers. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name above and add your blog to the list then post and visit others from the list.



The optional question of the month is If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one's hard, because there are so many places I'd love to sit and write, but I'm going to narrow it down to two basic places. A cottage overlooking the Oregon coast or a cabin in the Colorado mountains. I don't need to go to another country or somewhere fancy. I'd just love a small place with either the sounds of nature and the smell of pine trees or the sound of waves crashing nearby and the scent of the ocean drifting by. And I'd need a window, so I could gaze out while thinking or taking a break.

~Contented sigh~

(Oooooh, the pictures I would post right now if the internet wasn't being a jerk face.)

Because the internet connection is super wonky, I'm going to end this here and skip over my usual links and submission updates until next month. I'll be going home Thursday night, so will visit folks then unless I have a better connection tomorrow!


Where would you most like to write? What are your insecurities? Are you submitting? Any news to share? Know of anywhere accepting submissions?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG - Summer's Almost Gone

It's the first Wednesday of August, which means it's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG exists to be a support to writers.

 Anyone is welcome to join. Simply add your name to the list (click on Alex's name above for access), post the first Wednesday of each month, and visit your fellow IWSG'ers.

The co-hosts this month are:

I still haven't gotten back in the saddle completely after the last couple months of insanity and negativity, but I did manage to get a bunch of short stories edited and submitted, so even though I haven't written a bunch of new words, I'm working. I did also place two short stories last month, so yay for acceptances! Now I need some more. It's been a slow year.

Now if I can just get the creative energy to power up, things will look up. I sent out some news in my newsletter about a publishing schedule for two projects, but they get the info first! (You can always sign up over to the right...hint, hint)

My husband and I are going away soon for our anniversary. A couple days in Steamboat Springs will hopefully give me a bit of a recharge. I'm not taking my laptop with me, as the plan is to relax, plain and simple. (Though I am taking paper and writing implements. What do you take me for? A monster??)

Submission stats for July:

6 submissions
4 rejections
2 acceptances (1 was an invite)

I won't be able to visit people until this weekend.

What are your insecurities? How are you coping with them? Any submissions last month? Acceptances? Rejections? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IWSG - Moving On & Links

It's July, and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group again. I missed the June edition. Really, I missed most of June. But I'm getting my feet back under me, and here we go!


Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists to lend support to fellow writers dealing with their insecurity. And, of course, to air your own insecurities. Anyone can sign up by clicking on Alex's name and adding your name to the list then posting the first Wednesday of each month. Be sure to visit your fellow IWSG'ers, especially the co-hosts:


At the end of May, my dad succumbed to the ALS he'd fought for 6 1/2 years. The average lifespan is 2 years from diagnosis. We were lucky dad made it as long as he did, though he should have had another year, based upon how he was progressing. 



What does this have to do with IWSG? I'd set goals, things I wanted to accomplish before he died, because I wanted him to see those achievements. My writing career has been a ticking clock for 6 1/2 years. The biggest goal I had was to traditionally publish a novel before he died. I was also working on a novel where the main character had ALS, with the intention of having him do a sensitivity/accuracy read. I wanted him to see someone with ALS get to be a hero, despite the disease. (Although we found out just how much of a hero he was once he was gone, thanks to over 100 people who reached out to us after his death to let us know how he'd impacted those in the ALS community. People he'd helped.)

I failed to accomplish a lot of things I wanted to do before he died. The problem with making a goal like I did is that when the driving factor behind the timing of your goals is removed, it leaves you flapping in the wind. Now what? Sure, I'll still pursue my goals, but they feel somehow emptier now. There's no deadline anymore. As much as I'm sure I'll still want to achieve them, there will be a certain hollowness to the victories, because I didn't make it in time.

I'm working on two things right now: overcoming the numbness I currently feel toward my goals and trying to get the creativity flowing again. I'm trying to be kind to myself about my lack of writing this month. I never miss deadlines, but I had to ask for a week extension for one deadline. There were a couple anthologies I wanted to write for that had a deadline at the end of June/beginning of July, and I had to let those stories go.

Catch up time is here. I have to meet that deadline, get some short stories edited, get back to writing. I'm intellectually aware that I need to give it time and not beat myself up, but that's easier said than done. I can't not keep moving forward. My dad was a driven man, and he would want me to keep going, keep progressing, and achieve my goals.

I will get there.

Since I didn't post last month, I'm going to do my short story submission stats for both May and June. They're pretty piddly, considering my being sick, having surgery, and everything else during that time. BUT I didn't allow my writing career to fall completely by the wayside. 

May:

Submitted - 6
Accepted - 1 (this was from an invite)
Rejected - 2
Released - 1

June:

Submitted - 3
Accepted - 1 (this was from an invite)
Rejected - 1

Currently on submission: 9

How about some links?

Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Pole to Pole Publishing is seeking short stories for Not Far From Roswell. Alien themed. Dark fiction. 3000 to 5000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline July 30.

VQR is seeking poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. 2000 to 8000 words for short fiction. Pays up to $1000. Deadline July 31.

Freeze Frame Fiction is seeking flash fiction. 1000 words or less. Pays $10. Deadline July 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking mystery/thriller themed flash fiction. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline July 31.

Less Than Three Press is seeking LGBTQIA novellas for Creature Feature. Monster themed. 20,000 to 60,000. Pays in royalties. Deadline July 31.

Necro Publications is seeking short fiction for Blasphemous Rumors. Religious horror. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline July 31.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking short stories featuring both a vampire and a dragon for Coffins & Dragons. 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline July 31.

What are your insecurities? How do you get started writing again after a massive derailment? Have you been submitting? Any news? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Writers Behaving Badly: Top Ten Alternatives

I've written about misbehaving writers in the past, but they've been rearing their ugly heads a lot lately. These days, being a writer doesn't get to be a fully solitary pursuit. A media presence is important. Unfortunately, there are always people who shouldn't be in a position where eyes are on them and interaction is a necessity.

From bizarre videos and ill-advised legal cases to Goodreads attacks and outbursts in Facebook groups to cocky letters to reviewers, writers are behaving badly. I watched an author become aggressive and hateful in a Facebook group where she attacked people who return audio books, confronting everyone who tried to discuss it from the other viewpoint. Then she attacked those telling her to stop attacking people.



Ultimately, having a public meltdown will likely end in a deficit of readers. While the free press you get might alert some new readers to you, it's more likely to put off both people who hadn't heard of you and people who were already reading you. Know what bestsellers have in common? They usually haven't launched crazed attacks online.

Rather than haranguing on this, considering most of you probably agree that it's not a good idea, here's a Top Ten List of things you could do instead of publicly freaking out:

1. Write something newer and better and privately say, "In your FACE!" But only where you can hear it.

2. Gorge on ice cream, sweets, or other edible sadness-soppers that make you feel better with sugar, carbs, fat, and calories.

3. Go for a Rocky-jog while listening to "Eye of the Tiger" and sweating your anger out.

4. Take up a dangerous - but satisfying - hobby like lion wrangling or cactus farming.

5. Write your response down on pieces of paper then sacrifice them to a fire built using elm trees and rattlesnake bones.

6. Paper a wall with whatever review, post, or issue is setting you off then paint over it with black and red.

7. Find a practitioner of magic to put a zit spell on the perpetrator. No one ever has to know it was you...

8. Headbang to Alvin and the Chipmunks songs and get a mosh pit going.

9. Adopt as many kittens and puppies as possible, and create a giant snuggle pile.

10. Go to a bar and sobbingly do karaoke to "I Will Survive" over and over until they kick you out.

Or...you know...just ignore it and move on.

Oh, hey, I'm actually going to do links! Bear in mind I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

El Chapo Review is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All genres. Up to 1000 words. Pays $100. Deadline June 1.

Claw & Blossom is seeking short prose and poetry that involves the natural world in some way. The current theme is "Gnaw." Up to 1000 words. Pays $25. Deadline June 6.

Randee Dawn and Michael Ventrella are seeking short speculative fiction submissions for a Beatles themed anthology entitled "Across the Universe." Up to 4000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline June 14.

Stormy Island Publishing is seeking romantic fantasy fiction. 1000 to 8000 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 14.

Iridium Magazine is seeking short stories in a variety of genres with LGBTQ+ characters. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 15.

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts is seeking flash fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, and visual arts. Pays $50. Deadline June 15.

Darkhouse Books is seeking short stories with Lovecraft/Diesel Punk/Steam Punk flavor for "Fearrington Road." 2500 to 6000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline June 15.

What would you do instead of having an online meltdown? The more creative, the better. Have you ever responded to a bad review? Have you witnessed writers behaving badly? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Image "Curls Tantrum Colour Blank Bckgrnd Clip Art" by Peter Van Herk, clker.com