Option Zero, or Why I Never Review Other Authors

Lately I’ve become somewhat outspoken in my refusal to review or rate another author’s work. This stance has drawn some questions from my fellow authors, so I thought I’d take the most appropriate platform to air out my thinking on the subject.

To me, it’s a no-win situation. Let me outline some very basic scenarios:

Option 1… you read a book and you like it. You might have a criticism here or there, but overall you’d give it a four or five-star rating. You post up said rating/review, and people thank you… warm fuzzies all around.

Option 2… you read a book, but you don’t like it. There were issues with pacing, plotting, characterization, fat rabid pandas swatting at vampires with steak knives… whatever. You have to decide whether to a) post up the lackluster rating and/or review, or b) don’t post up anything at all.


Here’s the problem.

When authors adopt option 2a, holy shit is there drama! I’ve seen it. And sure, we all like to think we’re grown-ups, and that we can handle criticism. Some of us actually can. But there are levels of butthurt at play, here. You have a typical Defcon 1 Author Drama, where the abused author launches a scorched Earth campaign against you, rallying swaths of Visigoths to swarm Goodreads in their name.

Pictured: a typical Goodreads message board.

Pictured: a typical Goodreads message board.

But there is also the passive-aggressive flavor of chapped ass. This is where, when it comes time to reciprocate the rating/review (and this is, indeed, the implicit contract among indie authors who rate one another), they remember that blistering review you left about their steak knife panda army. They remember. And even without attempting to do so intentionally, their reviews are tainted by that memory.

So what about option 2b? Seems fitting… that whole “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Well, we aren’t stupid. When an author gives Mary, Sue, Jane, and Bertha all five-star reviews, but poor old Gertrude gets no reviews at all… Gertrude knows what the score is. And she defaults back into the whole option 2a drama.

So, what about Option 1? Why don’t we just swallow our negativity and leave only good reviews, whether or not we feel the books deserve it? After all, aren’t we really here to make each other look good?

Uh, no. No, we’re not. It’s nice to help one another, but when we start leaving positive ratings when they are undeserved, we not only further dilute the entire review system and thereby reduce its effectiveness for both reader and author, but we also betray the trust of our readers. Let’s face it… sometimes a book isn’t that good. And if we huck a five-star review at said book, and our readers jump on it only to discover it’s more like a two-star novel… they’re going to think twice about trusting our judgment in the future.

So, I get it. We’re all human. We all get butthurt from time-to-time. Hell, it’s the hip thing to do now. Butthurt is the new black. But here’s the problem with butthurt.

It’s none of our readers’ business. They deserve to choose what they read without our extra baggage attached. And thus I have adopted what I’ll call Option Zero:

No ratings or reviews.

It is my humble opinion that reviews ought to be the sole purview of readers… not the authors. They’re the only ones equipped to render an honest review without having to coddle the admittedly fragile egos of their fellow writers. We authors don’t have that option. We’re always going to consider how every word we say publicly will affect our careers (if we’re smart, anyway).

And I do understand that authors are also readers. But we aren’t “strictly” readers. We have considerations that filter what we say. Why not leave the ratings to the ones we’re really trying to sell to, and help our fellow authors out in other ways.

So how can we help one another out without violating Option Zero? We can share one another’s news and release events and cover reveals and any other kind of bias-free announcements. We can grant honest input in private. We can offer words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, and a high five when needed. These are honest, constructive ways to benefit both the author community and the readership at large.

So much of our author branding has to do with honesty. Readers have very little time for pretense, misdirection, or our sewing circle nattering. I suggest that Option Zero helps to save the readers from all of that. That said, we truly do need reviews and star ratings from our readers. Let’s hand the ball off to them, and get back to writing new work for them to review!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | Freedigitalphotos.net

Interview with Sharon Bayliss – Destruction Blog Tour

Good morning, urban fantasy aficionados! I started this blog post with my hand one key to the right, and thought I was typing in French. For one glorious moment, I assumed that I had inherited some kind of alien mutant translating power, but realized my mistake. As I am now distraught over my own mediocrity, it’s time for an interview with Sharon Bayliss, author of the newly released Destruction.



JP: First off… give us your elevator pitch for Destruction.


SB: Destruction is a dark wizard family drama. When David’s missing children are found, they claim that their abuser had been a dark wizard.  He believes they use this fairy tale to cope with their trauma, until David discovers that dark magic is all too real.


JP: A father dealing with his children’s trauma… sounds like this is targeted for an adult reader, as opposed to Young Adult or even “New Adult.”


SB: Yes, that’s right. It’s just a regular old adult book. :) Although, the book is written in dual perspective between the father and his teenage son, so people used to YA will enjoy it too. I’m sure I’m offending the genre police with my odd blend.


JP: Did you find it challenging writing a POV from a male protagonist?


SB: No. I don’t like writing characters that are too much like me. I think my voice is stronger when I step outside of myself. Or, I have deeply seeded gender issues. Who knows? In any case, so far all my books have had male protagonists.


JP: Unlike high fantasy and far-reaching science fiction, urban fantasy benefits from a universe set in a world more similar to reality. What part of your world-building do you feel is the most unique versus other settings in the genre?


SB: As opposed to creating a detailed fantasy world, I worked very hard to make my setting as realistic as possible. In many ways, the story was based on the question, “If wizards were real, what would they be like?” My wizards are a reasonably normal family living in the U.S., so they do things like make jokes about Harry Potter and wonder how their magic fits in with their Christian upbringing. Although I love dramatic wand fights as much as the next guy, the magic in The December People Series is more subtle. It’s about bending the fates to the wizard’s will. If you want someone dead, you don’t just say, “avada kedavra.” A killing spell would cause your victim to get in a car accident or have a heart attack. My intention is to make the reader feel like these people could be their next door neighbors or their own family, and easily imagine how they could realistically blend with our real world.


JP: Let’s talk about your publisher, Curiosity Quills Press. How long have you been with them, and how would you describe your experience with this “hybrid” publisher?


SB: I actually signed my first book with Curiosity Quills Press almost two years ago! Whoa, time flies. I have certainly enjoyed working with them. They have a supportive, helpful network of authors, editors, and marketing types, and some kick-ass cover artists. I am proud to have a publisher that’s willing to invest in me and stand behind me and my stories.


JP: Destruction is the opening salvo in your December People series. How far along are you with sequels? Do you plot out entire overarching plot trajectories, or do you take these book-at-a-time?


SB: I’m currently writing book 3! Sometimes I can’t even believe it myself. Book one started out as a stand-alone, so I wasn’t thinking of larger plots at the time…until I started writing the end. I knew that there was no way I was stopping there! I loved my characters way too much.


However, for a while now I’ve known there would be four books in the series, one for each season. So, I have been working off a larger plot arc for the series. However, I only plan out major plot points. I leave the rest to the characters. I love just putting them in situations and see what they do. They always offer up surprises and plot twists I don’t expect. Sometimes I can’t stop writing because I want to see what happens next!


JP: So would you describe yourself as a “plotter” or a “pantser?”


SB: I’d describe myself as a “plontser”.


JP: As your series deals with morality and ambiguity, for my last question I’m going to toss a heavy philosophical grenade directly into your lap. How do you personally define “Evil?”


SB: Wow, that is a heavy question. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of time to think about this while writing the series. If I had to define “evil,” I would say that it is any choice (an act or an inaction) that harms another person for selfish purposes. Obviously, that definition still includes a lot of gray and variation in severity. I believe there are some acts that are always evil regardless of situation or intent, like abuse, rape, and violence driven by hate, or anytime someone powerful knowingly harms someone less powerful just to see them suffer, as in bullying.


As you can probably guess from just a basic understanding of the story, The December People Series is intended to overtly defy the black and white conception of good and evil that you find in most traditional science fiction and fantasy. In the series…as in life…evil is about what you do, not who you are. And although some characters certainly do more evil than others, all of them are capable of both evil and of good, and you can expect them all to do a little bit of both, regardless of what type of wizard they are.


Thanks for the enjoyable interview!


On a personal note, I wanted to host Sharon during her blog tour because her universe is my particular brand of vodka… an urban fantasy that holds its cards close to the vest of reality as we know it. So, scoot on over and get your copy of Destruction.


Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:


David and his family plus Samantha stood in a circle around a small pile of unlit firewood in the backyard. They stood arranged by age: David, Amanda, Jude, Patrick, Xavier, Samantha, Emmy, Evangeline, and then of course, David again, all twice as thick with jackets and scarves. The air felt hard with cold, a determined cold that seeped through all of David’s layers. They held candles—but no matches—in their gloved hands. The family had gone through the house turning off lights. All of the lights. They even turned off the red lights glowing on electronics. They had unplugged the entire house. However, David could see easily. An orange haze of light peeked up from the trees. Millions of lights lit up the world all around them. Darkness didn’t exist in the middle of Houston.

As soon as they had managed to arrange themselves into a circle, the kids got quiet without David or Amanda instructing them to. Wizards standing in a circle felt significant to David. When they got in that position, they snapped into place. The air became denser around him and he was rooted to the spot, as if with extra gravity. But he didn’t feel confined. He felt powerful. He plugged into an energy source he didn’t even know existed. His fingers had an itchy, tingly feeling. He knew he could do magic.

The paper in Amanda’s hand crinkled loudly as she held it close to her face. She had done her research, which David found endearing and impressive. She had talked to Samantha and Evangeline and some of the witches Penelope’s mom knew, and had created a ritual designed specifically for them, as the matriarch of the family should. The matriarch of the family always directed group spell casting, because she understood her family’s magic, the purpose of each family member, and knew how to keep them in balance—a tall order, since Amanda didn’t know much about some of the newest members of her family and knew even less about magic. But, David had never known Amanda to say she couldn’t do anything, so why start now?

Amanda owning this task shocked the kids, but not David. He knew her better than anyone did. Thus, he knew her mind and the rest of her often disagreed. Her left brain dug her feet into the ground and wouldn’t budge. That part of her would say things such as, “We’re not practicing magic,” and “We’re divorced,” until kingdom come. She would say it. She’d believe it. And she’d do the opposite, because occasionally the parts of her not governed by her left brain would break free. David may not be able to sway the left-brain side of her, but he could influence her other side, and he thought that maybe he had actually convinced her of something, for once.

And, part of Amanda had really wanted to be convinced, because wizards stayed wizards, no matter how many years they’d been indoctrinated otherwise. They listened to forces that had nothing to do with logic or reason, making them stupid, reckless, destructive, and exciting. And they liked to play with fire. Literally and figuratively.

“How I am supposed to read this in the dark?” Amanda asked. “How do people do this?”

“You’re supposed to have it memorized,” Evangeline said.

“Your eyesight is terrible,” David said. “Let me see it.”

She thrust the paper out of his reach. “Back off.”

“Why don’t you just let Evangeline or Samantha speak?” David said. “I’m sure they have some stuff memorized.”

“No,” Amanda said. “It’s supposed to be me. My words.” Amanda let out a shivery sigh. “I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to do this.” She took her phone out of her pocket and turned it on. She illuminated her paper with the dim blue light.

“First we honor the darkness,

For in darkness, our eyes are not distracted by the flash and flare of Mundane sights

So, only in darkness can we truly see.

In the silence of the deepest night, our ears are not assaulted by Mundane sounds

So, only in darkness can we truly hear.

In darkness, we are unable to see danger and are rendered vulnerable

So, only in darkness can we truly feel.

We do not believe that light exists in spite of darkness. We believe that light exists because of it.

Darkness is the only fertile ground for light. It is the only garden where light can be sown.

So, now we experience the darkness. Use this time in the dark and quiet to use your deeper senses. Experience what you are called to experience. The answers wait for you in the darkness. Do not deny them.”

And then, she fell silent.

David couldn’t hear the cars on the highway anymore. He couldn’t hear the music playing down the street. He could hear only the breathing of the others in the circle. And the sky…the orange haze disappeared and the sky reminded David of the one over Big Bend. Millions of stars set against a perfect pitch black. The moon cast a crisp, blue light on the scene. With her words, or perhaps with some other magic deeper than words, she had called the darkness. David pictured it as a bubble around them.

The quiet didn’t feel as awkward as David would have expected. No one giggled or even coughed or sighed. His lungs felt larger. He could breathe. This darkness didn’t feel frightening. In fact, David couldn’t remember ever feeling so safe. The darkness was the foundation that everything else was built on. The garden where the universe grew. The simplest, most basic thing in existence. And it was spectacular.

He supposed that was the answer that waited for him. That darkness in itself was not evil. Darkness was peace. Potential. Home.




How the Stars Have Become My Church

I was sitting out by the fire pit on my backyard patio with my wife the other day, warming my knees against the flickering flames and staring up at the starry sky above. We noted a couple bright spots above us and whipped out our smart phone night sky apps (because we’re ENORMOUS geeks like that) to find out those spots were Jupiter and Mars. The following night I pulled my son’s telescope out of the basement and zeroed in on the two planets. As I got the disk of Jupiter locked in, I kept bouncing back and forth between the magnified image and the bare-eye view. The sense of scale landed for the barest moment… that point in the sky, that sphere in the eyeglass… that’s a real planet right there. A neighbor. A particularly large and impressive-looking neighbor.

I had a moment.

It was a similar moment as when I first visited the Lincoln Memorial and gazed up at the huge sculpture of the Great Emancipator. I was temporarily staggered, as if I had touched a moment of Truth.

Which brings me to another conversation I had recently with my mother-in-law, in which we discussed religion and science. Lately I’ve been catching up on Cosmos, the Seth MacFarlane-produced homage to the original Carl Sagan television program. This generation is hosted by Sagan’s heir-apparent, Neil DeGrasse Tyson… a man who had already garnered my six-year-old’s respect from Nova Science Now. Cosmos is an outstanding show… I highly recommend it.

That said, there’s a group of people online… a highly vocal group… who have come out against Cosmos with all the venom they can muster. Why are these people so angry? Because the program spent fifteen solid minutes deconstructing the notion of Intelligent Design. And that, my friends, was a declaration of war.

At least in their mind.

Why are certain people of certain specific faith systems so threatened by Cosmos? Or for that matter, the assertion of any scientific theory outside of the narrative they have constructed around their interpretation of religion? Why are science and faith seemingly mutually exclusive?

They aren’t, first of all. Let me just get that out of the way. It is my assertion that this false dichotomy of science and faith is serving to unravel some of the structure of our society. Why must we be forced to choose between evolution and Genesis, accepting one while aggressively rebuking the other? Why are we required to believe in one strictly-defined interpretation of Biblical Creation? Why do the fringe element snap their own spines while bending over backwards to prove their faith, when that very concept is a contradiction of terms?

Because people are confusing Truth with Fact. I know that’s something of an arbitrary semantical conceit, but let’s roll with it for a second. Science is the net understanding of the pursuit of observable fact in an attempt to better understand the Universe around us. Truth, if you’ll adopt my conceit, is when we attempt to discern our place in the Universe. Fact occurs all around us, and exists (to borrow Mr. Tyson’s words) whether we believe in them or not. Truth, on the other hand, exists solely in the human mind, and has a completely distinct purpose and appearance from person-to-person.

Many choose to believe in a higher power towards making sense of our place in the Universe. The Universe is pretty big. That’s a fact. How we respond to how very small we are when we have the kind of “moment of scale” I mentioned above? That’s the pursuit of Truth. If it soothes a person to embrace God, and therefore feel as if the Universe has embraced them, I can’t object.

Likewise, if a person chooses to revel in the dizzying moment of scale, sitting by a fire pit, looking up at constellations which are at the same time utterly familiar, yet ancient. Being light which spent millions of years to reach one’s eyes for that micro-second of observation… realizing that everything we see above us is a three-dimensional snapshot of eons… and taking comfort in the Fact as Truth rather than feeling small because of it? I contend this is no different than Church.

The names are different, but the feeling's the same.

The names are different, but the feeling’s the same.

It’s the human condition to resist insignificance. It’s written into our survival instincts. I’ve read recently that specific brain structures are different between atheists and theists… that we may not, in fact, have much choice in whether we believe in God or if we rely on an objective view of the Universe.

But do you know what we do have a choice in? Whether we fight over it. Whether we impose needless insignificance over one another based on a difference in the Truth we’ve adopted.

Now, I’ve been speaking from a position of atheism here, as evidenced by my capitalizing Universe the way one capitalizes God. I delight in Fact. I’ve also found a way to stitch together observable fact into an embracing Truth, and my sense of significance doesn’t suffer from a lack in the belief in a higher power. It’s taken me a long time to arrive at a place where I cease judging others because they deny observable fact, choosing to replace it with their Faith Narrative. I may not respect the Narrative, but I feel it’s my responsibility to make a place for the person if not that person’s Truth.

Because honestly most people don’t adhere to the false dichotomy. They have found a way to make room in their lives for faith without denying science. In the words of one person, “I just don’t worry about it.”

I’m choosing to devote myself more fully to the joy of that dizzying moment of scale; that sense of Wonder I had as a child when I discovered magnets and microscopes; that thick, intoxicating sense of discovery which draws out the hope and ideals from my chest and fills my mind with moments of magic, fear, elation, and satisfaction that pierces through the cynical brain of a modern adult.

That’s my Church.

Image credit: idea go|FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cover Reveal – VIRTUAL IMMORTALITY by Matthew Cox

Greetings programs…

I have a sexy, sexy piece of art for your eager eyes this morning. Fellow Curiosity Quills author, Matthew Cox, has a cover reveal today for his forthcoming novel VIRTUAL IMMORTALITY.

Check it out, right….. here:


A quick blurb about the book:

“Nina Duchenne walked away from a perfect life of wealth and ease to pursue a noble idea. Unfortunately, her hope of becoming a forensic investigator drowned in two years of mandatory street patrol. After one tragic night shatters her dream, she finds herself questioning the very nature of what it means to be alive.

Joey Dillon lives at the edge of a perpetual adrenaline rush. A self-styled cyber cowboy that chases thrills wherever he can find them, he is unconcerned with what will happen twenty minutes into the future. Lured into a dangerous region of cyberspace, he soon has the government of Mars trying to kill him. After fleeing to Earth, he takes refuge in places society has forgotten.

When two international agents threaten the security of West City, Nina gets command of the operation to stop them. Joey just wants to find his next meal. Voices from beyond the grave distract Nina from her pursuit, and send Joey on a mission to find out who is responsible. His suspicions lie grounded in reality while she hopes for something science cannot explain.

The spies prove more elusive than expected, convincing her they have help from a master hacker. Joey falls square in her sights with the fate of the entire West City, as well as Nina’s humanity, at risk.”

Keep your eyes peeled for this one!

On a personal note, this cover art has a specific tie-in to yours truly, but that’s news for a different day… and I’ll be posting about that in the coming days.

And on that bombshell, I’ll be checking back in with you voracious readers soon!

Cover Reveal for DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss

Howdy, dark fantasy readers!

One of my fellow Curiosity Quills authors, Sharon Bayliss, is set to release her latest novel, DESTRUCTION, on April 14th. Today she unleashes the glory of her novel cover upon the world.

No Ashton Kutchers were harmed in the making of this book cover.

No Ashton Kutchers were harmed in the making of this book cover.

Here’s a message from Sharon Bayliss:

“The butterfly will show up on the cover of all four books in the series, as a symbol of redemption, hope, and re-birth. Despite the dark themes in the series, I believe that the most important themes of the series are hopeful ones, such as love, family, and triumph against adversity, which is why the butterfly is in the center.

The broken glass surrounding the butterfly rather obviously symbolizes the concept of destruction, which is also a central theme. The title Destruction refers to the fact that dark magic is inherently destructive, but also refers to how a person can be destroyed, in body or soul.

One thing I was sure of, I wanted the word, Destruction, to be in ‘pretty’ letters. I loved the contrast of having a dark and violent word look beautiful. This also fits the theme, as I wish to show the beauty in darkness and destruction, and the good in people who are supposed to be evil.”

Inherently destructive magic… sounds familiar! Want to know more? Here’s the blurb…

“David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn’t a choice.

Eleven years ago, David’s secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David’s wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.”

If you’re an urban fantasy/dark fantasy reader, and this sounds like your particular brand of vodka, let her know. She’s looking for reviewers and blog hosts for her book release event. Have some time and are interested in an ARC? Got some blog space and have an interest in making a stop for her blog tour? You can contact her HERE. I recommend that you require a bribe of Girl Scout cookies. Thin mints, or samoas in a pinch. Tagalongs are for chumps.

Motivation and Sweaty Gym Equipment

Here’s a story that’s absolutely true…

When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with something called Sever’s Disease, which is a short-term inflammation of the growth plate of the heel in adolescent children, usually boys. It’s most common in athletically active children. I was not one of those children. It can also be due to having too much weight bearing on the heel.

Too much weight… that was me.

I was never an active child, for whatever reason. At some point between the ninety-to-nothing pre-K years and early grade school, I ceased to be an active child and sat inside all the time. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and my over-protective mother seemed comfortable with my reluctance to play outside. Nonetheless, Sever’s Disease is a short-lived phenomenon, and isn’t considered a disabling condition.

But for reasons unclear to me even now, I was exempted from Physical Education all through elementary and middle schools per this diagnosis. The result of this and a stunted social development brewed up a recipe of “husky child” that stayed with me well into high school.

I was never physically fit. I was portly, overweight… I’d go ahead and call me obese, as a matter of fact. And then came Fifth Grade, when the Presidential Fitness Challenge first came out. Our entire class was lined up by the monkey bars for a series of tests, boot camp style. Whereas the PFC was intended as an encouragement toward active lifestyles in children, our school chose to view it as a battery of obstacles we grade-schoolers had to hump over to pass. I huffed and puffed my way through the tires and the traffic cones with the speed of a Volkswagon van in neutral gear.

Then came the chin-ups.

I had never done a chin-up in my life. I lacked any kind of arm or upper body strength to perform even a single chin-up. My forearms were so weak I couldn’t even hold myself up on the bar. This was my physical condition. Rather than recognizing this, the coach (I forget his name… it was McNair or Stalin or something…) chose to encourage my classmates to berate me until I could do a single chin-up.

And even as they hurled invectives at me and belittled me for my weight and weakness, I failed.

The coach then dressed me down in front of everyone, commenting not only on my unacceptable physical fitness but also on my character. It seemed, in his eyes, I was a bad person because I couldn’t do a single chin-up.

Until very recently, I hadn’t realized what an effect this had on my psyche. I grew into adulthood, benefiting from pubescent growth spurts and a short-lived obsession on bicycling. I was never “athletic,” but for a while I wasn’t obese. As the years progressed, however, the weight began to return. As an adult, I had a choice to make.

I tried to find the motivation to exercise, but it continually slipped away from me. I would get into a zone for a week or two, but would surrender time and time again. I found exercise to be a hateful drudgery. I responded with such vehemence it began to worry me. A couple years ago, my wife signed up for a kickboxing class, and after a few months I decided to join with her. For the first time in my life exercise was fun! I stayed with it, and my fitness improved.

But shit happens, as it tends to do, and the kickboxing classes ended, sending me back into the No Motivation Zone. My wife tried to get my butt back into gear, but I slipped into malaise. Then we had a conversation one day, out of the blue, when I mentioned the chin-up debacle of 1984. A light went on. The reason I resisted exercise for so long had been buried in the memories of a fifth-grader.

I was still hearing those children call me a fatass and a turd. I was still hearing that coach tell me I was a bad person. That son of a bitch had given me a legacy of poor health, and I was no longer willing to accept that.

I’m back in the gym now, and committed to physical fitness like never before in my life. Granted, I’ve really just started, and I’m still trying to keep up with my dog, whose speeds are “Stop and Sniff” and “Windsprint.”

"For God's sake, I can drag my ass across the carpet faster than you jog!"

“For God’s sake, I can drag my ass across the carpet faster than you jog!”

But the motivation is here, and it’s kind of weird. If anything, I’m harder on myself now than I’ve ever been before… but in a good way. I’m the one urging us to go to the gym. I’m keeping track of my progress. I’m watching what I eat, I’m tracking the calories burned, and overall I feel better about myself. Perhaps not only because my fitness is improving, but also because I’ve dug out a bitter, rusted root from my psyche.

So, why did I tell you all of this? First of all, I want everyone to be very, very careful what you say and do to a child. Words spoken in frustration, anger, or even casually without regard to its emotional impact could bury one of these rusted roots into their minds. Negative social pressure can be a powerful tool for motivation, but taken too far and it becomes a legacy of self-hatred.

Second, motivation is a big deal in our lives… and not just regarding physical fitness. It has to do with getting out of bed in the morning. Commuting to work. Going that extra mile for your significant other. Finishing that night course. Writing that novel. I feel lucky that I’ve found renewed motivation. It feels awesome! And I can’t promise you that there’s a magic wand you can wave to drop it squarely into your lap, but it is possible that somewhere in your past someone told you that you couldn’t do something. It’s possible that child-brain clutched onto it. It’s possible those words control you, and you don’t even realize it. Maybe it’s time to explore your attitudes and your personal history.

Running into self-doubt when you review your day’s word count? What if at some point you brought your third-grade creative writing paper to your parents, only to have them roll their eyes or squint just the wrong way? What if that one little gut-punch is haunting you today?

It’s food for thought.

Big News for the Dark Choir Series

Hello, everyone. I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Noble Rot.

"Hello, folks. You can call me Noble."

“Hello, folks. You can call me Noble.”

Mr. Rot and I go back almost two years. He is a saison, a french style farmhouse ale. This particular fellow is made with white grapes, and has a pleasant sour note that compliments the sweet grainy flavor and hints of pit fruit. I met him two years ago shortly after I finished the final revisions for The Curse Merchant. I’ve been saving Mr. Rot for a special occasion, one kind of occasion in particular.

Mr. Noble Rot is my celebration beer for when I signed my first book with a publisher.

Now, take a look at what I’m doing with Mr. Rot…

"I also answer to Rowdy Rotty Piper..."

“I also answer to Rowdy Rotty Piper…”

Whoa there, Sloan! Why are you pouring your celebration beer? Simple, dear reader… which brings me to my news.

The Dark Choir series has just been picked up by the literary marauders at Curiosity Quills! Hence the hold-up on the release of Curse Servant… both books were under consideration by CQ, and I’m happy to finally announce they have found a home.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? It means that both books will soon become available in both digital and print editions. It also means that I’ll be able to devote more of my attention to plotting, drafting, and revising new works.

I’ll be in touch soon with more details, including the re-release of Curse Merchant. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying a snifter or two of Mr. Noble Rot and hammering away at my latest short fiction.