Published Author, Self Publishing, Writing

Why Your Four-Star Review Sucks!

Ok, I’m going to jump right in here and vent. As an independent author, reviews mean so much. Seriously, every time I release a book, or someone tells me they’ve read one of my books, the first thing out of my mouth is always, “Thank you.” The second thing is, “Will you please leave a review?” Most of the time people say yes, but also most of the time, they don’t do it even if they said yes. I’ve had to get my mind past that and not take offense. At first, I thought if they’ve agreed to it and haven’t left a review, they must hate it. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people just don’t leave reviews. They don’t want their name out there, or they’re not comfortable leaving one. I understand that, so I move on… but that doesn’t stop me from asking.

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I’ve been told that in order to feel like I’m not alone in this world of writing and self-publishing, that I should connect with other writers. I’ve tried that, and I follow quite a few on social media and they follow me back. But I’ve never felt a full connection with other writers. I’ve been in groups, and I see people connecting and talking about how they love each other’s books, and I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in. What I’m constantly irritated by is the 4-star reviews I see writers giving other writers. I have seen more than one person lately talking on social media about being banned from Amazon or being reported on Amazon for leaving bad reviews. If you’re a beta reader and you’re giving poor reviews, you deserve to be blocked and reported. Seriously, WTF? Especially if you’re a fellow author. What’s the point when you yourself are striving for 5-star reviews, yet you’re so stingy with them and even go so far as to boast about the fact that you only leave 4-star reviews on principle? What’s your principle? Do you hold some special status in the literary world that we don’t know about? Do you feel better about yourself for withholding that one star? For the love of God! If you’re another author, you know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into writing, editing, then self-publishing a book. Not to mention marketing! For those efforts alone, you should be giving 5 stars. Even today, I saw a review that an author left for another author. She posted it on Instagram. Of course, she only gave it 4 stars, then she went on to insult the plot, and even added, “insert eyeroll here” in her review. And the author she reviewed actually thanked her for that?!?!

This is why I don’t want to connect with other authors. For some of you, that 5th star may not be a big deal. For me, if I know you’re also a writer and you’ve held back that final star, I think you’re a jerk. A big, fat, hairy jerk! One of my recent books got a 4-star review… not only from another writer, but from one who had read all of the other books in the series and given me 5 stars. She not only withheld that star, but she insulted my writing. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that because now I’m fired up about that. How rude! My first instinct was to turn around and do the same thing to her, but I have more class than that.

I can think of at least 5 people I’m connected with who wear their “4 stars only” rule as a badge of pride. Not that they give a crap, but I don’t think that makes them seem intelligent or hold them in higher regard because if they happen to give me that 5th star, I’ll bow to them. Pfftt, hell no. I just roll my eyes and vow to never buy/read/review any of their books. Sidenote… I know of someone who bought The Art Of Zen and she’s a 4-star stickler. I’m thankful she bought my book, but I don’t want her to review it. Especially since I bought her book and gave her a 5-star review before I ever knew this about her.

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I know some who read this are probably thinking, “Geez, lady. Get over it and move on, it’s only a review.” That’s true. But this is my blog so I can vent about whatever I want. 4 stars is a good review, but if you’re willing to give it 4, there’s no reason not to give it 5. Oh, and another thing! My very first 4-star review on my debut novel was from someone who is not a writer, but a childhood friend. They have a strange screen name, so I didn’t know who it was. But I dug and I figured it out. I was shocked, and hurt… and 4 years later, I’m still irritated by it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fellow authors and people who have known you since you were 8 years old, shouldn’t be jerks when leaving a review.

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Just my point of view… If we’re all in this together, we should lift each other up and give praise, especially if we want it in return. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

Published Author, Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

My Exquerience – Agents Are People Too

I’ve sent out two queries so far this year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but let me tell you, there is a lot of work that goes into each one. I’ve said this before… it can be very daunting submitting to an agent for a few reasons. First and foremost, sharing my work with anyone is daunting. Even now, four years into the self-publishing game, I still get a little sick to my stomach when my editor reads my work, and more so when I publish. To submit my work to an agent, a total stranger who I’m asking to take me on, is beyond nerve wracking!

It’s also daunting because each agency is different when it comes to their submission guidelines. I know I’ve touched on this before… it’s not like a huge job website where you upload a resume and start quick applying to every listing in the hopes to get an interview. Each one is specific in what they want. Some have a form that you fill out, some want an email with the first 25 or 50 pages attached as a document. And some want you to include everything in the body of the email. They make it very clear that if you miss one step of their guidelines, they won’t look at you. I get it, they want to make sure people are paying attention and researching the agents, but damn! I’ve had executive assistant jobs that required less attention to detail! I’m a writer, the details are in my stories!

As I was researching the agent I will submit to for the month of May, and of course, getting into my head about how superior these people are to me and that I’ll never be smart enough for them… I told myself to shut up. The agent photos are one extreme to the other. They either look like scholars who are going to look down on me, or they look young enough to be my child, and I’m intimidated by both! I had to remind myself that they’re people, too.

They put their pants on one leg at a time, they breathe the same air that I do. They do all the same things that anyone does, because they’re people! What a revelation! They get colds, they get hungry, they smile when something makes them happy, and cry when something makes them sad. They have ups and downs like we all do. They get breakouts, they have insecurities, they use the bathroom! Insert gasp here! How many times when we were growing up, did we think that teachers never went to the bathroom, and when we found out that they did in fact, use the bathroom just like us, we were floored? Agents, much like teachers, also use the bathroom! For the love of God, people, they poop!

What a silly thing to realize, right? Maybe, but it helped, and I know it will continue to help me through My Exquerience, to remember, that agents are people, too. Now I just have to get one to sign me on, find a huge publisher that has been wondering where I’ve been, and have my stories made into a movie or a series on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus… well, you get the idea. Until then, I will keep submitting and of course, keep sharing my journey with you!

Thanks for following My Exquerience!

Novel, Published Author, Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

First Query Sent!

Query Sent!

Welcome to my Exquerience! I finally sent my first query letter of the year. Let me start by saying, yikes! As soon as I hit “submit” I told my daughter I needed a Pepto Bismal martini! (Side note… it’s actually a thing. I just looked it up. Eww! Here’s the Google search.) But really, my stomach was in knots, my hands were trembling, my knees were shaking… but I did it!

The thing is, I’m fully expecting a rejection, so I don’t know why I’m so nervous. Scratch that, yes, I do know why I’m so nervous. Because this means everything to me! Writing has become like breathing to me. I feel suffocated when I’m not doing it. My goal is to get representation and be published traditionally, so putting myself out there to find an agent is daunting. Plus, I think anyone who puts themself out there and is trying to reach a goal, no matter what that goal is, understands the anxiety it creates.

It took me a while to get it all together. A new bio, a brief synopsis, the query letter, and the number of pages required for the submission. I’m hoping now that I’ve compiled what’s needed for most queries, and saved the document, that future queries will be a smoother process with minor tweaks for what the agent requests. My goal is to submit one letter a month, hopefully more as I get more comfortable and of course, stop procrastinating!

As my dear friend tells me, the one with the most rejections wins! I love that because it means I’m trying. I’m putting myself out there and that’s a huge, huge step! Honestly, with how reclusive and shy I’ve become, I wonder how I ever stood on a stage and belted out a tune. I guess there’s just something magical about standing on a stage that brings that out in me, but I’m more comfortable telling the tale than acting it out.

I’ll keep submitting, and until I get an agent, I’ll keep writing and self-publishing. Speaking of which… my new book is now available!

Where We Belong is available in both print and digital form. I hope you check it out, and I hope you leave a positive review.

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next exquerience!

Novel, Published Author, Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

Query Time… Take Two!

Welcome to the third blog post that chronicles my query experience… or as I like to call it, My Exquerience! Last time I posted, I wrote about how I was feeling twitchy just thinking about the possibility of sending a query letter. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there no matter what you’re doing! I take those nerves as a good sign. Back in the day… yes, I just said back in the day… when I was doing theater, I was always a bundle of nerves before I got on stage. I would pace, my hands would tremble, and I’d feel sick to my stomach. I’m surprised I never actually got sick before I performed, because that’s how badly the nerves would get me. But every time I stepped on that stage, all those nerves melted away and turned into energy for a good performance. Over time, I took those nerves to be a good thing. The rare times I felt chill before I went on stage, it wasn’t a stellar performance. So, I’m embracing my twitchiness.

Ok, I know I just recapped my last post, so I’ll move on. The book I was going to query was The Art of Zen. My first standalone novel. Well, I started looking at the query form, and it requests word count. In my research, all agents request word count. I got twitchy again. Zen is a long novel. Really long. Research says that a debut novel should only be 80,000 to 100,000 words. Well, even though Zen is not my debut novel, it would probably be considered a debut because I’ve never been traditionally published.

I pondered the situation and reached out to a few friends. Should I fudge the wordcount in the hopes that an agent will request the entire manuscript and fall in love with it? Outright lie? Or should I tell them the honest truth and hope they give me a chance? I knew what the right thing was, and that’s what I was told. Tell the truth. There’s no sense in lying when you’re trying to build a potential relationship with someone. I get it… and I felt guilty for even thinking of lying. So, if you happen to be reading this and you’re a literary agent, I apologize. I’m only human.

The dilemma is that Zen is over 200,000 words. Yup, you read that right. I write big books, and I cannot lie! (You rapped that, didn’t you?) After a long discussion with my editor, here’s what I came up with. I’m going to reread The Art of Zen and turn it into two books. Yay! More time with Tia and Spencer. I’m also going to re-edit my baby, Set It Free, and put that on my “To Query” list. In the meantime, I’m going to query Where We Belong, since it’s about half the size of Zen. It’s also releasing on March 23rd, so make sure to check it out!

Yesterday, I was supposed to work on my query for Where We Belong, but I hit a snag uploading the cover. I finally got it uploaded last night and it should be good to go. Now I can focus on shouting it out, and on reworking my query letter.

It’s a lot of work, and a total labor of love. But guess what? I love it! I’m in the midst of writing the third book in the Where We Belong trilogy. I just love this group of characters and I can’t wait to share them with all of you!

Thanks for reading, and for joining me on My Exquerience!

Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

Feeling Twitchy

I recently wrote about the journey I’m going on in finding a literary agent. My Query Experience, or as I like to call it, My Exquerience.

The goal is to do something every Wednesday, whether it’s search for an agent, work on the actual query letter, or submit a query. Well, this morning, I opened my handy dandy spreadsheet that I’ve created of a list of agents who might be a good fit. I clicked on the link to the one at the top of my list, read her submission guidelines… and almost threw up.

Seriously! Even as I’m writing this, my hands are shaking, and I have that rush of nervous adrenaline coursing through my veins. I haven’t even sent anything, or filled out her submission form, and I’m shaking like it’s opening night and I’ve forgotten all my lines. And it’s not even Wednesday! I’m just trying to set myself up for a strong tomorrow.

I guess it’s a good thing. I always say, no matter how many books I publish, I still get sick to my stomach when I think about people reading my work. I tell myself, that if I’m feeling twitchy, it means I care. Well, I must really care about finding a literary agent, because I haven’t been this nervous in years!

If I’ve learned anything since I’ve published my first novel, and in marketing myself on social media, it’s this. Does it make you nervous? Do it anyway. Does is make you sick to your stomach? Do it anyway. Are you afraid people are going to roll their eyes, laugh at you, or gossip about you behind your back? Do it anyway. You get the gist. No matter how it makes you feel, all those uncomfortable, scary feelings. Just do it, because you’ll always wonder, what if… I don’t want those what ifs in my life. I know the rejections are there. I’m expecting them, and embracing them.

I’m also embracing this twitchiness that I’m feeling. I’m going to sit with it for a while and visit these emotions. I’d offer them a cup of coffee, but I think the last thing this vibrating energy needs is more caffeine. This is important to me. So very important. I want this. And if wanting this means there’s a whole lot of twitchy going on, then so be it.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow, I submit the first query of 2022!

Queries, Self Publishing, Writing

The Query Experiment

At the end of 2021, I was talking to a good friend. She’s been a huge supporter of my writing and did a full creative edit on my very first book, Set It Free. We go way back… about 25 years ago (Yikes!) we did dinner theater together and we’ve stayed good friends ever since. When I first told her I wanted to write, we had a long conversation about how I wanted to publish. Would I pursue an agent, or would I publish independently? I chose to go the Indie route. Not because I didn’t want to face the expected rejections until I find the right agent, I chose it for a few reasons.

  • I wanted full control of my book
  • I wanted to write and publish it ASAP
  • I didn’t want to have wait years to hold it in my hands

There are other reasons, but of course I can’t think of them right now. I’ll add them in as they come to me.

Since I decided to self-publish, I’ve published 5 books, and my 6th book will be out on March 23, 2022. (In all honesty, I’ve published 6 books and my 7th book will be out in March. There was a collaboration in there that isn’t to be spoken of.) It’s been quite a ride! There have been many moments of frustration, impatience, work overload, and of course tears. Lots and lots of tears. At this point I’ve just accepted that it’s all part of the process. Even though I’ve been proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished, there has always been a part of me that wants to be represented by an agent and have my work picked up by a major publishing house. Well, just like I remember in my acting years that the parts weren’t going to come to me, I had to go find them, I am now telling myself the same thing about an agent. It’s time to go find one.

My plan was to start sending out queries at the beginning of 2022. As I’m writing this, it’s now March 2, 2022, and I haven’t done anything yet. Another friend of mine has frequently asked where I am in this process. I told her nowhere. I’m procrastinating, because it’s what I do best as a writer. She challenged me to set aside time every Wednesday to work on it and send at least one a month. I like that idea. It seems doable. Yet here I am, on the first Wednesday of March and instead of querying, I’m blogging.

The thing is, sending a query is not only daunting, but queries are also hard. It’s not like a job resume that you update and upload to Indeed and put it out there into cyberspace and hope for offers. No. You have to tailor each letter to the specifics that each agent wants. It’s a lot of work. It feels like editing. I loathe editing.

I know rejections are part of the process and as my creative editor/dinner theater actor friend likes to say, “The person with the most rejections wins!” Meaning, I can’t get rejected if I’m not trying. Those rejections are badges of honor that I’m putting myself out there in the hopes to find my agent.

So, here we go. Today begins what I’m calling, my “Exquerience”. I’m going to document this journey as I search for an agent and I’m going to share it all. The good, the bad, the ugly, and those rejections. Wish me luck!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Days 5-13

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I just finished day 13 of the 21 Days of Wisdom course I started at the beginning of the month. At first, I thought I’d journal every single day, but then I stopped. Why, you may ask? For a few reasons.

  1. I wondered if anyone was truly interested in reading about what I was doing every day with this workshop. Since I’ve had a bit of traction with my posts, maybe people are interested. But I stopped documenting every day because I didn’t want to be boring and repetitive.
  2. There have been a few workshops that have been in-depth and I honestly wouldn’t know what to write about since I’m not an expert on the techniques being led.
  3. I was trying to participate and jot down notes at the same time and I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it that way.
  4. I decided to be completely present in the workshops, then write about it later.

So, what’s happened in days 5-13? Honestly, I can’t put it into words. I feel a personal victory that I’ve made it this far. Showing up is half the battle. A lot of the breathing techniques take focus and I’ve realized I don’t have a lot of focus. This workshop is helping me in that area.

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I’ve learned different mantras, how to stay present in a moment, and as I mentioned different breathing techniques. It’s been very interesting. Not all days are Zen and Om, some days I feel very warm and energized after a workshop and that’s pretty amazing to me since all of it is done sitting down.

But, most of all, after every workshop, I feel calm. I think that’s a beautiful state of mind, to feel calm, especially in our world right now.

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I’ve alternated using essential oils in Clary Sage and Lavender. I also have been lighting incense for the workshop, also alternating between the scents of Sandalwood and Lavender. Can you see a pattern? I love Lavender!

I won’t be doing a daily post, but I will follow up on this workshop once it’s complete. One more week to go, then I’ll get back to writing about writing. Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Day 4

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I just finished Day 4 of 21 Days of Wisdom. Today we started class with a small chat about how we’re liking the course. Since it’s so early in the morning and a weekend, I stayed off camera but was happy to contribute via audio. It’s nice to interact with others who are also on this journey.

As it seems will be the pattern, a mantra and a breathing exercise were included. Today’s mantra was, Om Namah Shivaya. This mantra is associated with qualities of prayer, divine-love, grace, truth, and blissfulness. When done correctly, it allegedly calms the mind and brings spiritual insight and knowledge.¬† (FYI, I didn’t come up with that pearl of wisdom, I read it on Wikipedia.)

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The breathing was challenging again. You might read that and think, “Really, how hard is it to breathe?” Well, depending on how controlled the breathing is, or the rhythm of it, it can be quite challenging. Today’s breathing was very energizing. There were frequent moments where I stumbled. I’m learning that’s ok. I’ve never done this before so I can’t expect to be perfect. I’m allowing myself the grace and patience to learn, and I think that is growth right there! Any time I found myself stumbling, I paused, watched the instructor, then jumped back in.

At the end of today’s session, I felt cleansed and energized, almost as if I had worked out. Tomorrow is going to be ceremonial. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m anxious to find out. So, come back tomorrow and see what it is!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re enjoying my thoughts on this course. Make sure to check out my other posts for my thoughts on writing, and while you’re at it, check out my books!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Day 3

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I just finished today’s lesson of 21 Days of Wisdom. We all know… at least we should… that it takes 21 days to break a habit or form a new habit. That’s the premise of this lesson, along with the cycle of the moon and the days getting shorter. I’m sure the very educated instructor would have a lovelier way of saying that, but I’m new to this, so this is what you get!

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One of the breathing exercises we did today included what I learned yesterday, the fire breath. Today we did a technique where we put our hand to our third eye, and with our thumb, held one nostril closed while we practiced the breathing. As the instructor said, there would be more clarity on one side over the other, meaning one of your nostrils is going to be clear and one will feel stuffed up. She wasn’t wrong. We started with breathing from the left nostril, and that was fine. Nice and clear, I found a good rhythm of breathing and felt calm and centered. When we moved to the right side, I struggled. I didn’t realize how stuffed up I was and trying to only breathe from that side made me feel a little panic. Obviously, I know that I can stop any time I want, but I wanted to see it through. I really want to take this meditation seriously and learn everything I can. So, I kept at it and went very slow. I also took breaks when needed… any time I felt panic that I couldn’t breathe, I paused and came out of the pose, then went back into it after a few seconds.

The next exercise we did was a mantra, Alakh Niranjan. This was interesting, and she suggested we use this mantra any time we feel like we’re stepping back into old habits. We said it out loud, then we whispered it, then we went silent with a subtle back and forth shift of our bodies and kept the mantra going in our minds. After a few minutes of this, we reversed the process and went from a whisper to a chant.

I know I’m only 3 days into this course, but I enjoy it and hope to make every live class. She emails a link to download a replay, but I like the consistency of doing it with her first thing in the morning. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, all participants have their camera and microphones off, so we can’t see each other. I tend to either get distracted by that, or I focus on myself and start obsessing over how I look.

These guided meditations are fast, that’s another thing I like. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to go for a long period of time, but for now, 20-ish minutes is working for me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post!

21 Days of Wisdom, Meditation

21 Days of Wisdom, Day 2

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I just finished Day 2 of the 21 Days of Wisdom course that I’m taking. Today was a little different than yesterday. We focused on our breathing, and techniques on how to snap out of drama and a negative mindset.

Today’s breathing was interesting. She referred to the technique a few different ways. Breath of Fire or Skull Cleansing. Because I’m a research nerd, I Googled both terms and I found that it is also known as Skull Shining. The technical term is called Kapalabhati¬†Breathing, and it’s a series of exhales through your nose while contracting your stomach muscles. The Google search brought up a lot of information that’s a little overwhelming, but it’s definitely something I hope to learn more about. Check out the search here.

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It’s only day 2 of this course, but so far, I like it. I haven’t done anything like it before, but I’ve always been interested in this. She teaches first thing in the morning, which is the best thing for me. I’m an early riser, so anything that’s going to take this kind of focus is best for me when I’m at my most alert. I’m the same with exercise. If I don’t do it first thing in the morning, I’m not doing it!

I also liked that we were taught a technique on how to flip your mindset. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, there are ways to pull you out of that and that was our main focus today. If you’re interested in learning more about this instructor, check out her YouTube Channel.

I’m looking forward to sharing more with you each day. Thanks for stopping by, now it’s time to go slay the day!