This week's blog challenge prompts participating authors to discuss their irrational fears. Mine are pretty common: spiders, rats, cockroaches, and wasps/hornets. In short, if it's vermin, it makes my skin crawl and I want it and all 17 gazillion of its relatives to die. Now.
That goes for those nasty critters that don't make me freak out, like mosquitoes.
Take me on a trail ride that has me passing through spider webs, and I'll turn into a quivering wreck. Luckily, my horse pays no attention to me when that happens. God forbid a spider--not just its sticky web--should actually land on me. Catastrophe for sure.
Yes, i realize the desire to assuage my irrational fears would decimate several species of animals that depend upon vermin for food. I prefer to ignore that consequence because it will never happen. Strangely enough, snakes don't bother me. When I was 19, I worked in a pet store for a summer and was one of the few employees there who would handle the snakes.
That, of course, brings me to a memory that still makes me smile. A coworker at that pet store grew up in Africa, the son of missionaries. He related an incident when he was fishing out a tarantula for a customer. The tarantula dropped to the floor, and "BUG!" went through my coworker's mind. Without thought, he stomped on it. The customer was displeased: "You just killed my tarantula." "I'll get you another," he replied.
If one determines irrational fears by what populates our nightmares, that gets really personal and more than a little weird. I fear an utter lack of control. One of most disturbing themes in my nightmares is having absolutely no influence, no impact, no effect upon the events around me and affecting me. Since I'm an admitted control freak--is there a support group for that?--the sense of utter helplessness inspires absolute dread and despair.
Another distressing nightmare trend involves former bosses and sometimes former classmates. My subconscious brings up the conflicts and rehashes old pain and humiliation. Nights reliving those mutated memories are never fun.
I generally don't write about my fears in my books because I prefer not to relive them. I'm not all that eager to read about such things in other books, either. What about you?
I was hired to critique the manuscript for a novella. The author requested that, in addition to the usual review, I offer suggestions for improvement. The story spanned romance, mystery, and suspense--right up my alley. To be perfectly honest, it sucked.
So, allow me to explain. The story premise held promise; the poor quality of execution made me cringe. Full of plot holes, discrepancies, improbabilities, and other egregious flaws--which, by the way, I pointed out--the story suffered even more from sloppy writing, incorrect grammar, and other "mechanical" errors in composition and construction. The 9-page critique includes an overall review that covers a little over two pages. The balance of the critique addresses the manuscript chapter by chapter. It's quite thorough, but not complimentary.
Once I finished the review, I rewrote it in an attempt to ensure the objectivity of the comments so that they focused on the manuscript and nothing else. Personal comments regarding the author have no place in a critique. Even though I delivered exactly what was requested and promised and I delivered the review days ahead of schedule, the client took offense and left a negative review of my service.
The comments she left show that the client wanted a cheerleader who perhaps pointed out a few minor glitches within the manuscript that could be easily remedied. Unfortunately, that's not what she got. She received a candid opinion from a professional writer and editor.
The gist of this debacle of a project is this: if you ask for something, then don't complain when what you get isn't what you expected. Editors and critical reviewers are not an author's friends or cheerleaders, but their critical feedback will help a writer to improve his or her craft. As a writer, I welcome criticism, because I learn from it. It helps me improve.
Sure, negative reviews sting. After licking my wounds, I go back to the criticism and my work to see the flaws and then try to correct them. That, I believe, is the mark of a professional: someone who can accept the pain and work through it to produce a better product.
Any writer who hires me to review and/or edit his or her content will receive candor and thorough attention to detail. You'll get exactly what I promise. I won't be your cheerleader. I will point out every flaw I detect so that you, the author, can take remedial action and improve the content.
After all, isn't it better for one person to point out the problems with a story than to upload it for public viewing only to garner a host of negative reviews from that public?
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He poured them both glasses of water and took a seat across from her. “Ask your questions. I shall not lie to you.”
Myriad questions raced through Corinne’s mind, but she voiced on the one of utmost importance: “Do I have a choice?”
“For as long as I can give it to you,” came the evasive answer.
“What does that mean, Uberon? Either I have a choice or I don’t.”
He met her gaze without flinching. “Free will is sacred to me.”
She nodded, understanding from what he did not say that free will was about the only thing that he held sacred. “But?”
“But there are … compulsions … that even I cannot resist indefinitely.”
“I lost my son because I allowed him to act of his own free will. I split the fae realm because I refused to coerce my own people.”
“Why would that split your realm?”
“Law and its enforcement has limits if it is not to become tyranny: national defense and protection of property.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I gave my people leave to make their own choices, to govern themselves, except for violation of one another’s property and to protect their country. They often made poor choices, and those choices brought darkness and hardship to them. That is one reason why my realm became known as the Unseelie Court.”
“What has that to do with me? Us?”
“Mogren, king of the Seelie Court, currently works to reunite the Unseelie Court with the Seelie. We shall once again be one nation, one race, one people.”
“And I shall have no place there. But I cannot linger here for long, nor do I wish to do so. This realm is … tainted.” He picked up his fork and gestured to her. “Eat. You are weary and need to rebuild your energy.”
Corinne wished she could argue. With a small sigh, she stabbed a piece of sausage and brought it to her mouth. She chewed, swallowed, and said, “I still don’t see what that has to do with me or us.”
“Your denial will … pressure me until I must succumb.” He blinked. Corinne could have sworn his eyes flashed red. “If that happens, the aftermath will not be pretty.”
This week's blog challenge prompt is "My theme song."
I often listen to music as I work, whether writing or editing. Sometimes, I tune in to my favorite stations on I Heart Radio. Other times, I head to YouTube, cue in a favorite song or band, and let 'er roll. I've come across several previously unknown musicians and tunes that have been incorporated into an evolving play list, like Five Finger Death Punch. Of course, YouTube's capacity to allow for selection of specific songs and musicians means I can tune into old favorites, like Eagles, Carly Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, and Enya. I often listen to classic rock, Top 40 hits, and a few lesser known musicians like Theory of a Deadman and Hozier. I enjoy country music and Celtic folk music, too.
But this article isn't supposed to about what I listen to, but what song defines or describes me: my theme song. That tends to vary, depending upon my mood on any given day. However, I like to give this answer: "It Don't Come Easy" by Ringo Starr.
The title of the song defines my life, because nothing has really ever come easily for me. I work hard for what I have, whether it's a possession or a skill. For instance, it takes months to earn sufficient disposable income to purchase a horse for which I have hired a trainer because she's not well trained enough for me and because I haven't the skill to finish her training myself. One might suppose that I've a history of jumping into the deep end without a life jacket only to find myself overfaced.
One might be entirely correct.
Back in college, I pretty much skipped the 200-level courses, instead jumping into the 300-level courses because I found the subject more interesting. Despite the more rigorous academic expectations of those courses, I did pretty well. I worked hard at it, though. Nothing came easily.
Since the end of 2015, I've been building a freelance career as a writer (ghostwriting, too) and editor. That hasn't gone smoothly nor has it been without its disappointments when I took on gigs that overwhelmed me or for which I had to admit required more from me that I was prepared to give. Learning experiences all.
So, no, it don't come easy for me. But easy isn't always the path to accomplishment or contentment. I dare not say happiness, because happiness is always ephemeral. At this point, I've attained a general sense of satisfaction with myself. Sure, there's always more to learn, but I have acquired a better sense of myself, of what I can do and what I will do.
Some of us know where we belong in life, what we were always meant to do and the path we must take. Others are destined to wander, because life don't come easy.
I'm going to congratulate myself: holding a book fair at a craft brewery was a stroke of genius. Authors benefited from customers who stopped by Mother Stewart's Brewing Company for a beer and socialization, and the brewery benefited from customers who stopped by for the book fair. Authors bought some libations, too. In addition to a happy exchange of customers, the unique facility really got authors talking.
"This is such a cool place!" was the general comment regarding the venue, even though getting there was a little tricky for some and there was a bit of confusion over where to park. Authors exclaimed over the massive, old beams, the exposed brick walls, and the general appeal of the brewery.
Effusive thanks must go to Marty Laengle, the brewery's business/marketing director, for his much-appreciated assistance in getting the Springfield Book Fair off the ground and helping authors find their assigned places to set up their tables. Unlike most such events, authors had to bring their own tables and chairs.
Schmidt's Sausage Truck enjoyed some extra business as vendors' empty tummies rumbled. Here's an endorsement: I dislike sausage. Bratwurst and wieners are not my thing. I caved and purchased a pork bratwurst with sauerkraut. I liked it and wouldn't argue over eating it again. Folks, if it can convert someone with a long-term dislike of sausage, it must be good. By the way, beer goes really well with bratwurst.
I won't sneeze at attendance. In the first hour, I saw more people wandering among the vendor tables than I did at the last three events I attended. Fabulous! Brewery customers who hadn't known about the event wandered through vendor displays and declared their interest and appreciation. I heard many exclamations along the lines of "This is great!" from customers taking advantage of a unexpected opportunity to chat with writers and check out their books. Authors overall appeared pleased with both the venue and the attendance. I know I did better than at all the previous book fairs in 2017 and 2018 combined.
As always, I enjoyed meeting fellow authors. I didn't circulate much, mostly due to an obligation to keep an eye on things. Control freak that I am, I felt obligated to make sure that everything ran smoothly. I deliberately positioned my table at the bottleneck between tap room and vat room so keep an eye on comings and goings, but no one alerted me to any issues. I don't think vendors missed not having seminars or workshops or contests or event-sponsored door prize drawings. We kept it simple: authors, books, people. And one jewelry vendor who crafts chain maille jewelry. She expressed satisfaction with the event, too. Ah, happiness all around.
So, now that the book fair is over, it's time to reflect on what went right, what not to do next time, what to improve, and the lessons learned. I originally anticipated a much smaller event: a dozen authors. We had 21 vendors total. I asked authors to write thank-you notes to Mother Stewart's Brewery, because good manners never goes amiss. Thanks go to Jenna, the high school senior whom I hired as our helper. She watched over tables and helped with fetch-and-carry, because many of us are older folks who are at the edge of or have descended into decrepitude. Goodness knows I'm not as strong or spry as I used to be.
I consider the Springfield Book Fair successful. I admit to trepidation and worry. Any first-time event is uncertain. However, I think we could turn this into a seasonal event. Who's up for a winter book fair in 2019? Should the brewery owners want to co-sponsor another book fair, we'll continue to keep it small and friendly.
Authors showed their generosity with donations to the Clark County Public Library:
Thanks to all who contributed books!
My idea should catch on: Hold events like this in a popular place where people want to go.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019. For more information:
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