To the Critics of #MeToo and #IBelieveYou

I’ve seen a lot of reactions to the #MeToo campaign over the last couple of days. Some were heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and others filled me with white-hot rage. Two days ago, I posted my own #MeToo on my facebook with a strange mixture of emotions I’ve yet to pick apart. I’ve seen two family members, and some very dear friends post their own, my heart breaking with every new post. My heart swelled seeing men reply to their friends and family with #IBelieveYou, and was shook again when I saw male acquaintances bravely admit #MeToo.

And then there are the ones who somehow manage to make something already unbearable to begin with even more ugly.

Not only were there the predictable victim-blamers, men throwing angry tantrums about divisiveness between the sexes, and people trying to demean what it is these people were saying, but there were women–who had moments before cried #MeToo!–invalidating men who joined the movement with their own stories of abuse. I don’t know which one pisses me off more.

 

“If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture—which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle—then we will NEVER find a solution.”

 

So here is my opinion on the subject, broken down by each horrible response I have seen so far:

 

“This is an issue of men preying on women! Men, sit your ass down!” or “I get that men can be abused, too. Or that women can be the abusers. But this is a largely MEN attacking WOMEN problem!”

 

#MeToo is for SURVIVORS of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. Survivors—not men, not women. It was originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, founder of Just Be Inc. as a succinct and powerful way for survivors of abuse to connect with one another, and has evolved into a battle cry over the last week.

This is about people, of any demographic, making their voice heard as loudly as they are comfortable. This isn’t just about men attacking women. The larger issue, which includes all sets, is the predatory preying on the victims. People hurting people, and that pain being considered “the norm.” If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture–which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle–then we will NEVER find a solution.

 

“This whole movement is STUPID. What the Hell do you think you are going to achieve by posting two words on your facebook page? Do something WORTHWHILE!”

 

This is a perfect example demeaning or dismissing the victims. You have no idea how many years it took some of these people to share that they were hurt. For many, this is the very first proclamation from a childhood of sexual abuse. This is the first time they are letting go of the shame, the guilt, and the fear. They are finding support through recognizing each other.

For others, they have shouted from the rooftops what they had gone through and no one ever believed them. How many years of second-guessing, of shouldering blame for something they had no control over, do you think some of these people suffered? By telling the man or woman who responds to their cry with #IBelieveYou that their support is useless not only demeans them, but it also belittles the overwhelming relief that survivor felt by FINALLY hearing those words.

The hope is that, with a wall of #MeToo’s pouring into people’s newsfeed, it will stop being some far-off epidemic. We can finally see just how close it hits to home. It will no longer be some intangible issue that couldn’t possibly effect my little world. Not only that, but the more people that post it, the more likely it will cajole that one victim into speaking up. You never know how many predators will finally be outed.

 

“The whole ‘Casting Couch’ trope has been a fixture of Hollywood for decades. Why start screaming and crying about it NOW?” or “They knew what they were getting into in that business. They should have found another career if they didn’t like it.”

 

God give me strength on this one…

 

“We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a ‘risk of being in the business’.”

 

Let’s just pretend you aren’t assuming this ONLY happens in show business or to young, naive actresses.

Imagine you are working your dream job, whatever it may be. It’s what you’ve worked your entire life towards. Thousands of dollars in school, classes, resources. Exhausting hours, long commutes, starting from the bottom and clawing your way up, fighting to prove yourself over and over again until finally you land and interview at the company you’ve had your eye on since you decided you wanted to be in that field. Except, when you finally start the interview with your future boss, they aren’t really interested in how hard you worked, your experience, or your ability to do the job. They want something from you if you want the job, a job thousands of others have gotten because of what was on their resumes rather than what was on their bodies. They dangle this job in front of you because they have the power and they know you would do just about anything for the break you’ve been fighting for.

Would you give up everything you lived for or just lie back and take it? If you were young and desperate and did what you had to do, would you not feel shame or disgust for what they put you through? Do they, then, get to just continue their predatory ways because you didn’t speak up right away?

I don’t care if it’s acting, medicine, education, law, or just a babysitting gig. No one has the right to exert power over someone like that. We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a “risk  of being in the business.” To suggest such only lets survivors know that you aren’t someone they can run to for help when these situations arise. Because that is what we are hearing when you say that. We hear you saying what we went through is not a big deal. Which is the very reason many of us take years to come forward—if ever.

Why are we all screaming now? Because we didn’t always have a platform from which to let our voices be heard. Back when the “Casting Couch trope” began, there was no Facebook or Twitter. There were no readily available outlets that allowed us to speak up on a large scale, to find support in one another, and to let us visibly see that we aren’t as alone as we were years ago. We can find one another, we can find help, and healing can finally begin.

 

“If they aren’t willing to name their attackers, then their voice is useless.”

 

Some victims still won’t be able to speak up. Some will remain silent because they still fear the consequences. My heart goes out to them. They are still allowed to count themselves as survivors. If they have the strength to let people know, “Hey, me too,” and not call out their attacker by name, guess what? That doesn’t invalidate them. Who are you to decide which survivor is worth their story and which one isn’t?

Yes, it would be a better world if everyone was strong enough to lay it all out there but this is reality. Some are still very much in their abuser’s lives. Some have close family who have grown up from whatever kind of kid they were when they assaulted or harassed them. Some are too kind to destroy people’s lives, even when those people have hurt them. There is no end to the reasoning behind not naming your attacker, and I for one am not going to harass someone over it or make them feel small because they can’t bring themselves to. They’ve already gone through that once (or more,) I refuse to add to their pain.

 

#MeToo can effect anyone of any gender, orientation, class, or creed. Just because it happens to a male, or a rich person, or a polyamorous person doesn’t make it any less life-altering. Whether or not you have personally experienced sexual assault, your life is likely to have been affected by it. If your girlfriend is afraid to walk put the trash to the curb at night, or your husband is twitchy when it comes to being intimate, if your once-outgoing children shut down out of nowhere, talk to them. Ask them questions. If you find out the worst, will you tell them it’s a risk of being small and helpless? If even ONE predator suffers the consequences of their actions as a result of this movement, I will call that a good day. And even more importantly, tell them #IBelieveYou.

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Tired

I’m tired of the ugly.

Ugliness has infected this world, spreading its vile toxicity to every man, woman, and—yes—even child. Its firm, sticky fingers clutch at us and linger on through our daily lives, sucking away our energy, our strength, and our compassion.

We cannot work without it weighing us down. We cannot commute without it sliding into our ears, burrowing under our skin. We cannot live without it stealing each breath we fight for.

I’m so tired.

I’m tired of fighting with strangers, fighting with family, fighting with friends, fighting with myself. I’m exhausted from resisting and fatigued when I can’t resist any longer.

The world was not supposed to be like this. We were not supposed to be this way. We are one people. One people, yes, but with many facets. It’s the facets of a diamond that make it shine with brilliance, and yet, as people, we sling mud on the facets sitting opposite ourselves, doing whatever we can to dull its shine, to make what should be beautiful…

…ugly.

I already feel ugly, I don’t need your help.

I feel ugly in my skin, I feel ugly in my heart, and I feel ugly in my head. I try to be strong, but I am weak. I try to be kind, but sometimes I’m biased and unyielding. I try to understand, but my stubbornness and my inherent need to be right, OUR inherit need to be right, still tries to stir the embers of that oh-so-easy fire of contempt for anyone that thinks differently than we do—

It’s hard to go against your instinct. Especially when you have no idea WHY it’s instinct.

It’s programming coursing through your veins, signaling in your brain with microscopic ones and zeroes, telling you that this is what is right. And when you fight against that, when you try to reprogram yourself, when you question the coding and the syntax your consciousness was built on, it makes you… tired.

Well, I’m tired. Bone-deep.

I’m tired of watching my friends fight with friends. “Opinions that are like assholes: Everyone has one, but no one really wants to see yours. We don’t discuss those unpleasant things in polite company, so please pull your pants back up, and wash your hands.”

I’m tired of finding hair-thin cracks in previously solid families, caused by opposing politics hacking away at it. “Libtard!” C-RACK! “Cuntservative!” C-RACK!

I’m tired of being afraid that THIS unpopular opinion or THAT political view will throw my otherwise perfectly-perfect marriage onto a runaway train towards Divorce.

Don’t question the status quo. Don’t upset the nature of things. Don’t stand. Don’t kneel. Speak up. Keep quiet. Right. Wrong. Yes. No. Left. Right.

Humans are not elastic—we can only stretch and bend so much before we break. Humans are not play doh—you can’t shape someone else to your preferred specifications.

Humans… are human.

We are different, and stubborn, and fallible, and right, and wrong, and ugly when we feel threatened and uglier when we feel superior. We have opinions that don’t always mesh, we have histories that others can only speculate and empathize with but never, ever, truly comprehend. We are argumentative, and infuriating, and mean well, and some of us just want to watch the world burn.

But mostly, we are just tired.

I know I am.

 

 

32nd #Birthday: When Everyone Just Quits Trying?

Let me start this post by saying I am not really a birthday kinda gal. In fact, the only reason I know mine is coming up is because my husband asked me his usual, “What do you want for your birthday?” question. There were two years where I actually forgot my own birthday: One I only figured out the day before because of my work schedule, the other I realized the day of because someone wished me a Happy Birthday.

I don’t know when or why the lack of give-a-damns about the day came about; I just know that eventually, when people started giving me the old “Oooohh someone has a birthday coming up” grin and wink, it would take me a few minutes to realize they were talking about me. It was like I had a finite number of fucks to give on the subject, and each year I spent one of my fucks to blow out the birthday candles.

I think the last time I cared was on birthday number 25, and really that was only because I was excited about the super delicious Costco sheet cake my family bought for me. Not even joking, that shit was delicious.

 

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Probably how I am going to be kidnapped one day.

 

Now, because it drives my husband insane that I can never tell him what I want for my manufacturing-date celebration, I figured I would at least try to help him out a little and browse the web for ideas. What DO you give the woman who has no fucking clue what she wants? I typed “gifts for 32 year old women” hoping to find something that was mature yet fun enough to pique my interest. Because, let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken but I can still cluck with the rest of the hen house.

 

It was like I had a finite number of fucks to give on the subject, and each year I spent one of my fucks blowing out the birthday candles.

 

What… the fuck, guys.

Now I know I’ve quit caring about my own birthday—I mean it happens when you got a bushel of crotchfruit to buy gifts for every year… twice. You stop thinking about what you want for yourself when you have to worry about everyone else—but holy damn. When did 30 mean death of creativity, fun, or adventure? Here are some of the gifts suggested for your 32 year old wife/sister/daughter/friend:

 

A floral phone case.

 

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Show how much you care for your wife by giving her a girly-enough-to-puke phone case that she could have probably bought for herself because, you know, it’s a phone case. In fact, she probably saw this at the store, snorted, and passed it up for the durable Otterbox because she knows she’s a klutz, but now she has to smile and pretend to like it because you tried your best.

If you are dead set on giving her something for her phone, I guarantee she would be way more excited if you payed for a month of service, or an iTunes gift card. Or even an Audible membership/credits because, let me tell you, I burn through books on my phone and they are not cheap.

 

 

Cord Organizer.

 

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…. Really? If she needs a cord organizer, chances are pretty good she won’t actually USE the thing, so it will likely just decay at the bottom of her purse.

If she’s the type to get really irked at cords, maybe get her those Bluetooth headphones she’s been drooling over, assuming she hasn’t gone wireless already. Or, if you want to do something with organization because she’s a mess—er—because she is too busy kicking ass and can’t get anyone to cooperate with helping out at home, maybe pay for a housecleaning or organizing service for the house. She will be speechless, I promise.

 

 

Colorful measuring spoons.

 

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Okay so, while these are kinda cute… do they really scream Happy Birthday to you? Yay! You were born! Here is a little reminder that your entire life’s meaning is to cook until you die, and as an added bonus we get to play “will one more item fit in the utensil drawer?!” And I know, I hear you already. “Well my wife doesn’t do all the cooking! I help out, too, because I am super husband!” Which begs the question, if it’s something that is going to be used constantly by everyone in the house, does that really make it her gift? Or just a nice addition to community property?

If you think cooking is the path to her heart, try taking her to a cooking class for couples. Or plan way ahead and save up so that you can spend the week of her birthday taking her to restaurants featuring exotic foods from all over the globe. You know, something that isn’t McDonald’s or Applebees that she doesn’t get to indulge in regularly. Make it a foodie adventure.

 

A Paperweight.

 

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You have GOT to be kidding me, right? If this is how you think your wife feels, maybe you should ask yourself if there might be another reason there isn’t enough wine. And then you might ask yourself if you really want to arm her with a blunt object perfectly sized for throwing.

If it’s the quote thing that caught your eye, then maybe try to tap into your romantic side and start the month out by slipping her hand-written quotes that remind you of her every day. Yes, I know, this takes a lot of planning but come on. Think of her smile when she sees these little surprises and knows you think about her as more than just a bed heater, personal chef, and TV remote arch nemesis. And here is an added bonus… this costs next to NOTHING. Thoughtful and frugal, my two favorite things.

And the last one because we will be here forever if I keep going:

 

Coasters.

 

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Yes, they actually suggested buying a woman 4 coasters for her birthday. Unless these coasters come with a magically endless refill of wine, tea, or whiskey, you just gave me yet another projectile weapon. There really are no words for this one. I mean, really guys? You look at someone you love and think, “she deserves coasters!”

At this point, there are no “comparable” alternatives. If you cannot think of anything better than a coaster, just don’t even try shopping for her. Hand her some cash or a gift card and drop her ass off at her favorite store. It might be the mall, it might be Target. Just let her do her thing. Coasters, guys. Really?

Now I know there are going to be some people whose first reaction to this blog will be, “You are so materialistic! At least they tried! Get over yourself!” To those people, I will point your attention back to the beginning of this rant. I honestly could get nothing and I would be indifferent to it. But I felt like I needed to help my fellow ladies out because sometimes a woman just likes to feel as though someone gets them. And if you notice, I had suggestions that were affordable or even free for the most part. It doesn’t have to break the bank.

 

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Just make sure the gift is appropriate for the recipient, guys.

 

It’s not about how cheap the gift is, it’s solely about knowing the person you are giving the gift to. By the products suggested in the article, I would think these women receiving them are dead inside, gentrified, no fun, and maybe just flat out broke and can’t buy any of these type of things themselves (I mean, baby oil? Really?) And that’s okay if that’s the case, but I wouldn’t label these as gifts to symbolize the celebration of their existence. If you wanna get them some cool coasters, do it just ’cause you think they’d like them. I’m not saying these aren’t nice things, but… you are supposed to step it up a notch for a birthday. C’mon.

Most women want to know they are seen and heard. That you want to experience things with them. Give them an adventure. Give them something they’ve been drooling over. Give them romance. Show you get them as individuals. Don’t just toss them a 5oz bottle of Beauty Blender cleaner. What?

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Review: Uriel’s Fall (#Audible #Audiobook)

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I came across the audiobook for Uriel’s Fall while looking for a narrator for my own work, and I must say the short two-minute sample I heard was enough to drive me over to Audible, register for an account, and download it.

Uriel’s Fall doesn’t waste time with the old good vs. evil rhetoric when it comes to demons and angels, and I couldn’t be happier for that. Hall brings a fresh look into the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants of Heaven and Hell, and Ubiquity is very much a day-to-day job. I love how she manages to meld the supernatural with the mundane seamlessly. This could very well be happening in the real corporate world and we would never know.

Ronnie is a fun character. Her snark helps to save her sometimes whiny and naive disposition. I mean, when you are a demon who can’t remember anything past three months ago, and had to have Lucifer pull strings to get you a job that feels daunting, I guess you have some things to whine about. And things don’t seem to be getting any better when an aggressive, bully-centric, and blood-thirsty voice suddenly starts talking to you, mocking your private thoughts. Especially when the voice appears to want a bloody vengeance against the three most powerful angels of all time.

Hall manages to keep the story flowing, effortlessly dialoguing Ronnie and the voice as she sets out to juggle a confusing love triangle between her, Gabriel, and Michael, figure out why Lucifer has suddenly become distant and unhelpful with getting her memories back, fighting with a d*** boss, and discovering what, or who, killed Metatron centuries ago and why she is connected to her death.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into more. DEFINITELY worth a read, or listen!

Amazon: Buy Here   Audible: Buy Here

 

 

The Dreaded “DNF”: When A Reader Rejects You

Okay, so… being an author is funny. Not funny in the, “Oh, haha, this is a barrel of shits and giggles,”—though, I struggle to find the joy in a barrel of shit—but funny in the more accurate, “I pour my heart and soul into every word of this piece of paper and then ask people I will never meet to shred it to literary pieces because I seek validation by my peers and already know I’m a hack but I will keep writing and do it all over again because I am also a masochist,” way.

Yeah, you know what I mean, fellow fledgling author. I see you, there. And if you don’t know what I mean, well, just wait. Come back when you get your first taste and we will commiserate together.

“Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?!”

For those not interested in writing that might be reading this, I am sure you are sitting there in your bubble of self-confidence wondering why on Earth any human would do something so self-flagellating. Well let me just throw a few quick reasons out there:

  1. It helps us hone our craft. Sometimes getting ripped apart is the best thing to happen to a book. It makes the author question things and go in to fix them. Fixing  usually = better content for you.
  2. We finally feel right! I’ve said before, there are two types of writers: One who thinks everything they touch is literary gold (regardless of the truth), and one who just knows it’s not good enough no matter how much they work on it and everyone who says it’s great is just placating you because they feel sorry for you or want to spare your feelings. (No, I couldn’t possibly be in group number 2.) You’ll be hard pressed to find an author who falls within the very narrow margin between the two.
  3. It keeps us honest. This almost goes with number 1, but by putting your work out there for critics, you are keeping yourself from developing an ultra-ego, helping prospective readers make a better decision as to whether they want to buy your book. In my opinion, transparency is invaluable when it comes to reviews. Not everyone is going to like your book (we’ll get to that in a moment) and when all people see are glowing reviews, it looks suspicious. I know if I don’t find at least ONE person nit-picking something, no matter how small, then the reviews start to feel disingenuous.

Also, to further explain how our brains work, we can save a lot of time by telling you to just NOT try to understand it. A creative’s brain is a twisty-turny labyrinth of nonsense at the best of times. Many people in my life have personally adopted the “smile and wave” strategy when dealing with me and I think it suits all of us just fine.

But that isn’t the main focus of this blog. As usual, I have derailed from my train of thought and wandered into a field of poppies.

No, I want to spotlight one of the most soul-crushing types of reviews:

The dreaded “DNF”.

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For those who are not in-the-know—oh, how I envy your innocence—when you see “DNF” on a book review it means the reader Did Not Finish.

 

Let me say that again.

A reader, who is the bread-and-butter of your chosen path, who is of a type of personality that usually hungers for more and more books to read, DID. NOT. FINISH. READING. IT.

Nothing could be worse, right? Now you are back to an unformed lump of self-deprecation and hopelessness. All of your dreams and aspirations have been proven to be out of your reach and now you need to go ahead and finish those Insurance classes so you can return to the “real world’ and live out your life as just another wire in the machine of dull, menial, adulting. Right?

Okay, so, it might feel that way, but let’s take a deep breath and put down clipboard and 401k. (Okay, don’t really give up the 401k. You totally need that.)

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DNFs happen. They happen all. The. Time. The fact of the matter is, you are not going to please everyone. There might be a million people who love you voice, your style of writing, or your genre, but there is always going to be a million more who are just not into it. Usually, thank God, many of those won’t find their way to you because they will know beforehand that your story isn’t for them. Then there are the few who actually do make it to your book, find it’s not to their taste, and put it away never to look at it again. Even then, it’s not the end of the world. The ones that hurt are the ones who actually review the book, stating that they couldn’t finish.

Yes. Ouch. That smarts.

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But, guess what. You’ll still be okay. How do I know this? Because today I got my first DNF review. My initial reaction?

 

 

Yeah… I’m not proud. I almost cried. Was ready to just give up and forget it all. Why keep writing when apparently I really suck at it? What’s the point?! Because that’s what you do! Once I settled my overdramatic ass down, I made myself really read the review again. Really take it in and mull the words over, savor them, and allowed myself to step outside of my mental hangups to really figure out what this meant. Do you know what I found?

That it doesn’t really matter.

Sure, hearing that someone just couldn’t even get through my (free!) book hurts me right in the feels, but that’s just one person. One person who, might I add, was actually completely sincere and sweet about how they felt. She didn’t slam my book, blame my writing skills, or in any other way diminish my hard work.

It just was not to her taste. Simple.

You might looooove grilled cheese sandwiches, but if you find you don’t like fig and goat-cheese (or, maybe more accurately, a sandwich filled with government processed cheese product) does that mean the chef isn’t even suited for a school cafeteria? No. You just have a taste for some things, and it didn’t quite hit that mmmm factor. That is basically what this reader did. She was even kind enough to ask that other readers not take her personal tastes as gospel when considering my book. That’s completely fair of her, and who am I to have a tantrum over that?

So, even if you find your book on someone’s DNF reading list, don’t despair. It’s not as bad as it seems at first. Don’t listen to the voice that tells you that one (ONE!) person not being into it means no one else liked it. That voice is lying, and a dick. Breathe. Eat the ice cream. Have the tantrum. Now pick yourself back up and keep at it.

 

 

DENY THE MOON is Officially Live on #Smashwords and #Amazon

 

I feel like it has taken ages to get here, which is absurd when  you think about it. I’ve launched Deny the Moon before, right? So there really isn’t much to be said this time around.

Wrong!

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Well, okay. So my book is no stranger to the Smashwords or Kindle shelves. I know to many people, this relaunch hardly seems like a big deal and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to everyone else.

Personally, I think it’s phenomenal. I feel like I have finally accomplished something.

“But Melissa,” you say. “How do you feel accomplished now, but didn’t before?”

“Because,” I tell you while demonstrating a perfect Captain Morgan pose, “I have finally finished!” I am done. Finally. Completely. Done.

I no longer feel compelled to go in and tweak this scene, or fill in this part. I don’t feel as though there are things still left unsaid. I am content. To be honest, I never thought I would get that way about a book, but there it is. I can look at Deny the Moon and feel nothing. No wiggle of anxiety. No panic. There is nothing left to say.

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So relaxed.

Does this mean Deny the Moon is perfect? Hell no. This is my first book guys, my debut novel. I’m still getting my feet wet in this whole writing thing, and I am sure from a technical standpoint there can still be fixes to be had, but the truth of the matter is I am done having them. I have put the book through all the paces I had access to, have revised and rewrote hours of content, had a multitude of eyes peruse it’s pages in search of problematic paragraphs, and there is no more I can do. It’s my baby, and she’s ready to meet the world.

So, as of today, you can snag yourself a copy in two ways:

  • Via Smashwords for Free!
  • Or, if you don’t mind throwing a nickel into my hat, you can also get the Kindle version for $0.99.

There’s really not much else to it.

Thank you, to everyone who has listened to my ups and downs while getting through this. It means the world to me. And the best part about being done? I have finally unclogged the blockade that was keeping me from writing book two. Since the relaunch, I have written an entire page of content for Raging Spirit, something I was beginning to worry would never happen. I will totally take that as a sign to move forward.

Hopefully, you will enjoy what I’ve offered to you. Whether you are new to the series, or just want to brush up on the new content, I recommend giving it a read. And as always, feel free to leave an honest review. I’ll keep plugging away at the sequel, and another surprise I have up my sleeve for you.

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How to Throw a *Proper* Virtual Launch Party

Launch parties. They sound fun, don’t they? I mean it’s all in the name. A party is a gathering of people coming together for some special occasion (my favorite occasion is having booze in the house) and letting the good times roll, and who doesn’t love to let their hair down once in a while? What a fantastic way to promote your new book!

With Deny the Moon getting ready for it’s own re-launch, I thought I might blog a little about my whole Launch Party process. You know, to sort of give the inexperienced a little peek into the whole thing.

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Look up every resource in the entirety of the human earth (not to be confused with the non-human earth) on the subject of Facebook Book Launches. Follow every suggestion to the letter, including those that contradict each other, until you have consumed so much information that your head feels full and woozy and you suspect it no longer has to do with the fifth of Evan Williams you started in on during blog #67.

Take all of the advice you read about and throw it all in the trash. You are going to wing this!

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Tell a couple of close confidants about your plans. Support is key to getting through this with some sanity. Make sure you repeat your worries, fears, and concerns over and over until they understand that you are totally not asking them for their help. Hold the tears inside when they don’t pick up on the hints. Swallow your feelings along with the month-old, half eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s you forgot was in your freezer.

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Stalk other launch parties to see how well they did. Not to take their ideas, because we already decided they were rubbish and we are winging it! But we just want proof that this sort of thing actually works. Of course, there really is no proof because we can’t see their sales reports, but boy they look like a fun bunch!

Book launches can be broken down into five basic elements: Games, discussions, giveaways, music, and of course, promoting your book. I mean, the whole point of these things are to tell people about the fruits of the last seven years of your labor, but you don’t want to make the rookie mistake of making the day all about your book. No, why would we want to do that? That’s “rude.” You want to try to convince people to go to Amazon and buy a $3.00 eBook in the most upfront and honest way possible!? Pffft. Amateur. We all know what everyone in your prospective audience really wants is to jump through a ton of hoops and force a smile as you discuss character inspirations and mood music (not to mention all those rejections from “gate-keeping” traditional publishers.) Why, I’m sure most of them love to sit through time-share presentations before getting their free vacation, as well!

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Also, make sure you have been planning this thing for at least 6 months before you realized this was even a thing. These things take time, after all, which you don’t have! Now you have all of four weeks (if you are lucky) to do half a year’s preparation. Good times!

You  want to show these strangers that you really have your shit together, because when someone thinks “author” they think the picture of mental health and organizational godliness. So, set yourself up for success by finding a block of time that both gives you the freedom to mingle in real time with your party guests and manages to find that sweet spot of peak traffic time across the many time zones of the world!

One way to achieve this perfect union of scheduling is to just make the party last a full day, that way you don’t become that monster author that excluded anyone. There are no clique-queens here! Save the feelings of betrayal for when you kill off the one character your readers love.

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If you just can’t shove the rest of your responsibilities to that back burner where you’ve managed to dump all of your other works-in-progress while you focus on this one little launch party—don’t worry, I am sure you will remember those little sparks of ideas you had while scrolling through Published to Death for advice on throwing a virtual launch party (spoiler: there isn’t any)—then you can always create a script for you to copy and paste from. Candid interactions are so overrated anyway. So is winging it. And sobriety.

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Make sure you set up a few party games for your guests to interact with one another (because, let’s face it, it’s unlikely you will get three to five hours of actual uninterrupted-by-life time to sit and focus on making sure every guest gets to know you on a deep, personal level!) They can’t just be any random game, though. You don’t want to shatter this illusion of competency with an unstructured party! The games should match up with your book somehow.

Theme is the key word. Everything needs to tie in to your book, so you better be certain of what the underlying theme is so you can apply it to your launch. This is not the time for novels written for the sake of writing. It has to have an ulterior motive. Or, you know, something you can hashtag the crap out of. Make it relevant. It doesn’t matter if you started writing it before the age of the internet (or that it’s set in 17th century Bavaria), if you want to get the most hits out of this shindig, then you better find a way to weave the “Fake News” narrative in there.

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Also, let’s talk giveaways. If we are being completely honest with ourselves, we know the giveaways are the only real reason most of these people take five minutes out of their day to pop in. Without them, all you have to offer is a book you wrote. That hardly seems worthy compensation for their time spent with you. And don’t even think about having nothing to offer your guests other than a free copy of the work you are promoting. Years of effort and tears or not, that is a cheap way to go about things.

I mean, you are an author, are you not? You need to dip into the buckets of wealth you’ve obviously somehow made prior to putting this book out for sale, and find things people actually want. That way, when they pass by a copy of your novel on the shelves, they will be overcome with warm fuzzy feelings and remember getting the Target gift cards, the custom t-shirt you spent $30.00 to make (each), or the Kindle Fire they can now read other people’s books on. Those memories won’t make them actually buy your novel, but gosh, isn’t it a nice gesture?

If you think people are going to remember you by the novel you’ve been sweating over, then maybe you should go buy a few more books on publishing and marketing. You’ll get over those dewy-eyed dreams of trending on Twitter, I promise.

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Here is where it gets interesting! All that careful researching, planning, crafting, luring, and binge-drinking you’ve done over the last month? Toss it. Forget about it. Pretend it never happened.

Why does this have to be so complicated? You wrote a book. You decided to self-publish. Was that not masochistic enough for you? If this is your first book, I’m going to let you in on a secret I stumbled upon in the end-days of researching: There is little to no chance that throwing an elaborate launch is going to do you any good. Why? Because no one knows who you are! I mean, really. Say you didn’t do the whole twitter thing, the whole networking and rubbing elbows with established authors thing. Let’s just say that, as far as recognition is concerned, no matter how many times you’ve retweeted one of those wacky writers you love, it has done NOTHING to put your name out there for people to recognize.

Would you follow some random guy on the street corner because he shouts about some party he’s throwing in your face as you walk by? No? Exactly. It’s better if you get your name out there with some of your actual work before you attempt this. No one likes those writers that tweet nothing but links to buy their book. No one like being shouted at to pay attention to something! 

If no one knows who you are, and you don’t have the benefit of word-of-mouth advertising for your party, that’s pretty much the equivalent of a buy-link avalanche on twitter.

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Congratulations, if you made it this far, then you have successfully walked my own personal path of throwing a launch party. The bottom line? There isn’t gonna be one for Deny the Moon. Not like everyone says to do. Not yet.

I was making myself insane over doing this the “right way” this time, until finally I realized the right way does not exist. What works for all those other writers won’t work for me, and probably won’t work for you. Trying to copy their success (or attempt at it) isn’t authentic to me. I’m a fledgling author with one little novel. No one outside of my family and friends really know my name, and a good deal of them don’t pay much attention to my writing journey. How in the Hell am I supposed to make a name for myself if I only have one book? How am I supposed to make more books if I waste ALL my free time trying to pimp out this one?

I won’t. So, this Saturday, I won’t be throwing a Launch Party for my book after all. You can still stop by the Duckicorn Facebook page if you like, as I will still try to post some random tidbits. If you want to ask a question or start a discussion I am all for it! But I think I’m going to celebrate the relaunch by working on the sequel, for real this time. Maybe when that one is done, I will try again. Who knows. There might be a Kindle Fire in the future.**

**For me, not to give away. You heard me mention I am self-published, right?
A note about this post:
Most of this is pretty tongue-in-cheek and meant as a vent for my personal frustrations with marketing yourself and your book on your own. I do want to make one thing clear before I depart: Launch Parties can be a great tool for getting to know your audience. They won’t work for everyone, but quite a few authors have found success in them and this is not to belittle that success in any way. It works for some people. Some people it doesn’t. The point is to find the ways that work for you, rather than just going through with something because “everyone else is doing it.” I truly don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to promote yourself. There is only the way best suited for your product. 🙂 Cheers, and good luck!

~Melissa

#Excerpt: Deny the Moon

We are just over two weeks away from the re-launch of Deny the Moon! I don’t know about you, but I am getting super excited! Not just because I’ve been dying to get this back on the shelves, but also because it will be the start of new projects for me. I can finally turn my focus—cause let’s face it, I don’t have much to spare!—to my other works to try and get them out there for you guys.

Because I love to share, I felt that now was as good a time as any to give a little sneak-peek snack-sized bite of Deny the Moon for you all to enjoy. Take a gander, and if you like what you see then please join us on April 7th at Duckicorn’s facebook page for the little Re-Launch shindig. And if you really can’t wait two more weeks, and you like to review things, the first five people to sign up for the Duckicorn ARC Team Mailing list will get a free copy of Deny the Moon to read and review, as well as be first in line to receive Advance Review Copies of future works from us at Duckicorn Creative Squad! Why would you ever turn down free books!

Become a member of the ARC Team!

Okay, enough shenanigans and tomfoolery. Get your sneak peek below and mark your calendars for April 7th!

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Traffic along South Quentin Avenue began to slow as the night dragged on, allowing him an almost-unobstructed view inside the restaurant across the road. Only the occasional car driving past broke the scene before him, robbing a few seconds of her flirtatious smile from him. He’d been standing there for nearly two hours, and it looked like they weren’t going to be leaving any time soon.

God, she was beautiful. More than she’d ever been, if it was possible. Her face was alive and vibrant as she spoke, her hands animated with whatever story she was sharing with the man at her table. For once, it looked as if she had thrown all of her worries aside and allowed herself to live in the moment, to enjoy life and all it had to offer her, and he hated her for it. He hated the way this man could bring that coy smile to her lips, the way she fluttered those eyelashes at him, and lightly touched his arm as they talked.

He’d been looking for her for several months. Every city they passed through, he couldn’t help but wonder if she was nearby, if she was right under his nose. Like most things Harley did to him, her running off had made him crazy. He didn’t know what she’d done with his bike, if she’d gotten herself hurt, or worse, if she’d moved on. Watching her with this guy, it appeared as though she had done just that.

A waiter set a plate between them. The man grabbed his fork and dug it into the fat slice of chocolate cake then offered it to Harley. Rage roiled within him as she leaned over the table and let the guy feed her.

Oh, but that bitch was gonna pay. She would pay for what she put him through, how she made him feel, but first, he was going to tear that jackass limb from limb.

Frank’s cell rang in his jacket pocket and, tamping down his anger, he answered it on the third ring.

“Yeah,” he growled.

“Where are you?” the voice was impatient.

“Who are you, my mama?”

Harlow growled over the line. “Don’t start with me, Essex. You’re on thin ice as it is, you know. Now, if it were up to me… I’d have skinned you alive the night you let the girl ride away on your little toy. You had one job to do, and you fucked it off. However, my father thinks you’ll be worthwhile, yet.”

“Is that so?” Frank laughed derisively. “Must piss you off that daddy likes me better.”

“Don’t get too cocky, jackass. You’re about one wrong move from being on his shit list. Please,” he said the word with longing. “Please, give him a reason to send me after you.”

“Sorry, dickweed. You’re not my type,” Frank breathed as his eyes moved back to Harley.

She was reaching over and wiping something off the guy’s lower lip. Frank’s grip tightened on his phone so hard that it began to creak in protest. “What the fuck do you want, Harlow? I’m a little busy right now so if you just called to bust my balls—”

“Have you found her yet?”

Frank stared at the woman in the restaurant. Her hair was different. Blond and shorter than before, but there was no doubt that it was her. It was tragic, really. So many memories of that long, thick, dark hair as it tickled down his body. The tips sliding silkily over his skin as she teased him. So many memories of her and the things she could do. His dick hardened at the mere thought of it.

“No,” he growled as he watched them together. “Still no sign of the bitch.”

Follow me on Twitter at @MelissaGraham85 or @Duckicorn_squad or join us at the Duckicorn community fb page for updates on this and other projects, inspiration and encouragement, and just plain quirky goodness.

DENY THE MOON: #CoverReveal and more!

There is something to be said for trying to do everything on your own. When it comes to self-publishing, usually that something is, “Noooo! Don’t do that! Hire someone! What are you doing?!” That’s not to say there aren’t authors out there who can both write and edit their work or market their product and design their own book covers, but the vast majority really shouldn’t. I should know, I’m one of them.

Now I have some experience in Adobe Photoshop, but really all that amounts to is 6+ years of self-taught skills. Great when you are editing photos or goofing around with graphics for roleplay sites, but if you think you can skip over a professional book cover—especially when you are self-publishing—then I have some words of caution for you.

Don’t do it!

Seriously. I know it’s a real drag to fork out cash you probably don’t have to pay someone to do something you are confident you could do yourself, but if you don’t you are possibly shooting your book in the foot before it even starts to crawl. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of readers truly do judge a book by it’s cover. It’s the very first impression your work gives to someone scrolling through hundreds and thousands of other books. Why handicap yourself by slapping on a mediocre cover?

The answer is, you shouldn’t. Spend the money, network your connections, get the dang thing made.

You have to give your work—the work you slaved over, tweaked, cried about, and most likely cut yourself off from civilization for—the very best start. This is why, even though I was very proud of the original cover I had made for Deny the Moon, I knew I had to kill my darling and get a professional, and quite frankly better, cover.

Luckily, I came across Silvana G. Sanchez and she dropped me an AMAZING version of my cover. It is everything I wanted from the get go. Trust me, if you are in the market for a beautiful, succinct design, Silvana is where to go. After being blown away for my book, I think it’s safe to say she will be the cover artist for the rest of this series.

 

Okay, okay, enough gabbing about it. The time has come to drop the curtain. I give you the shiny new cover for Deny the Moon!

 

 

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Isn’t it perfection?! I swear, I could stare at it all day (and totally have, haha!) Again, this work was done by the amazingly talented Silvana G. Sanchez, so follow her, talk to her about doing your own cover design, or just congratulate her on being awesome!

FOLLOW SILVANA ON TWITTER AT @SILVANA_MD

Okay, as exciting as the cover reveal is, I promised a few other things. First off, what good is a cover without a book to put it on, right? Those that have followed me from the beginning know how bi-polar I have been with this book. Well, my husband made me promise that this would be my absolute last revision. This is great for you guys though, and for two reasons.

  1. That means I had to make this revision count, which pretty much translates to added content and ironing out every last kink. It also means I had the opportunity to add an excerpt from book two at the end. Yay for more stuff to read!
  2. It also means that after the relaunch of Deny the Moon, I will be putting my focus fully on Raging Spirit. No more being distracted by book one. I must draw the curtain on it and let it be.

So, as of April 7th 2017, Deny the Moon will return to virtual shelves via Amazon and Smashwords distributors.

 

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It’s almost here! And to celebrate the coming relaunch, I am doing a bit of a giveaway! If you sign up for Duckicorn Creative Squad’s bright and shiny newsletter today, you will be entered into a raffle to receive one of FIVE Advance Review Copies (ARCs) to be sent to you immediately! No need to buy anything, just sign up for our not-so-monthly newsletter. It’s that easy!

Click Here to Sign Up for the Duckicorn Newsletter!

Winner will be picked by submitting your emails into an online randomizer and will be announced tomorrow. Keep your eyes on our twitter accounts @MelissaGraham85 or @duckicorn_squad, or on the Duckicorn Creative Squad Facebook page for the winners.

So, all is said and done I think. We have revealed the beautiful cover design by Silvana G. Sanchez, we have announced the relaunch of Deny the Moon on April 7th, and we have opened up a raffle for ARCs of Deny the Moon by subscribing to the Duckicorn Creative Squad’s newsletter. There isn’t much else to say except thank you for stopping by the blog to share this news with me, and more details for the launch party are to come!

So Your Friend Is an Author…

Sometimes your author friends are afraid asking you for help would make them “annoying” or “needy”. Here’s how you can help them out without them even knowing.

Or… you know… here’s way to have them indebted to you. 😉

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Judge

Amazing, Isn’t It?

Yes. It is.

How many authors do you actually know?

Now your friend is one.

The key word there is friend.

This was your friend before. Becoming an author doesn’t change that.

Sure, you can tease your friend about this, if your relationship ordinarily involves teasing.

But your friendship is based on more than just teasing:

  • You support one another. Even if one of you writes a book.
  • You’re honest with one another. Even if you think the book isn’t quite, well, you know.
  • You know each other well. How to get on one another’s nerves. How to put things gently. So you can figure out the right way to share honest feedback.
  • You motivate one another. So in addition to honest feedback, you’ll provide encouragement, motivation, and direction.

Your friend wrote a book. That’s a huge accomplishment. Treat it as such.

There are some things you…

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