Don’t Pound the Nail: Embracing Nonconformity

“Freedom of Speech” © Wuka

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This post may put you off. I’m not censoring myself, nor sugar-coating the subject. It’s quite possible I’ll offend you, so if you consider yourself conservative, rigid-minded, and in opposition to freedom of speech, you’ll do well to abandon this essay for something more your speed.

You should know that I’m not the type of person who desires to follow to society’s expectations. It may work for some, but I’m a free spirit. A depressing Japanese proverb my late mother-in-law taught me remains ingrained in my brain: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”

It’s a reflection of the societal pressure of Japanese people to conform; and expresses the complete opposite of my beliefs. The farther the nail sticks out, the happier I become.

Motto of 2015: Honesty Is My Only Policy

I don’t usually climb atop my soapbox and talk about anything personal, but I’m done hiding in the shadows. I want to know that the people following me are fellow supporters, and not sycophants. I want you to know who I am from me personally, and not from your assumptions.

Sayonara, old habits of caring too much what the opinions of others! My eager-to-please nature directly conflicts with my sense of self-preservation. Though I’m always looking to interview authors and artists, recent experiences have taught me to use a more discerning eye when choosing who I decide to promote. Things I never want to hear again from fellow authors:

“You’re a great writer, but I just can’t get behind the subject matter of your books. Something about two guys together just grosses me out.”

Fair enough. A zebra can’t change his stripes and all. I’m actually glad to hear that you’re not making yourself unnecessarily uncomfortable by reading my work. But do you have to be so obvious about your disgust? Whatever happened to professional courtesy?

“I really loved your story, but I’m not comfortable recommending it because it had GAYNESS in it. So please don’t tell anyone – in fact, destroy this email ASAP.”

My mental middle finger comes out in a flash when I hear that. So you’re not ballsy enough to publicly recommend my work, even though you told me it was well-written (and you secretly enjoyed it)? Fine with me, but don’t expect me to ever take you seriously again. I’m not a fan of hiding my queerness, or anybody else’s, for that matter. Don’t like, don’t read – but don’t be a hypocrite.

“Here are my links – promote me, but be advised that I have zero interest in returning the favor.”

Um…okay. So in your universe, I owe you a favor because you worship yourself enough to think others should just blindly follow your commands?

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

“Please, please, please read my book! You’ll be so impressed, I swear!”

Be careful what you wish for. When you publicly hound me to read your book (especially if you are a repeat-offender), I have absolutely no qualms posting my honest thoughts about it in an equally public forum. I’m confident enough in my own writing skills to provide helpful critiques for others – but don’t expect a glowing review of your work unless I genuinely enjoyed it. I’m not one of those authors who gives colleagues fluffed-up five-star reviews. If you are one, please don’t take offense. I’m not condemning you – how you choose to review books is entirely your decision – but I’m just not personally comfortable with doing that myself (in fact, I don’t even rate books numerically – I only write text reviews).

Small Doses of Magic

Sadly, the occasion I actually enjoy what I read is rare. I’ve started over 30 books in the past couple of months. Nine times out of ten, I had to stop one chapter in. I’m a very, very picky reader, probably because I was spoiled on the finest literature as a kid/young adult. I just don’t have the “sprig of zest” (thank you for that phrase, Hannibal) like I did back in the good ol’ days. A book has really gotta grab me in order for me to devote any time to it.

Some recent ones I enjoyed:

The Assassin’s Remorse (Dark Fantasy/Short Story) by J.M.D. Reid

The Kinship of Stars (Scifi/Space Opera) by J.H. Kimbrell

Angels of the Deep (Horror/Romance) by Kirby Crow

I’ll tell you some more of my recent favorites next time. 😉

One Man’s Trash…

Some folks may not agree with the feedback I give, but it’s not my job to hold someone’s hand – after all, no one’s holding mine. I have received some terrible reviews (mostly at Goodreads, the bane of my existence), and some glowing ones. I’m still struggling with perfecting the steel shell around my heart, but I’m determined to overcome adversity. If you’re a writer, you have to learn to suck it up and let the pointless criticism roll off your back, while taking the helpful comments in stride.

I’m at the point of my career (and I use this word generously) where I recognize my strengths as a writer, and strive to improve my weaknesses. It’s difficult making a name for oneself in any genre; and I picked one of the least socially acceptable – queer speculative fiction. I don’t want to go mainstream, though I would like to reach a wider audience. What writer wouldn’t want to expand his/her reach? Still, there are definite pitfalls to attempting such a feat.

Beware the Bloggers Who Come out of the Blue, Promising You the Moon

A blogger/book reviewer who shall remain anonymous (although my tongue is bursting to tell you her name so that you can steer clear) sent me a direct message on Twitter about how she believed in my work and wanted to offer me the chance to get promoted on her blog. I was skeptical, but her flattering words came at a time when I was most vulnerable; so I thought, why the hell not? What do I have to lose?

I ended up relinquishing three copies of my queer vampire novella Crimson for one of her giveaways. No sweat – I loved the fact that readers were actually competing to win my book. Talk about an ego boost. Imagine my surprise (and horror) when she sent me an email linking me to her “rules” of reviewing, and one of the first sentences was, “I do not review erotica.”

Excuse me? Did you not realize my book had erotic elements when you approached me, saying how freaking fantastic my writing was? Out of politeness, I won’t reveal the first adjective that came into my head when I realized she had never read my work. Bottom line – if you’re a reviewer looking for books, do your f*cking research. Otherwise, you just look like a total jerk, and waste not only the author’s time, but your own.

Showing My Cards

So I like to write deeply dark, smutty-but-sincere stories about same-sex relationships. There’s no rhyme or reason to it (maybe other than the fact that I’m queer). Married to a man, but straight? Nope. I fell in love with my husband for the person he is, not for his gender. Though, if you twisted my arm, I’d admit that I’m more physically attracted to a manly physique than to a girly one, but that’s really just surface stuff. What matters is how the person makes me feel. And my husband makes me feel like maybe I’m actually worthy of love (always a plus). He also supports me in all I do, including this (laughable to some folks) writing “career” of mine…which brings to my announcement: after careful consideration, I have decided to remove my award-winning queer vampire series MASTER from Amazon, and post it chapter-by-chapter to Wattpad. Expect the revised first chapter to premiere sometime this month.

Decision-Making Factors

My last paycheck was $3.73. LOL – I wish I were joking. To put it into perspective, I haven’t made a single sale since December 16th. So what’s point of charging for a product that doesn’t sell? I’m hoping to entice more readers with my storytelling – making money (though it would be nice) is not my #1 goal. My primary goal is simply to entertain. Since my stay-at-home mom status and poor health prevents me from doing my first love – live performance – writing provides a more-than-satisfactory outlet for my creativity.

Why Do My Numbers Suck?

From what I’ve observed, the problem is not my writing as much as it is my failed methods of marketing; and some amateur mistakes I made when I re-released the self-pubbed version of Crimson. It’s hard persuading people to try a new author – especially when that author isn’t backed by a formidable marketing team. The formatting of my ebooks wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but it was bad enough to irritate readers – there were a few typos and weird spaces. As far as content, I did too much info-dump in the first chapter of Crimson. I’m sure people were running in droves after reading even half of all the expository material in that description-dense first chapter.

Though the book’s pace greatly improves after that first beast of a chapter (newly streamlined for Wattpad), most folks probably didn’t stick around to find that out. My bad, yo. Live and learn. In fact, I’ve made a laughable number of errors in this self-publishing endeavor of mine, including immersing myself too deeply in the murky world of social media.

Twitter Is a Tricky Beast

My mental health has taken a hit from negatively-charged social media influence. Twitter can be a real blast, but it can also bring me down to the bowels of the earth with no light in sight. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter who have restored my faith in humanity. On the flip side, I’ve encountered some of the most raucous trolls (“Tu puta madre,” tweeted a charmless scumbag in response to one of my book ads). I usually laugh it off, but deep down, the casual ugliness people can display in 140 characters or less is staggering to behold. On the self-promotion front, I’ve never been comfortable doing book-blasts; nor trying to wheedle people into reading my work. Twitter’s a good platform for getting noticed, if you have the right marketing strategy, and target a wider audience; but Twitter is probably not the best place for a hard-to-peg author like me. I’ve experienced little success attracting fans of my actual books. I have quite a few active followers and fans, but they don’t buys my work – they retweet my more attractive ads, art I share, and short poems I used to do for #fieryverse.

It could be that I’m not hitting the right notes with my posts, but, judging by my decent engagement statistics, the more likely problem is that my tweets aren’t reaching the right audience. It’s the little-in-a-big-pond syndrome: until I can find a better platform for my marketing, it’s a waste of time, daily devoting hours of energy into getting noticed. I have two toddlers. I have numerous health problems and have been ordered by my physicians to avoid stress at all costs.

And, more relevant to the subject matter, I should be writing instead, so I can nurture my small, loyal fanbase by bringing you new stories.

To My Fans

I appreciate you so much. Your enthusiasm for my stories gives me the surge of confidence I need to going forward. Every time I hear a kind word from you, it makes my day (the high I experience after getting positive feedback is better than any drug I’ve ever tried). I’m like, “Yes! Someone cares! Someone likes me (my work)!” It’s a tricky field, writing, but it’s one that I have to pull off with as much panache as possible. Truthfully, I’m always on the verge of giving up. Not because I’m a quitter, but because I have too much self-doubt. Whether it’s my brain pranking me, or an actual neurosis, remains to be seen. Probably a little of both.

Yep.

After all is said and done…

I’m never going to fit inside a box. Neither is my writing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sympatico?

If you’re resistant to getting pounded (LOL couldn’t help myself), consider giving me a nudge. I’m looking to network with like-minded folks, instead of wasting my time with people with whom I share little common ground. We’re all messed up in our own ways, but few people have the strength of character to admit it. If you’re unapologetically weird, well…

Join the club.


“Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Now go hug that special person who appreciates the beauty in you; just as you are.
Peace,
Jane

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5 comments

  1. I love this, Jane. Your attitude, your New Year’s Resolution… your admission of self-doubt. And I would like to admit that this was precisely the kick in the head I needed to purchase one of your books! Do you have a favorite?

    Like

    • Hi, Mel! Thanks so much for the comment. ❤ I'll be 32 in March – it's time to put my big-kid pants on. LOL.

      I appreciate your asking about my books – currently, the only ones available for purchase are POISON and POISON II: SPRING, but if M/M BDSM-tinged anti-romance erotica doesn't sound like your flavor, then you should probably steer clear. 😉 I also offer free fics on Wattpad (all of the queer variety): http://www.wattpad.com/janebled

      Anyway, thanks again! Hope you're doing well & having a creativity-filled week. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great article Jane. I hope sharing your story for free will bring you know fans that will appreciate your great writing. I’m so glad you included me on your list of worthy stories you’ve read. You have always been so supportive. Thanks, Jane!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the compliment, James! I was honestly not sure if I should be so candid, but now I feel a little more confident. “The Assassin’s Remorse” is a great little short – I’m happy to recommend it. Ditto about the support – you have always been more than generous with yours. Much love, my friend!

      Like

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