Monday, December 22, 2014

Go Away

While evil never sleeps, it does kick back every now and then, and the Evil League of Evil Writers is going to do just that. Today begins our annual holiday hiatus, so things are going even darker than usual around here.

There might be the occasional post of an evil Bob Cratchit member, toiling away over the holidays, but there won't be any regular/consistent/scheduled posts for the next couple weeks.

We here at the Evil League of Evil Writers would like to wish all our readers a very evil holiday season. We're going to be getting up to our own no-goodness for the next few weeks, and will see you all again after our New Year's shenanigans.

You know, after someone has posted our bail.

Your regularly scheduled eviltry will resume Monday, January 5th.

Join us for some new shinies, a new face or two, and other sinister fun we're plotting behind the scenes. Until then, whatever you celebrate (or don't!), may it be filled with evil glee.

The Sithmas Tree of our Gothic Goddess Dina James represents the ELEW holiday spirit!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: About Last Year

So you might be thinking about this past year since we’re getting close to 2015. You might be having dark thoughts. Oh my darling babies do not confuse these with evil thoughts because they are not the same thing at all.

Dark thoughts come at you in the night or when your hands are busy wrapping packages. They tell you that you are a loser and that you wasted the year. They whisper that your writing isn’t any better than it was before—that you are made of fail. Dark thoughts can be beaten by evil ones. Oh, yes they can.

Evil is powerful and you need to take those dark thoughts and stomp them hard. Burn them with fire. No really, write them down and then burn them up with fire. Teach your brain that such horrible (not-evil) opinions are only worth burning. Writers have enough obstacles to face without having to fight their own brains.

If you wrote one thing this last year then you are ahead of the year before. Bad stuff happens. Tornadoes suck up houses and floods eat your basement or your husband dances with chainsaws and bears. We don’t have control over all of the things. Sometimes horrible takes over. But the thing you need to remember is that deep down inside, you are an evil writer, and evil will eventually win.

Happy Holidays my sweet babies of evil. Celebrate until you have to post bail—then probably stop.

Love and hugs to all,

Julie Butcher

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Lieutenant Quillstabber!

Many people forget in the midst of all the holiday cheer going on this month that there are other birthdays besides that of a secular deity to celebrate. One such is that of our dear Melinda Skye, or Lieutenant Quillstabber to those of us at the Evil League of Evil Writers.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of her birth, and you should be celebrating it, too! This year the Lt. spawned a Mini-Evil, so she will be even more formidable than before. There is a level of bad-assery that only mothers can attain, and I do not envy those who come between a mother and their offspring.

So break out the booze and cupcakes. Spike that eggnog and gnaw the head off a snowman cookie! It's Skye's birthday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time and Time Again

As this is my last post of 2014, I thought it appropriate to talk about the passage of time.

A lot of people use this part of the year to look back and see all that's gone on (or all that hasn't...), and make plans for next year.

Now, time management is great and all, but in the professional writing business, "time" is a varying concept. Let me explain using a very broad example of a timetable:

Writing of zero draft (this is the draft that just gets the story out - for your eyes only. No, not even your betas get to see this one): a few weeks to a few months (Stephen King recommends "a season" to write.)

Aging between zero draft and first draft revision: six weeks or so

First draft revision: a month or so, sometimes less depending on how cleanly you write

Beta readers: a few days to a few weeks depending on their availability

Revision based on their feedback: varies - let's say a month for shits and giggles

Time elapsed on Project - 7-8 months, give or take. Sometimes less, sometimes more.

For the purposes of this post, let's use 6 months as a baseline, just to make things easier.

So, let's say Project is all pretty and shiny and ready for querying after 6 months of work. (Hint: this is a stellar achievement. Finishing a novel is awesome in its own right, but to have it ready to query in 6 months? Go you! Fuckin' A!)

Now you follow the submission guidelines for each agent you're going to query. Some agents on your list might be closed to queries for whatever reason, so they get put on the back burner until they open again, so there's some waiting there on that. Others that are open have anywhere from a couple days to 3 month response times depending on various factors, so for the purposes of this post, let's go with the longest response time. (Note: This includes "no response means no interest" queries. The agents using a policy of NRNI ["no response, no interest"] usually give a time in their guidelines as to when you should hear back by if they're interested. Look for it.)

So, 6 months to write and polish (and again this is stellar - some authors write faster, some are slower. These are rough estimates, not absolute law. Chill.), and another 3 months wait for a response to your query. That's 3/4 of a year on a single project, right there. 9 months, people. That's enough time to gestate and give birth to a human infant.

Stop laughing - the comparison is apt. You're creating lives, here. Fictional ones, but lives nonetheless. There's a reason many in the writing game refer to their work as "their baby."

But I digress.

Back to the 9 months of Project. Keep in mind that 9 months on Project is barring any accident, illness, injury, or happenstance. This 9 months doesn't account for Life Happening or anything else. This is a bare-bones scenario.

So let's be generous and realistic and give you 3 months for Issues. Now you're up to a year in Project.

Now let us say the stars align, everything is shiny and happy, and Project lands you an agent! WHOO HOO! YEAH, BABY! That's what it's all about! That's what it's all been for! Now- wait, what? What's this? They have suggestions for changes? Oh. Okay. Add another month.

Awesome! They love the changes! Now it's off to sale! (Add another month or three or six, possibly longer, maybe never. But wait! There's more!)

Yay! Project sold! You have a book deal! Awes-wait? What's this?

Oh, would you look at that! A revision letter (or editing letter, or whatever else it might be called by you or your agent or house or whatever)! It's HOW many pages long? No problem. You can knock that out in a couple months if you work hard. Maybe less. What? It's needed back by WHEN? Oh, hell. You'll have to work harder and longer to meet that, but okay, it can happen.


Well, yeah! Commercial publishing is a slow business! "You rush a miracle, you get rotten miracles!"


Because. Because reasons. Because stuff you don't have to concern yourself with, but part of it is because there are other books out there besides yours and you have to wait your turn. That's right. More waiting. Things take time. Some things take more time than others, but there's never enough for all the things you want to do.

That book that won't be out for a year? Write another one so it will be ready while the other one is in the oven. (Shut up - I know that's another pregnancy metaphor. People all around me are spawning, all right? I may also be knitting things for small humans, so SHUT UP.)

The point here is, not only does the actual writing of Project take a lot of time, the sale and publication part takes even more. In addition to that, you're going to have to devote more time to Project than you ever thought you would. This is why it's said that you need to love the story you've written, because you're going to be writing it again, and again, and again, and yet again before it leaves your hands for good. Using the "baby" comparison from above, that thing has a lot of growing up to do before it's ready to go off into the big, scary world all alone. You're going to be spending a LOT of time with Project, so settle in. Get comfy. Put on your loungie pants and get a cup of tea. You and Project will be together for a long time. You'd better love that world you created, because you're going to be spending more time there than you think.

So take the time that you do have and do something with it. Like write. Don't just sit around waiting for something to happen, because if you do that, you'll always be waiting.

This concludes your Gothic Goddess Eviltry for 2014. The ELEW is going on our annual holiday hiatus for the year starting on the 22nd (there will be a post detailing this), but we'll be back next year with more evil!

Meanwhile, KEEP WRITING.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ho ho holidaying

Oh my god, I am so unprepared for the holidays!

I used to look forward to this time of year, because of the time off, And I'm still looking forward to the time off... if I got any time off. I wish grownups got winter vacation. Then I might have some of my shopping done!

But now, I keep hoping I'll have some free time to squeeze in writing, between all the holidays and the family and gift buying and giving.

Ha. Case in point. Started this post yesterday, didn't get very far.

Anyways, I was thinking that perhaps if I focused on writing a holiday story, that might help. I mean, lend a festive air to the writing, as well as the season. But I've never really written a holiday story and am left struggling with where to begin.

Do I go paranormal and introduce Santa as a character? Do I do a reunion story about coming home for the holidays? Do I go all Die Hard and make it an action packed story that just happens to have a holiday at the center of it? (Why is Die Hard every guy's favorite Christmas movie, by the way?)

For me, I think romance and the holidays go together - it's why my favorite  Christmas movie is Love Actually. It shows a variety of different kinds of love - true love, broken hearts, unrequited love, friendship love, new love. And, at least for me, it warms the heart.

Maybe that's what I need to get me in the mood... a holiday romance marathon. Of course, that'll use up what little free time I have, but maybe feeling festive is more important than getting the writing done right now...

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Are We There Yet?

Recently I went through a spell where writing was about as much fun as going to the dentist. Now, maybe you are a twisted type who actually enjoys going to the dentist. The sound of the drill, the injection of novocaine and the resulting dead lip, that smell...

As for me, when the topic of dentistry comes up, I shudder. The thought of a filling makes me cry. Even a simple cleaning sets me off. 

So basically, what I'm telling you here is that the writing was not going well. I found myself avoiding it in all sorts of creative ways. Like cleaning, for example. I'm just marginally more fond of vacuuming than I am of dentistry, although I engage in it a little more often. When I did finally maneuver my butt into the chair I would find myself falling asleep. No amount of coffee or snacking or napping changed this. I'd sit down to write and my eyes would drift shut. My fingers would descend on the keyboard, unguided. And then my head would jerk, my eyes would open, I'd type a couple of words and off to sleep I'd go again. This activity being pointless, I'd give it all up and take to the couch where I could sleep in peace. And then go to bed, only to wake up and try again.

This block was making me a little crazy. There are all sorts of reasons to be excited about the project. I'm working on The Nothing, the last book of the Between trilogy. It's going to be an indie book this time. I love it, I love the editors who are going to help me make it beautiful, I love the cover. But I was hopelessly and horribly blocked. My self imposed deadline vanished into the past and I set another one, only to see it do the same thing.

All I wanted was to be done with the damned book so I could move on. 

And that, right there, was the problem. I was so focused on the destination that I couldn't appreciate the journey.

I have two ways of approaching a car trip. One is all about the experience. I pack up snacks, load up the tunes, and set off on an adventure. I'm happy to just chill, watch the scenery go by, and enjoy the trip. I'll get there when I get there. The miles zip by happily and this is a pleasant experience.

The other version is not so fun. On these occasions, I just want to get where I'm going. And it takes forever to get there. Each mile is interminable. The car seat is uncomfortable. I'm bored. I have trouble staying awake. There are so many other things I want to be doing and I  Just. Can't. Wait. To get there.

So I had to remind myself of what I've learned before. Each book is a journey. Each book brings with it the temptation to fall into an Are We There Yet? frame of mind, like a bored toddler on a road trip. Writing is meaningful and rewarding when I'm in it for the story, and not for the end game. 

Things are better now. I'm back to immersing myself in the words and characters and it feels good. 

The end of this journey is still around a corner and up a hill and I have a sneaking suspicion there might be some road construction along the way. But that's all right. I'll get there when I get there and that's okay with me. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book-Giving at the Holidays


I love giving books as gifts. Like LOVE giving books as gifts. It makes me happy on more levels than I can iterate:

  • Introducing someone to a new world to get lost in
  • Helping another author make a living
  • Spreading the love of books that will hopefully be shared and talked about
  • So on and so forth...

But there are some problems with giving books at the holidays too.

  • For every Smutketeers 12 Days of Christmas that gives away tons of books and gift cards and stuff, there are ten authors who are pushing their books on readers and buyers. 
  • For every author willing to answer questions to help you pick the best book for a reader, others ignore  questions completely. 
  • And so on and so forth. 

If you are an author, this is really the wrong time of year to be a douchebag author. It's a busy time for everyone, but you ignore your readers and potential readers at your peril.

For example, my daughter is nine. She is a very advanced reader. Middle grade books, for the most part, are too easy for her. She's reading young adult and soaking it up like a sponge. But she's nine. While I don't see her stepping out and trying to become the next evil wizard bent on world domination, she can and will be inappropriate in certain things she choose to talk about. (In other words, I'd prefer books for her where sex and swearing are at a minimum, thank you very much.) Yesterday, I asked about a series she's interested in and (on the off chance it was caught) @mentioned the author. The author did see the tweet. Retweeted it in fact, but didn't answer the question about whether or not the series contained sex. She left it up to her readership to do so. Thankfully they did, and I know it's not an appropriate series for my daughter right now.

But too often questions online are lost to the aether. Thousands of people see them and no one bothers answering (to put it in perspective, this author has over 30,000 followers...3 answered the question, one with a "not sure on the last book"). I get it, and it's fine, but normally when people retweet questions, I assume they don't know the answer and are trying to help. In the case of a reader asking you about your're the best source of information.

Will I potentially buy the series for my kid in a few years when she's older? If she still wants it. But that author turned me off her work personally. I would like to thank the readers who stepped up to answer my question, though.

If you are an author, you need to remember that readers and potential readers are necessary for you to make money. (We shall ignore pirates and jerky readers, obviously.) No readers, no money. It's ridiculously simple math that my math-hating 9 year old could figure out. Be kind to your readers. Be as generous to them as you can. Without them, you don't have a career.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

STFU About Anyone "Taking a Chance" On You

It's the newly signed/published author refrain. They say it in interviews, guest posts, book dedications and acknowledgments.

"Thank you [agent/editor/publisher] for taking a chance on me/the book."

It's a sweet sentiment, born of gratitude. It's recognizing that there are thousands and thousands of people who are striving for the same goal that you've now achieved, people you feel no different from. Whether your little book is plucked out of slush or whatever happened, you feel special--the wallflower someone recognized was pretty and invited to dance.

It's a romantic view of publishing. And a fucking stupid one, so stop it.

Gratitude is a good thing (never, ever lose sight of it). Yes, be thankful for the excellent people you work with. Be thankful for their guidance and advice, the experience they share with you.

But any chance taken on your work is a calculated financial decision.

Publishers/agents/etc aren't doing you a "favour" when they sign your book or you as an author: they are making a business decision regarding something they think they can make money on. They are engaging in a partnership with another business--YOU. They are not the handsome prince saving you from a life of cleaning your evil stepmother's house in rags and singing to mice.

They took on your book, invested money in it, because they thought they could sell it to lots of people and make both of you money.

Yes, they love your book. Yes, they take on very few books. Yes, you've accomplished something great--you wrote well and you wrote something people might want to read. Yay you!

But this starry-eyed view of publishing/publishers/etc and advancement of the publishers-are-charity narrative doesn't help you. Instead, it makes it that much easier to be screwed over when you start viewing the weight of power as entirely on their side and none on yours.

You're a business. You're supplying something to a publisher--books--that they then supply to readers. Without your content, they can't make money. Sure, by "your", I mean writers in general--not YOU-you. There are always more books, more authors, etc. But you have far, far more value and power than you give yourself credit for.

I worked in acquisitions. And yes, out of 1200 submissions I'd only take a couple. A couple that I thought would sell. Books I loved that I thought other people would love too--enough people to justify the money spent publishing them. I wasn't doing writers any favours by accepting their work for publication. Doing favours would be a fast track to losing my job, which relied on picking profitable projects that I had to justify to my boss spending any money on. There's a gamble there, yes, as not every book will be profitable, even if it seems like a sure thing (and the more sure-things I did go with, the more room I had to gamble with other tougher sells). But I was making fairly educated guesses based on market trends, existing book sales, and my experience as an editor--I wasn't randomly plucking books out of a hat.

I was grateful to the writers who were submitting their work to me. Every time I got a fantastic, well-done book in slush, I thanked the publishing gods above and crossed my fingers they'd accept the contract and I'd have the opportunity to work with them. Hell, now I work almost exclusively with self-published authors now as a freelancer and I am STILL so damn grateful to get a well-done book to edit or have the opportunity to create a cover for a great novel.

You know who else took a chance on your book? You did.

You took a chance by writing it. You took a chance by submitting it for consideration and doing all the work that entailed. There are plenty more guaranteed profitable things you could be doing with your time. You have tons of ideas and characters speaking to you, you have to decide what to invest your time and energy in, and you took a chance on the one that you ended up writing. Do not give anyone more credit than you've given yourself when it comes to these "chances" that have been taken.

You have power as a writer. You have options. You don't have to accept a contract. You can request changes to the contract terms. Depending on the size of the publisher, you can speak up about cover art. You can question what your publisher is doing to market a book. You can remind them you are partners in this publishing endeavor who both want the book to succeed. Now, I suggest doing so with patience and friendliness, of course, remembering that people in publishing are hella-busy and spread thin. They're also people, not a giant faceless thing, but actual people who are worth being decent to.

But any publisher, particularly among small ones, who act like you should be grateful for the sheer fact that they offered to publish your book--who neglect to answer your business questions, or who respond to them with a "my way or the highway" attitude instead with reasoned explanations--is one to be cautious of. Yes, they provide a valuable service in publishing your book and getting it into the hands of readers...

So do you, however. You provide the book. You wrote something they thought they could sell.

And keeping that in the forefront of your mind--that you are a business, you have power, and publishing is about partnerships--is a less romantic view of things but ultimately a healthier one that will serve you better as your career develops.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: When You Need and Editor

Baby Evil Writers 101: When You Need an Editor

Julie Butcher

            I waited ages to actually hire an editor to look at my writing, and probably wasted at least two years. Don’t do what I did. Really, it’s not an option in today’s market. The problem is, when do you send up the Bat Signal?  When is the exact right time to hire someone with experience to read your evil work?

1.      When you don’t know what to do to make it better.
2.      When your beta readers tell you eleventy-five different things and none of them agree.
3.      When you’re routinely rejected by agents and you don’t know why.
4.      When you start ripping out hands full of hair.
5.      When enough chocolate isn’t a thing anymore. (Okay, that one is iffy—because chocolate.)
6.      When your characters act like teenager s and are all YOU CAN’T MAKE ME DO THE THING.

I’m not saying you won’t absolutely hate what they tell you. You will fight it because the fixing will be a ton of work, and writers really don’t like work. Creating is fun, and working is called work because if you do it right, then you get money. Ergo, writing is work because here at the evil league, we believe this to be a fact. Also we, like Captain Mal, want paid for a job.

So when it comes time for you to find an editor, do your research. Ask your writing friends. Any reputable editor will not hesitate to give you clients as referrals. Check their background. Read their resume. Ask things. Make sure they have more experience writing than you do. Then suck it up, pay the money, fix the book, and jump light years in your writing.

Unless you find out what is wrong, you cannot fix it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Gothic Goddess!

This long running the ELEW, Dina James and I have an ongoing complaint that when birthdays roll around, we struggle with what to say because everyone here is SO FREAKING AWESOME it starts to get repetitive. There are only so many ways you can tell people how great someone is. So this, again, might be repetitive, however it bears repeating and is entirely true.

The ELEW would not exist without Dina James. Really, it would exist without everyone--all the members, past and current, who keep blogging; the readers who stop by to see what we have to say; the writers who agree to anniversary interviews with us.

But the bulk of this past year was difficult for me as I became very ill with no diagnosis for months. You'll notice my posts all but disappeared--in fact, I disappeared for days/weeks online as well. The ELEW was the furthest thing from my mind and, had it just been me trying to keep things up? I would've backed out of the group or let it close entirely.

Dina has kept everything afloat. Dina has stayed on top of the schedule, motivated others, taken care of group emails and coordinated things. Dina has fought to keep the ELEW running, an entirely volunteer organization, devoting countless hours to see it thrive and improve. Dina took the reins when needed during the last fundraiser, as well as the first one. We're getting ready to roll out some exciting things in the new year (stay tuned!), and it's all thanks to her ideas, her devotion, and her evil ways.

I am fortunate enough to call Dina a friend. The rest of you are blessed to call her the Gothic Goddess, She Who Inspires and Terrifies Effortlessly. Please offer the warmest, evillest of birthday wishes to Dina James.

Happy Birthday, Dina.

I give you Tom Hiddleston reading Shakespeare.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Wrote Stuff! Now What?

Welp, here it is, the first day of December. Go on, you can freak out for a minute…it's okay.

Finished? Good. Moving on, then.

What today means (besides only having 30 days left in the whole of 2014) is that NaNoWriMo is over, and if you were participating, you should have a grand total of 50k+ shiny new words on a project. Now, what to do with those shiny new words?

Well, add more to them, first of all. 50k words really doth not a novel make, so you'll need to fix that. And speaking of fixing, after you get that count up to somewhere in the 80k range (for an adult novel – YA can be a bit less), now you LET IT SIT for a good long while. Six weeks, say. That's what Stephen King does when he finishes something – he puts it in a drawer for a month and a half.

I know, I know. I hear you now. It's your baby. You can't leave it. It's cruel to leave a newborn out to fend for itself! It can't-

Let me tell you something about that newborn manuscript. It's not an infant. It's a fucking egg. It needs time to develop before it hatches, so make like a birdie (or a platypus, if you want to be an egg-laying mammal) and sit on it for awhile. Magic things are happening while it's under your feathery ass. When it's time for it to hatch, that is when you bring it food and watch it grow and tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.

Note that: tend to it until it's ready to leave the nest.

Translation: revise the ever-loving hell out of it before inflicting it on others.

Now, some eggs are bad. Some eggs don't hatch. And we all know the old saying about how "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." What does all this mean?

Well, just what it says. Some things you write aren't good and should be thrown at asshats who cruise through your neighborhood at 3AM with their bass up so loud it deregulates your heart rhythm. Some things you write just aren't quite there yet and need more help to grow, so put them in the incubator (called "trunking" – all writers have a trunk novel or ten) and maybe come back in a year and see if they're ready to hatch. And the other thing? Yeah. Sometimes in order to write something good, you have to write a bunch of crap that's not. In fact, that's how it usually works.

Writing is a ladder, and we all start at the bottom. No one – no, not even Big Name Writer of Brilliance – started out at the top. Some might have climbed a little faster than others, and some may be stuck at a particular spot, but the trick is to keep climbing. Even when it hurts. Even when you're so tired and it feels like you're not making progress. Even when you've slipped down a few rungs. Hell, a lot of writers slip all the way back to the bottom and have to start over, and the ones that do are the ones that make it. Why?

Because they don't give up. Perseverance is the key to success, but there's a line between perseverance and pesterage. There's determination and there's desperation.

Now, I'm not saying "know when to quit." I'm not the fucking Gambler over here (aaaaaand I just showed my age….). I never advocate quitting. What I do advocate is reevaluation. If something repeatedly isn't working, it might be time to ask why that is instead of trying to force it to. It doesn't do any good to smack a TV that isn't plugged in and expect it to work. What's that thing about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I've talked about that here before – if all your rejections say the same thing, it might be time to look to what they're addressing. If you're getting nothing but rejections, it might be time to take a look at your query letter.

And if you make changes and nothing happens, well…it might be time to set that one aside and move on to something else. Because you're a writer, and there is always another project. Yes, even if you feel like there isn't.

So, once you've finished that NaNo novel, put it away and look at it again next year. February will be here before you know it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I'm not dead

I just feel like I wish I were...

I'm sick, hence no post on Friday. This is just a quick note to apologize, and now I'm crawling back under the covers.

Being sick on Thanksgiving sucks, just fyi. Being sick with a baby on Thanksgiving is nearly impossible.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: Let's talk Nanowrimo

Baby Evil Writers 101: Let's Talk Nanowrimo

Julie Butcher

I know that some of you have been working your poor evil fingers to the bone. You're banging out words faster than McDonalds makes cheeseburgers. And, I am so proud of you! You're actually writing at a pace that you'll need to be a professional writer.

Seriously, GO YOU!

However, don't even begin to think that you can send that puppy out to agents or editors. Not now and not for a very long time. Maybe next September, after you've worked and worked, and cried evil tears.

Not now. Not next week, and not next month. Are we clear on this? Because here at the Evil League of Evil Writers (you'll notice that it says evil twice because we are evil.) we will come for you. We'll send nightmares and laugh when you're rolling about in the pit of despair. When you get rejection after rejection, we will eat cake and celebrate because you'll be getting exactly what you deserve.

Now. If you are a proper minion of evil and edit and edit and edit some more we won't send monsters. We will however still eat cake because it is cake, cake is evil, and we are evil--duh. We will not laugh at you while we eat the cake and isn't that better?

Now, back to your words.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Never Gets Old

Today's post is brought to you by the Discovery Channel, Berroco yarn's newsletter, and viewers like you. (It is also possible I've been watching a little too much PBS programming lately.)

"Never gets old, huh?"


I was going to have this big philosophical comparison to the classics versus cliches, but no matter how I wrote it, it didn't sound like I wanted, so you get a YouTube video instead. Watch it, or the rest of this post won't make sense to you.

Finished? Onward, then.

That video sums up the big philosophical comparison I was trying to make nicely.

No, not the "world is awesome" part, though that does tie in well. The "boom-de-ada" part.

What? There's a piece right there about 37 seconds in where a dude launches a grenade or large caliber projectile at a bunker while singing "boom-de-ada." It's fantastic. He's so happy doing what it is he obviously loves. The whole video is full of writing advice if you look at it.

Now, I'm not going to go through the entire thing for you, but I'll put a few examples here for you:

- The astronauts at the beginning looking at the planet. This is you, the writer. You look down upon the world you created and marvel at everything in it. Unlike the song, you might not love everything in it, but you made it, and that's an awesome thing.

- Different people in different parts of the world singing about what they love. These are your characters. Each of them loves something different. It's your job as a writer to find out what that thing is, then fuck with it. Because that's what makes a good story. Take it away from them, break it, hide it, or give them to it in uncomfortable amounts. The possibilities are endless.

- Catchy song. This is your premise. This is the line in the story that your characters follow, and they all sing the same song, even if they're in different parts of the world and love different things.

There. How's that for a philosophical comparison?

You see, each of your characters wants something, even if it's just a glass of water, and it's up to you not only to screw with that, but to tie that in to the bigger picture. The whole world you created. Don't just focus on that one tiny little corner (that character's want), but how that affects the world around them.

Now, at the same time, don't spend so much time focusing on the world you're building that you don't get to that character's wants. Remember the song...the world is huge and there's a lot of people in it, but they're all singing the same song even though their words and loves are different.

This also isn't to say that you should incorporate EVERYONE'S story into your work. Pick one person in the song and focus on them. Say, the lady in the vid who loves Egyptian kings. What's her story? It could be anything. But her story is part of a larger song, which everyone knows.

See what I'm getting at here? After you tell her story, tell someone else's.

Oh, the yarn? It was their title that got me thinking about it. "Good Design Never Gets Old," which led me to the song...yeah. I could go into another big philosophical thing about knitting a story and threads and yarn and so on, but I think I've philosophized enough for one day. Maybe next time.

One last thing before I go. See what I did there? I turned one little phrase into a whole post. You can do that with anything. This is why people who "want to write" or "have writer's block (WHICH DOESN'T EXIST)" or "need inspiration" make me want to punch them in the face, because it's EVERYWHERE.

Boom-de-ada, bitch!

Friday, November 14, 2014


Here it is, late in the day on my posting day and I'm still trying to find ways to avoid posting. Procrastination. All of us do it at one point or another. It's sort of a fact of life. But you can't let it control you.

For the most part, I'm not a procrastinator. I like having time to get things done and dislike working on a deadline. But, life doesn't always work out the way I want and sometimes I find myself up against a deadline. Fine, so be it.

The problem is when I'm not super inspired by whatever I'm supposed to be working on. I know, I know, waiting for the muse to show up isn't how we're supposed to do things around here.

But it still happens from time to time. So be it. Not that I'm not inspired by this post, but I'm sort of going through a phase, exactly like Kerry described. I don't really feel like I'm qualified to be giving writing advice here sometimes, so I occasionally put off my posts.

So how do I help avoid this kind of procrastination? I put a reminder in my email a couple days ahead of the posting deadline, so that I know to start thinking about topics. And yet... here I am, posting about procrastination :)

The question is, how do you avoid procrastination? Or do you just embrace it and work best under a deadline?

I mean, there are SO many great things to do while procrastinating. Especially on the internet. But even in real life. Reading books, playing with your kids, smooching your partner.

But I think I've done my job here - so now I'm off to embrace the beautiful side of the world on the other side of the deadline. That glorious place where you no longer have to worry about the deadline looming over you. And for me, that's reason enough to avoid procrastinating - the relief of being done!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

If They Only Really Knew...

I've been bad about blogging of late, both here and in other places. Yeah, I've been busy. There are a lot of things on my plate right now in all areas of my life - writing, family, and day job. I could use that as an excuse, but it's not the true one. The fact is, every time I sit down to scribe a writing related post this thought pops into my head:

What makes me think I'm qualified to give writing advice?

Sure, there are days when I think I'm doing good work, but what if on those days I'm delusional? The publishing contract I got with Penguin/Ace? Sheer luck, obviously. My fabulous agent? Either she didn't know what she was getting into, or she took pity on me because she's a nice person. Readers who write to let me know they loved my books? Clearly misguided.

I am an impostor, or so my internal critic wants to tell me.

Since I'm also a mental health counselor I happen to know there is a name for this problem: Impostor Syndrome.

I borrowed this definition from Geek Femininism Wiki:

"Impostor syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is applying an unfairly high standard to themself (and not to others). It's especially common in fields where people's work is constantly under review by talented peers..."

Sound familiar? Every writer I know is aiming for perfection. And we are constantly under review by - well - everybody.

Have you ever felt like your successes are all due to luck, kindness on the part of others, or some sort of fluke? Or worried that you're a fraud and others will find out you really aren't a writer after all?

If you ever feel this way, you're in good company. Impostor Syndrome is a common disorder among high achieving, perfectionistic type people.

Even Maya Angelou once said:   “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”

Impostor Syndrome can lead to procrastination and prevent us from trying out new opportunities, so I work hard to counteract this kind of thinking. When it comes up I run myself through a little belief challenging exercise, and I thought I'd just share the basic steps with you.

1. Clearly state the belief. In this case, something like: "My writing is horrible and my books do not deserve to be published or read. Therefore I have no business call myself a writer or talking about how to engage with writing."

2. Question the belief. Now you become an investigative journalist (one with integrity; we're not talking Fox news here) This means keeping an open mind and looking into the evidence to see whether the belief is true or not. For example:

An editor saw enough value in my novel to acquire it. Editors are busy people, and they are also business people. They do not have the time to invest in a book just to be nice.

Or, my critique partner believes this book is ready for submission. In the past, she has been perfectly capable of pointing out flaws and weak spots. I believe she is trustworthy and wouldn't lie to me just to be nice.

Now maybe, just maybe, the truth is that your writing isn't ready for publication and the inquiry reveals that. If fifty agents have passed without any positive feedback, or a whole string of editors have passed without any positive feedback, and the only person telling you your story is good is your mother, this could indicate that you have more work to do.

3. Choose to accept or reject the belief. Once you've examined the evidence, what does a clear and logical evaluation tell you? Are you really an impostor and a fraud, or is it possible you're a fairly decent writer with something to contribute?

4. Act accordingly.  Don't let negative self talk hold you back.

If you'd care to read more on this subject, there's a great article about the whole impostor thing right here:  Afraid of Being Found Out? How To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Hi. I'm Seleste and I'm a NaNoWriMo addict.

(Hello, Seleste...)

It's November and that means a lot of you are probably writing your little heart out, chasing that elusive 50k. And sometimes, it can seem more elusive than others. One of my dear friends crossed 23,000 words today and her manuscript seems to be flowing out of her like water.

Then there's me at *cough* 13,861.

You read that right. I'm almost 3 days behind.

And I call myself a professional too.

But you know what? It's okay. Even though I'm 99% sure I'll have edits on a different book hitting my inbox sometime this week (which will lose me at least another day), I know I can make up the lost time. Why? Because I won't let myself not make it up.

One of the things I've learned about being a writer is you have to be good under pressure, because even if you are always solid about getting shit done on time or early, sometimes the world conspires against you. When that happens and deadlines loom, you can either buckle under the pressure or you can bust ass a little harder.

One of the things I've learned about myself since becoming an author is I don't like being told I can't do something. I can't possibly make up 3-5 days worth of writing when NaNo is close to half over and I have edits coming? HA! Sit back and watch me!

It's a good trait to have in this business. And it's a really good attitude to have during NaNoWriMo.

You can finish. I don't care if you haven't started yet. Sure, 3k days are tough, but they're totally doable if you really want it. Don't quit because you're behind. Relish in the challenge to make up those words and days. Then bust ass and make it happen.

In the end, if you don't finish your 50k, the only one you have to disappoint is yourself. Do you really want to do that?

(Also, a note: please remember not to send your NaNo novel to any editors or agents right after you finish. Let it sit for a while. Then edit the crap out of it, because no one wants to see your unedited crap...especially not editors and agents.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: When to Query Holiday Edition

Baby Evil Writers 101: When to Query Holiday Edition
Julie Butcher

I know that as darling minions of evil, you're out there typing away and adding millions of words to your manuscript right this very minute.

Take a breath. Breathing is important when you're writing, and not-dying is also good. You have time to breathe because if you have any intention of querying your manuscript, you're not going to do it any time in the near future. There are a lot of holidays between now and next February. You're done querying for this year.

Agents and editors have holidays, too. They wrap presents and bake pies and do all of the normal things that normal people do. You and your shiny manuscript are not at the top of the pile. A lot of agencies close before Christmas and do not reopen until after the New Year.

This is good news my darlings. Now you know so you won't ruin your own holiday clicking your email. THE ANSWER WILL NOT COME. If it does by some wild spin of the universe land in your inbox, the agent or editor will know that you are eating pie and won't expect an immediate reply.

I'm not sure you would even want an agent who would ignore perfectly good pie to write emails. That is wrong on so many levels I just can't.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Clean Up Your Mess


First post of November is MINE, which means I get to write about NaNoWriMo before anyone else here does!

Now, I'll keep this short and sweet, because I've got stuff and things to do, and you've got to get back to your NaNoWriMo wordcount.

I've really only got one thing to say about NaNoWriMo:


Seriously, folks. NaNoWriMo is an exercise in discipline. It's a motivational tool to get you into the habit of meeting a daily wordcount and writing to a deadline. It's about getting the words out and on the page, because no one is going to read a novel you haven't written. 


Once you're finished with NaNoWriMo, you take what you've vomited onto the page and REVISE it. Tweak it. Hone it. You don't just run to Publisher's Marketplace to look for an agent that represents ninja-alien-pirate fiction. (Nor do you run straight to Popular Self-Publishing Platform to upload your opus for OMG!moniez either, but that's not something we here at the ELEW endorse anyway.)

Nor do you put the whole thing up on your blog, or any other website out there. Snippets, sure. Go wild. Tease your audience. But if you're planning on seeking commercial publication with your NaNoWriMo novel (hint: 50,000 words doth not really a novel make – you'll need to add about 20-30k more for a YA-length novel, and about 35-40k more for a standard commercial novel), don't "publish" it anywhere, in any fashion.

So, there you go. My advice on NaNoWriMo. Now get back to your wordcount. You need to make 1667 words today if you're going to stay on target, so turn off the internet and make with the wordage!

-Gothic Goddess

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sugar hangover

Whoops, was supposed to post yesterday - but I got carried away with the whole Halloween thing and forgot to post.

What did you all get up to for Halloween? Massive sugar inhalation?

I find it interesting how holidays have evolved here in the US - a combo of Samhain and All Hallow's Eve turns into an all out grab for candy and crazy costumes.

Not that I'm complaining. At least it isn't as commercial as Christmas has become. Plus I love me some Snickers.

We dressed our baby up in a couple different costumes, just to take pictures, then watched trick or treaters. California actually got some rain last night, amazingly, so there weren't too many brave enough to make it outside in the terrible weather. :)

So, to sum up, that's why I didn't post... too much sugar and adorableness in monster form.

How did you all celebrate?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

There's been an article going around the writerly circles of the Intarwebz lately about an author who stalked and confronted the person she felt was her "#1 critic."

Now, fuck knows why the Guardian chose to publish this particular piece (I personally suspect it has to do with attention-whoring on the part of both the outlet and the author in order to increase the sales numbers of both parties, but that's my opinion), but publish it they did, and - as we've discussed multiple times on this blog - THE INTERNET IS FOREVER. There are no take-backs on the Internet. You can't un-ring the bell once you pull that cord, so...yeah. Even if they wanted to take the article down (and there has been outcry for them to do that very thing), it wouldn't be gone. There's Internet archives, screenshots, reblogs...this is now on-record and what did I just say?


Which brings me to the point of this little rant. Our mission here at the ELEW is to whip inkslingers - both burgeoning and seasoned veterans - into shape. It's right there in black and white: "The Evil League of Evil Writers does not support whining, crying, sniveling, whimpering or bawling about writing, publishing or any aspect thereof. If you're looking for a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear about the rejection letter you've gotten from a literary agent, or a bad review of your work, you will not find it here." So, you can guess how well this latest debacle went over with me.

The mental health of the author in question is not the issue here. (It's been shown through various posts written by the author herself that she has a history since adolescence of behavior/mental/emotional instability. These are facts, not a critique of the author's personality. Thank you to co-founder Bitchstress Dreamkiller for the research links provided.) What is in question here is professionalism and the lack thereof in this particular instance.

It's been discussed here before that you do not respond to reviews of your work, not even to thank the reviewer for reading your work.








Do you fucking get it now?

"But Dina," you say, wringing your hands. "You thanked people when you were a baby writer! You fucking hypocrite!"

Yeah? Well, guess what? I didn't have a website like this one to tell me NOT TO DO THAT. It wasn't until much later in my career that I learned how professionals respond to reviews, and that was from reading the blogs of professionals I admired. And you know what they ALL said? "DON'T FUCKING RESPOND TO REVIEWS NOT EVEN TO SAY THANK YOU!" Once I learned that, I didn't thank anyone else. I knew enough to not respond to criticism, so I was safe there, but once I learned the "DO NOT ENGAGE" tenet, I adhered stringently.

"But Dina," you say, your brow furrowing in annoyance. "Big Author X thanks people/reposts reviews/does stuff you're saying not to here! They're a Big Name Author and they do it, so it must be okay!"

Yeeeeeaaaah, no. Just because they do something doesn't mean it's okay for you do to. Think of it like a professional sportsperson - just because they can perform a certain feat doesn't mean you can do it with the same finesse or skill. You are not them, so don't try to be.

Also, part of the reason you don't reply to any review/criticism, positive or negative, is because you'll be tempted to respond no matter what, and that's a dangerous precedent to set. Best to avoid all contact instead of limiting yourself to only a certain type. Further, it makes you look like a douchebag when you constantly point out positive or negative reviews to your fans/followers. One says, "Whee! Look at me! This person thinks I'm awesome! Go see!" and the other says, "Whee! Look at this douchebag! They think I suck! Go tell them they're wrong!" See what I mean, here? Either way you look like an asshat. So don't do it.

Now, the above stated, let's get into some specifics regarding the above article. The author in question, for all intents and purposes, STALKED the person online she felt was causing her the most "harm." I'm not going to get into mental health issues/thin skin/personality problems or any other "reason" anyone might come up with to defend this author's CRIMINAL behavior. Just because there's a potential reason does not excuse the behavior. Like that fucknugget douchebag who murdered those women in California not too long ago. Just because he had reasons for his issues doesn't excuse the fact that he committed murder. Yeah, I went there. I made the comparison. I don't want to hear any whining about how the two crimes aren't at all similar, because guess what?

They are. They're both crimes. They were both committed by people who felt wronged in some way. Jim C. Hines has a fantastic article on the difference between victim and perpetrator in regards to this butt-hurt author's wangst, and I agree with his assessment one hundred percent. This author not only broke the unwritten "do not engage" rule, she broke what amounts to the writer's equivalent of the fourth wall - that space kept between writers and critics.

Dear Author has an excellent piece on why some people (bloggers, critics, writers) choose anonymity, and the author in question is one of the reasons.

Writers like her are the reason we can't have nice things. She is part of the problem. DO NOT BE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you don't want to be criticized, this game is not for you. Because you know what?

There will always be someone out there you're going to annoy, hurt, or piss off. Hell, they might just not like you, your writing, your cat...whatever.

Some people are just assholes, and they glory in it. You know what the secret is?

I'll tell you. Get a pen and write this down on a sticky note and put it above your computer monitor. Ready? Here it is:


I know. It's way easier said than done. Believe me, I know. It took me many, many years to accept, and many more to put into practice, but that's really the secret.

Do not fucking care what other people think.

You are never going to make everyone happy. Someone will always disagree with you, hate you, think you're an idiot, whatever. If you spend your whole life trying to make everyone happy, you're just going to end up a miserable mess. So you write what you want to write, and only give a rat's ass what someone has to say about your shit when it's someone who has an actual effect on the direction you wish to go. (Hint: This is not people on Goodreads.)

Example: a literary agent rejects you with a standard, impersonal, form rejection. Okay. Fine. YOU DO NOT WRITE TO THEM AND TELL THEM WHY THEY ARE WRONG TO DO SO. You accept it and move on. They're not offering a critique, nor do they have time to do so, so just move along. Cry in your beer for a night if you must (I know it hurts, but it's just for a minute, so down a shot of tequila and get back to work), but don't post a whiny screed on your blog about how that agent sucks for rejecting you. DO NOT ENGAGE.

Example: a literary agent rejects you with a personalized rejection listing a few things about your work that could be improved. This is an instance where you may POLITELY THANK them for their time and suggestions. This is NOT a time where you tell them their suggestions suck and so do they for not accepting your genius. See, this is one of those people who has an effect on the direction you wish to go. You can care about what they think. Go ahead. Just don't let how you feel affect how you react.

That's the trick to this whole "not caring" thing. When you do care what someone else thinks, you're still responsible for what your caring makes you do. You are STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR.

Don't be the reason we can't have nice things. Don't be a douchebag author.

Fuck, don't be a douchebag, period. The world has enough douchebags without you adding to them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

When do you write?

With the baby, my life schedule has changed quite a bit. The first few weeks, it was weird, living on a 24 hour schedule - it didn't seem to matter if it was day or night, but we were up every couple hours to feed the baby. Then she started sleeping a bit more and it started to normalize back to day and night... But it's all gotten me thinking.

When do you write?

When are you most creative? When do your mental wheels kick into gear and get moving?

Now, I'm not talking about the sitting-down-and-writing-because-it's-a-job-damnit writing, because you have to do that, no matter if inspiration strikes or not, but when do you feel most inspired. It doesn't even have to be when you write, it could be when you come up with your best ideas, the greatest plot twists, the genius title.

For me, I've always been a night owl. I'm at my best late at night, when the world is quiet. But weirdly, I wrote my first book by getting up early and writing first thing in the morning. It seemed like the words just seemed to flow best then. So I think I brainstorm best at night, laying in bed in the dark, but I write best earlier in the day.

What about you? What part of the day causes you to leap into mental action?

I know a lot of you have jobs that you have to work around - you carve out precious time for writing. Do you pick the time of day that works best for your creativity or your schedule?

Once I go back to work, I'm going to have even more to juggle besides writing, baby, and family life. Guess I'll have to start getting into practice squeezing those words in somehow...

And like Julie says - set an alarm for the kid - it's awkward to get caught up in a scene and forget about them :)

p.s. I'm thinking about writing a recurring series about lawyering stuff - would anyone have any questions or interest in that? It's a little awkward because of the whole not-wanting-to-offer-real-legal-advice thing, but I could chat about interesting topics...

Friday, October 3, 2014

And I'm back in the game...

I'm back!  I had my baby (although she insisted on arriving 2 weeks late), and she's fabulous. We've managed to keep her alive this long and are pretty proud of that fact. And we're even settling into the routine of being parents (would you believe we actually do pretty well on the sleep front?)

And so, having made it to almost 2 months old, I guess it's time I start returning to my regular duties. So, I'm back. Not just to blogging, although, yes, I am resuming my posts here. I'm back to writing. Or editing, rather.

It's odd to me to take a bunch of time off of a project and then go back to it. I can't just jump in where I left off and remember exactly what I was thinking/doing/etc. I have to re-read the whole project, usually, to remember what it was even about.

For me, that first re-read after some time off is weird. It's almost like reading something from another writer. I'll read a phrase or a paragraph and think, "Wow! That's great!" and then realize I wrote it. It feels so foreign, at first. I guess it's a good thing that I impress myself (sometimes) on re-reads, but it's strange - I would think that even after some time away, these words, these characters, this plot, should be familiar.

One hopes I don't forget all about my baby every time I hand her over to a babysitter  :)

And there's more of this disconnect now that I have to work in smaller chunks of time, i.e. during naps. I don't need a refresher every time I come back to it, after that initial read through, but it takes me a while to orient myself again. I feel a bit like I'm taking two steps forward, one step back each time I sit down with these edits.

But, it'll get done. Editors wait for no man... or baby.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Naked and Afraid


According to Dune, fear is the little death. I maintain that Dune got it wrong.

When we think of fear, most of us conjure up that whole body response to actual danger: heart pounding, rapid breathing, adrenaline pumping.

But fear comes in another form, as an insidious thing that nibbles us away from the inside out. It winds into our dreams at night and our thoughts by day, leaching away enthusiasm and joy and the energy needed to grow and thrive.

Often we don't recognize it at all. The cues are subtle. A slight flutter in the belly, a tightening in the muscles, the sudden desire to go back to bed and take a nap. When we notice, we call it many things: Worry, anxiety, restlessness, wondering, waiting.

Whatever name we choose to give the thing, it's always there in one form or another. We fear for our children or our pets. For the security of our jobs. The loss of health. The coming of some large scale global disaster. Death. Mayhem. Disaster.

As writers the fear can become immobilizing. It begins with trying to get the words on the page in the first place. Sometimes we call this writer's block. Or we procrastinate. Or busy ourselves with all of the other life things that present themselves and say we don't have time.

If we do manage to finish a writing project then the fear cycle starts all over again with queries and submissions and reviews and sales numbers and contracts.

My personal list runs along these lines:

Fear that I'm not good enough, that I will never get the words on the page, that my writing sucks, that I've lost my touch, that nobody will ever want to read what I've written, that I'm like one of those people on American Idol who think they can sing but can't even carry a tune. What if people are laughing at me behind my back? What if the readers who buy my books really only do so to laugh at the train wreck? What if - and this is a big one - what if parts of my inner soul that I try to keep private are revealed in my work? What if I put myself out there, naked and afraid, and it's ME that the readers reject?

Which all boils down, in the end, to fear that I'm just one big steaming pile of fail.

Well, so what? So what if the novel sucks or doesn't sell or gets rejected or has bad reviews?

I mean, if these things happen we will be sad. We've invested a lot of time and energy and a good chunk of ourselves into everything we write. But maybe what really matters is that we have been brave. We put ourselves out there. Wrote the story that came to us and sent it out into the world, instead of hiding it in a drawer.

Courage doesn't mean you were never scared, it means you stood your ground and did the thing you were scared to do. Which, I think, makes writers some of the bravest people on the planet.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mama Bitchstress!

Today is a very special day for the Evil League of Evil Writers.

Besides our founding anniversary, the anniversary of our beloved co-founder's birth is one of the ELEW's High Holy Days.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not. We don't joke here at the ELEW. If we're laughing, you should probably be running.

I looked at last year's post to make sure I didn't repeat myself with this year's acknowledgement, and found that I could pretty much say exactly the same thing, only with a few changes to the amount of money our Bitchstress Dreamkiller has raised for charity this year.

Our anniversary month (April) this year was dedicated to one of our own. Senior Pie Coordinator and Clubhouse Keeper's husband had a serious accident involving a chainsaw fought off a grizzly bear and racked up some absolutely hellacious medical bills (and I'm not talking the fun kind of "hellacious" either). The ELEW stepped in, and, with the help of a metric shit-ton of people, made that bill GTFO.

You know who was the driving force behind that fundraiser? That's right. Skyla Dawn Cameron was the Indiegogo campaign leader. I (Gothic Goddess Dina James) was the co-pilot.

I'm not even going to count the other awesome stuff she does for charity in her total raised this year. It's over $12,000 with the Evil for Julie fundraiser alone. She also does stuff for cats (because she's a Crazy Cat Lady) and takes her beautiful dog Sophie to the hospital to visit inpatients, as Sophie is an official Trent Hill Therapy Dog. I'm pretty sure when things are totaled up, Skyla has raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 this year, and guess what?

This year ain't over yet.

Who knows what no-goodness she'll get up to the remaining three months? She'll probably invent time travel or cure cancer or get that "world domination" thing off the ground. Oops...did I say that out loud? Whatever she does, it will be awesome. And I don't mean that in the mundane way. I mean that in the evil way.

Our Bitchstress Dreamkiller isn't just an evil writer...she's a person whose awesome you should aspire to.

Happy birthday, Skyla!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Best-Seller Label

One of my books was the Kindle Romance Daily Deal last week. (Oh yeah, for those of you who didn't know, I'm also Julie Particka. Surprise?) It was one of those awesome but really stressful things. You see, when you're a KDD, that means Amazon is promoting you--they're sending your title out to all their readers and saying "look what's on sale!"

What if it still doesn't sell?

That was literally my thought when I woke up that morning and looked at my 7:30 am ranking. I was stuck in this void of "OMG, I totally suck."

The universe must have liked me that day because the rankings kept climbing and climbing. (Bear with me here. I'm only showing evidence for the discussion to come.) Eventually I had this:
#19 overall in Canada!
And this:

#93 overall in the US
And this:

#1 in NA/College! WOOT! pretty fucking cool. I mean, between this and hitting something like #7 on the Australia iTunes with the book, I can technically call myself an international best seller.

But I don't.

You see, I know what kind of numbers people have to hit to make the NYT and USA Today lists. For most people, those are kind of life-altering sums of money. This? Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy as a clam about doing as well as I did. However, I've been paying a lot of attention to how people use the best-seller label, and it makes me a little squicky.

There is an author I know who gave away one of her self-pub books on amazon for several days. Lowered the price to FREE! and then advertised the hell out of it. I don't remember exactly how high her book got on the free list, but she proceeded to start calling herself a best-selling author.


Now, don't get me wrong, I'm happy for her that she grabbed so many new readers. But I kind of have this thought that to be a best-seller you have to actually sell the books. I mean, if she'd lowered the price to $0.01, technically that would have been selling, but all those people who click on all the freebies might not have grabbed it. I don't know, but I don't count that.

I know another author who joked because their book hit #1 on some small, obscure sub-category that they were now a best-selling author. (Thankfully in that case, it was a joke, because I would have lost some respect for this particular person who legitimately deserves to sell enough to be a bonafide best seller.)

Now, in my case, the NA/College list isn't obscure. That's a pretty tough list (Colleen Hoover, Jamie Maguire, Jennifer L. Armentrout...the list could go on for a while), but until someone "in power" slaps a title on me, I'm not going to use one because it kind of feels like crowning myself mother-of-the-year or something.

Words have power, and people have used "best-seller" so deceptively (I won't say they are out-and-out lying, but making the best seller list at a specific publisher for a day or week is not the same as making an amazon list, is not the same as making the NYT or USA today.) that it's almost ceased to have meaning. If the time comes that my publisher decides they can legitimately put it on my books, I will probably start using it, but until then, this post is as close as it's going to get.

So my advice to all you aspiring authors, indie authors, new authors--choose to use the best-selling label with care. In order for it to have meaning to readers (which it's starting not to), it has to have meaning to us as authors.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Recycled Post: Another Post on Queries - Basic Etiquette

So I'm being lazy today (as I'm still playing catch-up offline, so you're lucky I'm even here right now and found this lovely gem in the archives for your reading pleasure) and offering you a timely recycled post on "how to write a query letter." This is something of a follow-up to our wonderful Senior Pie Coordinator's bit on Three Stupid Things Writers Do. Where she is deadly calm and concise, I'm going to go into massive detail with screaming and cursing. Because that's how I roll, people.

This was originally written in 2011, right around this week, coincidentally. Again, awesome timing! Here we go:

In order to understand what prompted this rant week's blog post, go give this post a quick read. Go on, I'll wait.

You see the part down at the bottom there, where some douchebag is fighting with the autoresponder to his query?

Yeah, that.

It shouldn't need to be said, but apparently it does: DO NOT FIGHT WITH THE AUTORESPONDER.

Honestly, if you bothered to research enough to find out where to send your query via e-mail, you should be smart enough to recognize an autoresponse when you get one. In addition to that, you should be GRATEFUL that you received an autoresponse – it means the email address you used was not only working, but correct. Writers are a paranoid, impatient bunch and we like to know things just haven't disappeared. Autoresponders give that sort of psychological reassurance. It's nice of an agency or business to have an autoresponder set up for that very reason.

Now that the "what set Dina off" portion is out of the way, let's get to the real subject of today's post.

Today we're going to talk about queries.

No, we're not going to talk about writing a query. You should already know how to do that, and if you don't, there are some great, free, reliable sources out there online that you can follow. This is more a list of do's and don'ts.


- INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO right at the top of the letter, just like professional letterhead. You're trying to be a professional, this is how it works. For e-queries, make sure again that your (correct!) contact information is there, but only once. If you have your contact info in your signature line, don't junk up the email with it everywhere. If it's an e-query, they're going to reply to the address you sent it from, so if you want your reply (autoresponse or not!) to go to a certain email address, send your query FROM that email address. Agents don't have time to compare email addresses, so don't send your query from your work email then wonder why you didn't get a response to your home email. Again, this shouldn't need to be said, but…yeah.

- KEEP IT TO ONE PAGE. A query letter is just that – a letter. The synopsis or first five chapters or whatever the submission guidelines ask for will tell the story for you, so you don't need to put it in your letter. Narrow your pitch down to a paragraph or two. You get 30 seconds max to make an impression. Don't waste time by telling an agent how you were inspired to write this. They don't care. Get to the good shit.

- FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. They might not make sense to you, and you might not agree with them, but they're written the way they are for a reason and it's not your place to question it.

Here's the deal: You're asking an agent for the one thing that they don't have a great deal of – their time. DO NOT WASTE THEIR TIME. I hear you over there. You're saying, "Well, I put so much time and effort into my query and they didn't bother to give me the same." SO THE FUCK WHAT. Cope. Deal. Stop crying. They aren't your babysitters. Also, a QUERY letter is just that. A query.

QUERY – question, inquiry.

Your query letter is basically a formal way of asking this agent if they will represent you/take you on as a client, but really, you're asking for much, much more than that, so show a little fucking respect.

- INCLUDE THE WORD "QUERY" OR "SUBMISSION" IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF YOUR EMAIL unless the agency wants you to put something specific there. If you're sending a query via e-mail, this helps the agent. Remember, helping the agent save time is a good thing.

- HAVE THE CORRECT INFORMATION AND A COMPLETE QUERY PACKET. Again, you might not understand why they want a synopsis and a letter and the first five pages, but that's not for you to question. It's for you to follow. And honestly, if you can't follow simple directions and put together a proper query packet, what is there to make them think you could follow the directions for anything else? An editorial letter or a deadline? If you can't manage a simple request when they've gone to the trouble to outline what you're supposed to do for them, that doesn't exactly bode well for any future relationship with you.  A little research goes a long way, and you've spent all this time getting your book ready to fly. Don't fuck up the landing. And speaking of research-

- RESEARCH THE AGENT/AGENCY. They have all the information out there you need. If you found an agent in the Writer's Market, make sure it's a current edition. Go online and make sure that person is still with that company and is still looking for what you're querying with. If they have a blog, go read it and make sure you don't have any of their pet peeves or red flags going on. Like this:

- FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Make sure you send what they ask for AND NO MORE. Do not "save them time" by sending the whole manuscript when all they want is the first five pages. Remember learning about that in elementary school? There's a reason. Querying isn't like cooking – you can't just improvise the recipe and hope you make something edible. Do your homework and follow the guidelines and you'll stand out, I promise.


- DO NOT REPLY TO A REJECTION. Just don't. (See the part about fighting with the autoresponder.) Agents get hundreds if not thousands of emails a day, and as you can see from the link above, a lot of those emails are rude responses to rejection. You don't need to add to their plethora of mail to wade through. If you simply MUST reply, be sure to include "Thank You For Your Consideration" or something in the subject line.

  • EXCEPTION – If the agent you're querying has been corresponding with you or has met you at a convention or something and you have some kind of less-formal relationship, go ahead and send them a POLITE thank you in response to a rejection. Keep it short and sweet. Just say, "thanks for your time, I'm disappointed we won't be working together on this project, I appreciate your consideration" or something and leave it at that.

- DO NOT BEG THEM TO RECONSIDER. This is extremely bad form, and they won't remember you. If they do, it won't be in the "good way." Once an agent sends you a rejection, you've been removed from their consideration. They've moved on to the next query letter and you've been forgotten because they've already decided which "pile" you're in. You're dealt with and done and pitching a fit about it isn't going to help you. They rejected you for a reason, and unless you've changed something dramatically, they're not going to reconsider the same query, either immediately or in the future. Rewrite the book or the query or something. If they said no, there's a reason for it, even if it's not given. Also,

- DON'T ASK FOR CRITICAL FEEDBACK/THE REASON YOU WERE REJECTED. If it's not given in the rejection, don't pester them about it. They don't have time to go back and look up why they rejected you (if they even have that information - many agencies don't keep old queries on file for long, if at all), and if a specific reason wasn't given, suck it up and move on. It could be something as simple as the genre not being right for their agency at the time to an overabundance of that particular storyline. If you're lucky enough to be rejected with a reason, learn from it, fix your issue and go on.

- DO NOT ASK CONSTANTLY FOR STATUS UPDATES, ESPECIALLY THROUGH TWITTER OR FACEBOOK. Just. Don't. Do. This. Just don't. If you see an agent anywhere online or out at a restaurant or whatever, they're on their own time. They're not at work, so you shouldn't ask them about it. They don't have their work in front of them, and it's not fair of you to ask them to recall something on the spot. Also, they don't know. Okay? They just don't know. Again, see the part about hundreds or thousands of messages a day. You honestly expect them to remember your name out of all that? Can you? Name every person who has sent you an email in the last 8 weeks off the top of your head. Go on. If you can do that, you shouldn't be a writer. You should be working as some kind of smarty for a government organization somewhere. If you're NOT a superhero like most of us and can't name every person who has sent you an email in the last 8 weeks, why would you expect an agent to do that? Also, why would you expect them to take time (remember the "time" thing we've been talking about?) to find your note out of all those? I know you want special attention and are impatient and all that, but don't. Just sit and wait. Why? Because if you make a pest of yourself, chances are you're not the kind of person that agent wants to work with. Just sayin'.

  • EXCEPTION: If you haven't heard back from an agent within their stated response time, a POLITE follow-up mail is acceptable. NOT a Facebook or Twitter message!


So there you have it. Basic query etiquette. Be nice, be polite, do your homework, and read up on things.

For more information on How Not To Be A Douchebag Author, please visit Skyla's blog [ETA: The archives on Skyla's blog aren't updated with her Shiny New Site yet, so just] click the HNTBADBA tag here on the ELEW blog and see what's there. There's a whole slew of posts on the subject.

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