Today I woke with a new outlook on life. The sun was shining—looks like spring is on the way—and it seemed like the air was different. It wasn’t, but everything that had bothered me in life before Wednesday of this week no longer bothers me today. I have been given a golden opportunity to head the art department at Total-E-Bound, and I took it gratefully with the knowledge that this job has literally changed our lives. You have no idea how much.
I visited the Total-E-Bound offices yesterday for a meeting and then lunch, except it happened the other way around because traffic held us up on the way and I arrived later than planned. Lunch was in a groovy little cheese food place, and being the total dork I am in that we very rarely eat out, I had no clue what to choose. I declined wine and opted for tea, and when it came time for the toast I raised my teapot in typical, quirky Em fashion. I’ve never denied being an oddball.
When the job description was given, I didn’t freak. I can do this. I’m looking forward to doing this. I have a few things to learn but am confident of being able to master them. I’ll get my chance to expand my creative wings and the thought of it is very exciting. For the first time in a very long time, with the exception of starting work for TEB freelance in December, I felt the weight of burdens literally drop off my shoulders. There will be no more worrying about our finances, of where the money will come from to buy this or that. There is no more uncertainty in the future as to whether my royalties for various things will help cover what we need. My husband has carried us all for years, has done so just so I could follow my passion, and now I get to help him bring wages into the house. I can now say I have a JOB. No more freelance; I work for TEB as a hired employee.
It’s surreal, it’s exciting, it’s a life-changing thing.
When we got home last night and I told the boys, they knew things had changed for us. Their faces said it all. There have been times I felt I should give up, but something told me to plug on. There were times when I nearly got a job outside the home and left my writing and art behind, but my God, I’m so glad Hubby told me to keep plodding on (thank you, love!).
So everyone in our house woke with a fresh start in mind, where the future is brighter and life isn’t so sucky. Smiling faces, good moods. It’s wonderful. My eldest, who lives in her own home 17 miles away, arrived here today just so she could share this moment—she knows how important this change is and what it means. She’s as excited as I am.
Although I still can’t get over the fact this is happening to me and my family, and that from now onward the worries no longer exist–it will take a while to get used to that–I know I will have fun, work damn hard, and love every minute of it. The job is a dream one where I get to stay at home, still able to be here for my children if they’re sick, still here when they get home from school.
We have been blessed, and I look forward to working with you in the future should you have books with TEB. From meeting Claire and some of her staff yesterday, it was highly apparent they really do care about their authors and their books. Their authors’ wellbeing is of paramount importance, and I was touched by their depth of passion for what they do. They are dedicated, kind people, ones I felt immediately at home with, as though I had known them for years. I’m looking forward to many years of friendship and work with TEB. I feel I have found a home and new family as well as a job.
Hey, everyone! Please welcome L.J. Holmes to my blog! Take it away, L.J.!
What a pleasure it is to be here. Thank you for your invitation.
Not many people know that the apartment complex where I live decided a few years back to paint all of our fire hydrants. (They’ve since gone back to the “average”.) It was a bit of a shock when I stepped out the first time—see, there’s a fire hydrant about THIS far from my entrance door—so it wasn’t like the fire hydrant could hide its new persona. Seeing the fire hydrant bedecked as a Dalmatian fire dog made me think about my Dad…and boy do I have stories to tell you all about my Dad.
I grew up with my Dad active in the volunteer fire company. He was—and boy are you going to love this—the FIRE POLICE CHIEF! Why are you going to love this? Well, Dad was not the most, uhm, obedient, I suppose would be the best description, of fire safety codes that the rest of us have to adhere to during emergencies. Dad was following the fire engine to a three-alarm blaze about a mile and a half from our home. I was about eight, maybe nine at the time.
Dad used his own car. I’m not sure exactly what Dad was doing—some suspected he hadn’t pushed the connection for his fire-lights into the cigarette lighter socket so was jiggling it and looking down when it happened while driving one handed…or maybe with his knees.
At the end of the road we live on, is—surprise, surprise— a stop sign. Even with the whirly lights and the siren woof woofing, they DO stop to make sure the rest of you do what the law requires of you… So, picture a fire engine, men in their heavy fire gear clinging to the back of the truck, the stop sign, and my Dad coming up behind them, the FIRE POLICE CHIEF, his attention not up there, but down there.
Dad drove his car right on up the back side of the fire truck so his Mercury hood ornament was kissing the dancing emergency lights for all it was worth. For those of you who never saw the hood ornament on older Mercury cars, picture the Roman god Mercury who used to be the Greek god Hermes. With Mercury’s winged sandals dancing a merry jig with the flashing fire lights, my Dad, his nose plastered to his dashboard and eyes peeking sheepishly at his newest creation, THAT’S the picture that made the daily newspaper and it WAS a classic. For all I know, it may still be hanging in the back room at the firehouse.
I’d like to say that was the ONLY questionable adventure my Dad had with his pyromania, but like George Washington and his cherry tree decapitation, I cannot tell a lie.
My Dad was one of those Jack-Of-All-Trades who thought he’d mastered them all…unfortunately, reality differed with him.
Let me share the time my Dad decided to, uhm, dispose of a hornets’ nest. The nest was growing, quite spectacularly, from the eaves under the porch portico that led off the laundry room doorway. Everyone knows that you do not dispose of hornets’ nests before twilight because the buzzers are out inserting their stingers into anyone who gets on their bad side up until some inner clock tells them it’s time to return to the nest and resurface those stingers for the next day.
Twilight, when the day meets on the horizon with the night that is about to send everyone into starlight time…and, of course, the best time to exterminate an entire nest of nasty stingers; I DO include Dad in that.
Armed with a can of gasoline and a spray nozzle, Dad soaks that sucker until it is absolutely drenched. The scritch of the match was quiet compared to the WHOOSH that exploded the second the match hit the nest…oh, and the portico along with the porch. See, you’re supposed to knock the nest from the house before igniting it.
I watched the entire porch and a good three quarters of the back wall feed the flames before the fire company—yep, the very same one—arrived to put out the damage my Jack-Of-All-Trades and master-of-none FIRE POLICE CHIEF DAD gave birth to.
In Dad’s “real” job, the one he did when not strutting his FIRE POLICE CHIEF badge around, he serviced and repaired oil burners, commercial and residential. Every year as the fall approached, Dad went around the neighborhood, reminding everyone to schedule having their oil burners cleaned and made ready. It was a religion to him.
I don’t actually remember which month it was, although it WAS cold. Later I would be told it happened at the stroke of midnight, but I was still a kid and had been sleeping quite soundly when the front chimney, the one only this far from my bed, blew up taking a good chunk of the house’s innards with it.
I shared my room with my grandmother, who quickly got us both out of there, down the stairs and out the door. My dad was already out on the stone driveway, his boxers at half mast, looking up at his creation with a somber look upon his face, that turned to something else…embarrassed bluster?…when the fire engine pulled into our driveway and once more put out the flames spewing from the house of the FIRE POLICE CHIEF. (Not sure if the bluster was because of another fire at our house or because he was out there in his boxer shorts… I know for me, THAT was more traumatizing than the explosion.)
Looking back, I cannot help wondering why they did not retire my dad. The only excuse I can come up with is it was an ALL volunteer fire company…any volunteer, even one as creatively incompetent as my Dad, was better than NO volunteer.
One of these days, I am going to have to write a book about Dad. I KNOW you’d love hearing about Dad deciding to cut his own asbestos siding and then attaching it to the house so crookedly a lightning bolt could get beneath it and set fire to that whole side of the house. And there’s the bag of oil dry in the garage attic that another hornets’ nest claimed ownership of. Oh, and the BATS, and when Dad decided he could install central air conditioning all by himself…BIG holes (measuring was for amateurs, Dad determined, quite sagely).
We had creatures visiting inside from those big holes that don’t usually have access to your house’s innards…but then Dad was quite content to make entryways large enough to welcome them without any problems. For them. At least now you know why I have this permanent tic in my left eye.
But let me tell you about the two books I HAVE written.
My current book is just out called Forever With You and released from the Muse It Publishing, Inc.’s HOT Side Muse It Hot on February 1st, 2011!
This is my all-time favorite story so far. Coryne is a Family Court Lawyer suddenly with money and a need to have a custom designed cabin built on land she owns in the mountain. Keith Patterson, owner of Patterson Construction shows up, and the sight of him stirs long-dormant feelings Coryne does not want to deal with. Besides, he’s too gorgeous by half to actually come through on what she needs. Her coworkers convince her Keith can come through, though, so she takes a chance and hires the eye candy delicious torment.
She sets up a camping trailer so she’s on the spot to oversee the progress…probably not one of her wisest choices. Each day is a struggle to resist the lure of Keith’s sexy body and her reaction to it. Torture; pure unmitigated torture. Will Coryne maintain control?
There is a surprise ending you will not see coming, one that will remain with you long after you have finished this very short story.
My second book will be out on March 1st, 2011, again from the Muse It Hot side of the Muse Publishing, Inc. This one is called The Pendulum Swings.
It’s sort of a Time Travel. It DOES have Ancient Egypt and Rome as a backdrop for the heroine, and eventually the hero too, but not until he’s done the wild thing with a very seductive fireplace.
But I am jumping ahead of the story a bit.
She wakes in a room with weird things she has never seen before—and for that matter, she doesn’t recognize her own hand either.
He enters this strange room, a snarling mass of a man who is hunky but not particularly liking what he sees in her. In fact, he seems to hate her.
He calls her “Joanna”? She has no idea what a “Joanna” is but gathers it is supposed to be her. She quickly denies it.
He tosses the word, “amnesia” at her with such derision, it must be about as desirable as sand fleas or the plague.
She does not understand what she’s done to make him loathe her, and now that she thinks on it, who the devil is she?
Whoever she is, she has a long journey ahead of her, and hopefully along the way she’ll be able to figure out how she came to be this woman he so obviously abhors before she loses all hope.
If you want to learn more about that seductive fireplace, Best Selling Author, and my magnificently talented daughter, Kat Holmes, interviewed Ms. Marble on her own site a while back. It’s an intriguing interview that required Kat actually going on a road trip. The link is:
As for me, well, I have a whole lot of blogspots because I do something I call COVER BLOGS, that one of my fellow Muse Authors calls STATIONARY TRAILERS. I have three set up exclusively for Muse authors, one that is for Muse authors and others with publishers other than Muse, and another that I call my TOOTING HORN that I use to post all kinds of self-boasting stuff about me and my daughter Kat. Boasting doesn’t come easy so had to set up a spot just for that purpose.
I will give you the links to my main Muse sites and the one for everyone. They are:
My e-mail is: Spatzdkat1212@yahoo.com (Spatz is my baby kitty, and a co-star in one of my upcoming stories…June 1st, 2011 In From The Cold)
My author’s page at Muse Publishing, Inc. is
The direct buy page for Forever With You
At $1.99 a true bargain.
The Pendulum Swings
I knew this morning that I shouldn’t have gone into town. You know those days where your inner voice is screaming: Don’t do it! Stay home!
Well, I ignored that voice because we were running low on supplies. I needed handy shit like food and stuff. So, I dropped little one off at school and walked to town. Halfway down some guy stepped into the road and nearly got run over. I saw the danger before he did and I stopped, as though me stopping would make him stop walking, but he was ahead of me and wouldn’t have taken my cue. So I let out a pathetic, “Oh!” and that did the trick. He stopped, the car stopped, and all ended well.
Apart from my effing heart going like the clappers and the fact I’d nearly shit my pants.
Anyway, I got into town, went food shopping, couldn’t find the meatballs. Minor bug, but a bug all the same. I paid, left the goods there cos they do home delivery, and went off to get my nails done. I had them done in January as a birthday treat and had let them grow out until they looked disgusting. So I walked in, and the usually chirpy lady asked: You got an appointment?
No, I didn’t, but I’ve never needed one before. She’s always fitted me in. So immediately I felt like a kid who had done something wrong. Not cool. So she asked what I wanted. I said the old ones taking off and new ones put on. She said she had someone coming in half an hour later, so I suggested she take mine off, I go back around town to get my other stuff, and return to have the new put on once she’d finished with the other lady. Fine. Lovely. Until, with her little machiney thing, she caught my cuticle and the skin ripped. Not her fault because my cuticle on that finger was non-existent because I’d been, umm, picking it due to something going on next week that I’ll tell you about next week.
So, ouch. Blood dripping, nail woman panicking she’d hurt me. I assured her it was ok, but it would not stop bleeding. She gave me a plaster to put on while I went back around town. Man, my finger THROBBED like mad.
Anyway, off I went into Argos. It’s a shop some Brits take the piss out of because you can get cheap shit there. Cheap—therefore I like Argos despite the jokes about it. So I’m browsing, looking for a new slow cooker (crock pot) because mine broke last week. I could have cried because I use it one hell of a lot with my job being what it is, and I can have the food cooking all day without me worrying about fucking about making dinner later. It broke because I had the pot bit upside down in the dishwasher while I loaded it up, left the dishwasher drawer out, and the lid, swimming on the worktop covered in water (don’t ask, just don’t!) skidded across, fell off and landed on the pot. Cracked it into about 4 pieces. Gutted because I loved it and gutted because my daughter bought it for me. So I needed a new one. I saw the cheap price, thought That’ll bloody well do! and waited at the counter for it to be brought down. Lemme explain. Argos has nothing in it except rows of catalogues on high sides. You look through the book, pick what you want, write the number down, then pay at the till. Then they good folks who work there rummage through the warehouse and bring it to the collection desk.
I see the box and think: That’s rather big. Bigger box than the last one. So I mentioned that to the woman, and she assured me it was just packaging. “You know what these companies are like.” Yeah. I do.
I carried it out—and my God it was heavy—and went back to the nail place. She did her stuff, I left, and hefted the cooker around town while I picked up some other bits and bobs. On the way to get the bus, this little kid, must have been about 2, legged it up to this hairdressers we have here where there’s a massive yellow rubber duck in the window—it’s relevant to the name of the shop. He’s saying “Quack, quack!” and I smiled at him, then at this older lady who was smiling madly at me. And we’re talking excessively madly here, folks. I assumed she was his granny or something, so I said, “Oh, bless, he’s gone to see the duck.”
Her smile vanished, and she then stared at me as though I was shit on her shoe. I thought: What the EFF? You were just smiling at me!
For the record, our town has one of the highest rates for mental people (statistical fact; I’m not joking) so I can only assume she was nuts.
I walked off wanting to cry because shit, it had been hard enough going out there today because I really hadn’t wanted to and forced myself. I’m actually worrying I’m becoming agoraphobic, for Christ’s sake. I have somewhere I have to be next week and although I’m not worried about meeting the person I have to meet—very far from it—I’m nervous about travelling so far from home.
I waited for the bus. It came late. I got home, wanted a wee, ciggie and cuppa in that order. I couldn’t get my key in the door quick enough. I wanted “home” to swallow me, know what I mean? I automatically came to sit here and start work, but made myself unpack the cooker so I could get some food on, work without worrying. I opened the box…
The cooker is the size of a gorilla.
The cooker is the size of my fucking microwave.
I could fit two chickens in it.
No wonder it was bloody heavy!
Now I’m here, feeling much better for being at home. I have a project I must finish but it’s a long job and I now don’t feel in the right frame of mind for it so may have to leave it until tomorrow. I would have finished it last week but I’d been waiting on some software to arrive and a couple of microphones. Don’t ask! All will be revealed soon!
I have no clue why I’ve told you all about this morning. I’ve rambled. It was a very boring ramble. Begging your pardon.
I think everyone has a favourite type of author voice that suits them for various reasons. I’ve found that I’m most at home reading Brit-voice authors. 1, because I’m a Brit, and 2, I have no trouble understanding the nuances and meanings, the way the prose flows with that unmistakeable Britishness that only another Brit can fully understand because they’ve lived hearing it all their lives. I have several US authors I love too, but today I’m talking Brit.
Since reviewing for Miz Love Loves Books, I’ve had the pleasure of finding two new-to-me Brit-voice authors who have written books that have touched me so deeply just because of that Brit voice, among other things. Prior to Miz Love, I had read M. King, whose prose wowed me beyond anything that had come before. I am a serious fan of M. King, and now I add two more Brit-voice authors to my list of those I don’t think I’ll ever tire of reading. Rachel Randall and Lynne Connolly.
These three women have given me so many wow moments, so many misty-eyed moments, all due to me feeling so at home while reading that it brought me to tears. That sounds absolutely nuts, I know that, but when someone writes how you think and speak, it kind of gives you that feeling that you belong just by reading their books.
M. King: She has a fantastic turn of phrase and plays the written word like a well-tuned instrument. She gets right into a character, digs very deep, and I love the way she tells us so much more with what she doesn’t write—she’s a “between the lines” author, where you sometimes have to use your noggin to work things out for yourself, and the reward, when you get that “Ah!” moment of seeing things how she intended, and when you spot those hidden nuggets, is priceless. My favourite book of hers is Breaking Faith. I will never forget it.
Lynne Connolly: She writes a historical romance like you wouldn’t believe. For me she is perfect in every way. The wording, the sentence patterns, the absolute perfection that comes across leaves me speechless. I have read five of her Richard and Rose series and can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever read a historical like them. They are amazing, and her attention to detail, her lush, fantastic phrases that give images so clear you’d think you were there yourself, really do make me get goose bumps.
Rachel Randall: What can I say but oh my goodness. This author’s voice is something I grew up hearing. London, that distinct sound, and those word choices, when strung together, took me right back into the past. My first taste of Rachel Randall was with His Christmas Present, and even though the tale itself wasn’t one designed to make the reader cry, I cried. I felt so “home”, so in my comfort zone while reading, it was as though, if I had chosen all the ingredients for the perfect author designed for me as a reader, I had found it in Rachel Randall.
Each of these women have their own distinct voice, their own patterns, their own ebbs and flows, and I love them all. So long as these three write, I will be a happy reader. I would love for you to check them out too!
Today I am going to be totally honest about my experience of being a writer.
It’s sometimes a heartbreaking profession. I’ve cried—sobbed so hard I couldn’t breathe—I’ve sighed, I’ve got angry at myself (edits will do that to you!), I’ve wanted to scream because at times, when learning to be an editor, I just did not “get” those damn clauses and dangling modifiers and all those horrible, pesky little things we need to know. I’ve put my head on the desk and just felt worthless, depressed, shit. I’ve wandered around the house feeling the same. Allowed my dream to take over my life. Allowed people to upset me. I have upset others. Been taken the piss out of, talked about, reamed, accused of plagiarism—Jeez, all manner of things that made me want, several times, to shut off this computer and walk away, never to return. No word to anyone, just go. Fuck this for a laugh.
Sales: I’ll share my experience. Obviously it won’t be the same for everyone. To get straight to the point, and I’ve said this before, I don’t make much money from writing. Back in the day, when I first started writing, money didn’t even enter my head. I wrote because I wanted to, I loved it, and it was just something I “did”. Then I got to know authors, was privileged enough to be on the inside of a few publishing companies—via editing and cover art—to see how a publishing company works. I saw sales—or not—how trends worked, how everything worked, from submissions to published tales. Then making money from writing seemed an option.
Some people make big money at this gig—and no, I’m not mentioning any names! I have been studying the way things work this past year. For those of you who know me from “way back then”, you’ll know I made last year my “get published shitloads of times” year. I shut myself away, barely emailed a soul. It was just something I felt I had to do. Something for me. Without getting out the violins, all my life I’ve given, given, given to others—mostly my choice, oftentimes not—and I was stubborn, dug my heels in, and was what some might see as selfish. I don’t see it that way. I took time out, did something I wanted to do for the first time ever (on such a big scale anyway), and it felt good.
I gave myself a goal of publishing 20 books. I exceeded it. Job done, yay me, whatever. I had a blast too. The reason for this insane amount of writing last year—and at the last count it was 425K; not bragging, just stating the facts, ma’am—was to see if having lots of books out there increased sales. It’s common sense, right? To have many books out there means you’ll rake in the cash eventually, yes?
No, it doesn’t.
I will admit that some royalties made, and still make, me laugh so hysterically that I border/ed on looking like some nutter in an institution. If I didn’t laugh I would cry. All that hard work, all that fucking effort, for something like $3 a month sometimes.
I’m not joking.
So, I had been very depressed at that three bucks, especially because it came from a place where you’d think that once you’re published there you’re loaded. It’s a myth, guys! I see every publisher the same now. It’s not the name of the place you’re published at that makes sales, trust me. It’s a combination of many things, I suspect, if we wanted to look at it in an analytical way so we knew what to do and how, so WE could then make big money like those who do, but as with all things in life, what works for one person may not work for you and me.
There we are, flapping around in a sea full of others flapping too. Some aren’t flapping. No, they’re swimming strong, know their direction to shore, and some even have the luxury—be it from hard work (and bloody good for them too, because they deserve the rewards) or sheer luck; right place, right time etc.—of a yacht coming to collect them to save them even swimming. Good on them, much respect going their way, no animosity whatsoever. Now. In the past I railed it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t this, it wasn’t that, but shit, as you mature you realise that what other people are doing distracts you from doing what YOU’RE meant to be doing. So, Bright Sunrise makes loads of money. So what? And it IS fair that she does because she’s worked hard, writes the books, has found that magic formula or whatever.
It is fair.
Saying that, I now believe there IS no magic formula. Some are destined to win through hard work, some aren’t. Some are destined to win by fate, some aren’t. Some aren’t flapping but swimming—but getting nowhere fast. Treading water, unable to do what’s necessary to move forward. The currents are against them. It just doesn’t matter to me anymore whether I “make” it. I’m tired of trying to understand it all. I had the dream, no longer have it, of becoming a household name in books. We’ve all had that dream. Our books as movies etc., and you know what? I don’t want it. Truly, not deep down. If it means having to be something I’m not, to do things I detest doing, being uncomfortable with who I’d become, wishing I could get the old me back, all to have people fawn over me, thinking I’m this person I’m not, using me for my brand, what I can do for them… No. Thank. You.
We’re all people, whether we’re “famous” in this little e-publishing world or not. We all shit, eat, sleep, fuck, hate, like, love, dislike. Putting a sash on that says “best-selling author who everyone loves and adores and swarms around and pats on the back and licks their arsehole so much their nose is permanently brown” is not ME. I don’t speak to people who are “famous” any differently than I do those who aren’t. You’re all the same to me. I couldn’t give a toss whether you earn $7,000 a month, $50,000 per year writing ebooks—and yes, there are people out there who earn that; please don’t shit yourself on my carpet or throw up on the sofa; the bathroom’s that way—because earning that money doesn’t make them any different to authors who make fuck all. All it means is the high earners can afford holidays, nice things etc.—BUT THEY ARE STILL PEOPLE! If they gad about like they’re royalty and I’m beneath them, I don’t want to know them anyway.
Good advice would be to drop the “I’m famous” mantle when dealing with me, because it just doesn’t wash. Also, I’ve noticed since becoming Natalie Dae, that people treat ME differently, giving me the time of day they wouldn’t had I not been published by Ellora’s Cave. Thanks! [Sarcasm intended—I clearly wasn’t worth knowing pre-EC.] Please, stop it. I’m still this person. I’m not some woman elevated in status because a publisher decided they liked my books. You want to talk to me, talk to me because I’m me, but be prepared for getting a response from a boring old cow who sits here day after day at her computer either writing or creating graphic art. Just me.
I was just about to go further into a rant about brands and how being attached to one makes you “different” but I won’t. It’d be ugly. I dislike it immensely.
So, after that interlude of something I clearly needed to get off my chest, let’s get back on track.
Some people make good money at ABC, some don’t. Some people make good money at XYZ—and God, aren’t I just being so original with my publisher names here? LOL—and some don’t. It’s a lottery. It doesn’t matter how big the publisher is, there are far too many other elements to consider when it comes to sales. The publisher can only do so much, then it’s up to you to build your name. There are so many authors out there it isn’t surprising most of us fall by the wayside. The stampede to reach the top is too much for me, I’ve realised. I’d rather just stroll along nicely, stop along the way to eat an ice cream, have a sunbathe. You know, chill a bit.
Promotion: Does it really work? So far, in my experience, no. I have an “experiment” going on right now with a friend, and if the type of promo we’re doing still makes no difference, then you know what? Fuck promotion up its soul-destroying arse, because promotion costs time and money—I don’t have either to waste, neither does my friend.
Blog posts, blog tours, scavenger hunts, dropping links on groups, adding promo to the end of normal, everyday blog posts, paid advertising, sending books out for review, dropping links to our books/reviews/whatevers on Facebook and the like,—it’s just something we DO, a time-consuming effort to build the brand, to be noticed among the thousands of other people doing exactly the same thing. It works for many but fails for many too.
Myself and my friend are TIRED, but we’ll see this experiment through until the end, because there’s a burning desire to know, once and for all, whether promotion actually works.
Getting your “brand” out there: This involves being a member of several groups and online networking sites. The only one I indulge in now is Facebook. I work mainly from my Emmy Ellis page, because that’s me and exactly who I am from day to day. I can’t be all people all of the time, meaning Sarah Masters and Natalie Dae (Charley Oweson is asleep right now). It’s too exhausting, too time consuming. I used to think they were separate parts of me, cocooned in their different worlds, far removed from who I am as Emmy, but I came to realise they’re not. They are all me, they just write with different voices, in different genres, and I found that keeping the bits of me all apart was making me depressed not to mention insane. I now don’t give a monkeys who knows I’m all of these people—I mean really, who the hell cares? What does it matter in the grand scheme of things? For those who are not aware of many personas, here they all are:
Charley Oweson (formerly M. E. Ellis) – horror writer
Natalie Dae – Het author
Sarah Masters – m/m author
Owner of Miz Love Loves Books – review site
PoshGosh, cover artist
Emmy Ellis – me, editor, proofreader, mother, nanny, daughter, sister, wife, blah-de-blah-blah-blah
Getting your brand out there brings the risk, quite frankly, of getting on people’s tits. You join in on the conversations, bring your own experiences and opinions to the table, boost other authors, congratulate them, sit using up valuable time that could be spent writing, by shooting the shit with other people who are doing exactly the same thing as you—all out there pushing their brand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some effing brilliant friends by being on these groups and sites and I wouldn’t change having been an active member on them for the world because of that alone, but, jaded as it might sound, I didn’t relish sitting there bullshitting with hundreds of people just so my name was “seen” by…other authors! We don’t want to just target other authors, do we? Yes, authors are also readers, and yes, they may well buy our books, but for Pete’s sake, think about it: Why are we pushing ourselves at other authors who, if we were all honest and came out stating what we earned, can’t justify the expenditure on others’ books anyway?
Readers, those who are loyal to the written word, are the ones we’re supposed to target, but, if you’re like me, I hate “pushing” myself at people. It feels like that to me, anyway. That I’m saying, “Hey, you there! I’m talking to you, and I really do give a shit about what you’re saying—and I do!— that you broke your leg and your dog just shat on your neighbour’s lawn and your neighbour is banging on your window, irate as hell and gunning for you, but are you going to buy my book or what?” It’s a horrible way to go about it, a horrible feeling, something that may well only be a thing I feel, but feel it I do. Also, who the buggering hell wants to listen to me warble on anyway? And NO, absolutely-bloody-no, I’m not saying that so people will say, “Oh, Em, we want to listen to you.” NO! I’m saying it because God, I wouldn’t want to listen to me if I wasn’t me, so why the hell would anyone else?
All these feelings, these worries and insecurities, make Emmy Ellis crap at promotion. I’ve done it, am doing it, and in the past have seen NO CHANGE in sales. So, like I said, this last experiment, and then I’m done. Either people will read my books or they won’t. I will NOT break my heart over whether they don’t. Nope, just won’t do it anymore. It hurts, and why the eff would I want to hurt myself intentionally?
Reviews: Oh, gone are the days when I shit myself over them, when the link makes my guts roll and I’m excited as hell to see what someone thought of my book. Now I ignore them if possible. The ONLY time I read them is if a friend sends me the link saying the review is good. The last time someone sent me a link to a bad one and said I ought to read it—it was a bad one, very, very bad—was because it was so bad they knew it could damage me/my brand. That person quite rightly knew I should know about it, and I went along to read all about how shit my book was, how it was incorrect in places—Research, do your research, Sarah Masters, for in my opinion you know fuck all!
You know what I thought? Aww, leave me the hell alone, there’s a dear. I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes, to overtake anyone’s genre, I just. Want. To. WRITE.
My book was apparently porn. It was so bad that it should never have been published, if the reviewer was to be believed. And that book was so bad, so snark-worthy, that they bought the second book and trashed that too. I had, in my opinion, written a book that stepped on a few toes and it wasn’t acceptable. At the time, I felt they were saying I’d written in a genre that I wasn’t aware belonged solely to them, that they were implying I ought to step away from the keyboard, away from their genre, and hide my arse. They may well not have thought/meant that, and they had the absolute right to express how they felt about my books, but their reviews taught me something: Don’t read reviews ever again if you can help it. What you don’t see doesn’t hurt you. Don’t give someone else the power to upset you—if they didn’t like your book, tough shit.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read your reviews. I’m just talking about me and mine. They just make me shudder when Google alert informs me I have one, and I close the email and forget about it.
Anyway, we’ve all heard it: Reviews are just one person’s opinion.
Besides, it’s our fault they have our books to review anyway. We wrote them, we chose this profession, so therefore we must expect, when something of ours is out there to be picked at, to receive some negative responses. It becomes clear when reviewers are out to purposely harm, clear when they haven’t actually read your book properly (I had a review where the reader admitted to skimming then said things didn’t make sense. Perhaps because she skimmed and missed the information she needed, hmm?) and you get to work out which ones are genuine in their constructive criticism—that’s the key words right there!—as opposed to those who have fun reaming your arse in public because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day, your book didn’t do anything for them, and rather than put it down when they first decided it was the biggest pile of shit they’d ever read, they continued, reading every painful word, putting themselves through misery—are they fucking NUTS?—in order to tell anyone who reads the review how much they HATED your tale.
Whatever. Floats. Their. Boat.
At one time, bad reviews hurt, made my cheeks get so hot they itched, made me want to cry, but now? Hell no. You don’t like my book? Shame, that. Move on and buy someone else’s, someone you DO like, because spending money on mine, wasting precious hours of your life—which, let’s face it, is very short when you get all maudlin and think about such things—is just plain silly, isn’t it? This author no longer gives a crap whether a reviewer spews vitriol about her work. It’s a “shrug” kind of response these days. An “Ah, well, better luck with the next book you pick up. I’ll still be writing whether you like me or not, because I want to, I love it, and it makes me happy. That my books don’t give you the same warm, fuzzy feeling as they gave me is unfortunate, but shit, there are so many books out there you can get the warm fuzzies from, that fucking up by reading mine will soon fade in your memory.”
So, if you get good reviews, I’m genuinely pleased for you. If you don’t, just don’t sweat the small stuff. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s just one knockdown of many we’ll all receive in this crazy career we’ve chosen. Expect it, know it’s coming, and then you won’t be disappointed.
So where am I now?
This year is art year. I did the manic writing thing, now I’m easing back. Still writing when I have time but it isn’t my main focus. Graphic art is another of my loves, I’ve discovered, and fate showed me the way in December on this subject. As with writing, making money on cover art isn’t something you can expect unless the publisher pays flat fees per cover. If the book you created the cover for sells, great, you make some money, but if it doesn’t, well, you don’t.
As with writing, I create covers because I love it. I haven’t really been pissed off with not making much money. I’ve created numerous covers for free, numerous blog revamps for free, numerous icons, avatars, banners—you name it, I’ve done it, because it felt RUDE to charge.
How mad is that? To feel rude for charging for my time, effort, and yes, money I spend on some pictures I’ve used. I’m a seriously odd person like that, but I didn’t want to charge authors for something I myself would have wanted but couldn’t have due to not earning enough royalties to cover the charge. People want a nice blog, a nice cover, and the rates people charge—and I only realised this recently, had never looked into the prices on stuff like this before—is EXTORTIONATE! I would feel even ruder asking for that kind of cash.
So, I generally work for free. And please, much as I’d love to help you out prettifying your sites and whatnot, I can’t now. I’ve had to stop doing free work for people, not because I can’t ask for payment and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I’m offered payment, but because I just do not have the time. Close friends, that’s different. People I’ve done sites for in the past, that’s different. The small jobs I’m asked to do on those sites is related to what I did in the past and all comes under that umbrella. It’s new projects I can’t do—unless I offer them, and when I do it means I have a lull going on.
(A lull? What the fuck is THAT?)
Anyway, as I’ve been prattling on about sales in writing, I may as well touch a bit more on sales in cover art. I’ve mentioned the royalty version. Now we come to the flat fee version. Some e-publishers pay anything from $50-$300 a pop per cover. I knew about this but never approached any of them because I didn’t feel they’d want me. Friends told me to apply, but I didn’t. Now we come to where fate stepped in. I got a contract with a publisher for a short ménage, and I wrote to my editor asking if I was allowed to provide my own cover, which I sent to her. Some publishers let you, some don’t. Anyway, the length of my book meant I would get a generic cover, but the publisher wrote and chatted with me about my artwork and asked if I would like to work for her. She mentioned flat fees, and because my experience with that company had been brilliant on the writing side of things, I agreed to do cover art there.
This has drastically changed our life. Without going into my private details, flat fees make one hell of a difference. On some books I might lose out—the royalties, had I been paid this way, will well outshine the flat fee, but on other books I will have come out on top. This suits me fine. I love working with this publisher, get along well with the owner, and I’m happy to say that at last things seem to be going right for us.
I have a few WIPs sitting in files. There are three I really want to finish because they’ve been promised to publishers, but there is no great desire in me to write like a fiend anymore. Perhaps it’s because I have the art thing going on, or perhaps I’ve got a block somewhere because writing and having very few read your work is a tad disheartening and kinda makes me not want to bother any longer. Oh, I’ll still write, but the raging fire for it has gone. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. I am happy, can say I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time, and to me that’s more important than anything. If I’m happy, Hubby and my kids are happy.
Have I grown up?
So I wonder, have I finally grown up? Have I seen the light on what life is really all about? That what truly matters is happiness? I have no idea, I really don’t, but right now I feel I’m in the place I was meant to be all along and that everything I went through before this was for a reason. I needed to understand the publishing world, to be on the groups, to try and promo, to learn the craft, to work my arse off. It all gave me the perspective I have now, led me to where I am now. Just because my dream with writing hasn’t come true, it doesn’t mean my art one won’t. The art avenue has already fulfilled everything I could have hoped for, and I bless the day my short ménage was rejected elsewhere and I chose to sub to where it landed up. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am. Fate. I believe in it.
So it wasn’t all a waste of time.
No, it wasn’t. Like I said, I needed to do what I’ve done. It’s given me experience of life, of people, and I’ve made some damn good friends. I look back at my achievements and realise that even though stardom and riches didn’t come from penning my books, the fact that I have many published is a dream fulfilled in itself. Some people dream of just having one out there, so I’ll stop griping and be pleased with doing what I have.
The girl who thought she’d never amount to anything did good.