You can’t be bad at art.

When it comes to art, even personalities that aren’t perfectionist suddenly descend into weird, nit-picky hangups.

“It doesn’t look right.” “It doesn’t look real enough.” The one who never alphabetizes her books will develop a dire need for right angles and even planes. The one who can’t keep his pantry in any semblance of order will agonize over brushstrokes that refuse his attempts at realism. “I can’t make it look the way it does in my head.”

“I can’t.”

More demoralizing, discouraging, and disheartening words probably don’t exist in the art world, whether you’re talking visual arts, writing, music, or performance. Artists in every medium and of every range of experience maintain this mental image of what their art should be — usually in comparison to someone else’s. “I can’t” — because nothing they produce ever measures up to that ideal they’ve carried around probably since childhood.

“They.” What am I talking about? This is a case of “we,” for sure, because I’m one of those artists.

Talking to Yourself

There’s this thing called the Self-Talk Cycle. Maybe you’ve heard of it; I can’t remember who first coined the term. But the Self-Talk Cycle describes:

how you talk to yourself about yourself in your head;
what emotions this engenders in you;
what actions you take based on those emotions;
what you tell yourself about yourself as a result of those actions;
and so forth.

Here’s a visual of what I’m talking about (click to embiggen!):
 

selftalk

 

So, imagine that you consistently tell yourself, “I’m bad at art. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. If I try this, I’m just gonna mess up. Besides, doing art isn’t productive. I shouldn’t waste my time or other people’s time.”

What we say to ourselves about ourselves always leads to feelings. How will you feel as a result of talking to yourself like this about your artist self? Your musician self? Your writer self?
Frustrated.
Overwhelmed.
Guilty for even thinking you could take the time for this.
Disappointed.
Angry with yourself.

What actions will you take as a result of these emotions?
Avoid your art projects.
Ignore your urge to create.
Dam up and wall off the impulses that lead to art, music, writing.
Block relationships with other artists, musicians, writers. Keep them at arm’s length so they don’t remind you of what you’re not doing. Heaven forbid they tempt you to try creating again.

What do you tell yourself about yourself as you take these unpleasant actions?
I’m alone.
I’m not as good an artist as ________, so they wouldn’t want to hang around me anyway.
I’m no good at art, music, writing. There’s no point in trying.
If I try, I’ll just waste people’s time.
I’ll just screw it up again.
I can’t.
I’m bad at art.

This circle is particularly vicious. It has teeth, and if you let it go on long enough, it will tear your spirit to shreds. (I should know.)

Don’t let that happen.

Fight that vicious, spirit-shredding monster with the Truth.

Here’s the Truth

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

Read this and let it sink in:

Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist
(@Jay_T1313)
(emphasis mine)

…and…

“When we say we are afraid to begin a project, we are actually saying something else: “I am afraid of how I will feel as I continue.” We do not want to start because we do not know that we can continue. It is not the start, it is the finish that troubles us.”

Julia Cameron

Part of the fear of beginning is the fear of being seen as a beginner…a novice or even an “inferior.” (I can’t remember where I originally came across this idea; possibly it’s more Julia Cameron.) Another part of the fear is fear of knowing ourselves. Fear is where the cycle of art-murdering Self-Talk begins. “It’ll never look right. I’ll screw up. I can’t…”

…because I’m afraid.

But you can.

Because you can’t be bad at art.

And you don’t have to let fear rule you.

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

That little subtitle there is a quote from the Bible, specifically from the Old Testament book of Joshua, Chapter 24. Some might accuse me of taking it out of context (though I really don’t believe that I am), but here’s the crux of it for this post:

You have a choice.

You can choose to be subject to fear.

You can choose to immerse yourself in the negative things you tell yourself about your art.

You can choose to obey your fear of being a beginner again.

You can choose to obey your fear of failure.

You can choose to serve your fear.

Or…

You can choose to be subject to freedom. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose life. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose to immerse yourself in speaking kindness, joy, peace, love, and beauty to yourself about your art.

You can choose the courage it takes to get to know yourself.

You can choose the courage it takes to show the world who you are.

You can choose to serve your art,

following where it leads,

even if it leads you to truths about yourself you didn’t want to know.

You can choose to serve your art,

thereby serving Truth and Life and Joy,

thereby serving Good and Light and Freedom.

Sometimes, following your creativity, following Truth and Light and Freedom, means looking into dark places. This seems a paradox, but it’s one of those universal paradoxes that crop up in our existence every so often.

Look into yourself, delve into the dark places, and find in them the Light.

“I know myself, and I will know myself further. I am brave enough to learn who I am. I am good at art. I feel free and strong in my art. And I am brave enough to show it to the world.”

You are everything you need to be, but you’re not there yet.

Become what you already are.
 

What’s the scariest book you ever read?

This post has been languishing in Drafts for a couple of eternities. I think it began life as a comment I left on someone else’s blog — possibly Chuck Wendig’s. I thought it worth sharing here.

What’s the scariest book you ever read?

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe
Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick

I have to list three, because all three freaked me out the most at different times of my life.

House of Leaves really messed with my mind when I read it 5 or so years ago. Somebody named Gareth says the book gets into your head like a virus and changes the way you think. That’s how I perceived it as well, and it was deeply disturbing. House of Leaves is one of maybe three books I’ve ever read of which I say, “This is more than a book. And, to quote the book itself, ‘This is not for you.'”

I know “The Fall of the House of Usher” isn’t a book, but I’m including it anyway. It’s my blog; I can do that. “Usher” got to me because — well, because of the whole thing, but mainly the way it all comes to a point with Roderick Usher’s final words. “…Have I not heard her footstep on the stair? …She now stands without the door!” The man’s awful horror is infectious. Madeline herself never scared me; but the way Roderick turns her into an impending, unstoppable doom…. Somehow, in my head, he makes her over into Yeats’s “rough beast” that “slouches towards Bethlehem.” Horrible and terrifying.

Teacher’s Pet is in the Point Horror series. I probably read it when I was 13 or 14 — still my pre-Stephen-King days, so I was still ultra-impressionable (IT took care of that a few years later). 😉 But Teacher’s Pet got to me for two reasons: One, the main character was a teenage writer like me, and unlike me, she was immersed in a writing world I still could only dream of; two, I was spooked by the idea that you can get so very, very close to someone and not know until it’s too late that they’re murderously crazy. I haven’t re-read this book in years, but I suspect I would still get a little thrill out of it.

How ’bout you? What book scares you the most?

grandfather: a poem

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, so I’m finally posting a poem. Better late than never, right? ; )

I wrote this the day after I came upon my Grandpa sitting in his rocking chair in the sun room, peering toward the outside beyond the window, and quietly singing “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well with My Soul.” It was a beautiful, simple moment in which I felt overwhelmed with love, respect, and reverence. Grandpa gave me a gift without compare. I’ll never forget it.

grandfather
by Courtney Cantrell

he is ninety-four years old
and much has changed

he has set aside the politics
he has rejected the lies
he has turned his back upon the old ways
that once told him

     grace is conditional
     deity is wrath
     love depends on the boxes you check off

          tradition becomes less necessary than Truth

he is ninety-four years old
and can barely see

old retinas give him darkening blurs
where faces used to be
and yet some Sight remains
and yet he can still recognize

     the children of God
     the house of the Messiah
     the bride of the Savior

          clarity becomes less important than Compassion

he is ninety-four years old
and the musica universalis is his symphony

his rocking chair creaks
like his voice as he lifts it in praise
“sometimes i just have to sit and sing a little”
his wavering melody weaves peace into the heart

     cruel death has no power
     he rests in amazing grace
     it is well with his soul

          proficiency becomes less significant than Passion

     simplicity is his father’s wont
     love is his father’s Word
     these are his father’s world

          and he adores his Lord.
 

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

–Maltbie Davenport Babcock

I can fit my whole fist in my mouth (weirdness + #amwriting update)

Me: I would seriously throw up if I had to remove somebody’s eyeball. Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

Ed: Don’t think about it. You won’t have to do it anytime soon.

Me: I might. There could be a zombie apocalypse and somebody could have a tumor in their eye.

Ed (in Schwarzenegger voice): It’s not a tumah.

____________________

Ed: I hate that story.

Me: What? “The Three Little Kittens”? Why?

Ed: Because I’ve read it about a million times!

Me: Well, the good news is, I can still fit my whole fist in my mouth.

Ed: I… what? Why are you–? Your whole fist?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…what are you doing, just sitting in here all by yourself, stuffing your fist in your mouth?

Me (with enthusiasm): Uh-huh!

Ed: But…I…okay. (walks out)

____________________

In the car….

Toddler (from backseat): I need a pah*!
(*pacifier)

Me: You don’t need one right now. It’s not naptime.

Toddler: I need a pah!

Me: No, not right now.

Husband and I converse for several minutes. Suddenly–

Toddler (singing to tune “Wheels on the Bus”): A baby in a bus say, I need pah, I need pah, I need pah. A baby in a bus say, I need pah, all through the town.

Me: Well, that’s the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever heard.

____________________

In other news,

my January progresseth apace with editing every moment I get.

Legacy (Legends of the Light-Walkers #3) (working title) is still underway: I’ve finished Draft 0.1-1.5 (I’ve lost track of which version this actually is by now) and am now in the throes of editing and rewriting based on feedback from three beta-readers. Since all three know what they’re doing, I have my work cut out for me. I’ll write a more comprehensive Writing Life update soon.

Also, I really can fit my whole fist in my mouth. Cheers.

_______________________________________________________________

Writers’ Blog Hop: 4 Writerly Questions (also Dr. Seuss)

Hidey-ho, beloved inklings!

Did you miss me?

Don’t answer that. ; )

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been rather absent from my blog for the last two months. This is due to three things. Attend, my dears, and I shall tell you them.

Thing One

When I have a spare moment for writing, I devote that moment to (working title:) The Writing of Legends of the Light-Walkers 3, The First Draft: The Draftening. That is not the working title. I just made that up.

More on this later.

Thing Two

Last week, my parents celebrated 50 years of marriage. This is mind-blowing and cramazing and I love them for it. I feel that in this world of hook-ups and hang-ups and h-something-something-alliteration, people like my parents are a ray of hope to those of us who haven’t gotten to the big FIVE-OH (or even the big TWO-OH) yet. Plus, they’ve gone through a lot to make it this far, so all the hats (and possibly other various accoutrements) are off to them.

50years

To show my love and appreciation, I threw them a party (and this is the Thing Two that took up potential blogging time). Cousins and aunts helped, and without these cousins and aunts, I couldn’t have accomplished half of the party prep and the party itself wouldn’t have been half as nice. I spent much of the prep time — and some of the party itself — overwhelmed with gratitude at the loveliness of all of these women who came together to help honor my parents. It was truly a blessing.

With Apologies to Dr. Seuss: Thing Three

I’d thought several times about surfacing from novel-writing and party-planning just long enough to pop in here and say hi. But then Judy Dunn, fellow writer and blogger, contacted me and asked me to join in on a Writers’ Blog Hop. I agreed and then decided to make the blog hop post my “hey how’s it goin’, y’all.”

Hey! How’s it goin’, y’all?

If I’m not mistaken, that brings us full circle. So, woot and cetera.

Writers’ Blog Hop: 4 Writerly Questions

In Judy’s own blog hop post, she answered four writing questions that the previous blogger? hopper? (hoppah!) had asked her. So I get to answer those same questions (AND PASS THEM ON TO THE AB-FAB WRITER ANNOUNCED AT THE END OF THIS POST SO CHECK HIM OUT DO IT DO IT DO IT OR I’LL SEND ELVES TO TATTOO “I’M A NERD” ON YOUR FOREHEAD DON’T TEST ME).

*ahem*

Without further ado or adon’t, here are Les Quatres (4) Questions Writerliques:

1. What am I working on right now?

My current project is the third novel in my Legends of the Light-Walkers series. (The first two are here.) Everything you need to know about LLW3, you can find here. For blog-hopping (blopping?) purposes, I’ll just say that this is probably the biggest writing project I’ve ever taken on, it eats my lunch when I take my eyes off it for the splittest of seconds, and I love every ridiculous minute of it.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

LLW3 is different in that it is the pseudo-urban fantasy prequel to epic fantasies LL1 and LL2. Yes, I’m sorta switching genres mid-series. Except not really. The whole LLW series is meant to be epic fantasy. That’s always been THE BIG IDEA. But for certain things to happen in LLW1 and LLW2, the story of LLW3 has to be told.

The story of LLW3 is the story of Rafe Skelleran — who just happens to have been born in Oklahoma City, OK. That’s not exactly an epic fantasy setting. So when we meet Rafe, he’s still not-so-happily ensconced in his downtown OKC apartment. He crosses over into my epic fantasy world (readers will know this as Rethana’s universe) in…um…a chapter that’s now Chapter 3, I think. But he starts out here. So that’s sorta where the urban part comes in.

Bear with me, y’all. It’ll all come out in the wash, I promise.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I gotta.

Next question?

; ) Just kidding. But no, really. These stories are in my head, and if I don’t write them, I get surly and depressed and start oil-painting deepsea anglerfish mermaids (READ: fishtailed girls with ginormous jaws and spiky teeth) and lots of things in black. And then I get accused of demon-possession and nobody has any fun anymore. So I write my stories to make things better for ALL of us. You should thank me.

Really though, do come see the anglerfish mermaid sometime. She’s a cutie.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, there’s coffee.

Next question?

Yeah, yeah. ; )

I used to be mostly a “pantser”: Flying by the seat of my pants, I dived into Telling The Story with little to no preparation, and it was magnificent and brilliant and exciting until I stalled out and dropped like a stone at around 10,000 words. KABLOOEY.

Nowadays, I still pants it a leeeeetle, but only after I do a lot of prep work. Great Scott, I know that sounds like a major paradox. Here’s how it works:

  • I write out a short synopsis — just the basics of what I think will happen. This is MC. This is what MC wants. MC does this. This is Antagonist. This is Antagonist’s goal (in opposition to what MC wants). Antagonist does this. And so forth.
  • I write out a Mock Table of Contents, and I let myself be ridiculous with it even if the story isn’t primarily comedy. For instance:

1. “Also, I Can Kill You with My Brain”
2. Down the Rabbit Hole; Dude, Your Ward Is Screwed Up
3. Take Me to Your Dream Weaver (a la REO Speedwagon)
4. Dude Is Janky, Let’s Kill Him
5. Girl’s Got Skillz (Or: Come Here So I Can Hit You with a Rock)
6. In Which the Spirit of Robert Frost Is Channeled. Word.
7. Sanctuary! Also, Get the Hell Outta My Head
8. Most Everyone’s Mad Here; Et Tu, Jael?
9. …

You get the picture. That, by the way, is the Mock ToC for the third Legends of the Light-Walkers novel. For keen observers, there might be a teensy-weensy spoiler or two in there. But for the most part, the Mock ToC means nothing to anyone but me. Each chapter title is just a note-to-self on what’s supposed to happen in that chapter. None of these will appear in the final draft.

  • I also do a character list, with 300-word descriptions for the protagonist and antagonist, and 100-word descriptions for at least two supporting characters. The other supporting chars just get a bullet point each. I’ll jot down notes on the big event (what catapults the MC into the story), the conflict, the obstacles, the climax, and the denouement. None of this has to be very long; it’s mainly just notes I’ll use for reference if I get stuck while writing the first draft.

I might do a long synopsis and also list what happens scene-by-scene in each chapter, but that depends on how tedious I’m finding the process at this point. I do write better when I’ve done some of this pre-writing, but if I start feeling bogged down with the pre-writing, I move on to the actual writing of the story. Boggy feelings don’t go well with creativity.

HINT: This is where I turn from a plotter back into a pantser. MIGHTY PANTSER-MORPHIN’ POWERS, ACTIVATE.

Oooooh, I know what this is called! This is plot-pantsing. PLONTSING. I AM A PLONTSER, Y’ALL. I think I just invented a term. Check me on this, people — but I bet you heard it here first. (If you didn’t, don’t you dare burst my bubble.)

In the actual writing-of-story process, I just write as fast as I can without (much) editing, so as to get the first draft out in “one” fell swoop. That fellness might take two years to swoop all the way, but if that’s as fast as I can go, then so be it.

After Draft 1 is done, I let it sit at least 6-8 weeks before looking at it again. I then read it all the way through without (much) editing. Then I release the Inner Editor in all her full and glorious wrath and edit and revise and rewrite until Draft 2 is finished. I wash, rinse, repeat until I have Draft 3. Nowadays, that’s likely as far as I’ll go before handing it over to an editor. (I’ll let beta readers take their shots starting with Draft 2). I think the most drafts I’ve ever had on one novel was six.

This is now WAY longer than I’d intended it to be, so I think I’ll go home now. : )

Please check out my fellow wordnerdssmiths in the Writers’ Blog Hop!

judyfinal Judy Lee Dunn writes to release her true stories in the hope that they will help her readers learn how to navigate life and live to tell about it. Her blog was named a Top 10 Blog for Writers in 2011. She has written everything from marketing and sales copy to grant proposals, children’s books, magazine articles and news stories. Judy has finally settled on her true passion, creative nonfiction. She was a contributing author for Seasons of Our Lives: Winter and is currently writing her first full-length memoir, Out Tonight. Judy lives on Anderson Island in south Puget sound with her husband Bob. In her spare time, she likes to read early 20th century novels and feed gourmet meals to stray cats.

 

 

tonyhealey Tony Healey is the best-selling author of the sci-fi series Far From Home. He was a contributor to the first Kindle All-Stars short story anthology, Resistance Front, along with award-winning authors Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison and 30 others. In January 2014, he published the speculative fiction and horror anthology Edge of Oblivion, with all proceeds going to charity.
Tony’s post for the blog hop will be available for your reading pleasure on May 12th.

In case you miss me, I #amwriting. (NEW PROJECT! Next Legends of the Light-Walkers!)

So, I log on to my blog today and find that it’s been over a month since I posted.

I blame Bernard Schaffer.

Long story VERY short, Bernard issued me a writing challenge, and I am doing my blurglemamjufloobelschnitzenest to face that challenge head-on and blast it into submission. I’ve got two major short stories in the works, both set in my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe. I’ve also AS OF TODAY started work on my NEXT LIGHT-WALKERS NOVEL, which might be of interest to you LLW fans out there.

More on that in a sec.

Elevator People

But significant to all of this LLW writing is this announcement I was tinkled every shade of pink and purple to make YESTERDAY:

PEOPLE! The first draft of my low sci-fi or soft sci-fi or whatever-you-call it novel ELEVATOR PEOPLE is finished! IT’S DONE!!! In celebration, I hereby grant all of you the rest of the day off! Two years, 4 months, 13 days, 97,314 words, and I am DONE! WOOT!

Y’all, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved to write THE END after the last line of a story. For all the various reasons I’ve blathered on about here before, this book was the hardest one I’ve ever finished. Probably the hardest one I’ve ever written. I harbor a sneaking suspicion that this means it’s either the best thing I’ve ever written…or the worst. Time and beta-reader feedback will tell. OH MABEL THE READER FEEDBACK ON THIS ONE. I might need to be institutionalized for the duration of beta-reader feedback.

That, however, is far in the future. For now, I can remain straightjacketless, as I shall let Elevator People sit and stew in its own juices for at least the net six weeks. Maybe eight weeks, I dunno. When I do return to it, I’ll read it straight through (doing as little editing as humanly possible), then tackle the editing and restructuring and rewriting. I’m actually looking forward to it, so it’s possible I’ll have to force myself to wait the entire six weeks. We shall see.

In the meantime, I get to leap fully nude into my next project, and I say fully nude because this one’s gonna be mucky and I really don’t wanna get it all over my clothes.

Legends of the Light-Walkers #3

This next project, my dears, is the COMPLETE REWRITE FROM THE GROUND UP OF MY LLW NOVEL FORMERLY ENTITLED LEGEND’S HEIR. Now entitled either Legends of the Light-Walkers: Legacy or This Novel Doesn’t Have a Title Yet or TNDHaTY.

For simplicity’s sake, I’m just gonna call it LEGACY for now.

Here’s the timeline of this novel:

1994 (age 17): began writing novel
1999: finished novel for Senior Seminar bachelor’s degree project in English/Creative Writing. And by “finished,” I mean, “completed first draft, gave it an editing once-over, and stuck it in a drawer for 13 years.”
2012: pulled novel out of drawer, measured

wordcount2

2012 (continued): said NO; butchered manuscript until usable parts drifted to the surface like choice meats in a vat of flesh-sludge; wrote new outline, new synopses, new character descrips, and story question
March 13, 2014: plunged nekkid into rewrite

So far, I’ve only gone through and sorted notes, trying to get a clear picture of what material I have to work with. That’s been a fun and illuminating trip down memory lane. I found a ton of stuff in the LEGACY notes that had nothing to do with the novel, such as German Bible verses, dates & times of doctor’s appointments, notes from my time as an Elfwood moderator, and lists of names that generally could suit a fantasy universe. Fun stuff, but not conducive to massive story rewrites.

rewriteAfter I finish perusing the notes and refamiliarizing myself with the story, I’ll start the actual writing. I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I should dig up the old digital file and just cut, cut & paste, and reword within that file. But really, that would be me being INCREDIBLY UNFORGIVABLY LAISSEZ-FAIRE, and that’s not something a writer can afford to be (she said mournfully, longing for the days when she neither knew this nor cared to).

Instead, I’ll be typing it all out from scratch, following my outline and referencing the ancient, massive manuscript plunked on my table. Last night, I asked the husband where I should put it while I’m working with it, and his response was to offer me his entire desk. Either I have incredible support, or he’s more deeply sarcastic than I ever dreamed*.

So, there we are. If you miss my blogging, just know that I’m working on something that’s gonna be way more fun for you and me both. 😉

Heart-felt thanks to Bernard for giving me a healthy kick in the ass. And I mean that.

The Light-Walkers short stories “Rethana’s Tower” and “Untitled, so far,” as well as the novel Legends of the Light-Walkers: Legacy, will be published before December 31, 2014.

HERE WE GO. Oh, Mabel.

___________________
* Just kidding. He meant it. : )

UPDATED: Why Amazon deleted all my ebooks

UPDATE: Rethana’s Surrender, Rethana’s Trial, Colors of Deception, Shadows after Midnight, and Stains of Grace are once again live at Amazon. And the reviews for R’S TRIAL and STAINS have transferred. HALLELUJAH! Hopefully, the other books’ reviews will transfer soon. (Draft2Digital has notified me that I shouldn’t be surprised if it takes a week or more for this to happen [if it happens at all {I remain dismally skeptical on this point }].) (I hope I got that punctuation right.)

(You should interpret my overuse of ( ) as an indication that I am keeping a stiff upper lip, old chap.)

To my dismay, D2D also corrected my misconception that ranking would transfer. Ranking will, in fact, NOT transfer. I guess it’s not such a big deal for me, since I’ve never ranked terribly high anyway…but it really sucks for a ton of other D2D authors who DID have a decent ranking. Great sympathies to them. This situation is so very frustrating for all of us.

~C.

Hile, lovelies,

Once upon a time, you might recall, I wrote a review of a great tool for writers called Draft2Digital. In brief, Draft2Digital (D2D) does all the work for me of uploading my books to the vendors Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble. I called D2D “the only thing you need to self-publish.”

Thanks to Amazon, I’m having to rethink that assessment.

I still believe 110% in the D2D model. It works fantastically, it saves me time, and it’s more author-friendly than its competitors (mainly because it was conceived of and executed by writers).

But for reasons* unknown to me, Amazon this week decided to remove all ebooks published through Draft2Digital. According to D2D, Amazon claims that D2D is…

“…in violation of [Amazon’s] terms.” Amazon gave D2D “…no opportunity to appeal or correct their complaints, and showed little concern for the impact that action has had on [D2D’s] users….”

–Draft2Digital,
January 31, 2014
February 4, 2014

Amazon’s course of action was to block D2D’s access to its account and to de-list all ebooks published through D2D. Notably, all notification I’ve received on this situation has come from the very apologetic Draft2Digital. I have yet to receive a single communication from Amazon.

Today is when the fit really hit the shan (thank you, Zelazny). One of my books, Rethana’s Trial, has disappeared from Amazon entirely, because I only ever had the ebook for sale. (I am remedying this by at least finally getting around to uploading the paperback file to CreateSpace.)

The rest of my novels — Rethana’s Surrender and all three Demons of Saltmarch books — are still available at Amazon in paperback, but the ebooks are gone. I’ve still got ebooks for sale at Kobo, iTunes, and Nook, but those sales are barely pocket change. Since ebooks at Amazon comprise most of my sales, you can imagine where this leaves me. (READ: high and dry.)

Oh, and the A Consortium of Worlds anthologies in which I have short stories — available only as ebooks — have disappeared just like Rethana’s Trial. So much for those.

I probably don’t have to tell you that I am beyond frustrated over this situation. Today I spent a total of 6 hours filling out tax info at Amazon, as well as filling out information on five different books and uploading book files and cover art.

I was involved in getting the Consortium of Worlds anthologies on Amazon, so I’ve at least worked with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system before. But that was several years ago. And there’s a reason I went with Draft2Digital in the first place: SO I WOULDN’T HAVE TO TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN USER INTERFACES AND FILL OUT FIELDS AND UPLOAD FILES.

GAH.

I’m relearning/learning KDP in the middle of knowing that I’m losing sales as we speak. No, I’m not a best-seller, but I at least make enough on my novels to contribute to the grocery budget every month. And that happens to be money my family needs. Amazon is directly responsible for taking grocery money out of my pocket — READ: food out of my baby’s mouth — and oh honey you better believe that burns me up.

No, nobody’s gonna starve. But things are going to get a little tight around here if I can’t fix this fast.

However, since all five of my novels were indie-published (meaning I didn’t have to do all the uploading to D2D myself in the first place), I’m having to hunt down mobi files and cover art files and make sure I’m uploading everything exactly the way the original files were uploaded. Otherwise I lose my rank and all of reviews.

Oh yeah. There’s that, too. If I don’t do it all exactly right, the ranks and reviews of all my books won’t transfer to my new sales pages, and it’ll be like I’m starting my indie/self-pub career from scratch.

No, I don’t have a high ranking. No, I don’t have a lot of reviews. But I fought hard for what I do have, and to know that I might lose it all in one fell, Amazonic swoop is just utterly demoralizing.

I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m irritated. I’m discouraged. I want to sling profanities haphazardly.

Really, I just want to cry.

But I’m not going to cry. I’m going to do what I have to do to get my grubby hands on the mobi files and the jpg files and the rest of the info I need, and I’m going to get those ebooks back up on Amazon. And if the rankings and reviews don’t transfer, then so be it. I’ll start over. Because, yes indeed, friends and neighbors and assorted pets, I AM IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL, no matter how long it takes or how hard I have to work or how discouraging the road gets at times. This is a roadblock, and I’m going to flatten it.

Noli nothis permittere te terere.

I’m also going to watch this a few times because it’s FUNNY.

MAKE ME FRIES.

__________________

*I have my suspicions, but it’s probably good form to keep those to myself for now, considering that I have no shred of evidence that certain big-name companies have anything at all to do with this situation. 😛

There’s nothing like a year-end post in the middle of January. Also: books I read in 2013.

So that’s why I’m doing my end-of-2013 post now. In the middle of January. Because there’s nothing like it. NOTHING. And you can’t convince me otherwise. So don’t even try.

Sorry. I’m having a health-crappy 2014 so far, and it’s making me combative. When I have the energy to get combative, anyway. Which isn’t often, so yay! But boo, this seems to be one of those times. I’m sure you can handle it, though, you thick-skinned things, you.

Anyway, my end-of-2013 post concerns mostly the books I read in 2013 and why there were so few of them. So here ya go:

Books I Read in 2013 — With Little *s to Mark the Ones I Enjoyed Most

1. The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura, #1) by Martha Wells*

2. Scalzi Super Bundle from Subterranean Press, by John Scalzi (The God Engines, The Tale of the Wicked, The Sagan Diary, How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, Questions for a Soldier, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop)*

3. Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee

4. Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna*

5. The Vampire from Hell (Part 1) — The Beginning by Ally Thomas

6. The Girl from Tenerife by Bernard Schaffer*

7. Carnival of Cryptids: An Anthology of Strange and Mysterious Creatures edited by Laurie Laliberte and Bernard Schaffer

8. Passion, Power & Sin — Book 1 by Mike Wells

9. The Final Winter by Iain Robb Wright

10. The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone by Robert Kirkman

11. The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out by Robert Kirkman*

12. The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

13. Tiny Dragons 1: The Sky Dragons by Bernard Schaffer

14. Ava Delaney #1: Thirst by Claire Farrell*

Just because I didn’t give something a * doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. But the *ed ones were extra fun for various reasons that include well-flowing style, good characterization, attention-grabbing (and -keeping) characters, and excellent world-building.

So, those were my reads for 2013.

Why There Were So Few of Them

Exhaustion. Busyness. The occasional touch of depression. Exhaustion. The “need” to numb my brain via someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet type of internet stuff (which “need” is a surefire symptom of burgeoning depression in Yours Writerly). Exhaustion. Busyness. And did I mention exhaustion?

I have a now-16-month-old. This should explain most of my 2013.

I’m not blaming her, and I don’t resent her for my lack of focus on readerly and writerly pursuits. In this season of my life, I have to make sacrifices. I know, I know, I shouldn’t sacrifice what makes me me, because if I don’t take time to recharge, I won’t be the kind of mother she needs me to be. I get that.

And I live by it as much as I can. But when the baby only naps for 45 minutes in an entire day (this happens frequently), one arrives at the end of the day with two choices: read or sleep. And in order to retain one’s sanity, one chooses sleep. This, as far as I can tell, is an Immutable Law of Nature, the breaking of which results in black holes in my brain.

Plus, I’ve also been having some bad neurocardiogenic syncope symptoms. They’ve been quite troubling lately, and I’ll blog more on them in the near future. But I suspect they’ve been bothering me a lot longer than I originally thought, and that this is part of the reason for The Great Exhaustion of 2013. But, as I said, more on that in a future post.

2013. Tired. Not enough books read. Certainly nothing near my 2012 total of 55, or even my “dismal” 2011 total of 42. Hey, at least in 2011 I had life, the universe, and everything going for me. That’s saying something.

But enough rambling. I’m already off to a good start in 2014. January isn’t over yet, and I’ve already finished five books and have started on my sixth. That’s nearly half of 2013’s total in the first month of 2014. Statistically speaking, I’m on a rockin’ roll.

Let’s see what the rest of the year brings.

Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.