#socialmedia versus #socialanxiety

One of the biggest obstacles facing many authors today is Social Anxiety.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend about how hard it is to be an author today, especially if you’re an independent author. Gone are the days of being an elusive or mysterious author. These days, social media dominates and dictates whether you’re #successful at it, or if your book will sit and collect dust.

How do you survive #SocialAnxiety and overcome the beast?

I have severe social anxiety. When it comes to giving someone my hard earned money to force myself into a crowd of people and sit on display behind a table with not only my books, but my name and picture on a banner, I want to curl into a fetal position.

It’s not easy to talk to strangers. It’s even harder to forge a connection to an elbow-to-elbow crowd. Add the daunting task of smiling and-oh right-form coherent #words. I’m an author and I make my living off weaving words but when faced with a crowd of strangers who are sizing me up and comparing me to all the other authors around me I turn into a blank thought bubble.

Over the past four years, I’ve found a few tips to help me and I’m going to share them with you. Take what you want and need from them and maybe share some of your own in comments.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is a great way to know what will help you fit in. If you fit in, you can blend in with the crowd when you need a break.

If you ever see me in a pair of jeans and a Stitched Smile Publications t-shirt you’ll know I’m struggling to get through the event. I normally don’t like to be that casual when I’m at a convention or live event, but I do what I have to, to get through it. In jeans and a T-shirt it’s super easy to slide through the crowd, hide in a bathroom, or get some fresh air without anyone really giving you a second glance.

Have a Buddy

Having an event buddy is #crucial to your survival. Someone who you have already given a heads up talk to. Someone you trust with your life. It’s sounds drastic because it is. Don’t believe me? Try having a panic attack at a con with thousands of people brushing past you like a sea of ants to a sugar cube.

Having a con buddy gives you a life preserver and ensures you don’t drown in the sea. They can take your hand and drag you to a quiet corner, they can help you focus, help you breath, and most of all they can give you a sense of grounding when you feel like you’re about to float away.

Wear a Mask

Literally and/or figuratively! I created the Queen persona to give me a way to interact with people I don’t know. I can just be a character I created and channel her power. The Unsaintly Queen fears no crowd!

Obviously, dressing up in dark fantastical clothing isn’t appropriate for all occasions (sigh, whatevs) but her “role” is still one of power and confidence. I put on my crown and I pretend. It’s easier to be a badass Queen than a fragile human. If you practice.

Practice Makes Perfect

My best advice is to start super small. Go to the #library and ask if you can host a small reading discussion or meet and greet. Check in with a small coffee shop and try to set up an event with them. You have two choices: go to a shop you know so the faces are familiar, or go to one you’ve never been so if you freak out and spill coffee on yourself you never have to see them again.

Practice your pitch. Practice answering questions. Watch yourself in the mirror and force yourself to relax your shoulders. Practice talking slowly and pausing to avoid “um” and “uh”.

And practice getting in front of the crowd. Remember, we start small and add on. Not the other way around.

Now that we have all these tools under our belt, let’s tackle the real #boss-fight: Social Media

Social media fatigue refers to social media users’ tendency to pull back from social media when they become overwhelmed with too many social media sites, too many friends and followers and too much time spent online maintaining these connections.

It’s time to compartmentalize priorities. Keep close friends and family separate from your “other world”. And honestly? Keep only family members on your social media who are not toxic to your mental health. It’s ok to block out negativity. I give you permission. They can talk to me if they don’t like it.

Schedule your posts.

This is so important I’m going to repeat it in bold. Schedule your posts. Find a quiet time, once a day when you’re not in the red zone of anxiety and limit your exposure.

Back in the old days, authors got sloshed and hid behind a handler when they did their signings. Hell, sometimes it wasn’t even really the author there! They’d just send the model used in the author pic. No one knew any better.

I’m sorry #cat-fishers you can’t get away with that these days! Nope, fans and readers troll the internet and #Google sleuth you better than any FBI agency. Remember that picture from Aunt Bunny’s wedding when you were 14, awkward, and shoving cake in your face? Yup. That’s the one they’ll find and it will get more #exposure, #engagement, and #interaction than any profound post you ever make in your entire social media lifetime.

Won the Nobel Peace Prize? Doesn’t matter: Aunt Bunny.

You Must Disconnect to Connect

If you lose connection to life, friends, sunlight you lose connection to yourself. If you have no lifeline to you and your center you will drown in the Matrix. Digital age has made it easy for us to corrupt our hard drives: Our mind. Overloading your brain with input and stimulation will wear you out in ways you can’t even process unless you take a step back.

The light from our cell phones, the glow of the computer screen, the heavy chain link of “notifications”. All of it is designed to force more stimulus at you than you can humanly process.

You need to reboot. You need to come back to the real world. Even if you’re lonely or depressed, the silent call of the internet will only make it worse.

A lonely person in real life can easily fall into the allure of the “friend count” game. You think all those people are your real friends? Here’s a test. Ask for their help. If you ask for something where they would have to give up anything; time, money, etc., you’ll find you might be stretching the true number.

Am I saying you can’t have a relationship (friend or otherwise) with someone on the internet? Absolutely not. I’m saying make it real. Call on the phone and make plans to go somewhere (please for the love of all things Cthulhu be safe about this. Do not meet with strangers alone. Do not give personal information to any stranger and just have some common sense). Go get some coffee or start a book club.

Human touch and energy is more fulfilling than anything you can acquire from social media.

Set boundaries

Set boundaries and defend them like a badger. Limit time, and exposure to social media. Spend more time on you.

Can you succeed as an #author and still employ everything you’ve learned here? Yes, because once you master being able to face small crowds, the all-too-important human connection will far outweigh what social media can do for you.

Think about your favorite celebrity. It’s nice when they like your post or comment but would you rather chat with them on #Skype for 2 min or have dinner with them face to face?

The De Sols: Backstory

I started writing about the De Sol family on, or around, the year 1996. It started with AOL RP rooms, and I brought out a table top character I put together once: Gabrielle De Sol. Originally, she started out as my dominatrix vampire. (Hey, I said it was for fun!) She evolved … I evolved … and the story of the De Sols came to fruition. A huge family tree blossomed, I recruited more people to play characters, and eventually … the “saga” was born.

The De Sols are a noble family. Mother De Sol was the goddess of the sun, and Father De Sol was Lord of Dragons and God of the moon. A star-crossed love brought them children, happiness, death, and destruction.

Before UNDERWORLD. Before GAME OF THRONES (TV). My love for dark fantasy took root in this simple concept: A family who was hunted by those who didn’t understand the love of two souls who were never meant to come together. It is a dark story, it is a story of Shakespearean tragedy. But overall? It’s the heart of who I am, and who I became, as a writer.

Some of the influences for Gabrielle were characters like “Razor” (comic book), and of course, there would be no roleplay without my love of D&D. Dragons, Drow, Trolls, Goblins … I love them all. Creatures with an epic story to pull you in, to lose yourself for a little while, and characters who become a part of you forever-those are the stories I love.

I write horror but I always mix an element of fantasy or science fiction to it. I feel it adds color and depth to the formula. With that in mind, I’ve decided to give you the De Sol Storyline, here. In the coming weeks, you’ll see it evolve, you’ll see the changes in real time. Hopefully, you feel a part of its process and growth. Feel free to comment and offer suggestions. Even if I don’t take the suggestions, it helps more than you know.

Until then … May the light fill the darkness and show you the way.

Artwork by Dorian Cleavenger

Something New

I’m going to try something new. Because my time is so limited, there are times I only get a few words in at a time. So, once a week I’ll be adding a piece of a story here. You can follow, or you can binge when it’s done … or don’t read it! (I hope you will, and comment with feedback 🙂 )

What do you think?

If I’m brave, I’ll try designated days. No Patreon, just free reading.

The Guide to Handling a Bad Review

One of the things I hear a lot about or get asked about are reviews.

Let me begin by saying this: as a new author I fell into this trap and it’s a very ugly trap to be in.

Reviews are never going to be 5 star across the board. In fact, having some bad reviews mixed into the gushing and glowing reviews is a good thing. It gives you and your book credibility. If a reader sees nothing but five stars they believe the reviewers are your friends and family.

So rule number one? Embrace the negative reviews.

Embrace them? Absolutely.

Every well thought out review has validity to it. Read it. Process it. Do better. The end.

Rule number two: Do. Not. Respond.

A lot of bad reviewers are also great “trollers”. Don’t get caught up in the fodder storm. You’ll end up wearing shit even if you “win” … which you won’t. It only makes you look bad in the end.

Rule number three: see rule number one, rinse, repeat.

Trust me, I know the temptation to chime in and set people straight. Let’s pick one of my own and put it out there.

I had a “duo” pick up a free copy of my book and review it. A review which seemed to be done in Facebook messenger then copied and pasted on their “review site”.

Reading the review was torture. It felt like a text-based, Mean Girls episode. It was incredibly juvenile but the worst part was when they said I needed serious edits when they themselves could not spell. Including “LOL” in a review is the first clue to run. Anyone who uses “OMG” and “LOL” in a review meant to be taken seriously isn’t worth my time of being upset, let alone a response. And believe me, I value my time.

You’re sending out a piece of art. Art is subjective. Not everyone gets your art and not everyone should. You’re not writing a how-to book so don’t expect everyone to understand your idea.

However, if your negatives outweigh the positives it might be something you need to consider. Take it as a learning experience and move forward. If you’re too busy reading and lamenting over a review you’re not writing and working towards something new. Your readers who enjoy your work are waiting. Get over it, dust your shoulders off, dry your tears, and get to work.

If you allow a nasty reviewer to keep you from doing what you love you’re not meant to be an author. This industry is cut-throat and you are supposed to be the expert. Get back to it or get into your cage. There’s no room for weak spines in horror.

Have you received a bad review? How did you handle it? Want to share a bad review and let us critique it for a good laugh? Leave it in comments!

Remember this one important fact: You write because you love to. Who cares if a couple people don’t like it? Are they so important it’s worth you losing your passion? Let me help you with the answer. No. No they aren’t.

And if you’re a reviewer who likes being nasty and rude for kicks? Go get a hug. Internet trolls are so 1997. It’s time to grow up. And get spellcheck “LOL”.

Body Bag Betty 001

The smoke danced off the edge of her cigarette which dangled between two long fingers tipped by HellFire red lacquer.  Her eyes were closed, oblivious to the rest of the world as she swayed back and forth. The men stood there in silence. She was thinking. And they knew better than to disturb her when she was like this. 

“I specifically said clear plastic,” her voice cut through the tension like a scalpel. 

“Y-yes ma’am but on short notice–”

Betty-Body Bag Betty as the world knew her-rose to her feet and lashed out with the box cutter. A thin red line appeared along the throat of the man who brought her excuses in lieu of her demands. 

“Every fucking time, Andy,” she said in a quiet, even tone, “Every fucking time I give you a task you screw it up.” 

Andy didn’t respond. He couldn’t. His hands were wrapped around his own throat in a futile attempt to stop it from bleeding. His eyes were wide and his lips were moving but all that came out were gurgles and coughs. The thin line of her initial attack opened up into a nasty laceration, severing his windpipe. Andy’s vision was growing dark and the last face he saw was hers as he fell to his knees. Bad idea. The momentum of his fall caused the wound to rip further and the pooling blood was creeping toward her brand new stilettos. 

Bringing her cigarette to her lips, neatly lined and painted in the same matching red as her nails, she sat back down in the chair in front of Andy his life pumped out. Her mouth embraced the soft butt of her cancer stick and she pulled in the toxic fumes deeply, letting her lungs fill with it before exhaling. 

The white tendrils rolled out, swirling and dancing upward into a halo around her head. 

“Clear plastic, Andy,” she repeated. “It helps to see the blood splatter patterns so we can clean, properly.”

Dropping the cigarette into the thick, coagulating puddle of blood, it let out a hiss before it snuffed out, “This is why you get caught. And this is why they sent me to kill you.”

(To be continued… stay tuned for more BODY BAG BETTY excerpts or sign up for my newsletter for the full novella chronicles starting January 2018. New chronicle will be released every month! http://www.unsaintly.com)