The Guide to Handling a Bad Review

One of the things I hear a lot about or get asked about are reviews.

Let me begin by saying this: as a new author I fell into this trap and it’s a very ugly trap to be in.

Reviews are never going to be 5 star across the board. In fact, having some bad reviews mixed into the gushing and glowing reviews is a good thing. It gives you and your book credibility. If a reader sees nothing but five stars they believe the reviewers are your friends and family.

So rule number one? Embrace the negative reviews.

Embrace them? Absolutely.

Every well thought out review has validity to it. Read it. Process it. Do better. The end.

Rule number two: Do. Not. Respond.

A lot of bad reviewers are also great “trollers”. Don’t get caught up in the fodder storm. You’ll end up wearing shit even if you “win” … which you won’t. It only makes you look bad in the end.

Rule number three: see rule number one, rinse, repeat.

Trust me, I know the temptation to chime in and set people straight. Let’s pick one of my own and put it out there.

I had a “duo” pick up a free copy of my book and review it. A review which seemed to be done in Facebook messenger then copied and pasted on their “review site”.

Reading the review was torture. It felt like a text-based, Mean Girls episode. It was incredibly juvenile but the worst part was when they said I needed serious edits when they themselves could not spell. Including “LOL” in a review is the first clue to run. Anyone who uses “OMG” and “LOL” in a review meant to be taken seriously isn’t worth my time of being upset, let alone a response. And believe me, I value my time.

You’re sending out a piece of art. Art is subjective. Not everyone gets your art and not everyone should. You’re not writing a how-to book so don’t expect everyone to understand your idea.

However, if your negatives outweigh the positives it might be something you need to consider. Take it as a learning experience and move forward. If you’re too busy reading and lamenting over a review you’re not writing and working towards something new. Your readers who enjoy your work are waiting. Get over it, dust your shoulders off, dry your tears, and get to work.

If you allow a nasty reviewer to keep you from doing what you love you’re not meant to be an author. This industry is cut-throat and you are supposed to be the expert. Get back to it or get into your cage. There’s no room for weak spines in horror.

Have you received a bad review? How did you handle it? Want to share a bad review and let us critique it for a good laugh? Leave it in comments!

Remember this one important fact: You write because you love to. Who cares if a couple people don’t like it? Are they so important it’s worth you losing your passion? Let me help you with the answer. No. No they aren’t.

And if you’re a reviewer who likes being nasty and rude for kicks? Go get a hug. Internet trolls are so 1997. It’s time to grow up. And get spellcheck “LOL”.

Get Serious About Writing

Image result for quill and ink

Having done enough conventions and literary panels this year, I wanted to address the question I seem to get most often: How do I stay on track?

Many authors, especially those are who “new” to the craft, struggle with this but it is not exclusive to them. Veteran authors have this issue, too. So how do we stay on track? Stick around! I’ll break it down for you in a couple ways which have worked for me. These aren’t guarantees, nothing works for everyone. Take what works for you and discard what doesn’t.

Comment, share, and re-post if you found something helpful!

Exercise


Physical exercise works for a lot of people but what I’m talking about right now are mental exercises. You have to write often if you’re to get acquainted with the process of writing. Oh yes, there is a process.

The writing process is complex and intricate. You have a singular idea and you must tell it in such a way your readers are able to follow. The trick-no, the skill, is to not allow your reader to be removed from the story. It involves having engaging characters who they can relate to in some way, rhythmic flow and cadence, and making every word count.

Dedication


Work ethic is imperative to becoming a serious writer. Deadlines can be crippling to some authors, and some are invigorated by them. Either way, deadlines are a real thing and a part of writing, like it or not. If you’re writing for “fun” deadlines don’t figure into the equation.

Depending on how long your story is, dedication is required to get through an entire length of story. Day in and day out, you must spend time with the characters you brought to life. It’s a relationship which doesn’t end until the story does.

A writer’s dedication is test when they go through the editing process. You may think you’re done when you type “The End” but the end is only the beginning. Refining your words is the crux of many authors who put in the time, only to go through it all over again. Repeatedly.

The biggest challenge to dedication is your own resolve. Are you committed to this? Yes? Ok, great! Now the real work begins.

Critique/Mentoring


Though these are two different things, I put them together because you must go through at least one (both preferably) to earn your quill. No one shits out gold. Everyone requires editing and critique of some form.

We know what the story is from our perspective. Now, we need to know what others get out of it. This does not mean you must write to appease everyone. If you try, you’ve failed before you’ve put a single word down. What I mean is you must understand how your words form images in other people’s minds. If you have to explain it to your mentor/critique person, you’ll more than likely have to explain it to the readers. This is my mantra and you should also take it into consideration. It’s always better to have several eyes on the story.

Read Your Work Aloud


This is an important skill to learn.

Why? Because

  1. if you’re looking to get published, you’ll face live readings.
  2. it helps you connect the words you write with the flow of natural speaking/cadence/flow

If it doesn’t sound right to you, it most likely does not sound right to readers. I think this is pretty cut and dry.

Having a timeline or outline helps, too.  More in the next post about that.

Read all the time. Read Everything.


Reading works of other authors is non-negotiable. Pull from what you read and learn from it. What works? What doesn’t? What did you love? What did you not like? How can you do better?

Some authors use the excuse, “I don’t want to be influenced by what I’ve read.”

If you’re writing fiction, read non-fiction and vice versa. There’s a way around the “influence” card. Read a shampoo bottle, read up on marketing, check out a book on “How to write” in your own genre.

And oh yeah, last but not least …

Stop Making Excuses


Write every single day. It can be 50 words, it can be 1000 words. Don’t let anyone tell you what your own goal is unless they suggest you aim to be better than you were yesterday.

Excuses are road blocks you set up for yourself. Without them you can accomplish anything.

REVIEW: Dark Homages II by HR Arswyd

A collection of “weird tales” in the tradition of Lovecraft, Aickman, etc. with contemporary influencing including Moore, and Lansdale.

Dark Homages II: Ill Met by Moonlight by [Arswyd, H. R.]

 

Let me just begin by saying, in this collection of five stories you will get a variety of stories ranging from ethnic influence as well as style influence. I love HR Arswyd’s range in story telling.

Each story takes you on a journey through a different time period and you get a strong sense of what it was like in both description and language. Arswyd’s knowledge, and understanding of the story as well as the characters shine through with with elegance and poise. What I mean is, you won’t be met with words dug out of a thesaurus for the sake of being “pretty”. Each word is carefully laid out and presented. Being a self-published author isn’t easy, and for that, minor flaws add to the value of this diamond in the rough. There is a classic simplicity in how he pieces every story together, proving the author is not only well-read but writes for the passion of writing. This is an author to keep an eye out for.

Body Bag Betty 001

The smoke danced off the edge of her cigarette which dangled between two long fingers tipped by HellFire red lacquer.  Her eyes were closed, oblivious to the rest of the world as she swayed back and forth. The men stood there in silence. She was thinking. And they knew better than to disturb her when she was like this. 

“I specifically said clear plastic,” her voice cut through the tension like a scalpel. 

“Y-yes ma’am but on short notice–”

Betty-Body Bag Betty as the world knew her-rose to her feet and lashed out with the box cutter. A thin red line appeared along the throat of the man who brought her excuses in lieu of her demands. 

“Every fucking time, Andy,” she said in a quiet, even tone, “Every fucking time I give you a task you screw it up.” 

Andy didn’t respond. He couldn’t. His hands were wrapped around his own throat in a futile attempt to stop it from bleeding. His eyes were wide and his lips were moving but all that came out were gurgles and coughs. The thin line of her initial attack opened up into a nasty laceration, severing his windpipe. Andy’s vision was growing dark and the last face he saw was hers as he fell to his knees. Bad idea. The momentum of his fall caused the wound to rip further and the pooling blood was creeping toward her brand new stilettos. 

Bringing her cigarette to her lips, neatly lined and painted in the same matching red as her nails, she sat back down in the chair in front of Andy his life pumped out. Her mouth embraced the soft butt of her cancer stick and she pulled in the toxic fumes deeply, letting her lungs fill with it before exhaling. 

The white tendrils rolled out, swirling and dancing upward into a halo around her head. 

“Clear plastic, Andy,” she repeated. “It helps to see the blood splatter patterns so we can clean, properly.”

Dropping the cigarette into the thick, coagulating puddle of blood, it let out a hiss before it snuffed out, “This is why you get caught. And this is why they sent me to kill you.”

(To be continued… stay tuned for more BODY BAG BETTY excerpts or sign up for my newsletter for the full novella chronicles starting January 2018. New chronicle will be released every month! http://www.unsaintly.com)

The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride

http://www.unfleshed.com

#amreading #amwriting #horror #womeninhorror #Halloween #Giveaway

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Young Morrigan, the daughter of a local aristocrat, is full of innocence and life. Angus Wulfe is an eccentric and devious doctor who stalks her while he cultivates a plan to win her affection. Their two worlds collide in a grisly twist of fate when the Plague arrives on the shores of their town. With no cure in sight, and bodies dropping incrementally every day, the doctor uses his influence, along with his reputation in medical advances – stemming from his clandestine and macabre experiments-to manipulate Morrigan’s father. In return for her hand in marriage, the doctor would save her life. Clinging to life, Morrigan begins to feel a change. Has the doctor cured her, or did her father make a deal with the Devil?

♦◊Win your own copy on GoodReads


 

Lisa Vasquez proves with her novel “The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride” she is a writer of nightmarish vision and a new, poetic voice in today’s horror genre. Her prose sings like a sonnet while driving the knife of dread ever further into her reader’s imagination. In her villain, Angus Wulfe, Vasquez has created someone so dastardly and surgical in his malevolence he lives and breathes on the page. I also hope to see Wulfe again in another installment, if possible, as I was sorry to see the book come to a close. Wulfe is as terrifying in his polished yet sociopathic intent as Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter. “The Unfleshed” sets the standard for the modern horror novel, and raises the bar quite high!

– Peter Molnaron, Author

A copy of The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride, was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Lisa Vasquez in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Stitched Smile Publications.

It has been quite a while since I have read anything from Lisa Vasquez. I think this is a combination of me being busy and Lisa being hellish busy setting up Stitched Smile Publications. I have been watching from the wings and this press is putting out some rather nice titles.

The first book I read of Lisa’s was The Unsaintly. I really liked it but it didn’t tick all the boxes for me so I was hoping for a bit more from The Unfleshed.

This is what I thought.

The year is 1348. The Plague is ravaging everything in its wake. In London, Doctor Angus Wulfe is convinced he can find a cure. For this, everyone thinks him a saint. Little do they know the level of depravity that goes on behind his closed doors.

He is in love with Morrigan. When she becomes infected, Wulfe convinces her father that he can save her, as long as he consents to giving Wulfe her hand in marriage.

Is he really Morrigan’s salvation, or is he really going to cause the total destruction of London.

In terms of characters in this one, Angus Wulfe is without doubt the main one. In the times, he is known as an upstanding member of society, purely because he is a doctor. No one truly understands the level of evil lurking inside this man. He is one of the characters I have hated most in my reading career. His sidekick, Marshall, goes along with most of the bad things Wulfe does. But he has a conscience at least. It’s a case of being too afraid to do the right thing. Morrigan is the beauty in this tale opposite Wulfe’s beast. Coming from a well to do family, she is well respected and lusted after by many. She was destined for bigger and better things before the plague hit.

There are a host of other characters that all play their parts extremely well in this tale, but I want to talk more about the writing than the characters in this one.

The plot is simple. Wulfe loves Morrigan but doesn’t stand a hope in hell of ever getting her. Until she gets ill, and he cons her father into his consent to their marriage. He takes Morrigan back to his pad and……….

It sounds simple. It actually sounds a bit like a chick flick, doesn’t it? Ugly boy falls in love with beautiful girl who wouldn’t normally go near him and they end up together. The sort of film you could watch with your mother.

Oh, how very wrong you are!

The previous book I read from Ms Vasquez was very deep. It was confusing at times and the story took a bit of getting used to in terms of how everything came together in the end.

Not this baby. This is horrible. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean it in the most positive way possible. Lisa Vasquez has a really nasty streak in her, in terms of her writing. The previous book was centred around a wholesome girl. This one is centred around, as I said earlier, a character that I hated more than most I have ever read about. He is vile. He is evil personified. If he was standing beside the person you most hated in the world and you had a gun with two bullets and were allowed to shoot them both, you would put both bullets in Wulfe.

The clever thing about this? You wouldn’t hate him as much if it wasn’t for the way Lisa Vasquez has written him. This can only point to one thing. This girl writes good!

The story itself is simplistic, there are no two ways about that. It has the possibility of turning into a rather stale tale but Ms Vasquez keeps the story entertaining and revolting at the same time. Each time you think it is going to go lame, she introduces something else and takes it back to the horrific side of things again by introducing some scenes that I would not like to read whilst eating.

The story develops very well into a fast-paced race against time, for both Wulfe, and those against him.

So why not full marks then? There were a couple of things that I found to be a little off-putting, for want of a better phrase. Even though it is made clear that this story is set it 1348, it felt, to me anyway, like the times got a little bit mixed up. There were a couple of occasions where I found myself believing this was set much later in history and it pulled me out of the story a bit. I have a feeling that I will be the only person alive to think this when reading the book but I need to be honest after all.

I also was a little disappointed in the ending. Again, I am probably being over critical but it felt as if it ended very quickly. A bit rushed.

Putting that aside though, this is a crackin book. Lisa Vasquez has taken some interesting facts from our history and given them a distinctly evil twist, turning this story into a style of horror that some of our ancestral horror writers would be very proud of, if they had written it.

To summarise: a horror tale set in olden times that will thoroughly entertain you while turning your stomach and having you scream for someone to kill the bad guy the whole way through.

General rating:
★★★★ enjoyed this one.

Horror rating:
★★★★ certainly scary.

‘The Unfleshed’ is definitely the scariest thing I’ve read this year. I pride myself on my de-sensitivity to violence and my ability to stomach even the most macabre Rob Zombie flick- but this shook me a little.

From the very first page Vasquez drops us into the proverbial and she doesn’t stop hitting us with gore until somewhere after the second chapter. This is not a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ horror, nor is it a build-you-up-for-five-hundred-pages slow burner. ‘The Unfleshed’ hits you in the face on page one and doesn’t let you go until long after you realise you are dealing with a serial killer. Hard hitting is an understatement. Reading it is almost a dare…you dare yourself to turn the page, you dare yourself to finish the chapter…It would seem that if you want a good scare you need to get this woman to do it.

The cold depth of the male antagonist gives a fresh approach to the serial killer genre. A true killer- an evil maniac; is not Dexter. He is not approachable and friendly, he is not warm and fuzzy and he does not make you laugh. Vasquez has somehow managed to capture the monster without making us want to throw up all over the page. Great work lady, keep paving the way for women in horror.

And one last thing… Do not read this before you go to bed.

– Katriona E MacMillan
(author: Edelwiess; Dark Science )

Discussion: Word Count VS Word Quality

One of the things I encounter a lot when I’m mentoring, or speaking to new authors, is the question, “What’s the average word count for _____?”

It’s not uncommon for new authors to face this daunting question, then fashion their work according to the rule of “word count”. My answer, however, never changes. I tell the, “Focus on the quality of the words, not the word count.”

I know there are naysayers out there who firmly believe in stringent rules for word counts. A novel must be over 60-75k words. Unless it’s in the Fantasy genre. Then we aim higher for 90k words. While these are fair goals to shoot for, it can start to hinder progress. If the author is caught up in shaving, or padding their story, the story itself suffers.

An author needs to be focused on things like character development, story development, timelines, grammar, and plot. Without these, who cares how many words are in between the front and back cover? I’ve encountered a fair amount of books where the story idea is a fantastic one, but the execution is flat. There’s nothing worse than getting your reader hyped for a cool plot then leaving them high and dry.

Essentially, when you put the time into the elements which make a story great, you establish trust between yourself and your reader. They know, no matter how thick, or thin your book is, they are in for a ride. And to be fair, you should always label your book in the correct category once it’s complete. Readers are very particular. When they purchase a book and expect a novel but only get 20k words, they get upset, too. Imagine you’re on the best date of your life, and right in the middle of it, the person turns and says, “I have to go.” Kind of the same thing, here. Especially if they are paying the price of a novel.

Another thing to consider, is editing. Once your story goes to an editor, they will decide whether your story can best be told without the padding, or if it requires more words. The best exercise you can practice, is to audit the words you use.

Ahh, now there’s a word we don’t see often. We all know what editing is, but what is auditing?

For me, auditing is when you take stock of the words you’ve used and ask yourself this question, “Is this a powerful image?”

You want your readers to use all five senses when they read your story. We all have our own ideas of: beautiful, smells bad, dark, ugly. To be honest, it’s all perspective. Why leave it to them to interpret? Instead of saying, “It smelled bad.” Drag the reader kicking and screaming into it with you! Only – you have to be careful. Do not overload them with adjectives. This is what it means when editors say, “show, don’t tell.”

Simple examples:

Instead of, “There were a lot of trees.” 

You could say, “It was a lavish treeline.”

Same amount of words but paints a better picture.

I hope this has helped you in some way. Let me hear your thoughts! Going forward, I’m going to post some exercises, more tips and tricks, as well as anything else I can dig out of my box of treasures. I hope you’ll interact  and share with me. Let me know how something has helped you in the comments below!

lisa
A WOMAN and CREATOR, WEAVER OF DREAMS, TELLER OF TALES, with an IMAGINATION AS DARK AS A RAVEN’S EYE, THE LIBRAE, THE ORACLE … SHE IS; THE HUSHED WHISPER AMONG THE GRAVES, THE CORRUPTOR, THE HERETIC, THE DARQUE HALO

Twitter: @unsaintly  |  Instagram: @unsaintly  |  Website: unsaintly.com

GUEST BLOG! Stuart R. Brogan!

thumbnail_Stuart R Brogan - Author PicHorror authors aren’t real authors. Are they?
By Stuart R Brogan

Having spent the last few years concentrating on my non-fiction, Heathen and Pagan works, it was time to take the tentative, yet exciting steps towards writing my debut horror / thriller. Something I had been eager to do for a very long time.

As I sat in front of my computer, staring blankly at the screen, my head full of sinister plots and monstrous acts, it suddenly occurred to me that not everyone would understand the burning need to write something that contained violence, murder and gore. The fact that I hadn’t read any horror since the early nineties had made me somewhat insular, so in effect, I was weaving my words in a vacuum.

As I began the first chapter I was acutely aware that not everyone would enjoy or endorse such a book. But why? Was it down to personal taste, or something deeper, such as social dogma and genre misconceptions? As the doubt began to merge with my own insecurities, I found myself thinking if the anti-horror squad had a valid point. Is writing horror a sub-standard form of literary prowess or is there an art to creating life and death scenarios with heart stopping protagonists, that make some people scared to read the book alone and others to shy away completely?

I have to admit that my curiosity was running wild, so in a blink of an eye, I found myself surfing the net and absorbing forum after forum, searching for the answers.
The first thing that struck me was the number of experts declaring that writing horror was inferior and that any author who partook in such pursuits was nothing more than an amateur, a second-rate pretender who failed to make the grade at writing more intellectual works. Of course, these paragons of literary excellence conveniently negated to mention the likes of Stephen King or Dean R Koontz, and the swathe of other big name authors plying their, very successful, trade within the genre. As I followed the threads, I couldn’t help but be somewhat dismayed by the lack of respect levied at such authors, in fact I started to get a little wound up.

To attempt to answer such questions, we must first rewind the clock.

Regardless of genre, the publishing world has gone through a seismic and radical change since the 90’s. I can vividly recall reading about big advances, multi book deals and reasonably high sales figures, as well as publishing houses willing to take more risks regarding the books they released. Fast forward to modern times and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the big boys are now playing it safe and that it is now even harder to secure a traditional publishing deal, let alone hit the big time with a best seller.

Could this be due to the rise and ease of self-publishing. or is it cyclic in nature? With this in mind, and faced with a sudden influx of availability, it is obvious that the big boys would want to streamline their assets and only back the books that will guarantee big returns. Obviously, movie tie ins are a sure-fire way to get the cash registers ringing, but was there any specific genre that could deliver when others were found floundering and was there some sort of magic formula?

As with everything, the answer was, timing. As we all know, the publishing world goes through phases or crazes, one week it could be adult erotica (such as Fifty Shades) and next month Young Adult (Twilight). As frustrating and soul destroying as it is, the cold stark truth to having a hugely successful novel is all about having the right product, at the right time, regardless of the quality of such material.

So how does this affect those of us that dwell on the fringes of modern literature? The ones creating nightmares and shining the spotlight on mankind’s darkest fears? The answer may very well be subjective but in my humble opinion, the time of the horror novel will once again rear its ugly and demented head, thus becoming a viable and lucrative product for the masses.

Just take the monumental explosion of horror based fictional programs flooding our television screens; they are without a doubt fuelling the public’s appetite for darker material. One only has to look at the popularity of The Walking Dead or American Horror Story to see what I mean. I wonder if those same doom Sayers berating the genre are eating humble pie now, for someone had to write the episodes and get paid big for doing it!

Between the surge in self-publishing and the publics new found craving for terror, not to mention the readily available technology to promote and sell our wares, is it any wonder that there are more and more authors’ not only releasing their material but releasing horror?

Granted, most could be considered subpar and below the level required by the most ardent fan, but the fact that the genre is growing at an exponential rate is both exciting, and encouraging for authors and fans alike. With the scene once again flourishing it is only a matter of time before the big boys once again see the merit in snapping up the hottest new horror authors and show the world that it cannot only be a money maker, but a genre worthy of praise, not ridicule.

When all is said, and done, there will always be authors who specialise in horror, and fans who demand it. Regardless if they are self-published or backed by some corporate monster. From a personal perspective, my journey writing horror has only just begun and to say I am nervous is an understatement.

As I look around at today’s scene, I am blown away by the talent on offer. Back in the 90’s, if you weren’t signed to a big publishing house, no-one would ever have heard about you. Now, everyone can get their name out there, myself included.

I tried the big boys, in the hopes of scoring that elusive multi book deal but was unsuccessful for the most part. I did get one offer but turned it down due to terms. Some may call me foolish but I dance to no-ones tune but my own. Will that be to my detriment? Only time will tell, but for now I am happy to write and to get my work out there to people who enjoy a good story. Extreme, supernatural, contemporary the list of sub-genre choices is endless, as is the quality of the genre as a whole and those who create it.

So then, are horror writer’s real authors?
Damn right we are, and our time is coming.

thumbnail_Jackals - CoverFrom the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.