How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

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Happy Monday, All! I’ve been tagged by editor extraordinaire, Christie Stratos, to share the things I keep by me when I write, so here we go: my laptop (duh, right?), my flash drive, and a cup of coffee. Pretty simple, eh?

Now on to today’s topic. A couple months ago, I wrote about how not to respond to a negative book review. In that post, I told you all about the author who went ham, cheese, and bologna on a blogger over a negative review, but this next story takes the cake: an author showed up at a reviewer’s house over a one star review. Have you guys heard about this?

Here’s a quick rundown (from Salon):

On Friday, a YA novelist named Kathleen Hale published a personal essay in the British newspaper the Guardian, recounting her obsession with someone who had criticized her first book harshly. Hale admits to combing the Internet for information about the woman, a blogger who, while reading Hale’s book, posted a derisive running commentary to Goodreads, an enormous social networking site for book lovers. Hale confesses that she scrutinized the woman’s Instagram feed and Facebook page, as well as engaging in subterfuge to obtain the blogger’s home address. In doing so, she discovered indications that the blogger’s actual identity is quite different from the one she presents online. Then Hale drove to this woman’s house and knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, Hale later called the woman she suspected of being the blogger at work, twice: the first time pretending to be a fact checker and the second under her real identity, trying to get the woman to admit that she was, as the Guardian headline put it, her “number one online critic.”

What in leopard print hell?

And here’s an excerpt from Hale’s article for the Guardian titled ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic:

“Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in (The Reviewer’s) driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away.”

My question is this: what was Hale going to do had the blogger opened the door? I imagine if it had been me. I’m in my house, minding my own business, when there’s a knock on the door. I open it, and on my doorstep is an author who wants to talk to me about the one star review I left on Goodreads. The conversation would have probably gone something like this:

Me (smiling, assuming she’s selling Mary Kay): Can I help you?

Author: Yes. I’d like to talk to you about that one star review you left for my novel on Goodreads.

Me (confused): And you are…?

Author: A disgruntled author.

Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.

Sidenote: If a woman takes off her earrings during a confrontation, this is probably an indication that an ass whuppin’ is in your near future.

I wonder what would have happened if that blogger had been home. Things seriously could have turned ugly. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion about a book without fearing that someone might show up at their home and do God knows what. And over a book! As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly. Didn’t toilet paper her house. She simply expressed her opinion about a book, a collection of pages that are bound together and may or may not have words on them. Geesh!

I have said it before and I will say it again:

  1. Reviews are NOT for the author.
  2. If you can’t handle your reviews don’t read them.
  3. A critique of your writing is NOT  a critique of you as a person.
  4. Somebody’s opinion of your novel is actually none of your business.
  5. It is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up. This is what your family and friends are for.
  6. Never respond to a negative review! Never. Even if you feel you’ll combust if you don’t. Simply do not.
  7. And lastly: do NOT find out where the reviewer lives and show up at their house. I don’t care if you’re just bringing them a chicken pot pie. Please don’t. It’s creepy, and said reviewer just might feel violated. And just might call the cops and report a stalker. Or just might give you a lovely, twenty-four ounce can of whup ass. Just sayin’…

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and just because one person doesn’t like your novel means diddly squat. In fact, I can’t recall an instance where a negative review has kept me from reading a book. I typically make my reading decisions based on the book’s first page. If the writing pulls me in, that’s all that matters. It’s scary to think that, in this day and age, someone would go to such great lengths over a negative review. Scary!

What about others? Have you heard about this? What are your thoughts? And I’d also love to know: what would have happened had the author shown up at your house?

To read more about this story:

Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

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Happy Monday, everybody! So today I woke up to a pleasant surprise: Coffee Bookshelves shared a lovely review of  The New Mrs. Collins. *fist pumps*

And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! :)

So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.

Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”

“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).

Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:

I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”

“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”

“A what?”

I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.

I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.

Here are a few sobering facts:

  1. There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
  2. Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
  3. Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
  4. You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
  5. Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.

“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.

And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.

What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!




How to Deal with Plot Bunnies

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! Haven’t heard of IWSG? Click here to sign up! This month’s co-hosts  are LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!

Now, let’s get into my insecurity for this month. *Rolls up sleeves*

I was online the other day when I ran across this blog post by author Reese Ryan called “My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus.” In the post, Reese talks about something I’ve probably been doing for the last year: chasing plot bunnies.

For those of you who don’t know, a plot bunny is a story idea that a writer chases but can’t catch. And because we can’t catch it, we either abandon it, or worse, get distracted by another plot bunny. The cycle repeats itself until one day, a writer finds herself surrounded by a pile of half-finished manuscripts (and candy bar wrappers because, hey: chasing plot bunnies makes you hungry) and asking herself the following questions:

Am I ever going to write a novel or will I spend the rest of my life trying but failing?
Do other writers experience this?
What in the world am I going to do with all these candy bar wrappers???

It’s not a new phenomenon. For centuries authors have been trying and failing to write novels (and then questioning themselves and their ability to write because of that). As the French say: Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun. But as authors, how do we deal? I think the important thing is to allow ourselves to “fail” and not beat ourselves up about it because some of those half-finished manuscripts may very well turn into finished manuscripts one day. Or: you may end up plucking a character out of one of those unfinished stories and using them in something else. I don’t think any story idea is ever wasted. We can always use something from an unfinished project. We just have to figure out what that something is.

So that brings me to my current WIP. Without giving too much away for fear of pissing off my muse, it’s a paranormal story set in a small Louisiana town about a girl whose life changes after a traumatic event. I’ve been chasing this idea for so long I’m embarrassed to tell you. I’ve chased more bunnies than I can count but all roads have led here: I have what seems to be a solid outline and when I put the characters on the page (knock on wood!) they seem to work. But I’m afraid that somewhere down the line, a shinier, newer story idea is going to come along and say (in a Brooklyn accent): “Pssst! Quanie: over here!” And I’m going to look up and go chasing that new idea and abandon the one I’m working on now. Sigh.

What about others? What are you working on currently? And how do you deal with plot bunnies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

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Happy Monday, folks! Today marks the third and final week of my blog tour and I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated! Today YA Author Dawn Brazil is sharing a book review along with author Melissa-Barker Simpson. And editor extraordinaire Christie Stratos is sharing a book spotlight. If you can, please hop over to each of their blogs and say hello!

But in the meanwhile, let’s get to the nitty gritty of today’s blog topic: indie pubbing.

Before I independently published my first novel, I had several unrealistic publishing expectations. For starters, I would get an agent for my first book right after my first query letter, that agent would land me a three book deal, and after the book was published, Hollywood would come a-knockn’, and I would be a bonafide, rock star author extraordinaire.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. I spent a few years sending query letters into that black hole where query letters go but never return, and I spent even more time waiting for responses that never came before I started getting out and networking with other authors and attending writers panels and conferences and other such events and really getting an understanding of how the good folks in New York City (editors) make purchasing decisions:

  1. They hate your story. In fact, they think you’re such a terrible writer that you should be banned from writing anything, including grocery lists.
  2. They liked your story, but in order to buy it they need to love it.
  3. Your story is about cats and gosh darn it, they just purchased a cat story and can’t justify buying another one.
  4. Your story is about vampires, and though it has a new twist (vampires in Vegas! Woo-hoo!), the trend has been done to death and they can’t take a risk on it.
  5. Your story is about a philandering wife. The editor is secretly cheating on her husband and your book makes her feel guilty. She says, “No, bueno, dude,” and sends you a rejection letter.
  6. They like your novel but can’t possibly figure out how to market it. It has nothing to do with your talent: they just need to know how to categorize things in order to feel confident that they can sell it to the masses. They don’t tell you this in the form rejection letter, however, so you’re left thinking that you’re a terrible writer when really, that’s not the case.

There are a million and one reasons why agents and editors can’t take on every book that crosses their path. And if you’re a writer with publishing aspirations, you might find yourself a bit disenchanted after spending some time in the query burn house. You might find yourself asking the question: why don’t they like my novel? But it’s not about them not liking your novel. The question is: do you like your novel?

Traditional publishing: somebody else feels your novel is good enough to be published.

Independent publishing: you feel your novel is good enough to be published.

Now, indie pubbing isn’t for everybody. If you’re sitting there reading this and think that Createspace is a furniture moving company (or that Smashwords is something you do with a hammer), you probably have some more research to do. But if you’ve done your research, have a good product, and don’t mind doing some of the legwork yourself, then why not publish your own book?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you a good writer who has spent years developing your writing craft?
  2. Do you have some hard-hitting critique partners who LOVE your book? (And these people aren’t close friends or family members who think that everything you write is plain ole superb. These are people who know their craft and can spot the big picture issues.)
  3. Do you trust your gut and know that your book is good?
  4. Do you believe in yourself?

If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, then why not publish your own book? Here’s what I think is most important: connecting with readers. And you don’t need an agent or an editor to do that! If you know your story is good, you’ve gotten some stellar feedback from readers, and you believe in yourself, I want you to hear me loud and clear: the good folks of New York City are not responsible for your writing career: you are. Write the best damn novel you can, market it with due diligence, and then write another novel. It’s up to you to build your career. Don’t leave it in anybody else’s hands. If you believe in your novel, you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get your book out into the world and let your voice be heard.

Now having said that, please don’t slap your book together and show up at Createspace with a flash drive talkin’ ‘bout, “Quanie told me to come down here and publish my novel.” Please do your part and make sure that your novel is professionally edited and that it’s formatted correctly and has a nice cover. You spent months (or years!) writing your novel. Make sure that when you present it to the world, it’s the best product it can possibly be!

What about others? Have you published independently? What’s been your experience? And if you haven’t, what’s stopping you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Shadow Stalker Blitz Tour!

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So today I have the pleasure of participating in the blitz tour for Renee Scattergood’s Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3)! Woo-hoo! I got a chance to read the story and I have to tell you, folks: it’s a fast paced read with an ending that will leave you on the edge of your seats!

The book is available today so hop on over to Smashwords and get yourself a copy (and add it to your shelf on Goodreads:)

Renee was kind enough to drop by for a quick Q&A session with me. So sit back, relax, and let’s get to know Renee!

1. How’d you get the inspiration for your Shadow Stalker series?
I first got the inspiration to write Shadow Stalker after reading The Celestine Prophecy. That’s actually how I came up with the character, Kado, and then it grew from there.

2. Are any of the characters based on people you know?
Not entirely, no. I do tend to pick certain traits from people I know and characters from other novels, but they’re usually just little things I think will fit the character.

3. What are you working on currently?
Well I publish an episode of Shadow Stalker every month, so I’m always working on that. I’m also compiling the episodes (every six episodes I write) to write a novel based on them. The novel will have the same story as the episodes, but they will be written in third person as opposed to first person and have a lot more elements involved. I’m also working on a prequel novella for the Shadow Stalker series called Demon Hunt. I’ll be writing that one during NaNoWriMo this year.

4. I was actually going to ask you if you’d be participating in NaNoWriMo. Can you tell us more about the project you’ll be working on this November?
As I mentioned, Demon Hunt is a prequel novel based on the Shadow Stalker series. It takes place the year before the series starts when Kado takes Auren camping on Luten Isle. Something goes wrong, and Auren ends up having to face her worst nightmare. It will be a lot of fun to write.

5. What does your family think about your writing?
They love it. Even my mom, who hates to read, has been eager to read my stuff. My husband gives me ideas and feedback on ideas, but he refuses to read them until the series is done. He can’t stand the suspense of waiting for the next novel. So he’ll read it all at once. LOL

6. Do you write in other genres?
I haven’t yet, but I’d probably consider it if inspiration struck.

7. What’s your writing process?
I always start with a character. Once I have developed the main character and that character’s back story, the plot usually starts coming together in my mind on its own. When I have the plot worked out, I start writing summaries of each paragraph. Other characters and subplots start to form during this process. Then I’ll start writing the first draft once my outline is done. I don’t use a very detailed outline because things tend to change too quickly during the writing process.

8. How do you deal with fear and doubt as a writer?
Whenever it rears its ugly head, I start thinking about everything I’ve accomplished so far or my goals. That always puts me in the right mindset. I don’t have very lofty goals, so I can’t be too intimidated by them. LOL

9. Have you ever had a particularly harsh critique? How did you deal with it?
Not really harsh, no, but I’m pretty laid back and don’t get offended easily. I get frustrated easily, though, when people point out things or offer suggestions and I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I always seem to figure it out, but it drives me crazy until I do. I also get really frustrated when someone says that I haven’t previously established something, then I’ll read back and find it two paragraphs before the one they pointed out. It’s good at the same time, though. Most of the time I find I can expand on it and make it more obvious so people don’t glance over it.

10. What’s some of the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice was to write what you know, don’t over-complicate things, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

I don’t know if I have ever gotten any bad writing advice, but I have been told on more than one occasion that it would be a mistake to self-publish. Apparently, it lowers an author’s credibility.

11. Have you ever gotten inspiration for a story from something truly bizarre?
I have thought about writing a series of children’s books based on a cat I used to have. I think he thought he was human or something. He certainly didn’t act like a cat!

12. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Get to know people and don’t be afraid to help them. This is the best way to get your name out there. Also, spend some time learning your craft. It will go a long way to saving you time and heartache in the long run.

Renee, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me! Now, here’s my review of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3):

An adventure set in the mysterious Dark Isle, the story begins with Auren seeing a disturbing vision about her future. Auren wrestles with what is supposed to be her destiny—and vows that she’ll do all she can to change it. Will her mysterious past be revealed? And most importantly, will the deadly prophecy come to pass? Excellent world building makes this an enjoyable read. Some of the descriptions were so vivid that I felt my skin crawling. Here’s an example:

I turned to see what I had tripped on to find that something had wrapped around my leg and was snaking its way up my thigh. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. The plant was about three meters from where I stood. It was at least as tall as Kado with a huge bulbous flower on the top. The purple pedals were opening to reveal…were those teeth?

Allowing myself to be distracted by the plant was a mistake. I didn’t notice the vines that had been wrapping themselves around my body.

Yikes! But carnivorous plants are the least of Auren’s worries, as there is danger everywhere she turns. Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3) is a quick and entertaining read by a very talented author. While reading the story the reader has to wonder: what is waiting for Auren in the dark shadows of the forest??? Well, you’ve got to read the story to find out!

Well, that’s it folks! Make sure you head over to Smashwords to get your copy of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3), and in the meanwhile,  check out where you can catch up with Renee online!

Social Media Links:
Google Plus: /+NayaScattergood/posts
Until next time, folks!

How (Not) to Deal with Constructive Criticism

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Happy Monday, All! Today marks the second week of my blog tour and I’m excited to announce that 3 fanfriggintastic authors have been kind enough to host me today!

Mel Kin over at A 5-Minute Piece of My Mind  is sharing a book spotlight and Emma L. Adams at From the Writer’s Nest is interviewing yours truly. You can see past and future tour stops here.

But in the meanwhile, let’s talk about an issue I’m sure all writers have dealt with: criticism.

I’ve been seeing a lot of requests for critique partners and beta readers online lately, but I’ve been hesitant to volunteer because you never know how some folks are going to react to criticism.

I’ll give you an example:

Back in the day (way back, before Facebook), I took a creative writing course. In this particular class, there was a student who was very vocal about the “mistakes “in other people’s writing. In fact, prior to reading her work, I thought she was some creative writing guru because she was so knowledgeable about the craft of writing (translation: she nitpicked our poor manuscripts within an inch of their lives, and she wasn’t always so nice about it). So when it was time for us to read her manuscript, I sort of assumed that her work would be…well, perfect.

But everything that glitters ain’t gold. When I took that manuscript home, I was shocked.  I don’t like to disparage people’s work (because, hey: we’re all God’s children), but honey, you talk about the biggest mess you ever wanted to see! I’m talking characters who were so unbelievable you wanted to toss the manuscript out the window (and I’m sure several of my classmates probably did), scenes that made me laugh out loud (and they weren’t supposed to be funny), and the ending? Let’s just call it the plot twist from hell. Now, did I tell her this in my critique? Of course not! I mean, I love keeping it real just as much as the next gal,  but mama ain’t raised no fool.  You never know how some folk are going to react to criticism and I would hate to really “let somebody have it” in a critique session and then walk outside and find them waiting. By my car. In a hoody. Holding a baseball bat.

But I digress.

As you can imagine, some people in the class (probably remembering how mean she’d been with their critiques) really let ole girl have it. And what ensued was a blood bath like I had never seen. She became completely belligerent despite the fact that, in the past, she’d critiqued the work of her fellow authors with such vecerosity (I just made that word up. It means “exceedingly crass, even for an asshole”). Anyhoo, I sat back in my chair, cringing, and when it was finally my turn to offer my thoughts, I really tried to be positive with my critique. But others were brutally honest, and the person got so upset she eventually started crying. Do I say all of this to celebrate the blood bath that occurred that day? No. I say let this be a lesson to us all: critique unto others as you would have them critique unto you.

I know this is an extreme example, but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t always volunteer to beta read: some people might take the criticism personally. Letting other people read your work can be nerve-wracking, but if someone is kind enough to give you feedback on your writing, here are a few things not to do:

  1. Get defensive.
  2. Say: “But it really happened!” Doesn’t matter if your story made the front page of the paper. If it doesn’t ring true on the page, people won’t buy it.
  3. Say: “Well, you’re all just a bunch of idiots and aren’t intelligent/hip/socially aware enough to ‘get’ what I’m doing here.” Listen, someone actually took the time to read your story and just because you don’t like what they say doesn’t mean you have to berate them. Don’t agree with the criticism? Say thank you anyway and keep it moving.
  4. Cry. Please don’t! We’ll hand you a handkerchief but it won’t change how we feel about the manuscript (really, it won’t). Besides, if you think your critique partners are harsh, wait until you’re published and reviewers get a hold of your novel. It takes tough skin to be an author!

As authors, we have to learn to accept criticism and separate ourselves from the things that we write, so I want you to repeat after me: “I (insert your name) fully recognize that a critique of my novel is not a critique of me as a person.”

I’ll say it again for those of you in the back who didn’t hear me: a critique of your novel is not a critique of you as a person. If someone takes the time to give you feedback on your novel, be grateful. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, there’s a chance that there’s something in the feedback that can help to make your story better. After all, if you didn’t want people’s opinions, you wouldn’t have asked for it. And if you thought your story was perfect, you wouldn’t be asking for feedback…right?


What about others? Any critique session horror stories (As an author, critiquer, or both)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How a Bad Hair Weave Helped me to Finish my Novel

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So today is the release day of my first paranormal novel, The New Mrs. Collins! Woo-hoo! I’m super excited! I want to thank everyone who signed up for my blog tour. Your support really means a lot! Today I’m going to be busy because 4 super fantastic authors have been gracious enough to host me!

Christina C. Jones is hosting me at Being Mrs. Jones with a spotlight and review.
Kimmie Thomas over at She Really Said It is also sharing a review.
Gina Stoneheart  is sharing a book spotlight along with Melissa Barker-Simpson over at Writing Room 101 (You can see the rest of the tour stops here).

And over here at my blog I’m sharing the story of the shady hairstylist who encouraged me to finish the novel. But I’m so excited about the release that you know I have to do it. Oh, c’mon. You knew it was coming. Excuse me for a second folks…


Now that that’s out of the way…

A few years ago, I got a story idea about a woman who could speak things into existence. That was all I had. No name. No plot. No nothing. I went to lunch with a friend who asked me what I was working on. “Well,” I said, picking at my salad, “It’s about this woman who can make things happen just by speaking it. Like if she tells you, ‘Jump off that bridge,’ you’d actually do it.”

My friend said, “Hunh. I sure wish I could do that! You know how many people would be jumping off of bridges?”

I began to kick the idea around some more but didn’t get very far. I outlined the story, started writing it, realized it wasn’t working, abandoned it, went back to it, abandoned it again, and then decided that maybe I should work on something else—until I met the hairstylist who gave me the bad weave.

Picture it: December, 2011. I was upset with my regular beautician for overcharging me for a style so I did something I soon came to regret: I cheated on her. Now, in my defense, the other stylist was offering a significant discount on her weaves, and at the time, there was something about the combination of the terms “discount” and “weaves” that sent me running for my wallet (I have since been reformed). In any event, I booked the appointment and headed off down Interstate 280, confident that by the time I left that hair shop, my hair would be laid like nobody’s business.

Boy, was I wrong.

When I got there, she had somebody in the chair. “I’ll be with you in just a second,” she said. Any woman who’s ever gotten her hair done knows that this is secret language for: Dude, I’ve double booked. Hope you’ve brought yourself a snack because you’ll be here until the Lord comes back. Maybe even later.

I sat. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, a couple of hours later, she was done with her other client. I was peeved—but I wanted that discount—so I moseyed my behind over to her chair and sat (and sulked). But once we started talking, my agitation dissolved and it dawned on me: Okay, maybe this heifer ain’t so bad double booking aside, she actually seemed…nice. She asked me, “So, what do you do?”

I told her. Then I said, “But what I really want to do is write.”

“What kind of stuff do you write?” I told her that I wrote novels, and about the idea I had about the woman with the mystical powers. “Oooh! I love that! It’s so different! And you know what? I could totally see Gabrielle Union playing that part!” And almost as if the story gods were listening, when I flipped the page in the magazine I was reading, there was Gabrielle Union. Smiling that majestic smile of hers. “See that? It’s a sign!” she yelled.

“You don’t think the idea is stupid?”

“No! I love it. You should definitely finish that story!”

“Oh. Well…okay.”

She finished my hair at about one in the morning (yes, one in the morning), and said enthusiastically, “Oooh, girl! This looks good!” She gave me a mirror and at the time, I thought the style was fine (but then again, it was one o’clock in the morning. I was so tired she could have slapped a parakeet on top that thing and I would have given her a thumbs up). My only “issue”? I felt the hair was too long.

She said, no pun intended, “I think it’ll grow on you. I tell you what: if you get home and decide you don’t like it, call me and I’ll cut it for free.”

I nodded, paid her, and left. The next morning, I woke up and got a good look at the hair in the mirror. For some reason, every time I tried to comb it, the hair fell in front of my face like a curtain. I parted it like it was the Red Sea but it wouldn’t stay. I looked like Cousin It! And then I took a mirror to inspect the back and gasped: Ms. Hair Stylist Extraordinaire had boasted of how she created her own closures. To my non-weave wearers: a “closure” is a hairpiece that closes the weave at the top, so that it looks natural. You can buy it, but Ms. Thang, apparently thinking that she was the MacGyver of hair weaves, had made her own with one little piece of hair, relying solely on a wing and an unanswered prayer a prayer.

But I digress.

Chile, when I looked at that thing, I wanted to cry! There was a clear opening—like a tunnel!— at the very top of my head where you could see my scalp! Closure my ass! Ms. Thang had clearly exaggerated her talents! So I called and left her fifty-leven messages, and guess who called me back? Nobody! I started to get the sneaking suspicion that Ms. Discount Weave had decided that she’d already done enough for me and couldn’t be bothered to fix the mess on my head. And I was about to go out of town for Christmas. How could I go looking like Cousin It with a wind tunnel? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Three things happened next:

1. I crawled back to my regular hairstylist to fix the mess on my head. She took the price she (accidentally) over charged me off the price of the style and smirked as she asked, “Who the hell did your hair?”
2. I put Ms. Discount Weave on my, “People I will snub when I’m rich” list.
3. I started thinking about my novel and her enthusiasm about it, and guess what happened? I finished it!

Several years and several beta readers later, I have come to really believe in the story. I know that if it hadn’t been for her, I would have abandoned the novel, so I know that our encounter wasn’t by chance. So to Ms. Discount Weave, wherever you are, I’d like to thank you for encouraging me to finish my novel, wind tunnel and all!

What about others? Have you had a bad experience with a hair stylist? Have you ever received encouragement from an unlikely source? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Book Spotlight! Sifting Through Mud by Demetria Foster Gray – Contemporary Women’s Fiction

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I’m super excited to be hosting Demetria Foster Gray in celebration of her newest release, Sifting Through Mud! Check out the book cover, blurb, and buy links below. Also find out where you can connect with Demetria online!

And be sure to add Shifting Through Mud to your Goodreads shelf!

Congrats on your release, Demetria!


Front Cover Only - SiftingThroughMud resized small

Title: Sifting Through Mud
Author: Demetria Foster Gray
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Women’s)
Release Date: August 18, 2014


Book Synopsis/Summary
The death of Nyla’s husband comes as a shock to everyone except Nyla. What’s shocking to Nyla is her inability to grieve his death like a typical loving wife should grieve. But Nyla isn’t a typical loving wife. She’s a woman in desperate need to breathe. The oxygen in her life has long gone, and the astonishing thing she feels from her husband’s death is relief, not grief.

Even more astonishing is the rare and unexpected friendship which develops between Nyla and her dead husband’s mistress. However, Nyla isn’t aware her new best friend is a former mistress. And as their friendship deepens into an unshakable bond, Nyla is forced to face secrets her husband took with him to his grave. This means she has to sift through mud to unravel the truth. A truth that’s better off dead.

Yet through it all, the one thing which makes Nyla violently breathless, is the exact same thing that causes her to finally breathe.

Buy the Book:

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

What People Are Saying about Sifting Through Mud (Book Testimonials)
Demetria Foster Gray delivers a heart-stopping, emotional punch with her debut novel, Sifting Through Mud. The boundaries of friendship are reinvented in this sexy, thought provoking tale of two women on a tightly woven journey of self discovery. Sifting Through Mud is rich with characters you’ll laugh with, cry with, and pull for in the end. —Lynn Chandler Willis, award-winning author of The Rising, and Wink of an Eye

In her debut novel, Demetria Foster Gray delivers a stunning tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice. Full of twists and turns, Sifting Through Mud leaves you breathless as friends, Nyla and Vivian, push the limits of their convictions, friendship, and love. These women are strong, smart, and beautiful with whom you instantly connect. Feeling the emotional struggle of each character, your heart aches for them, their decisions, and ultimately your own as you find yourself choosing between them. Sifting Through Mud is simply stunning. —Cindy Cipriano, author of The Circle

Author Links:

Author Photo - Medium size
Demetria Foster Gray is a novelist, freelance writer, and communications consultant. She earned a degree in Marketing Communications and spent the bulk of her career writing for the corporate world. Creating fictional characters and building stories has always been her first love. A native of the Chicago, IL area, Demetria now lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Sifting Through Mud is her debut novel. Visit Demetria at

How to Help Readers Discover Your Book

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! And today marks the one year anniversary of the IWSG website. Has the time flown by or what???

The cohosts for this month are Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness, and Fundy Blue. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!


I recently ran across the blog of an author who was having trouble marketing her book. In her blog post, she said something along the lines of, “I don’t do much marketing. I kind of just put the book out there, don’t publicize it, write something else, and then say to myself ‘I’ll do better next time.’”

I thought about that for a while. Though I’m no psychologist, something tells me that this author is purposefully sabotaging herself. Hey, it happens. We don’t want to finish our novel so we clean the dishes instead. We’re afraid of what our beta readers are going to think, so we lollygag on that last chapter longer than necessary, or go back to the beginning, obsessing over every little word, never really finishing the darn thing because we’re afraid of being judged.

Or, we’ll have a perfectly fine novel but we don’t do our due diligence at marketing ourselves.

“But, Quanie,” you say, “I’m no marketing expert! All I want to do is write and I don’t have a budget to hire somebody! So you see, it’s really not my fault that nobody, not even my closest friends, knows about my novel!”

Yes, it is, and I’ll tell you why: your writing career is your responsibility. I’m assuming that if you wrote a novel, you wrote the best novel you could possibly write, so you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get the word out about your story. And besides, who says you need a huge marketing budget to promote your novel? Does it help? Sure. Is it necessary? Absolutely not.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Pick your poison: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Pick one (or two), learn how to maximize it, and start networking. Avoid overloading on the “buy my book” posts/tweets like the plague and start making genuine connections. Help other authors promote their books and you’ll be surprised how quickly others will be willing to return the favor for you.
  2. Start blogging. Yes, I know. You don’t want to blog, and you can name a ton of successful authors who don’t touch the stuff, but this is a great way to connect with other authors, readers, and reviewers. Whatever it is you’re going to blog about, make sure the content is interesting enough to draw readers in and make them want to share the content.
  3. Get on Goodreads. Yesterday. Join some of the review groups and offer some free copies of your book in exchange for a review.
  4. Organize a blog tour. If you don’t have the time or plain ole just don’t feel like doing it yourself, hire someone to do it.
  5. Guest post on another author’s blog to reach readers outside of your normal circle.
  6. Tell people you wrote a book. Yes, I know: for some reason you’re treating your novel like it’s the world’s best kept secret, but people can’t buy a book that they don’t know exists. Besides, once your family/friends/coworkers realize you wrote a book they’ll probably be impressed and will tell everyone that they know a real life published author. And there is nothing like free, word of mouth marketing.
  7. Get some bookmarks and business cards made with your book cover and your social media info. And don’t be shy to casually mention you wrote a book! The conversation might go something like this:
    “It looks like it’s going to rain.”
    “Oh? Did I tell you I wrote a book?” Bam: hand out the bookmark. Easy peazy.
  8. If you have a physical copy of your book, leave a few copies with your hair stylist. If she double books like the stylists I know, her clients will be there until kingdom come: why not help them discover your book while they wait? It also wouldn’t hurt to ask the stylist if you could leave a few bookmarks on her workstation. It’s worth a shot!
  9. Make a book cover flyer with your social media info and buy links and post them at local coffee shops.
  10. Got some wiggle room in your marketing budget? You might want to consider paid advertisement (Goodreads, Bookbub, etc).

There are many ways to market a novel, and if you’ve taken the time to write the best book you can possibly write, why not do everything you can to promote yourself? Is there a chance that you could publish your novel and, with little to no marketing, experience J.K. Rowling like success? Sure, but it’s highly unlikely since most authors have to be diligent about helping readers discover their books. If you’re serious about your writing, you’ll be willing to put in the work it takes to have a stellar career, because after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is an author’s platform.

What about others? What marketing strategies do you find work best? Which do you find are a complete waste of time? Which social media outlets have you found most beneficial? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



This is my entry for the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond.  I give permission for this entry to be included in the anthology.
Title: How to Help Readers Discover Your Book
Topic: Marketing
Bio: Quanie Miller writes paranormal novels and romantic comedies. You can catch up with her at



Novel Writing Tips: The First Page

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Last year I was the recipient of the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. Part of the prize was a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers Conference. During the conference (more about that here), I attended something called a First-Page-A-Thon (translation: a panel of literary agents reads the first page of your novel out loud and if they don’t like it, they throw rocks at you until you promise to send them nary a query letter regarding said manuscript). And honey chile, let me tell you: that was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.

Picture it: February, 2013. An unsuspecting Quanie sits in a conference room at the Mark Hopkins hotel, next to her friend, Lindsay, shaking in her boots (and she doesn’t even wear boots). One of the agents, after laughing diabolically, picks from the pile and begins to read the first submission.

*Insert beads of sweat on Quanie’s forehead*

So I’m sitting there, biting my poor nails to the nubs until finally, I recognize the first line from my work in progress. Lindsay jabbed me and whispered, “That one’s yours!” I ducked in my seat, wishing that I’d taken my invisibility cloak.

This is how it went: during the reading of your manuscript, any agent could raise their hand at the point on the page that they would stop reading had they received your manuscript via regular query. If two agents raised their hand, the agent stopped reading your page and all the agents gave feedback about why they would have rejected the submission.

It was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me as a writer. You would not believe how many times agents don’t get past the first paragraph, and in one instance, the first line.

Here’s my takeaway from that experience:

1. This may seem like common writer knowledge, but don’t start your story with a character waking up from a dream. Why not? Because it’s been done to death.

2. Don’t start the story with someone answering the phone. I think one of the reasons the agents listed this as a pet peeve is because they see it so often and they’d like to see a character doing something more interesting when they’re introduced. Quite a few of the manuscripts began with characters answering the phone and you know what happened? The agents stopped reading. Yeah, I know: ouch.

3. One agent said the phrase “my heart pounded” is an instant turn off for her. She said as soon as she sees it, she stops reading because it’s so unoriginal.

4. We need to know who the main character is right away, so putting too many characters on the first page might not be the best idea. You might be able to keep your characters straight in your head, but readers picking up your book for the first time need to be eased into the story. It might be a good idea to show your main character, in action, preferably doing something interesting (and hopefully, not waking from a dream or answering the phone!) and then, as we get to know him/her, introduce us to other characters.

5. Too much description is a no-no (this was the problem with my first page). I had everything going on except Mardi Gras, honey. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So what did I do? I took the constructive criticism, reevaluated the first page of my novel, and realized that (gulp) the story didn’t start until chapter 3. Yes: chapter 3. I cut the first two chapters and haven’t looked back since.

My two cents? If you can break the rules successfully, then everyone will bow to your greatness. And if you don’t? Then, well…people will refer you right back to the rules.

What about others? What are some strategies that you employ when writing your first page? And as readers, what are some of your first page pet peeves?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*Sidenote: Last Tuesday my husband and I welcomed our little girl into the world! As you can imagine, this is quite an exciting and busy time for us as first-time parents. I will try my best to return blog visits, but please bear with me!*