Tag Archives: drama

For a Better Future

So I’m sure some of you noticed that there was no update for Eikasia again this past Sunday. That makes two weeks in a row. I remember when I posted on January 11th how excited I was. I thought, Finally! After a year of waiting, I can get back to it! But life! Ah, life. How it loves to crush my delusions.

Now before you all start getting alarmed (and you really shouldn’t be) this isn’t some dreary announcement that Eikasia is “ending” or something. Of course not! I’m not even shutting the site down. But I can’t lie that some of you will be disappointed. Thankfully, that’s not too many of you, but still.

Eikasia’s going back to irregular updates again so that I can focus on publishing the books. And this time, I just want to warn everybody that this doesn’t mean updates every other week, or even once a month. I mean there really could be long stretches between one update to the next–months we’re talking here.

Why? Why did this happen again? She had the baby didn’t she? She graduated from college, didn’t she!? Well yes, imaginary reader. Yes, I did all of those things.

But little did I know, that just because school is done and the baby is born, that doesn’t mean things get “easier.” Oh no! Far from that. The family problems still persist, and there’s still that nagging little problem of trying to get enough work experience to really start my career going that’s keeping me from smooth sailing. I’ve started a paid internship that pays little, but is much needed for my resume. It takes a lot of work, though. Almost like a part time job. So apart from playing housewife and taking care of my baby son 24/7, a lot of my energy goes towards that.

So there’s the time aspect. Now about the money: I don’t get many donations at all from the site. I’m lucky if I get five bucks from someone in a year. The ads? Because I’m having trouble keeping a steady schedule up, I can’t improve my SEO to get more visitors to the site, so ad sales aren’t much. The addition of a child in my life, plus a dramatic cut back in income in the last year, plus the new cost of student loan bills, makes money more imperative for me. To be honest, Eikasia’s web site is a money drain. So how do I justify keeping it still active? (And I swear I will!) It got to a point where I thought, Why am I killing myself, trying to write new material for Eikasia, when I already have at least 3-4 finished manuscripts that I just need to edit and publish? My original plan had been to have Book 2 of Eikasia out by the end of the year, but this feels unlikely. The first book was supposed to release a lot sooner than it did, but there were set backs that resulted in that not happening. What could happen this time around with Book 2? And the cost for editing will be much more, but my family has promised to help, and I’m trying to save what I can from sales for Book 1 (but hey I have to deal with my family’s needs right now sometimes.)

So I hope you guys understand. Just because updates aren’t going to be steady anymore doesn’t mean Eikasia is dead. If anything, I’m trying to insure its future! If you want to know when the site actually updates, just join the new mailing list by clicking here.

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Recovering From a Bad Review – When One Person’s Opinion Hurts Your Sales

TL;DR: One bad review is hurting my book sales. I need to make a comeback, so I’m offering free copies of my novel to anyone who will post an honest review on Amazon. To get your free e-book of my LGBT fantasy novel, click here and submit your request!


“Bad reviews happen to everyone.”

I’ve seen this all the time from writing sites and author blogs that try to offer some comfort to authors who have received negative comments on their work on such sites as Amazon. “Don’t take it personal and just move on.” I’ve even seen a few articles that claim bad reviews can be a good thing–that they might have the curious effect of “boosting sales”, or they could contain good advice about what not to do with your next book. For the obviously trollish reviews, the best advice I’ve seen is “just ignore it.” (Removing an inappropriate review from a site like Amazon is notoriously hard, apparently, even if that review violates guidelines.) Obviously, I’ve received negative and mixed reviews before for my unpublished writing. I took what I could from those and moved on, as all the articles have recommended.

But one thing I don’t see these writing sites discussing is what to do when you get a bad review, and have little to no reviews to balance it out. What do you do when one negative review impacts your sales so severely as to cause a virtual flat line? We’re talking about a kiss of financial death here, not just hurt feelings.

I’m in one such position right now. Currently, Amazon is where I’m selling the most units of my first and latest release, Tributaries, which came out just a short month ago. My planning was a bit rushed. It was one of those live-and-learn experiences. I set aside just one short month for promotion before releasing the book. I sent free copies to dozens of blogs, made announcements on all my personal sites, advertised tirelessly on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, launched a Project Wonderful campaign, entered a Halloween book contest, and gave away ten free copies in a promotional raffle. I did manage to get some pre-orders, but naturally, one month is too short a time to generate any real buzz, so when my book came out, it was basically a blank slate. Anyone buying it was taking a risk on me as an unknown author.

What all that meant was that any reviews I received from the incredible diverse (and often unprofessional) reading masses was going to determine my sales. Scary, right? Especially considering the trolls that haunt the internet. But for the most part, I got a handful of mostly good reviews, with one or two mixed reviews tossed in. The problem? Most of my positive feedback was on Goodreads, where people are known to add books to their lists and virtually forget about them. I’m guilty of this myself, having I think over a hundred books on my “to-read” list. And on Amazon, my primary seller? I managed to snag one glowing 5-star review one month after the book’s release. “That’s great!” I thought. Then three days ago, I got a scathing one-star review from a guy who said my book was “pointless” and who apparently didn’t think too much of my books “rare vocabulary.” He even took a shot at the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree, like I was trying to lord that over everyone. Ouch!

And I could’ve ignored this review for what it was–the spiteful opinion of one guy who wasn’t even part of my targeted demographic. This was written by an older white man who has only bothered to review seven other books aside from mine, and only one out of those seven got four stars from him. A picky reader. Certainly not a crime, and it’s not like his review violated guidelines.

But his scathing comments had a huge impact on my sales. The effect was almost immediate. He posted his review on December 17th. You wanna know what my sale chart looks like on Kindle Direct Publishing now?

salesscreenshotdecember2014

Ouch, ouch, ouch! What happened? Can one man’s negative comments really have such a devastating effect on an author?

In my particular case…yes. You see, when you have such a small pool of reviews and a small publishing history to go with it, the fact of the matter is that unless I’m wowing people with tons of stellar reviews, no one is interested. It’s the insane hurdle that new indie writers have to overcome. This man’s one-star rating dropped my book’s average from five-stars to three. Even if I got another five-star rating, I’d only get half-a-star back of what I’d lost. Hardly the kind of thing that boosts confidence in potential customers, right? It’s particularly frustrating as I have a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads (at the time of this post) based on multiple reviews, but most of those who might actually purchase my book only ever see the feedback on Amazon. Talk about skewed perception!

So the question is: how do I come back from this?

The short answer? I honestly have no idea. Right now, all I can think to do is wait and have faith that someone who has already received the book will be kind enough to post a more positive review. What’s excruciating is that, until I get some better ratings to off-set this one bad rating, my sales will continue to look like the one above. I’ve already sent out free copies to tons of people prior to this latest set-back, specifically requesting a review on Amazon. I’d do a free sale if I was enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, but I’m not. If this keeps up, I might have to resort to editing the base price to see if I can encourage more people to try the book. Over a hundred people have purchased it since its release, and I have no idea if any of them will bother to say anything about it–good or bad.

And in the meantime? I guess I can just put my head between my knees and try to breathe. Publishing a book is rough, but it can be even rougher when one person sets out to destroy what little chances you already had. I don’t know that reviewers realize the kind of impact their comments have on writers like me. For me, this isn’t a hobby. I’m trying to make this my livelihood. The thing that hurts the most? It’s most likely that this person doesn’t give a damn about any of that.

…All that said, for the next few weeks only, I’m offering my novel for free to anyone who is willing to post a review on Amazon. This is for an HONEST review, and you don’t have to feel pressured to write something positive just because of my woeful tale. I know my book isn’t perfect, I wrote the original manuscript when I was just 19 for heaven’s sake, and it’s my first attempt at writing a major novel. BUT I’ve also made significant improvements since then, and I’m confident my work isn’t a one-star affair. All you need to do to get your free copy of my book is go to the contact page of my book’s site by clicking here, and submit your request for a copy. After that, I’ll personally send you three formats of it: PDF, MOBI, and EPUB. I realize that any reviews posted on Amazon will have to state that you received the book for free, and that it won’t be a “verified purchase”, but anything is better than what I have right now.

So I implore you. If you like independent books and/or LGBT fiction, then please consider reading my work and posting your feedback on Amazon! Don’t let this one person have the final say on what has taken over six years for me to accomplish!

I’ll be doing this until the end of the first full week of January. (That’s the 10th.) Spread the word about this, even if you feel you can’t read the work yourself! Every little bit helps.

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Abuela, te quiero.

My grandmother passed away today. It wasn’t an unexpected thing. She was 82 years old and severely depressed after her partner in life, my aunt, passed away last December. She was very strong and very brave to have lasted as long as she did. I’ve quickly learned that the thing about death is that it’s more about the living—because the dead are dead, no matter how they got there. My grandmother lived a good life, and she was at peace in her final moments. It’s the living I find myself crying for—my mother, my brothers, my uncle, myself… But I want to believe that this time I can do right by her memory and not fall apart.

Watch me not fall apart.

Seriously.

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Fred

In my most recent podcast, I mentioned that I was going through a lot and learning a lot about myself as a person. I know I must’ve said this a thousand times before, but I think it is even more true now. I’m making serious decisions about my health, my lifestyle, and dealing with a lot of emotional wounds, both old and new. As some of you may remember, Halloween is my favorite month, and I have a particularly high interest in the macabre. I don’t have co-morbid idealizations mind you, I just think zombies and werewolves are fucking awesome. Sometimes I feel like a little monster myself. My friend, Aprilfish, will probably scold me later for saying that (check out her awesome hug in my Return to Cali post!) but I gotta say it. At the least, I feel like a ghost in my old life, and a shambling undead in my new life. Where do I go? Where do I fit? Yeah, yeah, yeah, roll your eyes. I’m young and going through THAT phase. Meanwhile, I’m still just a spirit haunting old haunts:


That, however, was not why I wanted a zombie tattoo on my right shoulder, nor was this some sort of plot to piss off my family or my husband (though I still managed the latter by accident). The above tattoo was originally artwork from Bernie Wrightson, an EC Horror veteran who is perhaps best known for his late ’80s comic adaptation of the classic tale of Frankenstein.

The concept for the tattoo didn’t come to immediately. My good ol’ buddy Aprilfish helped me figure out what it was I really wanted. I had all sorts of ideas…another X-men tattoo, a tattoo of my astrological signs (Sagittarius and Dragon), or maybe even a silly tattoo of my favorite game of all time, Team Fortress 2. But among these ideas was one for a sort of old school horror inspired tattoo—something comic book styled that would work well in black and white, something with the supernatural: zombies, werewolves, witches, even vampires (which I’m not a fan of). I wanted something inspired from the 40’s and 50’s EC Horror comics. Given that this is Halloween month, the direction seemed clear, especially given the almost visceral emotions I’d been feeling since returning home. That was when Aprilfish pulled up this little gem:

Not to sound cheesy, but this piece immediately spoke to me. It was beautiful to me. Many people would not use that word to attribute to this artwork, but that’s how I felt. The way the undead rises from the ground, head thrown back, palms up toward the sky, free of the burden of both life and society. This is a beauty based in a grisly fantasy…or maybe it’s the reality. Since coming to California I’ve been struggling with my identity as everyone around me talks about the “real” Illise Montoya. It made me feel alienated and angry. What image was I failing to satisfy? What role was I neglecting? As far as I was concerned, who I was–an open bisexual with liberal political views and a love for horror and fantasy–that was IT. That was the reality! But some people here at home didn’t respond in very nice ways, and it got me thinking…FUCK other people’s “image” of me. Maybe the “ugly beauty” was the reality they needed to deal with.

But to be fair, I’m in a transitory phase. Today’s me could be tomorrow’s Casper. And that very well could be the case. After much drama and debate, I have decided to stop taking my anti-depression and anti-anxiety pills. They are just messing with my mind and my life too much. I want to find a better way to live. Surely some of you have been through this, or have an idea of what this is like?

The last meaning this artwork held for me was obvious. As you all know, my Aunt died last December, and I’ve been struggling to deal with it ever since. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but my grandmother, my abuela, has been having severe health problems after her recent surgery. My family is essentially waiting for her to die. My mother hides her pain well, but it leaks through her “image” like blood through a mask. In the end, what the above image made me feel was relief. A sort of acceptance of death. That despite a person’s demise their “true beauty” lives on in the memories of those that loved them. That’s why I had the tattoo artist, Adam from Creative Visions, put in Latin beneath the tattoo, Venustas Immortalis, which means, “Eternal Beauty.”

Anyway…I hope you guys have a better idea of what it is I’m going through down here. It was also just a nice opportunity to brag about my new tattoo. Oh yeah. My husband…he didn’t like it. I sort’ve forgot to tell him that I was getting it (I’m sorry honey!) But we talked about it, and things have been smoothed over. He’s decided to name my zombie ‘Fred’. I think I can deal with this.

It’s the other stuff I’m worried about!

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WordPress, I dub thee Tumblr

So Thursday night after work, I was all like:

Then Friday, when I got locked outside of my car for two hours outside of a closed post office without a phone or so much as a pen and paper to scratch on, I was like:

And now today, with a pile of unfinished homework, unfinished writing updates, new FAFSA deadlines, a slow internet, a looming work day, and an irritable husband, I’m just like:

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The Monkey Pen: Because Not All of Us Use Wrenches

Wearing different colors in a uniformed workplace can feel like being the only white person at a black barbecue. Forgive the racial analogy, but currently, that’s how I feel.

This morning was certainly not a good morning. I slept a rocky 5 hours, and after just an hour awake, I realized, to my horror, I was scheduled for a double shift from 10AM to 2PM, and 4:30PM to 12AM. Not the worst hours, many people would say. My husband works 13-16 hour shifts regularly after all. And it’s certainly good for us financially. It was just that I wasn’t prepared for it–literally. I had to wash my work clothes in a hurry and get back to sleep for a hopeful 30 minute power nap. When I woke up and checked my laundry (my husband having put my clothes in the dryer), I discovered pen ink stains on both of the shirts I needed for today. I don’t know if you’ve ever had pen ink stains on your clothes before, but once that dries on, it STAYS on. I had less than 10 minutes before I had to leave the house because I have a 30 minute drive to my work, so there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation. I just put on my cleanest of my two work shirts and ran out the door. Needless to say I was already in a shitty mood, but as I was driving, I find even more cause to become upset.

I had missed my counselor appointment.

Every two weeks I go in to see a counselor to talk about my life and how I’ve been feeling on my medication. If I miss an appointment, I have to pay $70 out of pocket. At the moment? Both me and my husband have some $60 between us. Remember in my podcast how I mentioned we were battling back our credit cards and trying to save money? This shit certainly doesn’t help, and I literally screamed in my car.

Tonight I’m working with a co-worker who is notorious for shirking work whenever possible. This day? This day is filled with craptastic fun. Never mind that I have a meaty assignment due tomorrow and I have to be at work again from 8AM-4PM, and that I still have to finish the ALP! update. Now for some meta-shit that doesn’t quite apply to today but is still on my mind: BILLS BILLS BILLS. Trying to help my husband de-stress from his crazy to-do list, which now towers over him after weeks of procrastinating and not talking to me. We got a court-order because our lawn had literally grown three feet tall, and our lawn mower is broken. They also included in the court order our broken fence, which allows you to see right through our backyard because the shitty people who built our fence did a shitty job so the shitty thing blew over in one of Georgia’s notoriously shitty thunder storms. Yeah. And the cherry on top?

My grandmother is in the hospital.

After my aunt’s death in December, my grandma, my abuela, has been withering away. When I went to visit her in Panama this August, she was literally skin and bones and lacking in that pep she once had. She had surgery shortly after I returned to the states, to remove a benign tumor in her intestines. She’s 85 years old and not recovering so well. She’s vomiting. She can’t stand. She can barely eat. Her intestines are swollen. My mother has told me to prepare myself for her passing away. To pray. But like my aunt’s hospitalization last year, I just…can’t. I don’t want to call my mother because of how sad she sounds, but I keep trying to check in because I don’t want to come across as callous.

And all today and tomorrow, I have to bus tables and serve drinks with a smile.

…Do you guys still wonder why I miss updates sometimes?

 

EDIT: Just got an update from my mama via text. Grandma is doing better. Hopefully this continues. Cross your fingers!

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