I’m just not getting it – Authors who lose their shit.

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The wonderful review blog The Book Smugglers this morning tweeted something that caught my eye:

“This whole thing with authors tracking down reviewers is fucking scary but also so ridiculous, I can’t even.”

I expanded the Twitter feed and found they were referring to a blog posting from Dear Author entitled : “Ladysplaining the Value of A Literary Culture for Commercial Fiction”. It’s a great piece about the need for trust and respect between authors and reviewers. What sparked this posting? Well, this.

It’s a polite enough piece written by author Jon Stock chronicling why he took it upon himself to seek out an Amazon reviewer that he didn’t agree with. Stock writes:

To be fair to my latest Amazon reviewer, she is not your average punter. She is a professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and her review was 700 words of well-reasoned, if flawed, criticism. I know this because I tracked her down. Without wishing to sound like a serial killer, I track down all my hostile reviewers, sooner or later, particularly the anonymous ones (although I’m still working on “FleetStreetMan”). In this age of “sock puppetry”, when authors attack each other online under false names, it’s a necessary part of the job.

A necessary part of the job? Granted, I’m no commercial fiction superstar but the very notion of contacting a reviewer because I didn’t like the headline for their review or the review itself has never once crossed my mind. And yet time and time again, we’re seeing this happening. I’ve argued before that 2012 seems to be the year that authors lost their shit with reviewers. But what strikes me about Stock’s opinion piece in The Telegraph is that nobody at the newspaper seemed to think that it might be just a little bit strange for an author to contact a reviewer in the first place.

Like … seriously. WTF is going on here? Stock seems to justify contacting the reviewer, who he admits used her real name in the review and left contact information, by suggesting that “you just can’t be too sure if an author is attacking you under an assumed name” as opposed to being perhaps a bit ticked that the headline for the review might have rubbed him the wrong way. (“Stock: misogynist and serial killer”)

Perhaps authors losing their shit in 2012 is the direct result of the sheer dominance of Amazon as a venue to buy books. Perhaps it’s because book promotion is being dumped onto the shoulders of authors by publishers who are struggling to make financial ends meet. Perhaps it’s sheer vanity.

You know, I’ve had bad reviews for my books. I’ll continue to get bad reviews. Whatever – that comes with the territory when you put yourself out to the universe. Writing books is a deeply personal thing – we authors pour our hearts out into our works-in-progress and we want to make the reader smile. Yet more and more, we’re seeing authors taking it upon themselves to police what they believe to be unfair reviews and for the life of me, I’m just not getting it.

I think the Dear Author posting is a step in the right direction, but first authors need to decide what’s more important – the writing or the reviews. Me? I don’t write for reviews. I write because I need to write, it’s as simple as that. Were I not published, I would still write because it’s how I’m hard wired. I’m blessed to have four published works and a fifth hitting book stores in 2013.  One of the nice things about being published is interacting with people who love your books – I do this primarily via Twitter. Occasionally I will meet bloggers who’ve reviewed my books – like I did during my recent trip to London. But it’s book-related relationship based on two things: my love of writing and their love of books. At the heart of this is something that I’m starting to wonder is lost on a growing number of authors who’ve lost their shit at reviewers:  I have a right to produce books that I want to write and, believe it or not, reviewers have a right to express their point of view.

I’m mindful of the fact that social media is something we’re all trying to understand. I’m mindful of the fact that thanks to Amazon, authors might feel they need those lovely little stars to promote their books – I get that. But contacting reviewers has to stop. If you want to lose your shit on your own author blog and write a three thousand word rant about an Amazon reviewer, you have that right. (It’s still authors losing their shit, BTW) You’ll wind up being eviscerated in the blogosphere if you choose to go that route, but it’s still your right. (I don’t recommend it.)

And yet this issue continues to happen – seemingly on a weekly basis. Word of advice to Stock and really to anyone who wants to get published: suck it up, sunshine. Grow a thick skin. Get used to bad reviews because it comes with the territory. Better yet, instead of contacting a reviewer to call them on what you perceive to be an unfair shot at your latest epic tome, why not channel your righteous indignation into, I don’t know, writing another book?

Yes there are sock puppets on Amazon. Yes there are reviewers who like nothing more than to slam an author’s latest book using the most inflammatory and vitriolic language available. But guess what? Most readers aren’t stupid. Most reviewers aren’t stupid either. Why not just sit back, take a deep breath and simply respect the right of the reviewer? It’s the nature of the business and if an author truly can’t control their shit, they need to get out of being a published author all together – it’s as simple as that.

Nuff said. Respect the reviewer. Get over it. Move one. Write another book and if you truly do feel the need to contact a reviewer, get some freaking help with that.

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Halloween Costume Contest

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Halloween is just twelve days away and this year I won’t just be handing out goodies to kids who are trick or treating  – I’m going to be handing out a signed copy of all four of my books: SHADE FRIGHT, FUNERAL PALLOR, UNSEEN WORLD and POLTERGEEKS.

There’s a hitch, though – to be eligible for entry I need you to:

Tweet this contest.

Post it on your Facebook page.

Send me a snapshot of you dressed up in your best costume. Just email it to me at info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca. Please put “Halloween Costume Contest” in the subject line. On November 1st, I’ll post pictures of all the entries and announce the winner. Last year I did the same contest at my old author blog and we had more than a dozen entries. The contest is open to US, UK and Canadian residents. Okay … let’s see what you can come up with for the spookiest night of the year!

 

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Why my books take place in Calgary

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I’m a Calgarian, that’s why. (Actually a displaced Calgarian who lives in Saskatoon but in actual fact, a displaced Ontarian – truth be told.)

I was born in Ontario and spent my childhood in Sudbury. My family moved out west in 1980 – we were following the great migration of eastern Canadians who headed out west because Calgary in 1980 was a boom town. It was a city of about 650,000 all those 32 years ago. It’s now grown to over a million people and I remember laying eyes on the skyline for the first time in my life at age 13 and it was nothing but cranes as far as the eye could see. I went to Junior High at Bob Edwards Jr. High School and then I went to James Fowler High School and graduated in 1985. After that, I joined the Canadian Forces because the boom was over and the National Energy Program basically destroyed the economy. There weren’t any jobs for someone fresh out of high school back then so the military made sense.

And so I was based in Calgary from 1986-1992. My son Shane (now 22) was born there. Everything about my formative years happened there. It’s a wonderful, vibrant and amazing city that I love with all my heart. So why am I in Saskatoon? Well, the better half is from Saskatchewan so that’s why we’re here.

Calgary appears in my novels SHADE FRIGHT, FUNERAL PALLOR and my debut Young Adult thriller, POLTERGEEKS

This is Calgary circa 1980:

And this is Calgary in 2012:

 

It’s kind of grown, don’t you agree? In my books I’ve brought these statues to life.

I’ve made Nose Hill Park the magical ground zero in the city. (A dwarf troll mage named D.T. lives underneath this boulder, by the way.)

 

 

There’s a HUGE poltergeist attack in this high school. (The school name is different in my book POLTERGEEKS)

 

I’ve also destroyed the Calgary Rugby Stadium, created the zombie apocalypse (my agent has to sell this one) and of course caused something utterly terrible to happen at the Calgary weir in the sequel to POLTERGEEKS. It’s called STUDENT BODIES.

No, I don’t hate the city – but I do write urban fantasy. Most urban fantasy (like 99.99999% of it) takes place outside Canada. I’m an urban fantasy author and I have this crazy idea that people in Canada might like to read fantasy that takes place here and those from outside of Canada would probably want to read it too.

I’ll probably be taking a break from writing about Calgary for a while, though, but it’s still here (I’m pointing to my noggin) in my thoughts and in my memories. Calgary Alberta, Canada is my hometown. I love the city though – always will. It’s where I’m from. It’s where my heart is.

Even if I’m destroying it piece by piece. 🙂

 

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#AMWRITING – The skinny on some projects

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I promise to do a blog post with pictures about my trip to England! I just have to figure out how to get them off my smart phone!

Jeebus! Have I been back for more than a week already? Time flies like crazy and soon the tiny metropolis of Saskatoon where I live will be grinding its way through another bone-chillingly flipping cold winter. I do more writing in the winter time – this generally has to do with the fact that Saskatoon isn’t like a lot of other places come winter.  Temperatures well below -20 Celsius are pretty much the norm in these parts and that damned, constant prairie wind will still the breath right out of your lungs when it’s that cold.

So I stay indoors and write.

And what am I writing these days? Well, my editor at Strange Chemistry Books is the fabulous Amanda Rutter. She’s got the sequel to POLTERGEEKS entitled STUDENT BODIES.  I expect to be hitting the revisions on that in the coming weeks. As for new stuff? Well, I’m doing revisions for a project entitled THE NORTH. (I will probably change the title.) All you need to know is this:

1) Young Adult militia

2) Six months after the zombie apocalypse

3) Breaking out of the city in two armored personnel carriers

4) Fight

5) Survive

6) Save your eight-year-old sister’s life and perhaps your own while you’re at it.

7) Rebuild the world once you survive all the dangers a zombie-infested planet possesses

8) SUNRAY (I am so NOT going to divulge what this means)

I’m also completing a middle grade novel entitled TANK. Simple premise, really. A kid who is picked on at school buys a zombie bodyguard off the Internet. Hi jinks ensue – also, lock up your cats.

My agent is currently shopping an adult urban fantasy entitled TIM REAPER. I do hope it finds a home soon – I could write about a dozen or more books with TIM REAPER as the star because he’s a blast to write about. Fingers are crossed on that one.

And finally, I’m collecting research for a YA project that is very near and dear to my heart. It’s NOT going to be fantasy or zombies or anything like that. It has a tentative title right now and it’s based on a simple premise that has been sitting in the back of my head for a couple of years after I had a talk with my then 18 year-old son Shane. I tried to convey a fact that I think a lot of young people might not truly understand what with reality TV, text messaging, Facebook and the pressures of growing up in 2012: once upon a time about seventy years ago, young people their own age saved the world.

Well, there you have it. An ambitious agenda. I want to thank everyone who follows me on Twitter and Facebook for all the support. Thanks to all the bloggers out there who are in love with POLTERGEEKS – the second book will be in your hot little hands sooner than you think!

Have a good one!

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Hey YA Authors, Publishers & Bloggers! Let’s Do Something To Stamp Out Bullying!!

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I’ve blogged about bullying before. I’m going to do it again. I’ll continue to blog about bullying because tragedies like this continue to happen.

It  infuriates me that it takes yet another kid ending his/her life to get politicians talking. To get all of us talking. Here in Canada, our federal government is talking about it. Unfortunately, we didn’t talk loud enough in the past to stop the people who bullied Amanda Todd and we didn’t do enough for Amanda to know that she’s not alone. That people out there give a shit about kids like her.

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I don’t have any answers to this other than to say that we can and must do more to let bullied kids know that help is out there and that we care about them, we worry about them, we want the bullying to stop.

As an author of both adult and young adult novels, I’ve been scratching my head over the past few days since I first learned about Amanda Todd’s suicide. I wonder if there’s something that YA publishers can to to help … like, maybe a list of links (in our books? blogs?) to websites and resources that can help kids who are bullied. (Feel free to shoot this down if you think it’s a lame idea.)

Or maybe just a small symbol of solidarity. Something that kids could easily recognize as being a sign that they’re not alone and that people truly do care about them.

Above  are some jpeg’s that I made this past weekend. I’m posting them on my blog for other YA authors and publishers and bloggers who love YA to maybe post on their blogs and websites and Facebook pages. Maybe if a symbol like this could make its way onto the spine of a YA novel – of every YA novel (yeah, I’m ambitious but it’s an idea, right?) then we’re all speaking with one voice. We’re all saying that bullying is socially unacceptable and young people like Amanda Todd should know that hundreds, thousands, millions of us give a shit about them and we’re putting our stamp on it.

For me, I’m beginning to post links on a new page with resources and support services for kids who are victims of bullying. I’m going to use my little stamp I created as the icon and I’d encourage others who support this idea to do the same.

Imagine if all us who write, publish and are fans of YA fiction got together to stamp out bullying. Imagine if a small symbol like the one I’ve created started popping up everywhere. Imagine if bullied kids saw that symbol and knew what it meant?

Bullying needs to stop … now. I hope YA authors, publishers, bloggers and fans start talking about it. Maybe together we can do something. Maybe together we can let bullied kids know that people give a damn about them and they are never alone.

UPDATE: I’ve started a Facebook Page for this as well.

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