Monday, April 15, 2013

For Writers, April 2013 Edition

Today I'm adding a new feature to the "For Writers" post: a writing prompt!

This prompt caught my eye not only because it is rich in possibility, but also because it can fit almost any genre: romance, horror, thriller, mystery, you name it. So break out your notebook/keyboard and write!

This month's writing prompt (from @DailyPrompt):

Two women meet at a film developing counter. They both have pictures of the same man.

Is it their husband/lover? Is it their father, and they had no idea they were half-siblings? Who is the man, and why do they both have pictures of him? (Note: if you have issues with the idea of a "film-developing counter" in this digital age, then feel free to change it to: the women are at one of those "print centers" where you can print out your digital photos; maybe one of them is even having the photos turned into a photo-pillow, or having it put on a celebratory banner . . .).

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A while ago, there was quite a dust up in the Internet world over an indie author who had a meltdown over bad reviews and behaved badly across several social media outlets. Well, indie authors aren't the only ones behaving badly. Here is a link relating to a traditionally published author (and her agent) who haven't quite mastered proper social media etiquette, either.

Wendy Darling's review of The Selection

And Publishers Weekly's article on the subject:

Should Authors and Agents Weigh In on Citizen Reviews?

I understand the author/agent's response, I really do. I used to sell items on eBay and would occasionally get the most ridiculous negative feedback. I required a Paypal confirmed address, and clearly stated it several places in my auctions; then, when I rejected payment from an unconfirmed address, the buyer would leave stupid negative feedback like, "Seller won't take my payment!" Well, duh! The really sad part is I was selling educational products, so if the buyer couldn't bother to read and follow instructions in an auction, how could they educate children!?! But I digress, lol.

I've also had a few negative reviews on my short stories, and I'm really glad that I haven't written a novel yet, because novels are reviewed SO much more often than short stories.

But I do know how it feels to have negative reviews, and I rant and rave and scream about them . . . at home, in private. And then I move on.

Responding to a negative review can never, NEVER end well. First of all, you aren't going to change the original reviewer's mind. Best case scenario, if you're extremely graceful in your rebuttal, you might--MIGHT--come across as merely egotistical or filled with sour grapes. More likely is the scenario we've seen played out time and time again: a volley of back and forth between author and commentor that escalates until it ends in single word postings questioning each other's genetic lineage.

For the love of all that's holy, even if you think you are Miss Manners, DON'T REBUT NEGATIVE REVIEWS. Don't draw attention to them, and, if you're lucky, they'll eventually be replaced with good reviews and fall back to page 147 where no one will ever see them. (SIDEBAR: also, don't have all your friends post false positive reviews in an effort to artificially push the negative review off the page; but that's a topic for another post).

This is one of those issues that makes me long for the good old days before every single move a person made was available on YouTube, and before there were nine million Internet sites for a person to rant on. Back in the good old days, as long as you kept the paparazzi at bay, you could behave as badly as you wanted, lol.
But in the social media age, everything a person does is out there for the whole world to see, and it sticks around FOREVER (thank you, "Way Back Machine").

Can you imagine if Hemingway, or Hunter S. Thompson, or Poe had their every move tweeted, YouTubed, and videotaped for Entertainment tonight? What a nightmare that would have been for them!

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Whew! Two rants in one month. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to change the name of the blog to "Ed Angry" (obscure reference to the Weekly World News, for those who care).

How about a couple of helpful links to put us back in our happy place?

Crock Pots, Commuter Trains, and Artist Dates: Making the Time to Write Instead of Just Talking About It, by Marley Gibson

The 22 Rules of Storytelling [Infographic]

Character Development Tricks! from @writingcraft

5 Must Read Blogs for Indie Authors

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See you next week!

Monday, April 8, 2013

After Hours, April 2013 Edition: Big Brother is Watching YOU!

Note: Most of the time I just roll my eyes at the latest government news and rant in private. There is plenty of eye-rolling because I'm a political amalgamation of both the democratic ideals and  republican, so I'm usually ticked off at one party or the other. But a local news story really has my dander up, so today you're going to get an irate essay on the government over-reaching under the guise of public health and safety. You've been warned.

I have always loved to read dystopian stories and I occasionally write them: stories where the government looks the other way while rednecks take "border control" into their own hands, stories where people willingly give up all forms of creative expression in order to experience bliss at the hands of a pill . . .

And just as some of the old "dream" technology of science fiction has become a reality, so has some of the dystopia, in the form of authoritarian government.

Seat belts were the gateway drug for big brother, and, high on the victory, he's just been jonesing for more control.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-safety; I understand that the intention of a lot of this "government oversight" is to save lives, and I understand that the costs of not having these rules is paid by everyone.

Take smoking, for example. It's definitely unhealthy, it affects more than the smoker, and we all pay in health care costs. I didn't like the laws, not because I smoke but because I believe both in personal freedom and personal responsibility. But once the ball got rolling, there was no stopping the stop-smoking legislation. While my sense of personal freedom is bruised, I do like walking into a bar and not choking and gagging and having my eyes water. I get to enjoy my terribly unhealthy drinks while breathing fresh clean air.

But where is the line between personal freedom and big-brother authoritarianism?

A ban on trans fat in restaurants? A ban on big gulps? And now, in my own small town, a ban on chewing tobacco in public parks? REALLY?

Instead of protecting the public, this one falls firmly under the government trying to protect the individual from his or her self.

In an article on the topic ran in my local paper, they quoted talk show host Dennis Prager: “Eventually, citizens will have to carry calorie cards that limit how much an individual will be allowed to consume in any given day. If health trumps liberty, why not?”

Sounds pretty dystopian to me. I just want to write about dystopias, not live in one.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2013 Update

I'm currently working on final edits of a new horror short story. It's very close to done, but there's something missing that I can't quite put my finger on yet. I'm ready to be done with it, so my frustration level is pretty high. I hate knowing something's wrong, but not knowing what, and thus not being able to fix it.

I'm also editing a reprint, "Inhuman Resources," which originally appeared in Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters. I love the story, but trying to place reprints is another source of frustration. Very few markets accept reprints, and most of those that do either pay less (which makes sense; it is, after all, a "used" story, lol) or not at all.

I'm also working on a longer project with the working title, "Primrose Place." No, it's not a romance; it's a contemporary fantasy with a cast of quirky characters, a touch of comedy, and plenty of the supernatural. It's about belonging, family, and finding your place in the world. I don't dare call it a novel, because we know what a problem novels are for me. So while this one is in its "zero draft" stage, we'll just call it "a really long short story with a whole lot of characters."

Notice the trend here? Three frustrating projects! No wonder I've been having to take frequent breaks. Hopefully I'll have at least two of these projects done by next month's update, and my frustration level will be back to its normal "just slightly aggravated."

See you next week!