YES!

Finally, at last, Book 4 rewrite has been wrapped up.

Whew.

Now what, you might ask? Well, first things first, I want to see if I can get something written for the anthology. These stories have been swirling in my head for a while, and I will at least attempt to put them down. I will hunt for contributors at a later point, too, but right now let’s see what my brain can produce.

Revival has been sent along to Gayle, and now, the line editing begins. Believe me, this is the easy part. Artwork for the cover is In Progress; the front is set, but I need to create the back. That would take a bit of thinking.

The rest of the books are on Amazon.

K.G.

A Time When You Felt Alone

Another brilliant post idea from Ileandra Young.

This is an odd one for me to answer, because I’m a solitary individual as it is. I’m the sort of person who prefers to be one-on-one when in company, and who is usually counted on to be a homebody; I enjoy doing work around the house, I like to be by myself and reading a book in the park. I am great in crowds and conversations, but being solo is just where I feel best. It’s when I do my best writing, and when I feel that I can do anything I please.

It doesn’t mean I’m depressed. It doesn’t mean I need to get out more. I just like it, and there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, solo, homebody, or whatnot. It actually irks me quite a bit when people don’t understand why I don’t want to go out on one day or the next, or why I tend to go alone when traveling.

It’s just how I am. Take it or leave it, people.

But that said, there are times where feeling alone is more a hindrance than a help. Behind the cut, because I will proceed to reminisce/wax personal.

Continue reading

When In The Writing Zone…

…you forget everything else.

Now, you may have had your own experience with it, or you may have had friends who talk about it. But one way or the next, sometimes you get caught up in the phenomenon of being excited about your work, so excited that you forget everything else. Sleep included.

Like right now. You can say I am very much In The Zone.

I got out of work at almost 9pm, pulling through a grueling day; tax season is in very full swing at the moment and it’s taking the wind out of me. But through lunch, and as soon as I got out of work, I had beelined right to Revival, because the part that I have been steadily plugging away at and had lost sleep over is easily the most exciting part of the book. I can’t tell you which one, because it would spoil a good lot. But let me just put it this way: if only there would be a director brave enough to take it to the silver screen. I cannot believe that I wrote this. And I’m saying that in a good way.

I cannot even begin to tell you just how much sleep I had lost so far. The other night, I had been so caught up that I had edited straight into 2am, and I still don’t know just how I was so perky and alert at work. Last night, I went to bed kind of early, but today I was wrecked. My sleep patterns are dead in the water.

But all I can think of is that scene, that book, that story.

Releasing a book is always exciting. Even if it isn’t your first, there’s still that little thrill of satisfaction that says, I wrote this. I did this. But when you’re wrapping up an arc in a series, this excitement takes a whole different connotation. Excited doesn’t come close to covering just how I feel about releasing the 4th book in The Index. It’s just…overwhelming. I’m wrapping up all the open points in Book 1 that had left readers confused. I am touching back on parts of Book 2 that people thought were slowing down, and putting that volume into an entirely new light of relevance. And what Book 3 had started to expose, Book 4 takes and blows into the open. And it is exciting. It’s also feeling as though you have created an entirely new something. This drives it home for me: I wrote a series, and I’m about to wrap up a portion of it.

It’s something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid, and this is the most excited I’ve been since the first proof had arrived onto my desk in 2009. I still remember that proof, and had kept it: 600+ pages of something that desperately needed a layout change, a red pen taken to it, but it was my book, and the sense of accomplishment knew no comparison. It’s kind of similar with this book, but the accomplishment is on a grander scale. Instead of just one book, I have four. Instead of the start to a series, I have a complete arc, a package of books.

Someone asked me if I plan on being the next JK Rowling. The answer is no, for the simple reason that there’s only one JK Rowling. But I plan on continuing my series, and continuing it well into the next decade or two. Even if it doesn’t do as well as I would like it to do, I would love for it to achieve a level of success similar to Rowling, but above all, I want to keep writing it.

It’s moments like these, when I’m at home, after a grueling day of work, and happy as a clam only because I have my book in front of me, and editing it is no longer a chore but instead one of the best delights of my day, I cannot even tell you how glad I am that I had never listened to anyone who had ever told me not to bother writing.

Moments like these remind me that I was born to write.

And release is soon…in two months!

In the meanwhile, show some love – grab a copy on Amazon! Kindle or paperback. Book 1 is free if you’re a Prime member.

K.G.

 

Student Loans

So as of yesterday, I’ve had to deal with Sallie Mae. If I didn’t say that I detest student loans as a whole, it would be a lie by omission.

Situation is this: I opted for a particular repayment plan, and as part of it, my payments dropped into double figures each month. Awesome! I budgeted around this, and laid out a pretty solid budget for the rest of the year. But then, I check Sallie Mae’s website and…surprise! My payment amount has nearly tripled.

What the F.

Yeah. I had to call and politely, but not so very nicely, tell them that either my loan gets to a manageable payment amount, or they won’t be seeing any money, because guess what: I need to eat too. They mumbled their way through various reasoning that basically boiled down to, “too bad, bitch, pay up or else.” I ended up putting it into forbearance for five months, to the tune of $150.

What the F, redux. Since when is there a fee for forbearances? When I put my US Dept. of Education loan into forbearance, they didn’t even think to charge me a fee. They simply looked at my credit, looked at the loans, saw I paid everything on time so far, and said, “next payment due in November, have a nice day.” Nowhere was there a $150 fee. And really, Sallie Mae, telling me that you’ll credit the forbearance fee after 6 months of on-time payments is crap. Don’t charge me in the FIRST PLACE, how about that little chestnut? Or is that too much to ask for?

Rep. Hansen Clarke’s student loan forgiveness bill cannot be signed fast enough. I mean it. Don’t give me the crap how “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” is the only way. The bootstrap factory is outsourced to China, and the industry – yes, industry – of education is facing the same bubble-burst as homeownership. Student loan debt is up 511% over the last decade, and colleges have little choice but to keep increasing their tuition because the Pell and TAP grant budgets are getting slashed every year, and the qualifications are getting tighter and tighter. NONE of this has any sort of control or regulation, and some colleges would actually have you lie on the FAFSA to get more in student loans.

Yes, lie. Because they’re the ones who profit immediately and very well, to boot, but you, the student, are fucked. Because with the exception of junior colleges and barely accredited schools, you are very hard-pressed to find a college with a four-figure annual tuition, and with all the “education is a must for anything in life!” that is hammered down our throats from an early age, what else, aside from getting into heavy debt, can you do to keep yourself in school?

You may say “Trade school!” but you know what, trade schools need tuition paid too. And if there was any emphasis on trade schools right now, we wouldn’t be having the situation that we have now: metric ton of college grads, none of them able to find a job, because the degree that they had killed thousands of dollars on is suddenly not enough, and because the majority of work has already been outsourced.

Lovely, innit? And by this, I mean absolutely fucking terrible.

Seriously. Jobs don’t rain from the sky. The economy is only now feebly showing signs of recovery. There’s still a competition of a minimum of 30 people for an open position. For every one person who gets the job, there’s 29 more who have no idea how they’re going to pay their bills, or pay for that student loan. About half of the college grads have no choice now but to live with their parents because they’re unable to afford loans and pay for an apartment at the same time. It’s simple math: you can only stretch a $1,000 biweekly check so far when you’re in the hole for a high five-figure sum, if you’re lucky to get that per month.

“Get a better job and stop being lazy!”

“You have an education, you can just get another job!”

“Just pay them, it’s not a big deal.”

“Why can’t you afford it? You have a job, right?”

I’ve heard it all, and you know what, none of it answers the main and very pressing question of why the hell had this predicament been allowed in the first place – not just to me but for every college grad laden with debt in this country. Tuition for a small local private university should not have ever gotten near the 20K/year mark and allowed to double within five years since then, as is the case with Pace University, my alma mater. If I ever wanted to return to it for grad school, I can kiss that dream goodbye. At this point in time, Pace is more expensive than NYU will ever be. Pace’s financial aid had started to slash while I was still in school, and I’ve begged for grants to keep tuition to where covering the gap with loans was a plausible option. And considering my debt load and the average debt load of a Pace graduate, I still got away easy, and I’m still in bad straits. Why? Because I can’t support my living expenses, and the expenses of my business, and pay back $60K at the same time. And mind you, that $60K? Still less than what I had started with.

I’m about to start looking for another job, because even though my salary has been steadily climbing, it’s still not enough. I need to find a job that will pay me significantly more than what I’m receiving now. Why? Because I really don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. And with the way that the student loan bubble is going right now, that’s what it’s looking like.

And you know what? It should have all been regulated. There should be caps on tuition, even for private universities. There should be caps on student loan percentages. There should definitely be a massive improvement with job placement programs for schools. There should be a massive improvement in high schools, where guidance counselors offer trade school as a viable option for careers. Instead, what do we have? A loan bubble that’s about to burst hard, because there will be a huge number of college grads who will outright default on their student loans. They will do so knowing that their credit will be shot, and they will do it en masse because they want to actually have some semblance of a life that doesn’t involve constantly thinking about debt. And since bankruptcy laws now do not discharge student loan debt, then what? Wage garnishment? It’s a lose-lose situation one way or another.

This is a very, very preventable situation. One way or the next, I have to come up with 60K to pay everything off. Unless I win the lottery, this won’t be happening.

And yes, I’ve done research on bankruptcy. Because believe me, when you’re looking at your finances and no matter how much of a raise you’re getting, you’re not seeing anything actually become different, you begin to consider drastic measures if only out of panic’s sake.

And that’s no way to live.

K.G.

A Good “Bad Review”

It’s an inevitable part of being an author: people will ask you to review their work. I volunteer for it, and sometimes am solicited to do so. You might be too.

And this can’t go without saying: not everything you read will necessarily be good. If you’re an author, I can also tell you that not everyone will like what you have written. But you knew all of that.

There is a certain protocol that I follow for giving reviews, which is pretty dependent on whether or not the book is good.

If the book is good: I not only put up the review on Amazon, but sometimes on my own blog, and nearly always on Goodreads. I love, love, love Goodreads; it’s an excellent reading and reviewing community, and the book discussions get quite interesting. A good review on Goodreads is – at least to me – worth a lot more than a good review elsewhere, and it is also much more personal. A self-published author is, very likely, a Goodreads author, and so are many trad-pubs as well, so you can be sure that the reviews go appreciated.

If the book is not good: I finish reading it, ask myself why I didn’t like it, and then give my opinion to the author privately. When I do so, I make sure to outline concise reasons for why I did not like the book. If the plot is poorly paced, I say so. If facts don’t pass muster – which I do check – I point it out. I rarely put up a bad review on Amazon, because of how it affects the book rank, but I will put one up on Goodreads. If it’s bad enough that I don’t finish it, I simply put it away, delete it out of my Kindle, and let the author know I couldn’t finish.

My tests for a good book are simple:

1. Is the plot believable, written concisely, and paced well?

2. Are the characters believable, and can I relate to their thoughts, even if they’re nothing like me?

3. Is the writing good, thorough, and grammatically correct?

That is all. But once in a while, I still have to give a bad review or two. It happens, because let’s face it: while there are a lot of good books out there, there’s also a lot of not-so-good books out there. While some people fervently want to and believe they can write, they had not been taught to, or the story that they want to tell is just not thought through, or planned properly. Other people just plain lack the talent to write.

One thing to note, though: I don’t make it personal, nor do I take it personally.If I have to point things out to an author whose book didn’t strike me as good, I do it with as much understanding for their style and structure as I can. And since I read quite a good bit, I can wrap my mind around a lot. If I thoroughly dislike a book, I just do not finish it. It’s rare that this happens, but in those cases, I generally don’t bother with leaving any sort of feedback unless asked.

Now, I have three books out. So far, I did get a lot of good feedback on all three, and my first being the first, and definitely not being the best of them (yes, I admit it freely), gets the most feedback. So far, I got a couple of negative reviews, mostly in private, and I will now bring you a little lesson:

How to Write a Good Bad Review.

Ignore the oxymoron in the middle. :) Just work with me here for a second.

Suppose you read a book. Suppose it didn’t resonate with you for whatever reason. You feel that you have to leave some feedback. What do you do?

1. State your reasons clearly, eloquently, and neutrally. If you did not like the pacing of the story, didn’t like the characters, thought it is entirely too much like something else by another author, say it as clearly as you can. “The pacing was not good”, “I couldn’t relate to the characters” – whatever the reasons are, state them as clearly as you know how.Whatever you do, do not say, “I don’t like it, it needs work” and don’t say why. It will do you no favors, and makes your review look petulant. The whole “it’s stupid because I say so” doesn’t work past a certain age.

2. Do not insult. I cannot say this enough. Do not insult the author. They had poured their time, blood, sweat, tears, and effort into making this book work. Be respectful of that. If you can’t do it, don’t review. Period.

3. Before you click “post”, put yourself into the author’s shoes. Not due to the whole “how would they feel?” bit, but because the author is the person who knows the story best. Before you click “post” on your review, ask yourself if you, even though you did not like it, understand what the author had set up to do in this book. Do you get the story? Yes? Are you sure you got it? Not sure. If you’re not sure, hold that negative review, and don’t toss the book. Some time later, when you’re bored and you can’t find anything to read, you may well look at this book in a different light.

4. The plot stays the way it is, and the reviews won’t change that. Believe you me, if there is more than one negative review, the author knows the issues of the book already, but the plot is the one part of the book that is effectively a sacred cow: no matter how bad the conventions, how flat the characters and the writing, the plot stays. You can say, “I like and this is why”, or conversely “I don’t like it and this is why”, but you cannot tell the author what to do to make the story better – the “better” in here is subjective. The author has a plan for the story, and has followed it in order to execute it. You are not the author. Your review does not, under any circumstances, obligate the author to change an already published work. If the work is unpublished, however, and the author is asking you specifically to review the book and point out what to change in the overall plot, then that is another ball game.

Remember this: your review is your review. It is your opinion. It is not fact. It will be interpreted as the reflection of what one person feels, and no more and no less.

Going back to Book 1 of my series for a second, I mentioned that it is not my best. Yes, it has issues. It’s flawed, far from perfect, and I had actually briefly pulled it off the market to revise the grammar and conventions. But under no circumstances did I change the plot. Nonetheless, I have received more than one negative review, and some were great bad reviews, but others made me laugh and shake my head.

One of the best bad reviews I got is that my plot was good, but the entire thing seemed so choppy that it made the book hard to follow. In part, this was intentional; I was setting up the seeds to wrap up in later books (which actually also made writing the follow-up sequels that much easier). In another part, it was also a flaw; would someone actually be curious enough to look at the other books? That was the dilemma. In the conventions edit, I did look through it, keeping my follow-ups in mind, but decided to leave most of the book as it was. Moreover, the plot was already cemented by the other books, so that changing the first book was no longer an option.

In the laugh-and-shake-head department, someone had read Book 1 and then, in an attempt to “constructively criticize” (a choice of words that I honestly detest, because if it’s constructive, it’s hardly a criticism), has emailed me to with a whole bunch of questions about Book 1 that were rife with assumptions that did not at all apply. Those assumptions, mind, could’ve been easily dispelled if the person had actually read the book and tried to follow the characters’ line of thinking or maybe, you know, just for a giggle, read Book 2, which answered a lot of the assumptions about the personalities. As a final note of that correspondence, I got a suggestion to rewrite the book, which had elicited a raised eyebrow and a, “how about no?” This person was firmly aware that I have written a series, and had not even thought to maybe, just maybe, skim through the free sampler. Moreover, let’s be logical: there is no force in the world that would make any author pull a published work from the market that has been there for the past three years for a revision just because one person couldn’t be bothered to do a little more thinking and a little less assuming.

Another great negative review I got was that the writing was exquisite, but the plot is so confusing that it’s going to take some serious work to get through the series. Yes, I am aware, but you know what – it’s something I encountered while writing the books as well. And one of the reviewers who had identified my book as “very much a first book” had continued to ask me for spoilers (which aren’t given).

You might ask yourself, why am I even talking about my bad reviews? For one, because I can – hey, that’s the best reason there is. For two, because if a book gets consistently great reviews, it makes some people ask the question, “What will I dislike about the book?” and this in turns starts them out looking for flaws, which is never a good way to read a book. And for three, in the self-publishing world, reading and reviewing self-pub books goes hand in hand. I’m not afraid to admit that my work isn’t perfect, because it is the truth. Moreover, every author knows that there’s Room For Improvement. Let them actually see how the work affects someone, not hear what that person feels that they have to fix.

One thing above all: good or bad, if you’re reading a book, you’re in the perfect climate right now to make sure that your voice is heard. Amazon and Goodreads have excellent platforms for feedback, and since most authors have gone online, it is a great way to let them know your thoughts – whatever they may be.

K.G.