Review – Chameleon by Layden Robinson

Chameleon by Layden Robinson
Edited by: B.Z. Hercules, Jessica Hueras and Layden Robinson
Cover Art by: Daniel Johnson (Squared Motion)

Synopsis: Epic tale of a mysterious man in search of peace, love and eternal answers. An acid trip frenzy that delivers color and intensity the whole way. Think a David Lynch movie meets Stephen King “Wastelands” with a hint of Chuck Palahniuk. Download this massive story. You will not be disappointed.

This short read by Layden Robinson will definitely put color in your vision and perhaps even your dreams if you read it before bedtime. It was a cross between poetry and campfire stories with the Manson Family. Is that a bad thing? I’ll let the reader decide. I wouldn’t say it had a feel of Chuck Palahniuk, but definitely a “Mickey and Mallory” peyote trip under the stars. I found a few instances where the wording was redundant, which disrupted the flow of the story. This book is definitely for readers who love flowing, psychedelic prose while curling up with chill music (for more effect, add incense). The cover work was genius and gives you all the set up you need for what’s inside!

I gave this read 3.5 stars because I felt the editing could’ve been a little tighter and because there were a few spots I hit a bump in the rabbit hole.

Find What Works For You

updated serial scribbler

 

 

Finding what works for you as an author is the first step in also finding your voice. It takes experience, time, exploration, and trying different techniques that will keep you motivated to write.

The Ritual:
This is something that successful writers create for themselves. A ritual gets your mind ready to switch into “creative work mode”. This is similar to a bedtime or waking ritual. If you need to work with a cleared space, you could start there. Clean your workspace, or wipe down your desk. Add some music, or turn everything off. Whatever it is, do it religiously. This will trick your mind into getting ready for your word count.

Aromatherapy:
Believe it or not, this ties in with ritual…and not in the witchy-burn-small-animals-at-the-stake kind either (unless that’s your thing, which I hope it isn’t). Having the same thing to drink (coffee, tea…whiskey *cough*), keeping a snack, and even lighting a candle will tell your brain, “Hey! It’s time to work. Let’s get down to business.”

Goals:
Man, do you know how many times I have talked to authors that don’t have goals before they sit down at the laptop? While this may work most of the time, it won’t always. Having a finish line keeps you focused. Again, most successful authors know this. They set either a timer, or a word count goal. Definitely put this on your “I should try that” list if you haven’t incorporated it, yet.

Outline: (Optional)
Some authors find that an outline helps them organize their thoughts. It doesn’t work as well for me, but if I start to drift or lose the story, I do try to outline it so I can stay on track. An outline isn’t set in concrete. You can move things around if they don’t work, or delete them. It’s up to you (and your editor).

Force it:
Yeah, I said it. Force yourself to write. You don’t have to force yourself to write your current work in progress, but find something else to rinse your palate. Do a writer challenge, find an interesting picture and tell the story you see, rewrite an old short story, or just blog about how you don’t feel like writing.

And last but not least…

Do not give up. No one sits down all the time and writes. Even Shakespeare took some personal time (hello? muses?). Just make sure that you come back to it and don’t stop. The more you write, the more your brain fires up, and the better you get at your craft. Whatever it is that works for you? Do it.

What things do you include in your writing ritual to get you in the mood? If you listen to music, what music is your “go to” when you write? How do you get over the writer’s blues when you fall into the pit?

The Serial Scribbler: An Author’s Integrity

SerialScribbler

One of the things I want to discuss today is an author’s integrity. This can encompass many things. Obviously, the first one that comes to many peoples’ minds would be that the work isn’t stolen. And you’d be correct. Stealing another author’s work is probably right down there with pond scum.

Personally, I’ve dealt with it. Whether it’s someone parasite’ing off your idea, your branding, your marketing or even, oh I dunno, a book title that is unique. It makes your skin crawl and your brain sizzle, am I right?

But there are other aspects to an author’s integrity that we don’t quite think about. Those are the things I want to dig into.

As a small, independent publisher I see much of the same crowd and I know many of he same people my authors hang around with. If you think that I don’t hear the rumors, and see things like lies, sabotage, manipulation and more, you’re sadly mistaken.

Probably the most heinous act of one author is to assassinate the character of an undeserving fellow author. This can happen in the form of a review (or what I like to call the hyena attacks where groups of friends all converging on the author’s book), Facebook posts, interviews, and more. I like to point out to my own authors that this is deplorable behavior and if those people were to focus all that energy on marketing and engaging their own readers, they’d probably see a more fruitful result.

My advice to authors, new and veteran, is to build your reader base, and build your integrity. If you say you will have a book done by a certain date, do all that you can to do that. Be yourself, be unique. (There are no truly unique ideas, however, your take on the idea is what sets you apart.) If you hear negative talk about another author, ignore it.

Do not let negative words come out of your mouth (or be typed) toward anyone else.

I’d like to point out that this rule doesn’t apply to your close inner circle. We all need someone we can confide in and tell situations to. These people should also have good integrity and realize that there are “Vegas Rules” attached to your trust in them. However, you must understand that there is a clear, and defined difference between “gossiping” and “venting” or “explaining for the purpose of gaining advice”.

Business is Business and it’s a jungle out there. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a cannibal. Don’t chew up your own and spit them out.

In my company, I have staff and members that will tell me what they’ve seen and heard about an author, then, if they aren’t already friends with them, they will watch how they interact, what they say and how they present themselves, etc. It’s not something I ask them to do, it’s something they do on their own. They are so protective of our image and our reputation (which took tons of hard work) that they want to know if this person is going to represent us in the same protective way.

Is this a fail safe method? No. There’s always someone that will slip through the cracks, but being labeled “difficult” from a publisher is professional suicide. It will affect everything you do.

Again, Business is Business.

In the role of an author I try to be helpful, courteous, and professional at all times. I never know who I’m talking to and I understand networking as an independent author is my (and any indie author’s) lifeline. I have to deal with this group of creatives on a daily basis, so it’s important that they know they can trust me.

Believe me, I hear a lot of things about a lot of people. But because the buck stops here, as the saying goes, I’m able to weed through it and pluck out the “B.S.” rather than marinate in it. One of my mottos is: I’m allergic to bullshit.

Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what a lot of other publishers are looking at, as well. We see, we do not say, but we’re aware. In addition to publishers, you have outside opportunities that may become closed off; interviews, podcasts, radio shows, etc.

Tell me what you think about this week’s subject: Integrity. Do you feel your reputation is important? Do you think you should be judged on your reputation, good or bad? How do you avoid gossip?

 

The Serial Scribbler: Read, Practice, and Challenge Yourself

SerialScribbler

 

As a publisher and as a writer, I’m often surprised that I hear authors say they don’t read very much because they’re too busy writing. I have to ask the question, “Do you trust a doctor that doesn’t continue their education?”

Practicing writing styles and reading other books helps the author to expand their skills. We’re inspired every day by things we expose ourselves to. It would seem only logical that you would surround yourself with the works of authors that you respect but also seek new works and authors.

The indie publishing age is upon us. No longer are we limited to what one big house publisher thinks we might like. We now have the power to tell them what we are interested in.

One of my favorite things to do is learn about other cultures. Many times, listening to someone talk about their family or tales from their culture will inspire something that I write. I also gain inspiration from reading other authors and seeing how they portray their characters or their scenes. I love seeing how another author constructs their stories, laying them out for the reader to discover the plot.

The art of storytelling relies on the author’s imagination and passion. If the only passion you have is for your own work, it seems rather narcissistic but it also seems rather naïve. Break rules and be a trend-setter but remember there are others who readers will flock to for good reason.

Challenge yourself to be well-versed. Read something outside of your normal genre. Read more in your genre from the past and also current works. It’s similar to studying music. Everything you hear is derived from the masters of the past and the unique sounds inspired from it of today.

I always advise authors to join active writing guilds who challenge them to push past their comfort zones and push their writing limitations. I also practice what I preach and do the same. I can say from personal experience it has only enhanced my craft.

Weigh in! Who inspires you to be a better writer?

You Have To Make Up Your Mind

SerialScribbler

As a publisher, I see this every day. People making excuses for not writing.

“I’m very busy.”
“I have kids.”
“I have a full-time job and go to school.

Stop.

No, seriously. Stop. If you have time to post status updates, and catch up on DVR’ed shows and/or movies, you have time to write. I challenge you today to find out how many minutes you spend posting, typing statuses and how many words you’ve typed in the Facebook (or other social media) vortex.

Is that number over ten? You have time.

Are you watching at least one show a night? You have time to write.

Are you vegging out doing nothing for thirty minutes a night? You have time to write.

The real question is, “Is writing a priority to you?”  That’s where you need to make up your mind. Writing takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. There’s no boss over your head most of the time making sure you’re not slacking off. You have to be in it, every spare moment that you have. If you can DVR a show and catch up with it at night or for a few hours on the weekend, you have time to commit, you just aren’t doing so.

If you sit down to write and someone can talk you out of it, you’re not committed to it. They don’t believe it’s a priority because you haven’t set the standard or the boundaries.

Writers that are serious about their craft do not allow interruptions. Friends and family will learn that it’s “Do Not Disturb” time and eventually, you will have time to write.

Recently, with my publishing company we held a meeting and discussed what our slogan for the month would be. We chose, “Are you all in?”

Well, are you?

Serial Scribbler Series: Master Your Craft

 

SerialScribbler

 

In this world of indie publishing, creating a book is as easy as point and click. This convenience has led to an overwhelming issue that all “indies” are facing these days. Something I like to call complacency.

We all know that it’s hard to find someone to show us the ropes when we first start out. Some indie authors who have found a measure of success are very tight lipped about how they’ve done it. Whether they feel that revealing their how-to methods will create competition or they just aren’t sure, themselves.

Being an independently published author comes with some major perks, like getting to keep your royalties for one. But that perk can quickly turn out to be your demise. This is why you hear so many traditionally published authors looking down on the “indies”.

In my last article, I spoke about book covers and the importance of them. In this article I’d like to continue with Mastering Your Craft.

What does that mean, exactly?

You’re a published author now! So what. Yeah, I said it. So what. I want to know what you plan to do next. And if you haven’t answered this question – or let’s be frank – if you haven’t asked yourself this question yet… you have much to learn.

You owe it to yourself and to your readers, to get better. No one’s first book is perfect. If they tell you it is, they’re lying. Your first book is where you cut your teeth in this industry. Anyone can write stories. Yep, I said that, too! ANYone can write a story. Will you like it? That depends. Some people have this amazing ability to weave words and tell a tale that sucks you in and makes you want to know more. But is everyone an author?

Here’s the distinction:

A writer, writes. Maybe it’s their job. Maybe it’s something they do as a hobby.

An author is someone that considers this his/her trade, craft, passion, career.  If they’re not writing, and perfecting each story than they aren’t really happy with it. These people want to hear more than, “Oh this is really good!” They want to hear in-depth critique, suggestions, questions, and to discuss their work.

In their head, these worlds are real and they mean something to them because when they wrote it, they put something of themselves into it.

There are writing groups, guilds, Facebook groups, Meet-Up groups, etc. Go to them. Get your work critiqued by someone you trust to be brutally honest with you. This is something else you owe to yourself, and your readers.

Being an author is hard. If this is something you want to do outside of a hobby, you need to constantly evolve. In my next article, we’ll discuss other ways to do that.

For now, keep the horror in the story, not in your end product.

 

Cover Yourself – By The Serial Writer, Lisa “The Body Bag Betty” Vasquez

SerialScribbler

Cover Yourself – By The Serial Writer, Lisa Vasquez

A lot of authors miss one vital part of creating a successful end result with their book. The Cover. They pay for editors, they pay for formatting but when it comes down to the cover they skimp. Why? I compare this to how a man or woman picks out the person they’re attracted to across the room. Do they choose the most well-adjusted, intelligent person they’ve first laid on eyes on? No, they couldn’t possibly know that. When a person is out on the town looking to find that potential significant other, do they dress in something they “settled for” out of their closet? Not most of the time.

When you look your best and have a polished look, you exude confidence right from the start. This is how your book should be presented.

A book cover has to be engaging on many levels. It has to tell a story in the picture. It cannot just be a “cool pic” you found browsing stock images. That might work for some, but others are looking to the book cover to tell the story before they ever turn the book around to read the synopsis. The image should be clear and crisp, and it should draw the reader into it before they open to the first page.

You have put the time and blood into the writing the book, why would you slap on a cover unworthy of those words?

So what goes into the creation of a cover from a good artist/designer?

·         Color. Color is a mood and it will set the tone for what your book contains within. Is it bleak? Is it horror? Is it romantic? Think about what colors you associate with these moods.

·         Connection. The cover must connect the reader to the story at first glance (think eye contact with that sexy someone across the room).

·         Content. Your book cover must pique the reader’s interest to what’s inside your book. It has to set it aside from every other book in that genre.

·         Font. Oh man I could write a book about this one. I don’t care how gorgeous that cover is, if the font is ugly, distracting, unprofessionally slapped on, and flat it will get passed over. Hello? This is your title! And your name! It should stand out and be bold and majestic. Not flat and distorted. (end rant)

These are just some of the first things I, and other readers, are judging on your book. It’s what will call to them among the thousands of other books on the shelves beside it. You will be judged harshly like any bikini contest on Daytona Beach during spring break so you better bring it. Yes, writing a book is an investment. An investment is a risk. You have to be sure your book is worth it. If it’s not, you should re-think your choice to be a writer.

I’ve seen plenty of books that I’ve read prior to release and thought, “Wow! This is a fantastic story!” Then when the cover is revealed, I get slightly turned off. Am I, your reader, not worthy of the effort to at least give me something I’m proud to put on my bookshelf? If you want my money, which I’m glad to pay for a good story, then give me a beautiful book.

In the end, you’ll find it is easier to sell. Not only that, but you’ll be more proud to blow that cover up and display the banner at book signings, or creating posters to give as swag. Because let’s be totally honest. No one wants an ugly cover on their wall.

Warmest Regards,


Editor-in-Chief
Stitched Smile Publications Magazine
 
Author of The Unsaintly Series
Publishers Liaison
Horror Writer’s Association