Snippets 001 (pt 1)

In Stitched Smile Publications, we practice our craft often. This is our way of exercising the part of our brain that translates other worlds into “ink”. I call them “snippets” because my time is limited for my own writing so you may get a few words here and there as I take a break from major projects and works in progress. Please keep in mind, these are not edited. They are off-the-cuff and raw.

Enjoy
~L

 

chud-photography-by-tina-enosThey were all sitting around the kitchen table for Corey’s birthday dinner. The scratching from under the door made it all the more awkward as did their best pretending not to hear it.  The boy, who’d been working on a piece of tough steak for nearly five minutes, would stop chewing when the scratching started, then start again when it’d stop.

scratch, scratch, scratch…

Letting out a sigh, he hung his head down in defeat. Ground up meat still stuffed in one cheek, the boy stared down at his plate. Mashed potatoes stared back at him. Pushing his fork into them, he watched as the starchy vegetable oozed through the tines.

“Don’t play with your food, boy,” his father said. The pasty faced man never looked up from his plate to chastise his son.

“Yes, Pa.”

It was his birthday today. He thought, if he was obedient enough Ma would let him listen to the old record player in the living room of their rickety home. Once in awhile, he’d be allowed to go out back to swing for a few minutes on the rusted swing. His mother, watching from the picture windows would whisper, “Don’t go too high, boy.”

Cory would nod respectfully, but once he started to pump his legs, the excitement of being out in the air coupled with the sensation of flying, it’d get away from him. Swinging as hard and as high as he could, he was free. The memory of the wind on his cheeks and the smell of the outside air pulled him in and swept him away … until it started again.

Scratch, scratch, scratch…

Still holding the bite of tough steak in his mouth, his throat constricted making it any attempt to swallow useless. Reaching for his glass, Corey took a big gulp of water to help wash it down.

Ma was watching him like a mother bird in silence, the lines of worry creasing her porcelain features. Leaning in toward him, Pa’s hand smacked down on the brittle wooden table sending a jolt through the both of them. Leaning back in her seat, Ma wiped her mouth with a napkin without a word.

Scratch, Scratch, Scratch!

Waiting until Pa finished the last bite of food on his plate, they all sat around the table in in painful silence. Whether they were finished or not, when Pa was done, they were done. It was just the way it was. Fixing her eyes on Pa’s hands, she waited for the cue. As soon as Pa rested his eating utensils on his napkin, Ma jumped out of her seat and collected them with his plate.

Tonight was different.

When Pa was done with his dinner, he lifted his bloodshot eyes and gazed at Cory’s mother. Using the tip of his knife, he used it to pick at his teeth, and sucking at them.

“G’on,” he said, “Get the boy his desert.”

Pa had a funny smile on his face that made Cory’s spine go soft. Ma tried to smile but Cory could see she was scared.


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Women in Horror: Donelle Pardee Whiting (Pt 1)

I’m not going to do an interview for this. I already know Donelle. Not only is she my Editor-in-Chief (so I’m probably going to get slapped around for doing this post without her final “OK”), she’s one of my best friends.

I started Stitched Smile Publications in January of 2016. I’m proud to say that in a genre-world dominated by men, this company is mostly women. It was not intentionally created that way. I was merely blessed with finding that many talented women who wanted to help me. I put out a call, the women answered. (By the way, men. There’s always a call for help out there if you’d like to even the playing field!)

Donelle is not only a fantastic editor. She’s an awesome writer. She co-authored Strigoi: The First Family and Strychnine, with Michael S. Freeman. She also has a short story in Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies, and will have more coming up this year. I’m excited and honored to have her, and her works as part of the Stitched Smile Publications catalog.

One of Donelle’s strongest points is how good she makes the rest of us look. Indie publishing is filled with editing snafus and with Donelle’s help, we ensure that all of our books get combed through for all the nits and bugs. No one’s perfect … but bestie comes damn close.

Donelle has worked as a investigative journalist in the past and it gives her that curious edge that I love about her. She’s constantly poking for the “Why” and the “Who” of our work. She analyzes it down to the basic word structure, but also loves it from the reader’s point of view. She listens to the author’s voice and helps them fine tune it until the voice is strong and polished.

At SSP, we call Donelle, “The Gate Keeper” (better looking than Zuul, by a landslide) because nothing passes until she’s got every nook and cranny shined up, cleaned up and ready for print. That amount of pride and respect, not only for the author, but for me and SSP as a whole, is hard to come by. It is one of the million reasons I love her.

Editors don’t get enough credit. So I’m beginning this February’s Women in Horror with an homage to the amazing Donelle Pardee Whiting. Keep tuning in and find out more and if you can’t wait here’s a link to keep you tied over.

DONELLE PARDEE WHITING

See you Feburary 1st! Keep it scary.

 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: Amazon We Have A Problem!

Image result for pink floyd the wall

In the pursuit of the American Dream, authors of the Indie persuasion are being held back and consumers are being censored.

Listen, I get it OK? One rotten apple ruins the bunch and people are going to do stupid things to get ahead. Like have fake reviews on their books, for a start.

Thank you Amazon.com but I think we got this!  We don’t need you to police our words or our readers. We’re quite certain that we’re capable of reading reviews and using your “Look Inside” feature. We don’t need you to put a bubble of protection around us and ensure we don’t get “hurt” by reading a book with 300, 5 star reviews we didn’t dig deeper on. It is on our own shoulders if we don’t use your features, already put into place, to see if this really is a book we’d enjoy.

Oh! And guess what else you’re doing? You’re effin’ up the algorithm! How? Well, it’s quite obvious (to a mind with an IQ over 25) – if you read a book that has 300, 5 stars and you come to realize it’s a sham you can (gasp) review it or return it.

I know, right? What is that all about! It’s ingenious!

Adults, adulting is amazing!

(rolling eyes)

OK. I think I’m breathing normally again. The point is this. All the readers who complain about getting a bad book should be reviewing it, and/or returning it. Amazon needs to keep their assumptions in a neat little locked box and stop messing with the algorithm of economy. They take down reviews of people who have the same address?? As if people can’t live in the same building (college dorm? shared house? roommates?) and review a product separately. I’d like to see this kind of behavior happening on a Harry Potter book. Four siblings and two parents and only one can review? Opinions aren’t “hive minded”.

How about the algorithm involved in the struggling small business?

You’re promoting monopolies. You’re adding a censor on what the public wants to read because we aren’t making you millions (yet) individually … but I’m afraid you’re missing out on the millions we make collectively for you (even the bad books). And because of that, I’ll be encouraging all my authors who self publish, all the Indie publishers who are ethical with their business and editing practices, and all my readers who truly love the authors they’ve discovered … to go someplace else. Heed my words. Readers are loyal. Very, very loyal.

Today it may only be five books. Tomorrow it’ll be 10. Eventually, the movement will catch on and you’ll be feeling the dent in your deep, Big Brother pockets.

I hear Google knocking and perhaps Barnes & Noble. I’m sure they’d be happy to pick up where you guys are lacking.

Sort your sh!t out, Amazon. Until then, my business will go elsewhere. I prefer to support small businesses and communities, not corporate monsters.

#smallbusiness #indiewriters #indiepublishers #amreading #amwriting #GoogleBooks #writers

Roller Coaster Muse

I realized that it’s almost August and once more life caught up with me. Each time it does, I’m reminded of the Ferris Bueller quote, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Such is the life of an author turned publisher. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but that means sometimes my own projects take a back seat. If it weren’t so rewarding I would’ve thrown in the towel by now.

In the last six months, I’ve been involved with over 40 authors within my own company (Stitched Smile Publications, you can find the link here) and seen the growth of almost all of them since coming in contact with the company. It makes me feel proud. I’m doing something for other authors out there just trying to chase a dream that isn’t too far out of reach with a little guidance. We’re by no means making them millionaires, but we’re making them rich with experience and I’m OK with that.

As for me, I’m nearly finished with my next novel, “The Unfleshed”. I had hoped to have it out by the end of July but that crazy thing called “Life” is like a roller coaster with three wheels. It’s so close I can feel the pages in my hand. Thanks to Jeff Brown (A.K.A. A.J. Brown) pushing me, the story is even better than I originally thought it could be.

Other than that, I’ve dealt with my two younger siblings’ health issues. Both within a month of one another. Very scary, serious things that made me take a wider look at my life. I’m only 43. I have an entire life ahead of me if I take care of the one I have. I’ve always eaten right, usually pretty good about working out and staying active…but there are times when Life is just a hag and I can’t push through a day, a week, or even a month without some kind of thorn in my side.

I’m trying to juggle a few things, and while some people think I should not be doing that, those are the things that make me happy. I take care of everyone else, so it is my firm belief that there has to be things that make me happy, too.

I design book covers for Indie Authors while looking for that golden ticket to the big house names (of course, that’s where the real money is), I started my own publishing house and it’s growing by the day, I write, and sometimes I even sit around and do nothing just to clear the cache from my brain. It doesn’t leave much else after my daily duties are done but it’s my little slice of heaven.

You see, I do this because I Love it. Not for the money or the fame. If you’re doing anything for those reasons, you’ll find out on your own how empty that really is. I’m lucky that my personality is such that I’ll never do anything I don’t love whether it’s accounting, working out, filling out spreadsheets, meeting new authors, formatting books, orientations for new hires, etc. Everything I do, I have to love or I’ll move on. I won’t waste mine or anyone else’s time, and most people appreciate that. (Admittedly, there’s been some that would rather push me through things that I don’t enjoy. It never works out in the end.)

The point to all of this is, I suppose, is that I sit back and wonder where the heck all the time has gone. I wanted a relaxing summer by the pool, soaking up rays. I think I’ve gone a total of 4x since the end of May and it’s already August! The pools are starting to wind down and close for the winter (although, hello? I live in Texas! Why are they closed???)

It’s August. And I’m panicked.

Did I accomplish everything I wanted with my writing?
With my Pub House?
With my Family?
With my Book Design Goals?
With my Friends?
With my Personal Development?

Ugh. Someone stop this crazy ride. Just for a minute so I can throw up on the side of the car and get back on.

I keep taking a slow deep breath and whispering, “I can do this.” I know I can do this. I know it because I won’t allow myself to fail. I won’t allow anyone else who sits in the roller coaster with me to fail either.

So here I sit, staring at the horizon of this big, crazy world from the top of the ride. Around me is everything. I can see it. From here it’s small and attainable. Do you know what they call this in Physics? “Maximum Potential.” And every three months or so, I start back at this point. It doesn’t matter what you end the first ride at, the point is that you get back in line and you start here, at the Maximum Potential, again.

Then you ride that first loop! The thrill, the excitement, the confusion…all of it tossing you around as you watch the world whirl by you with your stomach in your throat and your hands in the air!

You take a deep breath, wipe away the tears of exhilaration and pass through the bottom of that loop: Maximum Kinetic energy. Kinetic Energy:  the energy that it possesses due to its motion.

Stop.
Re-Read that.

“The energy that is possesses due to it’s motion.”

Are you busy looking back? Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’? Or are your eyes on the next turn and twist of the ride? Are you going to be taken off guard? Are your eyes closed? What’s coming next and are you ready for it?

Each loop of a roller coaster is slightly less exciting than those first two. Sure there are a few surprises, but as the car moves, it loses energy so that it can coming to a stopping point without catapulting you out into the stratosphere. A stopping point is a good thing. Because it let’s you catch your breath, re-assess, and redirect where necessary.

Like now. I’m reflecting on my year. What was great, and what was not-so-great, so that I can aim for the future…remember that first gaze at the world from the beginning of the roller coaster? What was it that caught your eye? Do you still want it?

You see that’s where most people get caught up. They see the shiny in the distance, they reach for it but there’s no plan for after they’ve either acquired it …or missed it. There’s no plan for whether it was really what they thought it was going to be upon closer inspection. The ride may have ended there for you and there is no desire to go for another round. You’ve lost steam and “energy” because you burned it off and there’s nothing left.

My life is definitely a roller coaster and I choose to change the ride, not the scenery. What does yours look like? Do you get back in line? What is it you see when you’re at the top, at the beginning, and reaching out?

Authors and the Readers: The Bond

Authors have a very personal relationship with readers. It’s intimate in the way a love song can produce children whoare conceived to a verse drifting in and out between a couple lulled into a moment bursting with romance (okay-okay, usually angst filled and passionate). It can bring a person to rock bottom, or bring them higher than the clouds. Same with writing, and the person behind the ink.  Their words can change a life, invoke a movement, inspire, and at the same time they can reach a silent piece of your soul the reader thought no one could ever find. 

For those reasons alone, readers feel a connection and cling to this invisible bond. So why is it that many “big” authors are so elusive? 

I can think of a few reasons.  Writers are introverted a lot of the times.  Socially awkward. Have the luxury of anonymity. Our they’ve been scared emotionally by a scene where, in Stephen King’s novel MISERY, the author is kidnapped, tortured, and forced to write a story the way a fan insists it should be written.  I admit the last reason is pretty compelling. 

However, indie authors have no other way to gain support unless they have a large sum of money to advertise. They do author take overs, they do guest blogs, they run their own author pages, etc.

You may think I’m complaining but actually I’m excited about this.  I mean if the Queen of the Vampires, Anne Rice,  can be on her own Facebook page engaging loving fans then I see no reason that every author cannot, or will not, do the same.

If you’re in bed with your reader, (doesn’t everyone read in bed? ) you can at least chat with them when they come in contact with you.  In this digital age of accessibility, anyone not establishing a bond with a fan/reader is missing an opportunity. Not only to create loyalty…but in creating friendship and a source of support.

Gone are the days of being aloof, and elusive. Here are the days of being genuine and inviting.  Get to know your readers. They are your primary investors,  and occupy chairs on your board.  If you lose your readers, you might as well hang up your quill.

Introducing Stitched Smile Publications!

Hey everyone! First I’d like to thank everyone for all the support you’ve always provided me. I’ve begun a kickstart for my new company. I’ve been involved in so many smaller things the last few years that many probably think I’m ADD. That’s partially true but all those little side projects have led me here. Money that I’ve made prior to now has gone into releasing and marketing The Unsaintly, and gaining the right programs and hands on experience with the publishing world. I’m by no means an expert but I’ve helped a lot of people and I’ve worked even harder to establish a reputation of having good work ethic, being reliable and of course being honest.

This year has been a hard one for a lot of you so my request is that if you cannot, or don’t feel comfortable, helping me with this company monetarily would you please do something as small as sharing this link?

The company has evolved on it’s own without me even saying a word. My staff is amazing, I have fantastic friends, and so much faith and encouragement from everyone..that I already have FOUR books just waiting to be produced and placed in your hands. We also have a magazine that’s set to make its debut in about 2 weeks.

All of this I’ve done with with my own funds.

Thank you again for all of your continued support!

Zombie Book of the Month Award – All Things Zombie: The Gathering Horde

Congratulations to all of my fellow contributors (many first timers!) who I sit alongside of and share the honor of our first award!

**December 2014 Zombie Book of the Month**
**All Things Zombie: The Gathering Horde anthology**

To join their group, follow this LINK.
To purchase your own copy, please follow this LINK.

Kick ass job, everyone!!