Monthly Archives: January 2018

Writerly Wednesday: Constructive Criticism

The one thing I worried about more than anything else (this is likely a lie) when putting myself out there is ‘what would people say about me?’

Sending my book off to my first readers is so hard! What if it’s trash?

I dreaded my first negative review. DREADED it. And then? I got it.

Starts out most excellent then apparently the author decided the plot needed thickening and devolved it into a typical jealousy filled bodice ripper.

Is that or is that not the best negative (2-star) review ever? I have used that as a marketing line. It is that good.

Bottom line – people are going to say things you don’t want to hear. How you handle it is up to you. I believed that I was gonna be the kind of person who would curl up in a ball and cry every time someone said something critical. And, I’m not gonna lie, my first book’s editing process hurt my soul.

My editor (who is not the same one I use now, although not because of this) told me things that I just knew were wrong. KNEW IT. (Spoiler: I was wrong.)

It hurt so much every time she told me the way I’d done something wasn’t the best way. I knee-jerked every comment on my first read-through.

And then, I took a step (or twenty) back and tried to look at it objectively. And I made changes – not only in The Cardinal Gate, but in my future writing. I am a better writer now because of the critique I got from my editor. (This holds true – I learn something new every time I go through edits.)

After that first time, which took forever for me to process because my knees were jerking all over the place, I developed a process. Whenever I get any criticism (I’m speaking specifically about my writing, but this applies to my whole life, too), if it makes me knee-jerk, I take my step (or twenty) back to think about it.

I need to look at what’s being said objectively and try to remove myself from the process as much as possible in order to make sure that I’m making the right choice. (Spoiler the second: this is much, much easier to do in regards to my writing than in my personal life or when arguing with idiots on the internet.)

It’s not always gonna be constructive. You’re going to get reviews from people who think a sex scene is a bodice ripper and think that’s a negative. You’re gonna get messages from people who think your cover model is too fat, who think that your cover model is unattractive, and who think the reason you chose such a fat, unattractive cover model is because you’re fat and unattractive. (Yes, these are all things, from more than one person…it’s mostly the Eleanor jabs – apparently she’s too “hippy” and “thick, but not in a good way” to be a believable love interest.) And that is going to piss you off. A lot of times, it’ll be presented as constructive. It isn’t. And you can’t let it get under your skin.

Save your energy, save your knee jerks, and save your own brain and sense of self-worth by determining who you’ll listen to and who you won’t. If the criticism that sears your soul comes from Joe in the Internet who claims to be an expert in [grammar, vampires, how thin a woman must be to be deemed attractive to vampires, EMPs, the proper way to announce gender identity, sexual preference, or ethnicity in a book, etc., ad nauseam], laugh and walk away. Joe doesn’t know you and Joe likely doesn’t know shit. Even if Joe is an expert on what fictional vampires (as opposed to the other kind) like in a woman, unless he knows you and your fictional vampire, he doesn’t get an opinion.

The ones you listen to are the ones you choose. My choices are my PSM, my partner, my beta readers, and my editor. Sometimes I ask opinions of other writers because I value their input, but I find it very easy (and very easy on my heart) to reject any unsolicited criticism. You don’t have to take what’s dished out if it’s not what you ordered.

So – know that it’s out there. Listen to the people you trust. Mock (quietly, not in their faces, probably) the randoms who think they know your life. And – if something makes your knees jerk, sit yourself down and figure out why before getting all mad about it. It might be valuable insight into who you are, or it might just be another idiot in the internet.

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Book Review: An Urchin of Means by April White

I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of this book and I tore through it over the weekend. It was the best thing April has ever written, and I can’t wait for you all to read it for the first time.

Note: It is a spin off of her Immortal Descendents series, but you don’t need to read that series to engulf yourself in this one. There are references back (and you should read it, it’s really good), but it definitely stands on its own two feet.

The Blurb

Ringo Devereux knows far too much for a man of his times. There’s no simple explanation for it that doesn’t involve improbable conversations about the future, and Ringo’s advanced understanding of three-phase generators and the secret histories of his city are not things he can discuss with the Victorian Londoners around him. Even his origins as an orphaned street thief are far too dangerous for a young gentleman of means to reveal.

An encounter with a ten-year-old pickpocket, and a luncheon with Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle draw Ringo back into the shadows of his criminal past. A stolen gemstone, a suspicious pawnbroker, and a damning bundle of letters are mysteries that require Ringo’s thief’s instincts, his obscure facts, and the help of a little girl with the skills of deduction like his.

But are these crimes as random as they first appear? What do a covert affair and a blue carbuncle have in common? Ringo knows too much, but someone knows more, and the identity of a mysterious red-haired woman is perhaps the most diabolically complicated plot of them all.

The Cover

How gorgeous is this cover?

The Review

This book was gorgeous. Before we even talk about the plot (riveting), the world-building (flawless, as per usual), or character development (omg, I want to hang out with Oscar Wilde and Charlie is the literal best), I want to talk about words.

This book is so beautifully written. April has done things with words that make me feel tingly and need some alone time with a dictionary, a bottle of wine, and maybe a cigarette after. At one point, I turned to the Beer Guy and said, “This is so wonderfully written that it makes my heart ache with the beauty of it.”

The mysteries were so well-crafted and definitely worthy of 221B Baker Street. Ringo’s involvement, due to Jess’s timely pick-pocketing, is natural and perfectly in character for him. The way he handles Jess’s concerns about her appearance is sensitive and so well-done – not to mention important for this day and age, and not just Victorian London.

 

The Quotes

“You, my lovely wife, are the center of the universe to which I will always naturally gravitate. What I have failed to do is find those things from which to gravitate toward you. I imagine I’ve become dreadfully boring.”
– Ringo

“All art, my dear man, is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”
– Oscar Wilde

“For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
– Oscar Wilde

Yeah, I liked Oscar. A lot. I just want to be BFFs with him forever. Pre-prison, Oscar, obviously.

The Verdict

I wish my review could do this book justice, but there’s no way I can. All I can say is this is the best book I’ve read this year. Yeah, it’s only January, but I read a lot, so bite me.

Buy this book immediately. Read it. Love it. Thank me later.

Three Things Thursday: Is it really Thursday edition

It is Thursday, right? I’ve been off a day all week. Anyway, I think I have the right day, so here goes.

  1. Money is the worst, y’all. (I’ve started my taxes for 2017.) Money is also the greatest (I’m going to Ireland/Spain in <1 month!). Sigh. Money.

  2. My child, the adorable and sassy AF Alvie Bean, has a very special gift. He is able to find the smallest puddle of water in every outdoor space and fall into it, drenching himself in situations when it should be impossible.

  3. Book stuff is hard, yo. I sat down with the Beer Guy last night and brainstormed my/our plans for the next three years. I’ve got so much ambition, but not as much time as I’d personally prefer. I’m going to have to be extremely disciplined about time to ensure I fit in the day job, the writing, the editing, as well as self-care and exercise. I think it’s doable, if ambitious, and can lead to a future where I can maybe *fingers crossed* eliminate one of those things (psst…the one that takes the most amount of time…).

Writerly Wednesday: the value of a good editor

EDITED TO ADD: This was supposed to publish 1/24, but I forgot the key “schedule post” step.

I was chatting with my PSM the other day, and she was flattering me hard by telling me how much better a writer I am now than when I wrote Cardinal Gate. (She also threatened to put icy hot in my thongs, but that’s kinda how we roll).

ANYWAY – I told her that the number one thing that’s made me a better writer is the editors I’ve had. I had a different editor for book 1 than for the last 3, but both editors have taught me some valuable fiction-writing skills.

 

It’s easy to say “show don’t tell” but unless someone is showing you where you’re doing it and showing you how to fix it instead of just telling you where/how, it’s not as easy to see.

Crutch words! OMG! So, I just can’t even communicate how I know that I pretty much suddenly throw these in everywhere. I think it’s a curse.

 

Repetitive phrasing – it’s so easy to tune out when you’ve started the last five sentences with a variation of  “she was” or whatever.

Learning how to be conservative with words but still get my point across. When you have someone say: “This paragraph could be one sentence, have more clarity, and get your point across just (crutch word!as well, if not better,” eventually you learn to see it yourself.

 

Reading for continuity. I realized this morning, two days after sending The Broken World to my editor, that I have a teeny (for real, not understatement) plot hole in it. Betcha $10 my editor catches it. (No pressure, Colleen!)

My editors have proven invaluable to my evolution as a writer. Every book I write is better because of them.

Because of them, I am also a better editor myself! And because I edit 2-3 novels a month, I’m a better writer as well. It’s a great cycle to be stuck in, honestly.

 

So – the point? A professional editor is, by far, the best thing you can do to make sure your book is good. (A professional cover artist is hella important as well, but I’d argue that editing is even more important.)

(Pssst…a new Raj chapter will be out this week! If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter! – check the sidebar!)

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Motivation Monday

So – a goals checkin. The month is 3/4 over – how am I doing?

My goal for the month was to work on my movement. I’m happy to report that I’m doing decently well, considering the shoulder injury, etc.

My shoulder is doing so much better! So much! I’ve been keeping up with my PT (gooooo me!) and have been cleared to do any kind of exercise I want, as long as I don’t push through pain.

I’ve been walking a lot more, and have doubled my daily walking average over the last month.

I’m hiring a running coach starting next month so that I have someone to be accountable to as I make my way to my first 10K in May. I am planning my triumphant return to yoga this week. I’m not sure when I’ll be back in the pool – that’s a lot of stuff to balance with everything else.

I am not doing this. Nope.

I’ve doubled my weekly average meditation time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes!

I have started a new medication and taken it every day since. I’ve also done really well at taking my vitamins, drinking plenty of water, drinking next to zero amounts of alcohol, and have done much, much better at getting to bed earlier. I’m still not doing well at getting up earlier, but as I’ve been so sleep-deprived, I’m just trying to catch up at this point.

The beer guy & I have booked all our hotels in Europe and have tentative schedules while there. I have also – and most importantly – ordered new shoes for the trip. They will arrive today, and I will share the magic with you tomorrow.

All-in-all? This month has been leaps and bounds better than the last couple. I’m still struggling with some stuff, but I’m working on things rather than just burying them. I hope.

Have a great week! I hope you’re on track for all your goals!