Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Guest Blog - Matt Schiariti


Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow writer of books that feature wise-cracking badasses and demons, Matt Schiariti, to the blog! He's here today, not with demons, but romance. Or maybe kinda both. Take it away, Matt!

***
Thanks to Naomi Clark for letting me muddle up her blog with some of my rampant ramblings for a while. I promise I’ll try not to do too much damage. Good thing I signed that waiver.

Ahem.

Today’s topic is on switching writing genres. Was it hard? Fun? Why did I go from one category of book to something completely different? In order to answer those questions, I’ll have to give you some background about my work and myself. Then we’ll get into the whys, difficulties, fun factor, and why I write what I write. Go on, make yourself comfortable!

If you go to my Amazon author page you’ll see six works with my name on them. Three are self-published, and the other three are small press anthologies. In order of publication they are as follows: Hollow: Be Careful What You Wish For (horror short in the Apocalypse 13 anthology), Words with Fiends: A Short Story (horror/suspense novelette … permanently free pretty much everywhere including Amazon, by the way), Ghosts of Demons Past (my debut paranormal/urban fantasy novel), The Carnival 13 (I’m responsible for Chapter 7 of this shared world horror story), A Dollar and a $cream (paranormal/crime noire short in the Lucky 13 Anthology), and Funeral with a View (my contemporary romance novel).

*queue the sound of screeching tires*



You wouldn’t be alone if you did a double take after reading the end of the preceding paragraph. A contemporary romance novel? This guy who’s written about mediums, ghosts, demons, twisted carnivals, haunted lottery tickets, and vengeful spirits almost exclusively? Stranger things have happened, I assure you. Let’s get into the why, and you’ll see it’s not so strange after all.

Funeral with a View was my first foray into novel writing even though it’s my most recent publication. I cranked it out in just over five weeks back in early 2012, and then went to work on what would become Ghosts of Demons Past, Words with Fiends, etc., etc. The funny thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be a romance. I had an idea for a retrospective of sorts and ran with it. I had no idea what it would turn into back then; I sat and wrote, pantsing every single chapter. The story took on a life of its own—as many authors will tell you stories are wont to do—early in the writing and at the end of the day it had turned into a love story on me. What really made the book what it would become was real life. Funeral with a View is partially based on true events. It’s not a personal memoire or a “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” tell-all, but some personal experiences were the inspiration for what’s in those chapters. In a way writing the book was cathartic, a chance to take some of the things on my mind and toss them onto unsuspecting characters of my own creation.

So, was it fun? Difficult?

The initial writing of Funeral with a View was very fun. I had nothing riding on it. I was writing for the sake of writing, trying to find my voice, completely filled with the piss and vinegar of the inexperienced. It wasn’t until I came back to it well over a year later that it turned into work.

After publishing Ghosts of Demons Past, I went back to the world of Richard Franchitti (the main character and narrator) and his cast of supporting characters, wanting to see if what I’d written by the seat of my pants was worth putting out into the world. There was gold in them thar hills, but it wasn’t easy to mine it. I spent a few months chopping and rewriting. The original manuscript was over 130,000 words (!!). Hard to believe I did that in just five weeks. I trimmed it down to about 78,000 or so, thought it was at the point where I could send it out to beta readers, and did just that. Response was mostly positive, but there were flaws. You see, the book is such a character-driven emotional roller coaster that everything, from cause and consequence to character motivations and reactions, had to be damned near perfect. Turned out that I didn’t do quite a few things right. I was ham-fisted with some characters, didn’t assign enough weight to others. It was always a romance, but I had to romancify (I just made that up, but you can use it if you like) it even more. Given that my previous work had never had that level of “romance” to it, it required a lot of thought and planning to get it correct. Those five weeks of writing turned into almost a year of editing. So, no. In that regard switching genres, or going so far afield of what I’d published before, really, was anything but easy, and was the polar opposite of fun. It didn’t help that I had all kinds of personal crises rain down on me during that time period. It wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. I couldn’t be any happier with the book, and reader reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Guess I’ve done something right, huh?

This topic is rather timely. The subject of straying so far from “my norm” came up a few times in conversations with book friends as I slaved away editing Funeral with a View, but it’s just come up again within the last few days. I’ve already started a sequel to Ghosts of Demons Past, but there’s been this idea nagging at me for months, an idea that falls right into the romantic suspense category. Essentially the conversation became a discussion about sticking to a single genre and working it, the market, what sells. It was then that I realized something important: I don’t have a specific genre. Funeral with a View, while retaining my voice and style, proves that.

I am an indie hobbyist. There is no denying that. Writing isn’t my job. Writing is something I do. Because of that, I can write whatever I feel like. My stories aren’t reliant on on what’s selling or what the market dictates. I can get away with that because I have a career with a steady paycheck, benefits, pension, the whole nine yards. I wrote Funeral with a View not because I thought it would sell as a romance, but because I had the seed of an idea that I thought would make a good story. Same can be said for Ghosts of Demons Past. I didn’t write a paranormal novel about a screw-up medium and ghosts and demons because it’s popular. I wrote it because, once again, I had the idea for good character, a back story, and a plot. My romantic suspense work in progress? The genre is huge right now, but that’s not why I’m traveling down that avenue. I’m doing it because there’s potential for a great, engaging story is there based on the ideas that keep coming to me and I’d like to see what I can do with it. A good friend once told me she likes my stories because I’m “not commercial, but that could be hurting my sales.” And that’s fine. I like not being commercial, and I like writing whatever moves me. There’s a certain degree of freedom in all of this when you’re not dependent on it.

Maybe I do have a genre, after all. I’ll call it the “Good Stories That Are Fun For Me To Write” genre. Because that’s what I’m getting back to with all this writing business: fun.

Author Bio

Matt Schiariti is an Engineeer by profession, guitar legend in his own mind, and would-be author, time permitting. When he’s not writing, he’s reading. When he’s not reading, he’s enjoying a beer sporting a fancy name on the label. When he’s not enjoying a fancy-named beer, he’s most likely reading some more. Sometimes he does all three at once, to disastrous effect.
Matt lives in southern New Jersey with his wife, two children, and insane dog. Funeral with a View is his second published novel, but not his last.
You have been warned.
Here are some links should you want to find out more about what he’s up to or just say hi.


Monday, 15 December 2014

MOAR Ethan


Step right up, kids, because I've got another Ethan Banning short story for you all! ICE, ICE, BABY is available now via Smashwords, Amazon US, and Amazon UK

So what do you need to know about ICE, ICE, BABY? Here's some facts:

1. It's a pre-UNDERTOW story, so Ethan is demon-free and blissfully unaware of what cruel fate awaits him.

2. But you don't need to read this to understand anything that happens in UNDERTOW - these Ethan Banning shorts are meant to be stand-alone.

3. It's a Christmas special! And a murder mystery! And Ethan almost has a really nice night.

This is the third Ethan short I've polished up and re-published this year, following on from UNGRATEFUL DEAD and STAKEOUT. Next year I hope to add some brand new short stories to the collection (not to mention another novel!), but in the mean time, if you need an Ethan fix, this is your deal, yo.

Monday, 8 December 2014

"You know time crawls on when you're waiting for the song to start...

...so dance alone to the beat of your heart."

Oh Jesus it's like, properly December and what am I doing? I didn't get any writing done last week due to A) an avalanche of perfume orders, B) taking up swimming again, and C) going to a rave for Kyle's birthday and spending the next day too tired to do anything but veg out on the sofa watching Stargate: SG1. Bad writer. Slapped wrists all round.

This week it shall be different! I don't want to lose the momentum I built up in November with Nightmare Moon, and I have plans for a couple of other projects that I need to crack on with. I cannot wait until I finish work next Friday - two weeks off for Christmas! I plan to split my time as evenly as possible between perfume-making and writing so I can start the New Year in a good place to finish some projects, as opposed to just having a million things started.

Look at this majestic asshole
I decided 2015 is going to be the Year of the Basilisk* (following on from 2013's Year of the Unicorn and 2014's Year of the Kraken), and have thus decided I want to go into the New Year with all guns blazing, ready to be king of the serpents queen of the world. To that end, I am making a To-Do List, because that is pretty much the only way I can keep myself focused in a world full of comic book movie news and pictures of adorable kittens.

1. Finish first draft of Nightmare Moon
2. Finish first draft of Ethan #2
3. Finish first draft of In Cold Blood (an Urban Wolf spin-off)
4. Work on Secret Urban Wolf Project
5. Re-start the next Urban Wolf novel

I'm not setting deadlines on these things, because I still need to allow for running Common Brimstone, and the fact that my arm problems really flare up in the colder months, but that's roughly the order of importance. I also want to work on some more Ethan short stories and I have this really nagging idea about a banshee working for vampires floating around my head...But that needs to wait. I guess "blog more" should be in there somewhere, and I'm also on a quest to find the perfect candy floss pink hair dye, but I don't think I need to add that to the list particularly.

I should also be getting the rights to AFTERLIFE reverted to me in the extremely near future, so then I need to decide what to do with that baby. In the mean time, please enjoy the song I can't get out of my head at the moment:

  *I'll explain next time

Monday, 1 December 2014

Aw, Monday. No.


Today was definitely a Monday. I can tell because I had to go to work and I didn't like it. I can also tell because my bike was stolen from outside the hospital. Someone literally just hacked the lock in half and took off with it (the bike, not the lock). This is coming hot on the heels of our boiler breaking down and our washing machine packing up, so I guess at least nothing else bad is due to happen for a while?

I guess?

Anyway. Let us not dwell. The boiler and washing machine will be fixed and the bike will maim the genitals of the thief, if we're all lucky. The good news is there are good things happening out there. Here's some of them:

Evernight Publishing is having a Cyber Monday Sale - 25% off all ebooks!


Why yes, that does include all my titles with them, including the Readers' Choice Award nominee, THE BEAST OF BIRCH HILL (which you can still vote for, if you're so inclined and want to see me win Best Lesbian).

Two of my favourite indie perfumers are running Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales that you should definitely check out. Deep Midnight Perfume is offering a "buy two, get one free" deal. This is exceptional value, as Cat has tons of choice and some truly amazing perfumes. I snapped a few to add to my not-at-all-excessive collection, and I can recommend Grimalkin, Gardens of Babylon, Skeleton Crew, and Darkness Falls as particular favourites of mine.

Midnight Gypsy is running a sale all this week, offering 15% off your order with the code CYBER. Tina's perfumes are sheer class, stunningly made, and a joy to wear. I adore Absinthe Sucre (one day we shall discuss my absinthe perfume fetish in detail, perhaps), but I also have a fondness for A Murder of Crows.

Not a Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal, but still awesome, Beastly Beverages (maker of artisan fandom teas, so what more do you want?) will be donating £2 from every sale until 18th December to the Ferguson Defence Fund. They are also offering 50% off when you spend over £50 with the code CHRISTMAS. So if you desperately need Sherlock, Firefly, Supernatural, or Hannibal inspired-tea (which you probably do), you should check that out.

What else good is happening?

Oh yeah! This is coming:


So, despite it being a Monday, I suppose it's not all bad.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Sylvia Plath

Love is a funny thing. One minute you feel the future is assured, and it's beautiful. The next you feel the world is in flames and your only course of action is to shut everything down. Hard.

I went through a couple of years in hard shutdown mode with my writing. 2013 was obviously very difficult, and I've talked about that before. But it started earlier. It started with WILD.

WILD is an urban fantasy/new adult about werewolves and drug addiction. It's not a happy read and it wasn't a happy write. It went through something like seventeen incarnations and two literary agents before I decided to self-publish it. I was in love, you see. And I figured I just needed to get the book out there for everyone else to love too, and that everything would be bright and shiny from that point on.

Leaving aside whether or not WILD is a good book or not, that was pretty naive of me. WILD did garner some good reviews and it's the only book I've ever written that readers have contacted me about - asking when/if I'd write the sequel, telling me they loved it. That's an awesome feeling, but as I started to experience self-doubt and frustration about my writing and my writing career, it wasn't enough to sustain my love. The novel was sinking without trace despite my efforts to keep it afloat, and after seventeen drafts, two agents, numerous publisher rejections, and the pitfalls of self-publishing, shutting down just seemed like the only option I had the energy for.

I pulled WILD, along with my other self-published stuff, and removed them from my blog. I didn't talk about it, I didn't think about it. I didn't want it. It felt like a failure. All this time and energy and passion and devotion...for nothing. I remembered the words of a writer whose work I'd loved when I first discovered urban fantasy - essentially "don't get hung up on this One Idea." If it doesn't work, don't waste your time. Move on. I figured I was in danger of making WILD my One Idea that wasn't working, and so I pulled the plug and tried to move on.

Between then and now, I've wrestled with writing demons. Am I'm writing the right stuff? Who am I writing for? Should I be writing at all?

It's taken a while for me to answer those questions for myself, and I can sum up the answer in one word: authenticity.

Remember at the start of November I talked about how I was trying to finish off a short story and even though it literally just required me to write a sex scene and tweak the ending, I couldn't do it? It's because I was trying to force a story to happen that wasn't a story I really wanted to write. It was a story I was pretty sure I could get published, that's all. But it wasn't a story that represented me as a writer or a person. It didn't come from a place of passion. Instead I started working again on Nightmare Moon, a story I'm so passionate about I will talk your face off about it at the least provocation (ask Kyle), a story I'm dreaming about, a story I'm just obsessed with. And it's going really fucking great. It's a story I want to tell. It's authentically me.

When I realised that, I started thinking about the works I have published and how I feel about them. I've said forever that I think UNDERTOW is the best thing I've ever written, and it's definitely the truest representation of the books I love and want to write. It's dark and nasty and uncomfortable, and it's awesome and I love it. And I thought...isn't that how I felt about WILD too?

Well yes, yes it is. That's exactly how I felt about WILD and that's why I worked so hard on it for so long, why I rewrote it all those times, why I pitched it to anyone and everyone who could have taken it and why, finally, I self-published it. It's a true, authentic representation of who I am as a writer and the stories I want to tell. And if I don't have it out in the world, I'm lying to myself and my readers about those things.

So I republished WILD. Currently it's only available on the Kindle, but I'm going to make it available for other platforms too. I've done it for myself - I'm past the point where I expect this book to set the world on fire, but I want this book I love, the book that came from a place of passion, to be out in the world again. I worked hard and fierce for this book, and then I gave up on it. I think WILD and I both deserve a little more faith from me than that.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Anti-Nano - the final check-in and an extra long snippet


The end is upon us! November is pretty much done and although I didn't quite meet my target of writing every day, I wrote a lot more than I have for most of the year. And I like what I'm writing, a lot. So I'm calling it a win.

Since I missed Wednesday's snippet, I'm leaving you with an extra long one here. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Anti-Nano Check-In: Shameless Self-Promotion Edition

Happy Monday! Hope the weekend treated everyone well. I got a bit of work done on Nightmare Moon on Saturday, in between perfume orders and cleaning up the old house (never again), but my big news of the weekend was that THE BEAST OF BIRCH HILL has been nominated for an Evernight Readers' Choice Award!


I can't tell you how honoured I feel. Last year, SILVER KISS won Best Urban Fantasy, and it was this that really helped spur me back into writing after a year of wondering if my heart was really in it anymore. To be nominated again feels incredible. And I'd be lying if I said I don't want to win again, but there's so much talent at Evernight that I really do feel flattered to be a semi-finalist.

Anyway, voting is now open for the finalists, and will close on December 7th. Everyone who votes is in with a chance of winning a $25 gift certificate for Evernight, so why not go ahead and do it? And, you know, if you liked THE BEAST OF BIRCH HILL, you could vote for that.

Hint hint.
                                                          

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Guest Blog - Erin Ashley Tanner

I read and enjoyed Erin Ashley Tanner's GODDESS OF LEGEND (first in the Demi-God Daughters series) earlier this year, and it's no surprise to me she's one of the finalists for Urban Fantasy in Evernight's Readers' Choice Awards this year. Combining well-known Greek myth with modern heroines is bound to be a winner! So I'm delighted to welcome Erin here today to talk about the second book in the series, GODDESS BY CHANCE.


The Author

Erin Ashley Tanner is a proud alumni of Florida State who is currently embarking on the journey that is nursing school. In the rare free time she has, she enjoys leisure reading in all genres and writing whatever stories come to mind. She dreams of a long life filled writing many more stories. To learn more about Erin, swing by her website at www.erinashleytanner.wix.com/erinashleytanner or find her on Facebook at Author Erin Ashley Tanner or on Twitter @erintheauthor.

The Novel

Anyone who knows me is aware that I love all things Greek mythology. After I completed my first novel, Goddess of Legend, I started to wonder could there be more Demi-god Daughters out there that needed their stories told. To start with I had to decide what Greek goddess would be a good candidate to have a half mortal daughter. I’m sure who I chose will surprise many.

After that I thought about what kind of heroine I would have this time around. Since I’d created such a take charge, kick your butt heroine in the first novel in the series, I wanted to go for a much softer and more vulnerable heroine and thus Arienne was created. As for the god in this story, I wanted somebody a little rougher around the edges with more of a dark side. I’d say he’s more of an anti-hero than a hero and as a result he was a lot more interesting to write.

Keep reading for the blurb and an excerpt!

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Penultimate Friday Check-In

Brought to you this Friday by a wendigo, because why not?

Only one more week of Anti-Nano to go! I'm still yet to cross that all-important (to me) 20k line on Nightmare Moon, but I'm a hell of a lot closer than I was at the start of November, so that's pretty nice. I've been pondering on whether to keep up with the updates/snippets/check-ins once November ends. They're pretty good for me, as I work better when I've got some kind of accountability going on, even if it's just "must report on blog," but I don't know how interesting it is for people who wander by. I'll probably try to mix it up and give you snippets interspersed with random nonsense and real news.

In that vein, here's some real news! Nightowl Reviews have reviewed THE BEAST OF BIRCH HILL here. There are some spoilers so caution is advised.

In other real news, if you've enjoyed the two Ethan Banning shorts I re-released this year (UNGRATEFUL DEAD and STAKEOUT), would you be interested in seeing a couple more? I really love writing Ethan's pre-Voice mishaps and I do have a couple of short stories just waiting to go. If people are keen, I'd like to get more out there to keep us all going while I finish the first draft of the next full-length Ethan novel. Let me know!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Snippet Day the Third

Greetings! Looks like it's Wednesday again, which means it's snippet time again. I had hoped to be a little further along with Nightmare Moon at this point, but life finds ways to interfere. Nonetheless, I'm writing more (and more regularly) than I have for a very long time, and I'm pleased with that.

So onto the snippet!

Snip!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Anti-Nano: Another Friday is upon us


I'm about to get stuck into a huge pile of perfume orders, but I figured I'd check in first and see how everyone's doing with their Nano and Nano-associated goals. How are your words flowing? Are they flowing well?

I had Wednesday and Thursday as no-writing days again, but managed to get some work done today and I'm rapidly approaching the 20k mark on Nightmare Moon, which is about the point a novel feels real to me, and not something I can just abandon because, eh, whatever, it's just a short thing.

More important than the word count though, I'm happy with the words I'm writing. Confession: I hate editing. I hate rewriting, and I'd rather get it right first time than go back and edit relentlessly. I think Wild* gave me the fear. Of course, nothing is going to be perfect first time round, but it works better for me to tweak as I go, rather than go back afterwards and try to patch together a bunch of disparate ideas into one smooth novel (I'm looking at you, Ethan Banning #2).

I'm expecting to spend a lot of this weekend working on new perfume blends and cleaning out our old house, so I don't know how much writing will go down, but I'm hopefully I can get closer to the 20k mark. What's everyone else planning?

*I think I rewrote Wild about fifteen-seventeen times, maybe even more than that. And for what, I ask you? For what? For nothing. Fuck you, stupid book.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Monday, 10 November 2014

Anti-Nano: The Musical Edition

Although I wasn't quite as productive this weekend as I was last weekend, progress on Nightmare Moon is going nicely and I'm really excited about sharing another snippet on Wednesday. So rather than wax lyrical about the ins and outs of writing and navel-gaze over progress/word counts/character motivations, I thought I'd share some of the music that's been shaping the mood and momentum of Nightmare Moon.

I don't often listen to music when writing, unless I'm alone in the house, but I make playlists for all my characters and big WIPs. You can find the complete Nightmare Moon playlist here if you so wish:



My stand-out tracks, you ask?

Well, I'm nothing if not an AFI fan, so A Deep Slow Panic is definitely my top pick.




And Sunny Came Home has been Scarlett's (my protagonist) anthem for well over a decade:




Seven Devils by Florence and the Machine is another essential track for this novel:




And my last pick, for a new-to-me artist who just absolutely had to be included, because this song is perfect for Scarlett in this book - Banks.




Enjoy!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Anti-Nano - Friday check-in

Happy Friday! How's the week been treating everyone? How does the weekend look? I think most of mine is going to be split between filling perfume orders and cleaning out our old house, but I'm hoping Sunday will provide some good writing time. I also want some good perfume-making time, as it's been ages since I had time to work on new blends and I have loads of ideas for Christmas/winter scents, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm really pleased with the progress I've made on Nightmare Moon since restarting it last weekend. I didn't get any writing done Wednesday or yesterday. Wednesday is my traditional evening for dinner and crap TV with my mum, and on Thursday Kyle and I discovered Masterchef: The Professionals was back on and we had to catch up. And we still have to catch up because we both crashed out and fell asleep halfway through the third episode, presumably because our new-found love for Marcus Wareing overwhelmed us so thoroughly.

Anyway, I'm hoping to regain some ground over the weekend and start creating chaos for my heroine. If I also manage to squeeze in some perfume-making and finish watching episode three of Masterchef, I shall consider it a weekend well spent.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Snippet Day!

So it is the tradition of Anti-Nano for us to share snippets of our WIPs on Wednesdays, for encouragement, critique and just because. I'm sticking with that and sharing a bit of Nightmare Moon that I wrote over the weekend. I'm really hoping it comes across as creepy and tense, but I feel too close to it to call it right now.

Anyway! Enjoy...












Monday, 3 November 2014

Anti-Nano: The Beginning

Artist's rendition of me trying to finish a short story. SPOILER: I'm not Cthulhu.

So last week I was working on this short story that I was really sure I could finish off nice and quick, no problem, and totalling something pathetic like 100 words a day. I have never slogged so hard at something that should have been so simple. I'd already written the story, a few years ago. I just needed to throw in a sex scene and change the ending slightly and it would have been good to go. That was my first Anti-Nano goal, after all: finish and submit this story.

And yesterday* I sat there trying really hard to finish this stupid sex scene and I realised I could not give fewer fucks about the scene, the story or the characters. And that if I forced myself to keep trying to finish it, I'd end up working on it all month and having nothing to show at the end, because I just do not care about it.

So I shut the file, opened up Nightmare Moon (which I'm sure I've mentioned, if not in detail), and promptly wrote 3454 words. Just to put that in some kind of context, I don't think I've written more than 1000 words in a single session all this year. It's come very late in the year, but I've remembered my resolution from earlier in the year - to write what I love, not what I think I should write. And what I love right now is Nightmare Moon, so that's now my official Anti-Nano project. I haven't set a firm daily word count, because I can't do 3k+ every day, but I am aiming to write every day.

I'm following the grand old Anti-Nano tradition of progress updates on Mondays and Fridays, and snippet-sharing on Wednesdays, more to hold myself accountable than anything else. So if you want a little look at Nightmare Moon, come back in a couple of days!

*I know technically I should have started Anti-Nano on the 1st November, but I boldly chose to drink wine with a friend instead.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Okay. This looks bad.

A brief summary of the past two weeks of my life.

*blows dust off the blog*

So it's been a while. Almost a month in fact. And yes, I still need to draw a winner for my post for the Evernight Birthday Blog Hop. I will do it soon, promise. Life just suddenly got insanely busy and somewhat...insane...for a while, and a few things had to be swept aside. Kyle and I moved house, for one thing, and are now happily ensconced in the cottage of my dreams. So that was good.

I've been snowed under with perfume orders, to the point where I had to take time off my day job to catch up and then I got snowed under again. So that was good, but time-consuming.

I got a sinus infection which knocked me out of action for most of last week. So that wasn't good.

We had a family crisis which I won't go into details about, but it's still kinda going on, and lots of things are up in the air, so that's not good.

What this combination of things means is that writing and blogging, once again, has slipped down Nome's Priority List. I'm not thrilled about that, for lots of reasons, but apparently life balance is for other people. I was bemoaning this lack of writing to Kyle last week, and he suggested I try Nanowrimo next month to get myself disciplined and productive again.

I'm in two minds about this. I know I really, physically, cannot produce 2k+ a day in writing any more. But I should be able to produce something, and indeed for the past few years, friends and I have done Anti-Nano. The principle of Anti-Nano is that we love the idea of Nanowrimo, but know we can't commit to 50k in a month. So we set our own goals and encourage each other to get there by hook or by crook. It hasn't been discussed this year, but I think I need Anti-Nano, so I'm going in.

Behold! The official sponsor of Anti-Nano.
I haven't decided which project to work on yet, or what my goal will be. I have two many projects floating around in various states of completion right now, and I think I should probably finish off the shorter ones before getting back into the big ones. Beyond that, I'm still debating what I want to focus on. But hey, I have a plan! I didn't have a plan yesterday, so that's good.

Anyone else want to join me in Anti-Nano-ing?



Friday, 3 October 2014

Roll out the Red Carpet ~ Evernight Celebrates Four Years of Publishing! #BDayBashBlogHop


Join authors, bloggers and reviewers as we take a RED CARPET tour featuring Evernight's smart and sexy books. Slip on your virtual stilettos and walk the red carpet of award winning titles, spectacular reviews and paparazzi style interviews.
Be sure to visit every stop on the tour where you can enter for a chance to win great prizes, including a new eReader, gift certificates, swag, books and much more! 
Don't forget to visit the Evernight Publishing website where all eBooks are 50% off through October 13th!
Now I turn the spotlight on my smart and sexy book...An Evernight Readers' Choice Award Winner!



Ayla Hammond has come home. After years as a lone wolf in a self-imposed exile, she's rejoining the pack and trying to mend fences with her parents. She's convinced them to accept her girlfriend, but can a lone wolf change her ways? As if homecoming wasn't hard enough, Ayla also can't help getting involved in a missing person case. With pressure to solve the case mounting from the pack alphas, Ayla is starting to question where her loyalties lie—and if a return to the pack she left behind is really what she wants.

You can buy SILVER KISS straight from Evernight's site for that awesome 50% discount!

As Halloween is rapidly approaching, I thought I might shine the spotlight on one of the supporting characters from SILVER KISS - drag queen werewolf Glory. Read on for Glory's Scary Story...

****

Midnight. The fire burned low in the hearth. Shannon was half asleep in my lap. We'd all told our Halloween stories except Glory. Cannibalism, ghosts, and witches so far, with Vince throwing in a psycho nurse for good measure. But we all knew Glory's story would be the best.

She patted her beehive and smiled at us. 'Did I ever tell you how I lost my orange Carvela heels?'

'It was a poker game, wasn't it?' Joel asked. 'One seedy night in Vegas, you said.'

'Those were my cerise Louboutins,' she corrected. She sipped her wine and cleared her throat. 'But I was in America. Nevada, in fact. I'd been out for a run and was just putting my clothes back on when I saw the UFO. An eerie green light in the sky, getting brighter and closer with every second, lighting up the night. I was horrified, sweeties, obviously. I could not abide being abducted. All that probing.' She shivered theatrically.

'I wanted to run, but I wasn't dressed and I certainly wasn't going to run across the desert in the dead of night half-naked. Not with aliens in pursuit. So I dumped my stuff and hid behind a rock, hoping they'd go find some redneck hick or something. You know, like they do. But the craft landed just a few feet from my rock and these two aliens... Oh!' More exaggerated shivering.

'Little green men?' Shannon yawned.

'Little red men,' Glory corrected haughtily. 'And the first thing the little monsters did? They started poking through my clothes! With their creepy long fingers and their weird little mouths, just pawing at my clothes.' She clutched her hands to her chest. 'Diesel jeans, people! Covered in sticky alien fingerprints!'

'What did you do?' Vince asked, toasting a marshmallow in the fire embers.

'Well, I wasn't going to let them ruin my jeans! I leapt out and grabbed my clothes and started running like holy hell.'

'Did they follow?' I asked. The image in my head was somewhere between slapstick and tragedy.

'God, yes. And let me tell you, Ayla, aliens are fast as any wolf. They were gaining on me, making this awful high-pitched noise. Probably trying to hypnotise me, but I wasn't stopping for anything, sweeties. And then one grabbed my shoulder.'

Glory paused to snatch a marshmallow, leaving us all in suspense for a few long seconds.

'What did you do?' Joel asked.

'I swung my Carvela heels in the ugly freak's face! Spike heels are a girl's best friend, let me tell you. I caught the alien right in his big, freaky eye. Little creep just keeled over. Eyes are the alien's weak spots, obviously. I battered them both with the shoes and got my ass out of there.'

'And the shoes?' Vince prompted.

Glory wiped an imaginary tear from her eye. 'Probably a souvenir on an alien's mantelpiece now, darling. Such a waste. They clashed horribly with the alien.'


****
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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

"But, it was a little different tonight. There was a feeling of autumn coming to last a million years."

Ray Bradbury

In 2011 I wrote a piece of flash fiction called Pumpkin Soup, a story about a a woman cooking her dad's favourite dish on the day of his funeral. In October 2012, my dad passed away without warning. I never cooked soup for my dad, but reading that piece of flash fiction back now, I find I am that woman. It's funny how things work out.

I love autumn, I adore Halloween and the folklore that goes with it. I love making autumnal perfumes. I love the misty mornings and pitch-black nights. I used to love October, but now, almost two years on from losing Dad, I just see this month as one long wait. A wait to see how I'll feel on October 27th. Will I cry? Will I have nightmares? Will my family be okay? Will we want to be together or should we try to treat it as a normal day? Last year, the first year, we were together and it wasn't so bad. This year...I don't know. Two years is a long time. For everyone else, the world has moved on and there are no emotional scabs to pick at. Me, I feel like I'll be holding my breath for the next four weeks, counting down to November when I can say, "okay. We made it."

There are distractions, of course. Kyle and I are moving house next Friday and since we've made next to no progress on packing so far, this weekend should be pretty hectic. And being in a new house, making it your own, learning how it smells and sounds and feels, that's all fun. There are stories waiting to be written, perfumes to be sent to people. There is normal life and it doesn't stop whether I want it to or not. So there are distractions.

Whether they will be good enough, I don't know. I slow down in the winter anyway. I'm rather prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and that impacts my writing and my energy levels. Since I'm already waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind where I planned to be on all my writing projects this year, I need to find a way to avoid that. I don't want to get to the end of 2014 and not see any changes from the end of 2013.

And honestly I think part of the solution, for me, is the word permission. Give myself permission to feel shitty if that's how I feel. Give myself permission to write badly, or not at all, or on something other than my "set" projects if that's where the mood takes me. Give myself permission to not think about publication or making other people happy or being productive if I can't find the energy.

Usually when I allow myself those things, I'm a happier, more productive person anyway (at least outside the office). And it probably should be obvious advice to give to yourself, but like Alice, I give myself very good advice and very seldom follow it.

Anyway. I don't intend to be maudlin and weird all through the month, but since I found it, and because it made me kinda smile-cry, I thought I'd share that piece of flash fiction.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

Dr Seuss

So I don't want my blog to get bogged down in how awful Damnation Books are, and I've been lazy lately and just posted loads of promo spots instead of actually...you know, blogging. Since I am actually doing more than just hanging out waiting for publishers to laugh at me on Twitter, this seems a good morning for a general update.

First off, I've released this year's Halloween limited edition perfumes over at Common Brimstone. This year's theme is the Vampire Hunter's Kit, and as with last year's limited editions, all the profits will be donated to the British Heart Foundation in memory of my dad. There's six scents to chose from, as well as a sample set and (if I do say so myself), they're all fabulous. My personal favourite is Vampire's Bride, though.

In writing news, Ragnarok Publications are sharing some of Ethan's best one-liners from UNDERTOW over on their Facebook page, If you want a glimpse inside the mind of a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, demon-possessed PI, this is your chance to get it!

In other writing news, I've been trying to get back into the swing of daily writing since the most recent flare-up of the Mysterious Arm Injury of Undiagnosible Origins seems to have died down again. I've got three projects on the go at various stages. The next Ethan novel, Descent is sitting nicely at about 56k, and is not the horrible pile of shit I thought it was a year or so ago. I'm hoping to have a first draft wrapped up before the end of the year. Nightmare Moon is next in the pile, with a new Urban Wolf spin-off, tentatively titled In Cold Blood following closely behind. For ages now I've wanted to write an Urban Wolf spin-off, so when the inspiration struck, I decided to set aside Nightmare Moon to get started on that. The problem I'm really having juggling these projects is lack of time, as Common Brimstone has been busy all year, and is getting busier as we move into Autumn. It's a good problem, but it is still a problem. But anyway. Writing is happening!

In adult news, Kyle and I are moving out of our crappy house into an adorable cottage!

Adorable!
It's perfect! It has a huge kitchen for perfume-making cooking, a spare bedroom so we can have people stay over without making them sleep on the sofa, and it's pet-friendly, which means the snakes and Fergus won't have to be hidden in cupboards at every housing inspection.

Just like Harry Potter.


We're moving on October 10th, if all goes to plan, so everything is kind of chaotic at the moment as we declutter the old house and figure out where Kyle is going to put Skynet in the new house. I might also destash some solid perfumes, so if people are interested, I can post a list here of what's going and you can claim your very own Common Brimstone prototype.

This is all pretty hardcore adulting for me, since it involves rearranging direct debits and sounding like I know what I'm doing, which is something I usually reserve for the day job, so I'm using my downtime to re-read the Dragonriders of Pern books in chronological order. This is an excellent use of my time, but it has reminded me that we were going to get leopard geckos and we still haven't done that, so...Possibly something else to get for the cottage.

How can we not?










Monday, 22 September 2014

"If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages."

Elaine Liner

So last week I wrote a blog about my experiences with Damnation Books and quite a few people read it. Including, apparently, whoever manages Damnation Books' Twitter account, because they had this response:



It's reassuring to know they take their authors' concerns so seriously.


The same day I posted that blog, I'd sent an email to Kim Gilchrist reminding her she'd said she would "get the ball rolling" on returning my rights for my first novel with them this month. I haven't a reply yet.

What I did get this morning was this email from Damnation Books admin:


My first instinct was to delete it, because generally speaking when you get an email with no signature, no message, and just a link, it's going to do something horrible to your computer if you open it. But then I thought, "no, Naomi. Don't be paranoid. Maybe it's a really useful and informative article that they're circulating to everyone on their mailing list."

So I sensibly waited until I got to work and opened the link on my work computer *ahem* And it's a link to this post, "Ten Things I Wish I Knew Then That I Know Now," by author PJ Parrish.

It's an interesting read! Salient points:

"You have no control over what your publisher will do for your book and they probably won't do much at all."

Haha! Tell me about it, right? 


"You have to handle yourself well in public."





"Your publisher is not your friend."

I think it's safe to say at this point that Damnation Books and I are no longer even vaguely friendly. We would probably ignore each other at cocktail parties. I'm fine with that. I don't submit to publishers because I want to make friends.


"You won't get rich."

I don't remember ever saying I expected to get rich. I do feel it's not unreasonable to expect four titles in a popular genre to sell more than the equivalent of one bus ticket to Cambridge each quarter, but maybe I'm being unrealistic.

Now, I suppose there is still the possibility that Damnation Books admin are sending this post to every one of their authors, but the lack of any kind of message or signature sorta kinda makes me doubt it. So I have to ask myself what the point of sending it to me is? Am I supposed to feel ashamed of something? I submitted my work to Damnation Books in good faith after chatting to some of their already-signed authors, all of whom were happy and excited at the prospect of working with a new publisher dedicated to dark fiction. Was I naive to go with a new, unproven publishing house? Of course. But I'm not ashamed of my naivety, and if Damnation Books thinks I should be, that doesn't say much about their attitude towards writers.

Am I supposed to feel guilty for speaking up about my experiences? Is this blog supposed to teach me not to bite the hand that feeds? Am I supposed to believe that I'll never work in this town again? Should I sit down and shut up in case I get a barrage of emails directing me to helpful blogs about how publishers don't care about writers? I don't know! I welcome your thoughts and interpretations.

I do just want to point out one thing to whoever at Damnation Books sent the link. The last comment on the blog post is by Kathryn Meyer Griffith, also published with Damnation Books/Eternal Press. I hope she won't mind me highlighting her comment, but I recommend that, if you're going to passively-aggressively contact an author with a blog that's supposed to slap their wrist, make sure it doesn't contain a comment slamming your own publishing house.






Thursday, 18 September 2014

I suppose we should talk about the elephant in the room...

Not this one, although he is adorable and worth talking about.

So UNDERTOW has been out a few weeks now and it's picking up some awesome reviews (thank you, awesome reviewers!). And if you read those reviews, and the ones over on Amazon, you might notice a common theme occurring. People are talking about the series. As in, is UNDERTOW a standalone, the first in a series, or part of an existing series? Luckily, all the reviews seem to agree that UNDERTOW does stand alone, and certainly I think so, as do Ragnarok Publications, and we've labelled it the first in the Ethan Banning series.

But yes, there are other Ethan Banning stories. And no, I don't actively promote them anymore. They are available for sale on Amazon and wherever else you can buy ebooks (I think), but you won't find links to them here. Why?

Because they are published by Damnation Books and I, as well as other authors have concerns about, problems with, and in some cases legal rulings against Damnation Books and its sister company, Eternal Press. By and large, I'd decided to keep quiet and not rock the boat, because I'm not a fan of confrontation and I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to messy online/legal battles.

However, having been told in no uncertain terms by Kim Gilchrist of DB that she has no interest in renewing my contracts with them because A) I don't promote my work with them and B) I said a mean thing about them on Twitter, I kinda feel like, "well, why not?" Why not add my voice to the others? After all, somehow, DB is still in business and acquiring authors, and I feel like those authors should have all the facts available to them before they sign their books away.

So, let's address Kim's points first.

A) I don't promote my DB books. Well, no, not anymore. When I first signed with them in 2009 however, I promoted like a crazy person. I submitted my books to every possible reviewer and by and large got great reviews. I did guest blogs with other authors, engaged with my fellow DB authors to help cross-promote. I bought swag and did giveaways. I went to a couple of conferences. I tweeted, I blog-toured, I did interviews wherever I could. And if you check places like Amazon and Goodreads, you'll see my DB books are all rated pretty solidly. I don't think I'd have that if I hadn't been active at spreading the word about my books. I was proud of them (I still am proud of them) and I used every resource a broke part-time writer could muster to tell the world about them.

And I didn't reap any benefits for it. My royalty checks from DB have always been on time and they have always been poor. Initially, I received an actual check from them each quarter, and frankly they were not worth the cost of cashing them. After I'd travelled to my bank, paid the fees for having the money converted from dollars to pounds, and gone home again, I had no money left. I switched to getting payments via Paypal as soon as I could, and I'm delighted to say that once a quarter I am able to treat myself to a fancy chai latte from Starbucks with my DB royalties.

And that's royalties across four titles, plus a handful of novels and novellas I edited for them. So it's not just that my books don't sell. Those books I edited don't sell either, and I know how hard those authors worked to promote them too.

So yes, over time I became disillusioned with how little return I was seeing for my effort and I did stop promoting so hard.

At the same time, I was signing contracts with Evernight Publishing, and for various reasons I wasn't able to scream from the rooftops about my titles with them either. And yet my royalties with Evernight have grown every quarter and my books with them have consistently been ARe bestsellers, as well as cracking some bestseller lists on Amazon for their genres.

B) I said a mean thing on Twitter. Maybe? I don't remember it, but if so I apologise for hurting anyone's feelings. But honestly, it doesn't restore my faith in DB to think that they are monitoring their authors' online interactions to make sure nobody's saying anything mean.

Now, the other stuff.

Despite low sales with my first DB titles, I was actually pretty happy there initially. I love my cover art still - I think it's gorgeous and I feel lucky to have worked with some truly talented cover artists. I'd had good reviews on my books and I had no reason to complain about the editing I'd received. So I figured I needed to keep working, build a backlist, finish my series, and I'd see success. Rome wasn't built in a day etc.

So I submitted a couple more novellas to them, both of which were accepted. One actually went to Eternal Press as it was a sweet paranormal romance. And it remains the single worst editing experience I've ever had. This was a short book, probably not even 20k if I remember right. How bad could it be, right?

Well, when I got my line edits back (the weekend before the book was due to be published), I found changes I'd made had been ignored. One entire paragraph I'd added in was no longer there, with no word or explanation as to why. It was just gone. I was in the midst of trying to arrange promo for the novella and was pretty freaked out to discover that at the line editing stage, the book I was looking at was missing so many big changes.

It got fixed. But the panic remained, and it reminded me that my first novel with Damnation Books actually went to press with the entire final page missing from the published version. That got fixed too. Still, not great points in favour of a publisher, I feel.

The second novella, my editor and I went through and submitted back to DB six months ahead of publication. Six days prior to publication, the manuscript was returned to me with a list of errors to be fixed. Now, if my editor and I missed problems, that's fine; I'd rather they were fixed before publication. But six days before? When the manuscript had been back with the publisher for six months? Come on. Really.

Those two novellas taught me not to submit to DB again, more than the lack of sales did. I can look everywhere for reasons for low sales - I don't promote hard enough, I don't write fast enough or often enough, I don't push myself hard enough, I write in an over-saturated genre, I write in a dying genre, I write stuff that's too niche, whatever. That's probably all true. But the editing issues...No. That's not on me.

I could tell you more, about my experiences as an editor, but out of respect for the authors I worked with, I won't. I will say that I see, quarter after quarter, books that have sold zero copies, books that deserve to be selling lots of copies, books that I and the authors worked extremely hard on.

I once contacted Kim regarding low sales, asking her opinion on why sales were so low and asking what I and Damnation Books could do to raise the profile of my titles. I got back a snippy email (which I regret I didn't keep) placing the blame entirely on me. That was pretty much the last time I attempted to engage with anyone at DB until earlier this year when, after another dismal royalty statement, I approached Kim about releasing my first novel early. Given the consistently single-digit sales of the title, I didn't and still don't see how it benefits me or the publisher to keep this book out there.

I had to send several (very polite) emails before I got a response, which is when Kim told me she had no interest in renewing any of my contracts. Huzzahs! She did say we'd get the ball rolling for that novel this month, but so far I haven't heard from her. Granted, the actual contract doesn't expire until December, but would it have taken her long to send me an email to remind me of that?

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is: I have four great, well-received stories with a publisher I don't trust or respect, and two of those stories feature Ethan Banning. If you want to read them, they aren't hard to find. However, until I have the rights back (and believe me, I'm counting down the days), I won't promote them.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Guest Blog - Bethany-Kris brings us Spray Paint Kisses

I'm delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Bethany-Kris' New Adult novella, Spray Paint Kisses. These characters sound fascinating to me - can't wait to read it!

He’s left his mark everywhere. She’s still trying to find a place to leave hers. 

 Gage Masselin is a graffiti artist whose life has revolved around his art, and focused entirely on his career. He’s never needed a muse to get his inspiration flowing, so when an unexpected blonde-haired beauty knocks him out of his zone, he knows he’s in trouble.

Summer Davey is just a traveling girl with a gypsy’s soul. The one constant she has is her need to keep moving on. She’s never stayed in one place long enough to plant roots, never mind finding a man with spray paint kissing the tips of his fingers to make her heart beat faster. 

She inspires him. He’s the first thing to ever feel like home.

Sometimes the hardest things to find in love and life are the easiest to lose.

Read on for a teaser!