I’m so excited to announce that I’m hanging up a shingle for blurb writing services. Writing the blurb—or product description—can be the hardest part of the publication process for authors. I have to admit that I actually enjoy writing blurbs; sometimes I even write them before I’ve written the book!
I wish there was a way to photograph those moments in life where you truly feel alive, perfect. Capture that feeling, forever preserved. There’s no way to actually save a memory, so I try to remember. I tell myself I’m going to write it down, and then I forget.
There’s a ducky bowl that’s been banging around since I was little. It’s a bit faded at this point, but otherwise in decent condition. When I was a kid, it was the coveted cereal bowl in the house.
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I liked it because when you finished the cereal, the ducky “swam” in the remaining milk. My dad liked it because it was bigger than the other bowls, and the man loves his cereal fixes.
We fought over it, a lighthearted war. It became a race—who would get the clean ducky bowl first. For years this went on, victory cries ringing through the house every time one of us claimed it: “My ducky bowl!”
It became a running joke that, at some point, became a ritual. Ducky bowl was serious business. It traveled with us from apartment to apartment, finally ending up at my grandparents’ when we moved in during my senior year of high school. I poured snacks into it while I wrote my first novel, while I worked on homework during college, while I wrote code for clients’ websites—if Dad didn’t get to it first.
I kept threatening to take it with me when I moved out into my own place. Dad kept threatening to hide it.
I introduced my husband to it like he was meeting family: “This is ducky bowl.” When we got married and began packing to move into our first apartment, I grabbed ducky bowl from the rack of clean dishes and wrapped it in newspaper before Dad could see.
I smuggled ducky bowl out of my parents’ place like a thief.
During that first Christmas after or some other holiday, I confessed my crime to Dad. He feigned wounded outrage, and I tried to make it up to him. “You can have it on weekends,” I offered.
“You can keep it,” he told me, as if passing on a family heirloom.
For the first time in two decades—maybe longer—I had ducky bowl all to myself. Even though I bought a set of dishes with bowls twice as deep, it was still my favorite. I happily munched cereal, marveling at how the thing had managed to stick around. Some things I lose, others hover about me like ghosts.
And then Mike stole it.
“No!” I protested, reaching out for it as Mike poured cereal into it or ate cheesecake out of it. At first I thought he was just messing with me. Slowly I realized I was wrong.
I had a rival.
The race began anew: secret washing of dishes, stacking it beneath the other bowls in the rack so he wouldn’t see it; playful shock when he got to it first; considering hiding it in an unlikely place. It was these moments that I most missed my dad. (He’s still alive, don’t worry.) I missed the game, the shared running joke. All children grow up and out of their parents’ homes, but I think some small part of us stays behind.
Tonight I caught Mike reaching for ducky bowl in the rack.
“Damn it,” I muttered, feigning offense. I reached for it.
Mike grabbed a spoon. Gently he tapped me on the forehead with it. “Back, demon.”
I gaped at him in mock outrage. My grip tightened.
He tapped me again. “Banish your evil.”
“Unhand it or I’ll bite you.” I leaned down, jaw open, white teeth flashing.
“Banish your evil!” He bopped me on my topknot.
My teeth neared, Mike fending me off with the spoon, my eyes filling with tears of mirth, jaw straining from laughing while pretending to bite. Just as I grazed flesh, he released it, bringing his hand to safety.
“My ducky bowl,” I told him.
He reached for another bowl.
“Here.” I sighed and held out ducky bowl. “You can use it.” For now, I added silently.
Looking at the proffered bowl, he shook his head at me. “Demon.”
I will fight to the death for ducky bowl. It’s a family tradition.
Almost a week ago, I decided to take an indefinite hiatus from Twitter. I haven’t looked back since.
For many reasons, I just don’t feel comfortable using Twitter anymore. It’s definitely not the same place it was back when I first joined. And, to be completely honest, I made myself a promise back when I started my career as an author.
I decided that, if any part of this ever stopped feeling good, I’d stop immediately.
Twitter hasn’t felt good for me in a long time. I straight up get nauseous when it’s time to check my timeline or mentions, wondering Now what? Wondering who’s going to be stomping on #OwnVoices authors while demanding more diversity, or who’s going to be telling me I’m not queer enough or disabled enough. Wondering who’s going to wander into my mentions without actually reading my tweets and start ranting at me. I’ve witnessed authors drag other authors or even bloggers and readers, encouraging their thousands of followers to pile on.
If you stand up and say “This isn’t right,” if you don’t instantly block the “trash” people, you’re out, too. Twitter feels like the digital version of high school: “You can’t sit with us, especially if we see you sitting with her.”
I’m almost 29. I am far too old for these kinds of games. I’ve got lots of books I’d rather focus my energy on writing. Not to mention my energy is already lacking, thanks to a current flare.
I’ve tried taking regular Twitter breaks. I’ve tried paring down the number of people I follow. These things helped a little, but they weren’t enough in the long-term.
So I’ve decided I’m done.
I’d already decided to focus my time and money on Facebook. Now that I’ve connected my Facebook page to my reader group, it’s so much easier for me to manage everything. Through research, I know that Facebook is where I need to be if I want to connect with readers. Plus, I’ve made some lasting connections with other authors there.
Authors who are professional and courteous, even when they feel passionately about something.
From here on, my Twitter page will serve as an outpost. I will not be checking mentions or DMs. I have, however, unlocked my account again; I will be tweeting only when I have news to share, and it will usually be an auto-shared link to my blog.
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
It feels so good and quiet now, I can hear myself again.
Facebook’s search function is a nightmare, though, so I decided to gather everything here, that way I can link to this post in the future without having to hunt through my Facebook profile. Please feel free to share this post to help inform people!
I’ve been a recipient of SNAP—also known as food stamps—for the last two years, and I’m intimately familiar with the system.
To begin with, not everyone can just go online or march into a DSS office and walk out with cash assistance and food stamps. There’s an application process with multiple points of vetting—meaning there are several ways they prevent anyone from lying and taking advantage of the system.
You must provide your social security number, your address, proof of income (including pay stubs, tax forms, 1099s, etc), proof of living expenses such as rent and utilities. By the way, you can only claim rent and electricity as utilities.
It’s actually quite a lengthy process and a total pain in the ass. Not fun for someone with arthritis who can’t sit for more than an hour, whose stiff fingers don’t like typing, scrolling, etc.
You have to meet a LONG list of eligibility qualifications, too. For example, if you don’t have a good reason for being unable to keep a job, such as disability, you don’t qualify. Here’s the list of criteria. You don’t even want to read it, it’s so damned long.
You also have to regularly submit proof of income and other documentation. So, if you somehow lied your way through the initial process, there are checks and balances. Your ass will get caught, and bye-bye benefits.
The number of people cheating the system is actually extremely low. Offhand, I don’t have statistics, but each state regularly weeds out the bottomfeeders by enforcing this vetting process. And it’s a pain in the ass for those of us who are legit, so most scammers aren’t going to waste their time trying to forge or bypass it. Trust me.
Update: Based on the statistics of people who legitimately need SNAP, I’ve determined that less than three percent of people receiving SNAP may be scamming the system.
Further, SNAP does not cover non-food items. It doesn’t cover diamond rings or sneakers or purses or getting your nails done. If you try to add non-food items to your order, the system will automatically weed them out and force you to pay cash for them. Hell, it doesn’t even cover my Emergen-C, which is a vitamin-rich drink mix. There’s literally no way to get around this, either.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits themselves. The amount is so small, it’s hardly even worth it if you don’t really need it. Mike and I get $108 each month. Do you know what that covers? Not much. We can’t afford groceries out of pocket, so I’ve had to get really savvy. For example, I rarely buy things like mac ‘n’ cheese or those quick pasta or rice sides; they’re too expensive, so I just make them from scratch with seasonings and chicken broth. Now, remember that I have arthritis. Quick sides are my best damned friends. But I can’t afford them, nor can I afford freezer meals for those bad pain days when I can barely stand, never mind cook. People on food stamps are not buying steak and lobster, people. We can hardly afford pasta and chicken.
That said, it’s none of your god damned business what I feed my body. Many SNAP recipients are cancer patients or people with chronic illnesses; foods that are rich in iron, like steak, are extremely beneficial to our health. The SNAP program was created to make sure that people receive proper nutrition—yes, even us disgusting poor people.
Now, it is true that the more family members in your household, the more benefits you receive. However, I can’t just claim my Aunt Bob Who Doesn’t Exist lives with me; these have to be dependents, like children, or spouses or parents that you care for. You have to prove that they’re actual dependents, using tax return information, driver’s licenses or state IDs, etc. It’s another lengthy process that most career scammers aren’t going to bother with.
People who hate welfare—you know, the ones who claim that everyone who’s on welfare is taking advantage of the system, is lazy, doesn’t have a job, etc—are usually uninformed. They claim that people on welfare are all illegal Mexicans or some other racist crap. The truth? Brace yourselves! 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people.
I’ll say it louder for those in the back of the room: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE RECEIVING SNAP BENEFITS ARE WHITE PEOPLE.
So, when your white uncle starts bitching about all the people sucking off the state, he’s really just bitching about other white people.
Your racist uncle insists Puerto Ricans are popping out kids so they can get food stamps. It’s not true, friend. Not true.
Only 10.9% of SNAP recipients are Latinx.
25.5% of SNAP recipients are black.
Do the math. That’s 36.5%. Your racist uncle claims that the majority of people on SNAP are black or brown people leaching off the system, but the truth is that 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people. 39.8 is bigger than 36.5, racist uncle.
In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 11.9% go to households with disabled persons, and 10% go to households with senior citizens.
Update: See my notes above; these statistics are where I got my numbers for percentage of people potentially abusing the system.
For those in the back of the room, THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ON SNAP ARE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY NEED IT. Mic drop. Auntie Liz out.
Just a clarification: I’m not saying the 36.5% people of color who are on SNAP don’t need it. I’m saying the majority of people of all ethnicities who are on SNAP have serious reasons for needing it.
So next time your racist dad or uncle or friend starts with that “people living off the state” crap, drop these facts for them and tell them to go stuff some steak in their face.
If you appreciate the time it took for me to put this together, please consider supporting me!
Everyone’s experience is different, but I knew I was bisexual from an early age. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to explain the identity.
I was kind of a boy-chasing little kid. I ran after them on the playground, I got in trouble for kissing them, and crushed hard. People would ask me which boys I liked and I always had a running list. It was different with girls, though.
No one ever asked me which girls I liked. It probably never even crossed their minds. With girls, I was more shy. These crushes manifested as close friendships. I didn’t really know how to explain my feelings. The people I knew were in m/f marriages or relationships. I didn’t know there was any other way.
In middle school, I started to realize there was something different about me. On the bus, I couldn’t help but stare at certain girls as they moved past me. I knew what a lesbian was but I also knew that didn’t quite fit me. That didn’t stop other kids from calling me Lesbo or twisting my nickname (Liz, which they made sound like “Les”). They knew I was different, too, and they punished me for it.
It wasn’t until high school that I found my people and my identity. Two friends of mine came out. They announced that they were bisexual and dating, and it kicked off a whole LGBT+ movement in my school. Suddenly there was a word to describe a part of who I was, and I had a safe place where it was okay to be me.
I’ve been bi my whole life. I’ll always be bi. Whether I’m in a relationship with another woman, single, or married to a guy with a lot of facial hair… I’ll still be bisexual.
I’m proud of all of the parts that make up who I am. It hasn’t been easy, being queer—or me in general, to be honest—but I now have a pride that no one can take from me.
Friday morning, a friend texted me: “Anti-Muslim hate group is holding a rally in Waterbury tomorrow. Call me!” I was barely awake but I was pissed. I spent the rest of the day getting ready to protest the rally.
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Until this weekend, I’d never been to a protest. I’ve wanted to go, but distance and/or chronic illness usually prevent me. Even Saturday was difficult, standing on my bad hip for two hours straight. But it was worth it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes ACT for America as a hate group. They’ve long spread anti-Muslim propaganda, but on Saturday they held rallies nationwide in protest of Sharia Law.
Post 9/11, I started studying Islam thanks to my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Barra. I’m no expert, and I’m sure an actual Muslim can explain it better, but ACT—and many others—are twisting Shari’a to further their anti-Muslim agenda.
Shari’a is the act of following your divine path, or God’s will. At its core, Islam is made up of five pillars, or guidelines for living:
Shari’a is open to interpretation. So yeah, some people do use Shari’a to do terrible things. Those people aren’t true Muslims, though… and no one is trying to impose anything called Sharia Law in the U.S., anyway.
The hate group discusses things like female gender mutilation and oppression of women—which Muslims already condemn. I mean, if you’re really concerned about women’s rights, you should probably focus your energy on assisting Planned Parenthood and keeping the ACA. Usually, though, people railing against “Sharia Law” are just using it as a thinly veiled excuse to abuse Muslims.
Unfortunately, people want to stay angry and ignorant. They want someone to blame for horrible things that happen, and they’ve made Muslims their scapegoat. It takes two seconds to Google the basics of Islam or—gasp—ask an actual Muslim.
On Saturday, several groups in my home city came out to support Muslims, including the ACLU. I wasn’t happy that we had to be there in the first place, but it was truly heartening to see so many different people standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers. It gave me hope.
One man invited people to attend one of the mosques, and another woman told the crowd that her organization will gladly come talk to groups about Islam. Muslims weren’t the only speakers, though. Leaders from local temples, churches, and other places of worship spoke about unity. Several people also implored non-Muslims to speak up if they ever see or hear something wrong. Too many people talked about being afraid to go out in public, but one woman said that, looking at the people who came out, she wasn’t scared.
The protest went well, even with the teachers’ 5K literally running through the rally and protest. Though a couple people walked by and yelled stupid shit at us, everyone was safe. Like my father-in-law said, it was too bad that the people supporting ACT wouldn’t just walk across the street and listen.
Though I walked away with sunburn, I also walked away with hope. I saw a couple people I know there, supporting Muslims in our community. I saw a little boy bravely lead a chant. I saw people in my city—a city that can too often keep its head down and ignore what’s happening—come together.
This weekend they came for the Muslims, and the people of my city said fuck that.
Today I hit two milestones: I reached 55K words for my work in progress (Any Other Love), and I yanked out my first gray hair.
I’m not proud to admit that I cried. My thick, very dark, 3B curls are my favorite feature. My hair has been relatively unscathed by my UCTD (aside from some thinning along my temples); with Plaquenil, it’s grown back in just as thick as it used to be. So yeah, I’m a little vain about my hair.
I did some whining and pouting, endured some of Mike’s jokes, then went to do the dishes.
“Hey,” he called. “Do you have any ink?”
“I’m serious. I need to print a label.”
I’m going gray, but life goes on.
In an ironic twist, I was just talking about gray hairs last weekend with my Nana. She was saying how hers grow in a reddish blonde gray and we got to talking about dye. I said I’ve always planned on dying my hair a fun color when it goes gray, because for the first time in my life I won’t have to bleach it to death to get it to take the color.
Shira Glassman is one of those cool people I’ve been following on Twitter for a while but hadn’t read any of their work because I’m a bad colleague. So when she released “Knit One, Girl Two” this week, I one-clicked that bad girl because I can always use more f/f romance in my life and I really want to support my fellow indies.
“Knit One, Girl Two” is a short story. It’s 68 pages long according to Amazon’s Kindle page count thing, so you can definitely read it in one sitting. Me? I savored it over a couple days.
The best word to describe Glassman’s writing is “real.” Her dialogue, especially, is delicious. Each and every exchange felt familiar, like I was hanging out with good friends. The banter between characters often had me laughing out loud, but aside from being funny, it flowed well. This is a story you’ll want to curl up with, a hot cup of tea at your side. Just settle in because it’s warm and inviting—just two queer girls being together and living their lives.
Both of them are artists, too, which makes my heart sing. Clara is a small-batch yarn dyer, and Danielle is a painter. When they cross paths to collaborate on a project, their worlds become so much more vivid. And speaking of worlds, this is set in south Florida, which is one of my favorite places. (Shout out to my real one true love, Deerfield Beach!)
I’m dying for more of Clara and Danielle, and hope to see them in more adventures or even in cameos in other Glassman stories.
I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through 2017. The past six months have been tumultuous, to say the least—not just in the publishing industry but also throughout the world and in my personal life. At this point I’m writing just to give myself some sort of center of gravity.
Or maybe it’s way too late for that.
Toward the end of every quarter, I review my current business plan and see where I’m at. I also re-evaluate my writing goals for the year. I try to keep track of that here on my blog but yeah. I posted my original plan toward the end of last year, but forgot to post when I updated my plan in March. So if it seems like you’re missing something, that’s why.
I recently realized that I was pressuring myself to write every book as a series just for the sake of writing a series. Sometimes books truly are standalones and there isn’t enough story to span over three, five, or more books. It took me a long time to stop being stubborn and “should”ing on myself. I also had to acknowledge that my series wasn’t selling well enough to justify writing yet another book.
I did write a fourth book for the SOF series, but it just didn’t feel genuine to me. I ended up scrapping thousands of words because I can’t publish something I’m not proud of, even if it means losing money or ending a series a bit early. I look at it this way: if I’m not into it, my readers won’t be, either.
Right now I’m writing the companion novel to Just One More Minute—small town f/f romance Any Other Love. It will be released this summer.
I’m also working on a new series that will begin this fall.
I’m still working on getting my books back into paperback editions; I’ve been using Vellum to format my ebooks and when they announced they’d be adding paperback formatting this summer, I decided to wait for that. If you’re an indie on a Mac, I highly recommend Vellum. It’s amazing.
Marketing and Platform Building
I’ve been trying some new marketing strategies, mainly to build my email list. To be completely raw here, I have little to no marketing budget (though I’ve been doing a lot of copywriting in an effort to change this). Much of what I do has to be at low financial cost right now. This includes:
using Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, and Noisetrade to give away copies of books in exchange for readers’ email addresses and permission to join my list
joining cross-promotions with other authors in my genre
organizing my own cross-promos (though admittedly this is a lot of work and akin to herding kittens)
When my new book comes out this summer, I’ll have a small advertising budget, but I’m planning on doing more advertising for my new series.
I’m also working on expanding my social media platform—mostly on Facebook. Throughout the past five years, I’ve determined that the majority of my readers and intended readers hang out on Facebook. This is backed up by research conducted by marketing experts (see Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast: Episode 39).
Recently I separated my personal and business Facebook profiles. I’ve also been making an effort to post to my author page three to five times a week, with more frequent posts in my reader group (as well as more live videos). I’m considering doing some takeovers again, though in the past I felt that they were very time-consuming with only a small amount of ROI.
Mostly, though, I’m spending my time writing.
Basically I’m going to regain momentum in the second half of this year. I’d love to get back to releasing every two or three months.
I’ll have more details—and actual dates—soon.
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Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.
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Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll—that was Jett Costa’s old life. After her wildly popular band falls apart, she’s determined to remain sober and rebuild her career. There’s just one problem. The only person who still has any faith in her is her ex-boyfriend Koty, and Jett isn’t sure that she can keep her hands off him.
Maybe living together wasn’t such a great idea after all.
She may have been sober when she made that decision, but she definitely wasn’t when she agreed to play a show on behalf of a band that no longer exists at one of the biggest bars in Boston. Now she has less than three weeks to get her new band together. Can she ignore the sizzling sparks that fly between her and Koty every time they play?
Five years ago, when I first started out on my publishing journey, I naively thought that I could use my existing social media for my new business. It wasn’t hard to separate business from personal at first, but everything changed when I signed with my publisher. Suddenly authors were friend-requesting me on Facebook, even though I’d resolved to keep my personal profile separate from my business page. I felt bad denying requests, though, and soon my feed became a mix of everything ever.
A friend suggested I make a separate account strictly for business. She’d done so and, even though it was one more account to manage, it’d helped her separate the two. I still stubbornly insisted that I only wanted one. Over the years, readers began friend-requesting me from my reader group. It was fun being friends with both readers and colleagues as well as my IRL family and friends, but it also got tricky.
For example, if I wanted to go on Facebook just for fun, there was no avoiding work-related things. If a friend tagged me in an off-color meme, I had to do damage control.
Keeping the two separate was getting more and more difficult. I kept tossing the idea around, but hesitated because creating a second account and moving people, pages, and groups around would be a gargantuan task. It wasn’t as if I had spare hours to just sit around cleaning up my social media act.
This weekend I decided it was time, though. Today I sat down and created a separate Facebook; soon I’ll be doing the same for Twitter. If you’re an author, reader, or someone else in the book biz and you get a friend request from this account, it’s really me. I’m friend-requesting here and there, though, so it doesn’t get too tedious or hard on my wrists. Feel free to add me if I haven’t already made it to you!
There’s an old saying that you can’t mix business with pleasure, and even though I love what I do, it’s still true. I’m really looking forward to being able to sign into Twitter, for example, and just see book stuff.
Speaking of book stuff, today I hit 28K for Any Other Love. I’m thinking about release dates now, and I’ll be able to share more info soon! 💜