The Queen of Crows is Now Available for Your Kindle, Nook, iPad and More!

First published in March 2010 on DriveThruHorror.com, we’ve expanded our digital offering to include a text-based version for your Amazon Kindle or your Nook from Barnes and Noble. Since this file format is primarily text-based, we went ahead and dropped the price to $2.99 on both the Kindle and the ePub edition. The ePub format, which is available at Barnes and Noble, is also compatible with several other devices including your Sony eReader and your iPhone.

In addition to the new version, we’ve optimized the original, full color file to work with your iPad. Because of the file format, we are currently only able to offer this version to you via DriveThruHorror.com and Lulu.com. This week, we will also begin testing the file on a color version of the Nook. We do plan on offering a print version of the work sometime next year.

If you’re curious about where this book is available or want more information, you can check out the updated book page at Violetwar.com. You can also download or view free samples at Barnes and Noble, Lulu.com and DriveThruHorror.com.

Thanks again for your support!

On Bad News

Hey everyone,

Wanted to write you a letter today that allows me to clear a few things up. I’m sure that many of you know that when you’re a creative person, you live your life on a roller coaster. For many people, the employment outlook isn’t great; this is especially true for creative people. Several writers and artists I know, including myself, do not have a full-time job right now. Many businesses are either not hiring or they are taking the opportunity to give their regular workers overtime. The people that I do know that are working are swamped, as businesses are trying to cut costs to stay afloat. Sometimes, this means that creators are required to act like production monkeys, which means that the quality of the work suffers. In many cases, I’m hearing from other writers that they are creating content for the sake of producing content so their other work is suffering, too.

Age also seems to be a factor in today’s market; most people I know either have an older relative or a parent that’s out of work. After several conversations with some state and private agencies around town, applications for positions have tripled and recruiters are seeing that a lot of overqualified applicants are vying for low-paying jobs. As you can imagine, it’s an employer’s — rather than an employee’s — market.

On the publishing front, which is not a full-time, viable financial venture for over ninety percent of the authors out there (including myself) — the news is grim. Many small press publishers are going out of business and the larger publishers are focusing more on their heavy hitters. So authors who write books that sell a steady number of copies, dubbed the “mid-list” authors, are finding that their contracts are drying up. Right now, I’m still a small press author, so the news about the disappearing mid-list is pretty depressing. (For one example, read: Mid-List Authors Find Homes at Indie Presses.) I’ve tabled two half-finished novels and have been focusing on other opportunities because I’m not very optimistic about my chances.

To be clear: I feel I made a mistake when I wrote my “Happy Thanksgiving” post and wound up deleting it, because I mentioned I was thankful for all the bad experiences that I’ve had this year without really explaining why. Sure, I talked about how you can’t have the good without the bad, but I didn’t go into this level of detail. Taken out of context, it sounded a little bitter to me, which is not accurate. The market does suck, but it will get better. It always does.

Fortunately, I am part of a community of writers and artists who either have experienced what I’ve been going through or know someone who has. My support network is very strong and invaluable, but having that support is not a guarantee that things will change. I have to make very careful decisions about how I spend my time, but I also need to be brave and take risks. I have to finish those novels, even though I don’t think I have a chance in hell of getting them published. I also have to forget about how clean our house is and focus on writing another story or submitting another resume.

Right now, I am slowly closing the door on an unfortunate chapter in my career, but I’m plotting out a new one. I hate sharing bad news because things change. What non-creative people don’t realize, is that being creative means that you have a different life path than most people. Sometimes it’s hard to express that in a post without coming across as being bitter or negative, but I’ve always been an opportunist and a pragmatist. Sometimes those opportunities work out, and sometimes they don’t.

This is my story. I hope that by sharing it, I inspire you to get off your butt and focus on your own. I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to reach out to people and explore every option you have. As always, I hope that you lift your head up and realize how valuable you are. Keep writing, keep telling stories and never, ever give up. I know I won’t.

– Monica

Chocolate versus Vanilla Personas

A couple of days ago I had the chance to sit down with my friend Jason Blair. Jason is an interesting guy; he’s a very talented game designer and has even written for a few video games. One of the things we talked about was the broad variety of writer’s personas we’ve seen on the web and how people might perceive a writer not just from a reader’s standpoint — but from an employer’s standpoint.

What’s in a Plain, Vanilla Persona?

A vanilla persona is a safe persona. The content that supports this persona doesn’t include pictures of drunk people or swear words. Content doesn’t strive to be edgy or cool just to get readers; topics tend to be evergreen. If photos and post subjects are personal, they’re the type you’d share with an acquaintance rather than a lover. This type of persona also translates well offline because people’s expectations about the real person aren’t as controversial as someone who has a chocolate persona.

Examples of my vanilla topics include: commentary on relevant trends, what I’m working on now, reviews of software or tools, insight into writing or the freelancer’s life, recipes, etc. Right now, my goal is to build my brand as a writer. My ability to do that depends upon the content that I have available for people to read. My goal may sound familiar to you: project my successes and minimize my failures.

Many writers online are striving to achieve the appearance of success, regardless of whether or not that’s actually true. After all, would you buy a book if it’s poorly reviewed? What about hiring a writer that had to resort to asking donations via social media to pay their car payment? While that may be honest (e.g. writers tend not to make a lot of money) it sounds like that writer can’t make enough money to to survive. Without realizing it, that type of commentary then leads to: “Well, why aren’t you making money? You must be a bad writer.”

Several authors, like Lori Devoti, Matt Forbeck, James Lowder, etc. have a vanilla persona. They talk about their writing and they share some personal tidbits, but they don’t make it a point to be in-your-face or be a part of every internet kerfluffle that hits the web. An example of a writer’s vanilla persona who I really admire is Holly Lisle.

In my case, I’ve also got two aspects of my personality. “Monica the author” is a lot different from “Monica the business professional.” However, we are one and the same individual. A vanilla persona allows me to blend all those pieces together without requiring me to spend buckets of time maintaining an edgy or cool personality separate from my blog. I’ve been experimenting with that on Violetwar.com, but find that it’s too time-consuming to maintain one persona let alone two.

A Chocolate Persona?

A chocolate persona is full of flavor. It’s the type of online personality that swears and comments on everything under the sun to sound cool, hip and popular — whether it’s relevant to their writing or not. It’s the type of persona that whines when things don’t go well and tries to start internet fires to get traffic. People who have chocolate personas incur opinions about their personalities, which doesn’t always work when you meet them in person.

There’s a lot of writers who fabricate a persona that is either nothing like them in real life or seems to be more grandiose, akin to reality television. That’s their choice and to them — being popular online means something. Would a young adult publisher want to buy my novel if I had a foul mouth? Probably not, unless I had a pen name. Would a business put their content in my hands if I infused internet slang into everything I wrote? I can tell you that their answer would be “No,” because I’ve heard some people complain about that before.

Don’t get me wrong: having a popular persona online can provide a lot of benefits for a writer. In some cases, it absolutely makes sense for a writer to create a chocolate persona. However, there is another piece to consider. Why does it matter? What’s the point of having a persona if you’re not going to do anything with it? After all, I could be the most popular writer online but if I don’t make any more money than a writer who isn’t popular online? Then what good does it do me? At the end of the day, all writers have to make a living somehow. Being a writer means you write more than forty hours a week; sometimes you have a full-time job, sometimes you don’t. Our time is limited. If we have to market ourselves, wouldn’t you much rather spend the time that you have doing something that matters?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Popular authors online have to sell more books. Right? *shakes head* Not necessarily. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had and how many threads I’ve followed where writers say it’s had little to no impact on their sales. Not to mention, more than a few have complained that the time they took to create that popular persona could have been used to *gasp* write.

Online marketers know the reality behind internet popularity all too well. You can drive tons of traffic to a web page, but if people don’t convert (e.g. take an action) then that traffic is useless. Brand awareness may be a goal, but often that comes with its own price. What do you want to be known for? Your writing or your foul mouth? There are other ways to get your name out in front of potential readers without pissing people off.

Lastly, it is a lot harder to maintain a persona that is an advertorial or a well-marketed aspect of anyone’s personality for long periods of time. Trendy personas are not sustainable unless you constantly put the work into it. Not to mention, it can be very exhausting if you are known for “this one thing” and have to keep up those appearances.

The Proof Is In The Data

Although this is a pretty simplified view of personas, the last thing that I’d like to point out is that you can prove how well your persona is working with data. What kind of persona do you need? Well, first you need to have some goals. Goals have to be measurable, traceable and provable. Then you need to figure out how to track those goals with a few, different metrics that are related to what you’re trying to accomplish. The more you look at your data, the more realistic your expectations will become.

For example, just looking at “hits” is pretty meaningless for several reasons. A “hit” can be a spam bot, a search engine spider, a refresh on a page or a visit. I’ve seen retailers who got really excited about getting thousands of hits in one day, only to find out their sales had decreased and the traffic came from a hacker. Web analytics tracks a three-dimensional visit to your website. Use that data to support your existing content and test new ideas. I guarantee that you’ll be happier in the long run because that data will take the guesswork out of what you’re doing. After all, your data can help shape not only when you post, but how often and what you post as well.

By using data to your advantage, you can create a persona that you’re satisfied with. What’s more, you can make your persona more manageable and (here’s the best part) get back to writing what you want to rather than what you feel compelled to.

Guest Post by Phil Brucato: Green Room Writing

Today I’m happy to turn my blog over to acclaimed author Phil Brucato. Phil is a professional author with years of experience under his belt. Although he shares a background with me in the hobby games industry, Phil has branched out and has been published alongside many well-known authors. This article talks about writing from an unusual, yet necessary, perspective.

Not everything in a story happens on the page. When an author writes material that occurs “offstage,” that so-called “green room writing” may inform the events that the audience sees. Giving foundations for the characters, their motivations, personalities and activities, green room writing may well feel like wasted effort. Trust me, though – it’s really not.

I coined the term green room writing when describing the many false starts I had with my short story “Ravenous.” An intense urban faerie tale inspired by my experiences in a heavy metal group, “Ravenous” featured the implosion of the narrator’s band in mid-gig. The story’s first few drafts began in the “green room” – the often-cramped backstage space where performers wait before a show. My original versions of the tale started with the bandmates sniping at one another while a warm-up group performs out front. By the time the first show ends, all five members of the narrator’s group are ready to blow… and soon do.

It didn’t work for me, though. The characters seemed realistic, the dialog zinged, the tension radiated in all directions… and yet, it didn’t work. I pounded through two or three drafts of the opening like this, wondering why my inner critic kept pouting at it.

Then it hit me: The action didn’t begin in the green room. It started as the band stepped onstage – tense, pissed off, surging with adrenaline and facing a drunk, voracious crowd.

“Ravenous” doesn’t kick in when the music does – that option seems too abrupt, and doesn’t give the reader time to care about the characters. (I know; I wrote that version, too.) The tale starts just before the lights go up, with five fiercely terrified young people ready to pounce and be pounced on in return. “I’ve got that just-before-the-cages-open feeling in my chest,” says our narrator, Nikita. The bomb’s just about to explode, and in the next few paragraphs, it does.

By the time I wrote the band’s detonation, I knew every character on stage. Each one spoke with a distinctive voice; each had a unique personality. I knew how the bandmates looked, what they wanted, why they blew up in the ways they did. That scene essentially wrote itself. From first draft to final, I changed hardly a word of it.

I was able to write that scene the way I did because of the various passes I’d run through in that green room. Although they didn’t appear in the final story – nor should they have appeared – those literally offstage brainstorming sessions informed all that followed afterward.

Green room writing can feel frustrating. Personally, I get annoyed when my Muse dictates something that probably won’t make it to the final draft. I often feel like I’m wasting my time, and that goes double if I actually like what I’ve written and know at the time that no one but me (and possibly my editorial first-readers) will see it. That said, I realize that green room writing is helpful… even, sometimes, essential to a good story.

Sure, I’ve written many tales that leapt full-force from my imagination, with engaging characters and fascinating action intact. It CAN happen that way… but it doesn’t always. More often than not, especially with long or complicated storylines, I need to “waste” time and words figuring out what happens in the green room. As frustrating as it might be to throw scenes out or re-write that damned first hook yet AGAIN (yes, Holy Creatures To and Fro, I’m looking at you!), those secret stories we tell in the green room can make the ones seen in the spotlights sing.

About Phil Brucato

A professional author for 20 years, “Satyr” is best-known as Phil Brucato, the driving force behind the award-winning RPGs Mage: The Ascension, Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade and Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium. Beyond his RPG work, though, he’s also published…

  • The anthology RAVENS IN THE LIBRARY, a benefit collection featuring Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Amy Brown, Carrie Vaughn, Terri Windling, Midori Snyder and many others. For details, see http://www.sjtucker.com/ravens.html.
  • Short fiction (the magazines Weird Tales, newWitch, The Tomb, Cyber Age Adventures and The Morning Star, plus over half-a-dozen anthologies from Daw, Masquerade, Harper Prism, White Wolf and other publishers).
  • Essays, columns and interviews (newWitch Magazine, Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Disinformation Press, beat-a-go-go.com, Fantagraphic Press, Citadel Press and Knights of the Dinner Table, plus several local newspapers and weekly magazines).
  • Comics (White Wolf Publishing, Infobia Magazine) and a forthcoming webcomic called STRING THEORY.
  • Novels (the Ascension Warrior trilogy)
  • …and a variety of pending-publication projects.

    Not everything in a story happens on the page. When an author writes material that occurs “offstage,” that so-called “green room writing” may inform the events that the audience sees. Giving foundations for the characters, their motivations, personalities and activities, green room writing may well feel like wasted effort. Trust me, though – it’s really not.

    I coined the term green room writing when describing the many false starts I had with my short story “Ravenous.” An intense urban faerie tale inspired by my experiences in a heavy metal group, “Ravenous” featured the implosion of the narrator’s band in mid-gig. The story’s first few drafts began in the “green room” – the often-cramped backstage space where performers wait before a show. My original versions of the tale started with the bandmates sniping at one another while a warm-up group performs out front. By the time the first show ends, all five members of the narrator’s group are ready to blow… and soon do.

    It didn’t work for me, though. The characters seemed realistic, the dialog zinged, the tension radiated in all directions… and yet, it didn’t work. I pounded through two or three drafts of the opening like this, wondering why my inner critic kept pouting at it.

    Then it hit me: The action didn’t begin in the green room. It started as the band stepped onstage – tense, pissed off, surging with adrenaline and facing a drunk, voracious crowd.

    “Ravenous” doesn’t kick in when the music does – that option seems too abrupt, and doesn’t give the reader time to care about the characters. (I know; I wrote that version, too.) The tale starts just before the lights go up, with five fiercely terrified young people ready to pounce and be pounced on in return. “I’ve got that just-before-the-cages-open feeling in my chest,” says our narrator, Nikita. The bomb’s just about to explode, and in the next few paragraphs, it does.

    By the time I wrote the band’s detonation, I knew every character on stage. Each one spoke with a distinctive voice; each had a unique personality. I knew how the bandmates looked, what they wanted, why they blew up in the ways they did. That scene essentially wrote itself. From first draft to final, I changed hardly a word of it.

    I was able to write that scene the way I did because of the various passes I’d run through in that green room. Although they didn’t appear in the final story – nor should they have appeared – those literally offstage brainstorming sessions informed all that followed afterward.

    Green room writing can feel frustrating. Personally, I get annoyed when my Muse dictates something that probably won’t make it to the final draft. I often feel like I’m wasting my time, and that goes double if I actually like what I’ve written and know at the time that no one but me (and possibly my editorial first-readers) will see it. That said, I realize that green room writing is helpful… even, sometimes, essential to a good story.

    Sure, I’ve written many tales that leapt full-force from my imagination, with engaging characters and fascinating action intact. It CAN happen that way… but it doesn’t always. More often than not, especially with long or complicated storylines, I need to “waste” time and words figuring out what happens in the green room. As frustrating as it might be to throw scenes out or re-write that damned first hook yet AGAIN (yes, Holy Creatures To and Fro, I’m looking at you!), those secret stories we tell in the green room can make the ones seen in the spotlights sing.

    This article was written by Phil Brucato and has been republished with his permission. For more about this acclaimed author, read his full bio and other shenanigans on Phil Brucato’s LiveJournal.

    Announcing My New Column at How to Write Shop

    howtowriteshop.comThis month I started writing a new series of articles for a website called the How To Write Shop. This new website launched a few months ago and is designed to help aspiring writers learn how to write.

    In addition to the strong emphasis on fiction from professional authors like Lori Devoti and Alex Bledsoe, I will be popping in on a monthly basis to help provide advice related to areas in non-fiction and marketing. This month, I ask a pointed question to kick things off. Why Are You Writing and Publishing Online?

    Most people and businesses have no idea why they’re online; they know that it’s important, but they don’t have that other piece to the puzzle so they often wing it. Questions to ask yourself might be: Are you informing or entertaining? Are you giving people the chance to act? Trying to attract more readers? If so, why? Build awareness? Do you want to rank for keywords using search engine optimization (SEO)? To sell books? What? — SOURCE: Why Are You Writing and Publishing Online?

    This article clearly outlines my take on writing for the web. The short version? Have a plan! For more information, be sure to check out my article this month or take a peek at some of the other articles on the site. Until next time, write thee well!

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