Walking the Fine Line: Review Trading

Let’s begin by murdering the elephant in the room with a buckshot, skinning her with a rusty knife, and harvesting her ivory for pristine piano keys–I’m against it.

Review trading is a blatant hush-hush among indie writers that some participate without much thought, some with the belief that it’s just part of the game, and some with guilt that’d make Catholics envious.

The title for this entry was a forewarning because this is a complicated matter and my position on it is a bit of a fine waltz (or an awkward crunk) that could be easily misconstrued (like an awkward crunk). I readily admit that I could be shining my own position and this problem with the wrong kind of bulb.

What it actually is is simple: Author A asks Author B that they should read each other’s books and give each other reviews.

The concern lies within the innuendos that may or may not be there… like back when you were 16 at a keg party and talking to Minji Kim the Asian cheerleader that you’ve had a crush on before she developed and became popular so you know that you were into her for her soul and personality and she’s slightly tipsy and you are too and you don’t get if she’s hitting on you or not but her boyfriend Derek is across the room sipping on his red plastic cup and glaring at you like a diseased hawk with quads that’d burst your cherries like balls if he decided to kick you in the grapes.

Theoretically, the two authors would take their times to photosynthesize each other’s books and emit onto one another honest reviews and breathe in whatever the other had to say.

Because as we all know, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises (remember this because I’m going to tell you later how I lied by simply omitting four words).

Here’s the not-so Shayamalan: reality is a dick.

You see, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises for honing your craft. Criticisms are not often more beneficial than praises for paying your bills.

Yes, yes. Perhaps by having honest criticisms people would improve and write better books that’d sell to more people.

Again, theoretically true, but not always true in reality.

Selling is about marketing. Whether something is good or not doesn’t really matter as long as the package is good.

For books that’s about reviews and it’s cred. Sadly, unlike movies, most books cannot sell on notoriety of being bad. Especially considering as time passes, more and more people are thinking of books as sort of an investment–time investment. Why should they spend the time and money they could be using watching 3 minute videos on YouTube and Facebook and etc. on a bad book?

Specifically, for indie authors, this means the number of stars and the number of reviews attached to the name of their novel. Book marketing, like anything else, is complex and expensive but the foundation of it (for indie authors at least) starts from there.

So let’s go back to Author A and B. There isn’t a writer out there who’s not aware of this. Everyone’s aware that bad reviews can tangibly harm someone’s writing career.

I think most of us can agree that there’s some immorality there if the two understood they’d give each other a positive review no matter what.

However, the gray seeps in when the pressure to give one another honest reviews is challenged by peculiar circumstances.

Lets say Author A wrote a fantastic book and received a glittery review from B. But B wrote a dull novel and A was planning on giving them a review that reflected exactly that.

After receiving a good review, understandably, A could feel the pressure to plant some flowers into his review for B.

A is simply a person not wanting to harm someone who’s done them a favor.

“Favor”, as it often does, becomes the gray word here.

To prevent this problem from ever happening, many writers suggest to simply not ask other writers to trade reviews.  Let them discover your novel like any other readers and give you a review as an audience. Or ask a writer to simply give you a review with an understanding that this is a clean favor you’re asking from them and not a transaction.

But many of us starting out writers do need help from our peers to make it past the first few steps of our careers.

A method I found that is mostly acceptable is to give one another private reviews and ask for permission if they’d be okay with the review being public. Of course, this being discussed beforehand that the review will be performed in such a manner.

There’s a problem with this too, however, in that you could give someone a poor review and if you’re involved in a poor circle of writers this may circulate a bad branding to your name and people might not support you as they are aware that you probably don’t present them with any benefits.

Business be business, people be people, and life be life.

I’m writing about this topic because I felt like I missed a better timing for it. A writer friend of mine, Jessica Wren, invited me into her co-op group for authors.

As far as I know so far, they seem to be good people looking to help one another’s careers with integrity. I’m happy to be part of the group. Jessica is a pretty awesome person that I am glad to have met.

We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to make self and indie publishing a legitimate source for novels and storytelling. There’s no sense in cannibalizing our own fragile credibility for a small chance at brief success.

The road for indie writers is still unpaved, littered with broken glass, and filled with robbers.

What they shouldn’t take away from us are our names. Let’s protect that together.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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a Date with Emily Wolf

Did you ever hear the cries of a blue jay?

It sounds like a drunken Tinkerbell screaming for her life.

I’m starting out with that because that’s apparently how I’ll be starting out this morning. On a goddamn Saturday morning no less.

You see in my mind, if I wasn’t so lazy, I already went to the garage, broke down my car, somehow fashioned myself a military grade flame thrower, and burned the whole tree down while laughing maniacally as I watched the blue jay make its last few drunken screams.

In pain.

Suffering.

Suffering as I did.

But I remind myself, goosefraba. Goooooooooooooooooosefraba. Find my center.

It is a lazy Saturday, after all. A blissful, restful, and maybe even a delightfully sinful day was waiting for me just outside those bedroom doors. Limitless possibilities.

Of course, I’m going to park myself on the couch and play video games.

Of course.

Maybe even order Pizza later because screw cookin’.

I’m going to enjoy this day all for myself, anyway I want it, however I want it, for however long I want it until the clock strikes midnight.

No one will bother me this day I think to myself as I grab a water bottle out of the fridge.

Ding-dong

I don’t care, Mormons! I say as I ignore the doorbell and turn on my game system.

Ding-dong

I don’t care! Girl Scouts! I’m going to punch some scrubs online! I say as I ignore the doorbell once again and pick up my joystick.

Bang-bang. They’re knocking–smacking–on the door.

Did… Did I pay my bills?

BANG-BANG. I’m pretty sure those are kicks.

When was the last time I did something to piss off the Yakuzas?

“Goddamn it! Open up! I know you’re in there!” She yells.

Emily. Emily Wolf.

I begrudgingly drag my body over and open the door. Soon as she heard the lock click, she barges in with that wide grin of hers.

“What up, nerd! It’s a beautiful day and you’re going to spend it cooped up in your room again?!”

I peek outside and it’s cloudy. It’ll probably rain soon.

“I didn’t know you were coming over today,” I say.

“Yeah, hope you don’t mind but Noah was taking care of some stuff and I was bored,” Emily says as she holds up a big bag she’s carrying. “I brought chicken though!”

Any complaint I have disappears with the smell of the chicken. I’m probably smiling already without realizing.

By the time I come to my senses, I’m by my kitchen counter opening up the bag and checking out my loots.

“Were you getting your butt kicked?” She asks as she fiddles around with my joy stick. “You always get your butt kicked. You were getting your butt kicked.”

She makes a whipping noise.

“I didn’t even get to play yet.” She got the extra crispy kind. Emily doesn’t like the extra crispy kind. I like the extra crispy kind.

I grab a couple of plates and dump some chicken, cob of corn and macaroni and cheese that came as the package for the two of us.

From afar it sounded like she was just smashing the buttons and the stick but by the time I set the plates on the table in front of the couch I’m surprised to find that she’s winning.

“Hell, yeah!” She screams as she secures the win. “I like this game. I should buy this game.”

“You don’t even have the console,” I take a big bite into the chicken.

Without looking down she grabs hers and does the same.

I always saw Emily with a sense of envy. She was that type of person that seemed to be so carefree but be so damn talented at everything.

It’s petty but I see her playing this game I’ve played since college. I know if she had wanted to, she could be better than I ever could be in a few months.

But, even then, I always enjoyed her compa…

“Why you just sitting there in silence, ya freak?” Emily asks as she sees me trailing off in my thoughts.

…ny. But today… or any other day soon I didn’t really want to see her.

“Kay, you’re starting to freak me out now,” Emily starts another match and hurriedly gobbles down glops of macaroni and cheese before it begins.

Because decisions were made and I had news I didn’t want to share with her. Something I wasn’t sure if it was either appropriate or inappropriate for me to share.

“Watch me make this kid cry,” she said with devilish grin. “Children’s tears are the fuel to my life source.”

I believe it.

“Emi…” I clear my throat to make it unnecessarily dramatic. “Emily.”

“I already have a boyfriend I love from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Writer,” Emily cuts me off.

“God damn, it.” I shut up and just watch her finish the match.

“What is it?” She sets the joystick down and looks at me.

“I think…” I pause again and make the mistake of making it unnecessarily dramatic once more. “I think need to tell you something.”

“Am I pregnant?”

“No.”

“Are you pregnant?”

“No.”

“Is Noah pregnant?”

“Just…” I let out a deep sigh.

“…What is it?” She’s serious now.

“Someone’s going to die,” I tell her. Great date.

Emily grin’s gone and she looks at me like she’s about to punch me. She scratches her fake blonde hair and lets out a sigh.

“What are you talking about?” She’s agitated.

I try to grab the chicken and she looks at me as if I’m committing a murder dodging her question.

“Hey!” She raises her voice. “I’m talking to you! Who’s going to die?!”

I’m a coward. I’m an asshole. Why did I say anything?

“Choke on it,” Emily tells me as she gets up and fixes her bomber jacket. She rushes over to the front door and I instinctively go after her against my better senses.

She grabs the door handle and pauses for a moment.

“Do what you got to do,” Emily says. “Just do what you got to do.”

I can’t give her a reply but she knows what it’d be.

It’s raining.

She walked out into the rain as I wonder if she regretted taking the time out of her life to visit someone like me.

But I know such a thought would offend her.

Emily Wolf regrets nothing.


Hello everyone!

This is a personal writing exercise that I’ve been asked by my editor and few others to share on this blog.

To get to know my characters better I go on a “date” with them to explore their thoughts, reactions, and just overall dimensions of what makes them a person.

Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes terribly. I’ll try to post a few more that I’ve done in the future.

The new edits are done for Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian and it should be live by 1 PM  PST 5/11/205!

Thank you everyone for your support!

Aramiru UP UP & AWAY!

But I’ll be back soon with the 9th Entry because otherwise I’d be a horrible person.

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7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Novel

These are the 7 things I’ve learned about writing ever since I decided to pursue a writing career with my first novel!

Bet you already knew that because you read the title.


1. Less is Almost Always More

Be the guide to your audience’s imagination and not the commandant.

This is the shortest one of the list because I didn’t want to be too ironic.

2. the Audience Can’t Read Your Mind

As we write we can see our stories in our heads. The cities and its glimmering windows at night, the faces of our characters and all of their complexions, and even the crumpled up page of a gossip paper tumbling down the filthy street.

We can see it all to the most minute details. Even if there’s some sort of a fantastic action happening, our minds don’t fail to keep track of all the participants and whatever they may be doing.

But the audience can’t peer into our minds.

So what Aramiru? That’s why we write isn’t it? To put down our imagination on paper? And do you know how cheesy and tacky it is to ask yourself questions in third person?

Yes.

It’s easy to forget the difference between the perspectives of our audience reading our books versus the perspectives of us, writers, writing our own books.

Accounting for this could simply mean making certain that only the necessary details are present when describing a scene or simply realizing what the the necessary details are.

Making sure the action sequences flow in a way where it’s easy for the readers to follow.

And not to lose ourselves having too much fun writing that we forget those who are reading.

This becomes even more important with the logic and the plot of the book. We are gods to our own books and we know all that will happen. But are we writing in a way so that the audience can understand our intentions and our infinite wisdom?

By understanding how the audience is perceiving the story is how we can plan the twists, the developments and the future.

Plot holes are bound to happen. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully. There are even times when something might not even be a plot hole but be perceived as such. Having a grasp of our audience’s views of our story can prevent foreseeable plot holes, reduce the damage of planned plot holes, and hopefully never allow unforgivable plot holes to happen.

This is one of few on the list that’s hey-I-already-know-this-this-is-basic-you-shamefully-basic-person material. Yes, this should be pretty commonsense. However, it is also one of those tidbits where your perspective and skills with it will grow exponentially as you keep writing and have an audience that you can interact with.

At least, I did. And this an article of the things that I’ve learned. Me. And as the great Michael Jackson once said, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

3. a Lot of Writers Think They Suck

Yep. We’re an insecure bunch. I used to look in the mirror and think to myself, “you’re an ugly spawn-of-semen-and-egg but that’s fine because you can live with that.”

Now, I look in the mirror and think, “your writing makes puppies cry and children lose faith in humanity. Can you live with that?”

No. No, I can’t.

And as I draw a smile on my face with a crimson lipstick so that I can at least pretend I’m smiling, I realize quickly that it doesn’t matter–at least it shouldn’t matter enough to stop me.

Me sucking. Not my pretty, pretty smile.

Look, there are some phenomenal writers out there. Those who had the gift and put in the hard work to become legends of this craft. And as writers, we also have to compete against timeless masters of writing from even centuries ago.

But it doesn’t have to be about competing with their work and talents.

What’s my work? What’s my talent? Why should I worry so much about what they are without even fully realizing what I am. Did I push myself to the limit to know that I’m not at their level? Does that even matter?

As a writer who wants to tell stories and writing being simply his medium to do that, I realized I just have to write well enough so that I can deliver my stories to the best of my abilities that’s most faithful to my vision.

What else can I do? Just stop writing and never pursue anything with it?

It’s not about being the best there is but being the best at telling your own story.

That doesn’t mean I gave up on becoming a great writer of the legends or something like that. But I think instead of looking at our flaws and telling ourselves we suck, it’s better to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do we suck? Where are we lacking? What can we work on?

You do you and be the best you that you can be, because you’re not them and you are you and you have your own talents that only you can do the things that you do. You are awesome. Oh, you. You.

And you still shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re one of those writers who are more focused about the craft than the storytelling.

Here’s an overused quote from high school girls around the world that’s all over their Myspace, Xanga, or whatever the blazes the kids are using these days. Imagine these words with glitters and with a night sky backdrop.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Just don’t forget to find your own voice somewhere along your journey. Be your own star.

A pretty, pretty star.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter if we suck, it only matters where we are going to go with our suckage.

4. But a Lot of Us Might Actually Suck

What? You think I’m just being quirky by making the entire list of back and forth paradoxical statements?

And I know what I said up there but the point I’m trying to make now is that we lack self-awareness in different ways. I think especially among us still becoming acquainted with our writing.

It’s really hard to measure where we stand with our writing unless we had the time to establish ourselves with a large group honest peers. For writers, this usually means reviewers and readers for the most part.

Look, within the creative community there’s this unwritten rule about not criticizing one another in public. In private? Shoot. Let the poops fly.

But don’t think of that as necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply manners. And it’s also a bit selfish for someone to expect a stranger or even a friend to give them a harsh reality check and say painfully honest things. It’s uncomfortable and hard for people to do that and in most cases we don’t have the right to force people to put themselves in a position to possibly open a can of worms/whupass.

That’s why I think you need to really appreciate someone who’s brave and honest enough to tell you that you suck and tells you why–always remember to thank those people.

(Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who’s a hater and he’s gonna hate, hate, hate and someone who’s calling you out on your flaws. )

At this stage of my writing ‘career’ (I put my big toe in the pool!) I want more people to tell me how I can improve rather than give me compliments and encouragements. Look, I’m no Dalai Lama. If someone criticizes me, depending on what it is, it’ll hurt. I may even question their criticisms little bit to see if they have merit or to understand it better.

But we have to know when we suck so that we can improve. Embrace and love the criticisms. If we can’t take criticisms, we can’t expect to get better.

It hurts but no pain, no gain. Find someone who will tell you that you’re bad and why you’re bad.

5. Editors Are Gods

A samurai once said, you must choose a worthy lord because you may slice your tummy for him someday.

I don’t know who said that.

I am not a samurai.

And I’m not really that well-versed in Japanese historical figures. I just wanted to add that so you can keep that in your mind as you read this section.

An editor will become your partner for your novel. You’re the mommy and the editor is the daddy. Yes, put your 60s gender stereotype hats on because otherwise that analogy doesn’t work.

Stephen King famously said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”

You should almost always listen to your editor because they are almost always right and they will always be the ones who’ll turn your manuscript into a novel. I knew an editor can make a difference but I just didn’t realize how much.

A good editor will help you-do-you, you-do-you better. You’re a piece ribeye and they’re the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil straight from Italy. They’re the trained outside eye and mind that the clutters of a single mind writing a book needs to clean up.

I am so thankful for my editor because she had to work through my first pile of mess. My style of writing is that I have to just puke my thoughts onto the page and then sort through it later. Because of the process I went through with her, I am exponentially better than where I was before.

Get a good editor. A good editor cares, understands, but is fearless in calling you out.

6. It’s Our Story

There are a lot of questions on writing forums about, “are my chapters too long?”, “is a goody-goody character boring”, “should I not make my character all-powerful”, “is a half-dragon, a half-elf character weird?”

The answer to all those, by the way, is: It entirely depends on your own story. Even the half-dragon, half-elf character. 

But this point isn’t about that obvious answer. It’s about the next step, the level up, of that point.

I wondered for a while how I can write my story. What were the rules? What was the general mold for doing something that I wanted to do?

And I honestly couldn’t really find anything that satisfied me and I quickly asked myself what was I doing? What am I exactly looking for?

I had an opportunity–especially as an indie writer–to write my book in a way that should be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Why follow the conventions and the rules of others simply because it worked for them? It worked for them because it was their rules and conventions for their own stories.

We have to understand our own stories; what they are and what they aren’t.

No one should be able to tell your story better than you can. So don’t follow any archetypes simply to follow an archetype. That archetype might not work for your story even if they seem to be in the genre, have similar characters, and present familiar themes and motifs.

Take advice from editors like they’re sprinkled with diamonds but take advice from writers with a grain of salt. Other than technical and perhaps even general content advice, other writers will see your story with their Ray-Bans.

Really chew on what I said up there before simply swallowing it in by the way. I’m not saying other writers can’t offer you knowledge and criticisms to write your own story better. But, I am saying, ultimately, you should know and own up to your own story.

With that said, we also have to be aware of there are certain general rules of writing that exists for a reason. These are the rules that’s been tested and proven through long history of writing and some that were born from the shifting metagames in the market.

For example, it’s been a while since slow paced books had any place in popular novels. People want fast paced stories that hooks them right away so that they could have the initial momentum to get through a 200-400 page novel.

There’s generally a lack of slow developing novels that gently brews and ages its plot and character to develop some sort of a liquor-reference-bourbon-reference-oaky-soaky-flavored plot.

I wonder if Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities was released in today’s world if it’d be popular at all.

And there’s another key there. Do you want to be popular or do you want to be critically acclaimed or both?

Do you want to make money and write vampire x gargoyles erotica? Or do you want to gamble your life by throwing your novel into the skyscraper of the fantasy genre?

In the end, it’s YOUR story. You do you and do what you want to do because I like the way you move. Just know that reality is always around the corner.

How many “you” do I have in this?

7. An Audience is Earned

Everything written should deserve some sort of an audience. A good audience will provide judgment to the writings and nurture them to grow or have them be killed and brutally murdered if necessary.

At this point, you can probably sense how important I think an audience is to a writer. That’s probably the secret #8th thing I’ve learned.

To a writer, there’s nothing more important than readers to help them understand themselves as a writer.

The greatest learning experience and growth I had with my writing so far has been through the beta-reading and editing. It does wonders for you and for your novel.

However, not everyone and everything earns an audience. You have to work for it.

Working doesn’t mean just write something but it means becoming worthy of someone’s time and effort. Because it takes both of those things things to read a book. Especially compared to what’s out there today to enjoy as entertainment like YouTube, Reddit, video games, and Vine (with that you’re literally competing against a 6 second entertainment where a person simply has to click to enjoy).

Even to the most avid readers this is true (even more so in a sense) because you’re asking them to devote to your book the time and effort they could have spent on other books they wanted to read.

So how do we earn an audience? During the writing process this means taking your own time and effort to gain beta readers and reviewers. Be cordial, accommodating, don’t grovel but still know that they’re doing you a favor at the end of the day unless you’re some sort of writing superstar.

But if you’re a writing superstar I wonder why you’re reading this entry up to this point.

Do you like me? Like what I wrote?

PM me 😉. Ooo la la.

When you’re done writing, whether you’re traditional or indie, you still have to do what you need to do to reach out to your readers.

That could mean book signings, public readings, promotional giveaways, making sure getting the reviews for your novel, and etc.

For indie writers this can be an extremely difficult process. An extremely difficult process. AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROCESS.

For traditionally published writers I understand it’s more-or-less already been setup for y’all.

It can be something simple as blogging. It’s fun, helpful, and I got to save my money on therapy bills.

I’m earning my readers through my blog by sharing my experiences and little things I learned here and there in hopes of helping, entertaining, and perhaps even proving that I am a writer worthy of their time. It’s also serving as an odd journal for this writing journey which is also nice.

Nothing in life is free. Even if someone deserves something doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it–especially something as valuable as someone’s time.

BONUS: It’s Not Supposed to be Lucrative

Don’t write for money and fame. If you want that you’ll have much easier time with YouTube, acting, music, Twitch, and etc.

I’m not saying getting success in those avenues are easy. Far from it. It’s extremely hard. But at least they’re in the spotlight of the mainstream.

Writing really isn’t to an extent. It’s a dinosaur of an entertainment that’ll always have its place only because of its history, easy entry, and because of how quintessential it is to our civilization.

Write because you have to.

Write because if you don’t you feel like something is wrong with your life.

Write because every time you see someone else’s work you feel like you need to be in the arena competing as well.

Write because you love it.

The money will come or it may never come. Only difference is if that matters to you or not at the end of the day when you’re left just with your stack of papers.

And for the love of all that’s holy and Poseidon, don’t quit your day job or school to write.

It’s not fun to write hungry and it’s not fun to write worrying-about-lights-going-off-and-oh-my-god-is-that-tow-truck-here-for-my-car-no-its-not-thank-goodness-but-I-think-my-garbage-man-didn’t-take-my-garbage-today. There’s absolutely no romance in it. Especially, if you have loved ones who cares about you or if you have loved ones you have to take care of.

Life’s a game of chance. Bet smart. Don’t  bet on the 1% by throwing away on the 99.

Are you the next J. K. Rowling? Maybe Stephanie Meyers? Maybe Stephen King?

Who knows?

But none of them quit their day job to write and neither should you.

I’ll share someday why I want to warn so critically against people who’re thinking about quitting jobs and schools for a dream of making it big with writing. But that’s it for this entry.


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My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Inside Story: I almost played Frisbee with my laptop writing this entry.  I thought the new Wordpress editor auto-saved now (which would be fantastic) after having drafts get loaded up again after I left the page before. Nope it does not. Hit that save button.