Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Artist Unleashed: COMMERCE & CREATIVITY—HOW TO KEEP THE BALANCE by Pauline B Jones

When I finally ventured out and made first contact with my writing peers, I received a lot of good solid, advice about the craft and business of writing. The craft parts were easier to swallow, particularly back in the bad old days when writers had so few choices. Why spend too much time dwelling on a business model that made no sense? Like the newbies that came before me, I had a hard time believing them, so I focused on the stuff I wanted to believe.

I dreamed about that day when I’d get The Call (instead, it was The Email). I imagined how it would feel to cross the threshold from aspiring to published. There would be trumpets. Perhaps some flower petals strewn in my path. And if not petals, then praise. Lots of praise. I’d be heaped with it.

*shakes head ruefully*

There is something wondrous and a bit magical about making that journey from the beginning to the end of your very first novel. Good, indifferent, bad, seriously awful—it doesn’t matter. It’s done. It’s an accomplishment to be celebrated before reality bites. Really. Celebrate fast. Because reality bites.

Obviously, for an author, reality is not our go-to place.

I look back with some awe at the naivety of that long ago, newly minted author. And I miss her a little. No matter how many novels I’ve written since, it has never felt quite like that. I wrote that first novel for me. I thought it would be easier the next time. Yeah.

But filtered into the many (make that very many) hard lessons of becoming a published author was this difficult truth: it was easier to write for free than for money.

I really hate admitting this. I thought it would be easier to write for money. I thought getting paid would make the Muse happy. Money means readers and I love it when readers love what I write. But when I sit down to write a new novel, the specters around me aren’t those readers. Like Prince Charming in Sleeping Beauty, I have to fight my way through thickets of business thorns and naysaying dragons to find my sleeping story, to wake my storyteller.

If I didn’t have an overactive imagination, I wouldn’t be a writer.

Artists have always struggled with reconciling their creative lives with the commerce required if they want to reach past their immediate circle of family and friends. There are some who don’t even try. And I don’t blame them. Some are lucky enough to have someone else handle the commercial side for them. The rest of us “deal.”

I’m in the “have to deal” column. I am the sole proprietor of my publishing business. Part of my job is to keep the writer writing. While keeping the business running. Most days it feels like I have multiple personality disorder. Not only do I have characters rampaging through my brain, but author and proprietor are duking it out in there, too. Last month I spent several days trying to untangle the mysteries of keywords at Amazon. I figured it out. I’m stubborn that way, but my creativity was a wan skeleton of its pre-keyword-solving self. If it had been in the ER, it would have been a Code Blue.

Even though I’ve fought this battle over and over, I’m attempting to “manage” my writing business more effectively since I became a self publisher. So I’m trying to track my high/low creative time to better maximize it. I don’t have a place on my chart, however, for driving a stake through my creativity with my own two hands.
I could resolve to never do that again, but I also need  my business-self to manage this monster I’ve created. To extend the Sleeping Beauty metaphor, I’m balancing on a high wire over the thorns and dragons and some critics in there hoping I’ll jump.

There are times when I’ve had to apply the paddles to my creative heart. Yes, there is creative life after keywords, but the Muse is still a little bitter.

To cure what ails the Muse, I start by applying my favorite “vice” (Chocolate and Diet Dr. Pepper). When more drastic measures are needed, I go all the way back to my writing roots. I can’t become that starry-eyed newbie again, but I can remember, I can tap in to what propelled me into becoming a writer in the first place:

1. A love of stories and storytelling. Sometimes this means browsing through the novel keeper shelf for well-loved scenes and the words that delighted. Spending some time with those that became so real, I still miss them. Reminding myself that ultimately I write to tell stories. That is the truth from which every other part of my writing business flows. If I don’t love what I’m doing, no one will love reading it. So love it or stop. And since I can’t stop …

2. Keeping track of activities that recharge my creativity. In addition to books and food, there are movies and music that revive my Muse. Sometimes I have to dance, to play, to be silly (don’t worry, I don’t do it in public). Sometimes I pull out a jigsaw puzzle. For some reason putting one together can help me order my plot puzzle. Or make me frustrated enough that writing seems easier.

3. Daydreaming. Sometimes I step away from the desk (keeping my hands where they can be seen) and do totally non-writing related stuff. This frees my brain for playful thinking. I turn my imagination loose, let it get crazy (well, crazier). The goal is driving my business self into the fetal position in some other part of my brain. (Trust me, it’s fine. It’s tough as nails.)

4. Tame the promo beast. Yes, you need to be “out there,” but everyone—and I do mean everyone—says the best promotion is writing the next book. Never lose sight of this essential truth. You want to be a writer, so write. If the book won’t come, write blogs, lists, in the margins—whatever it takes to get words flowing again. Then write some more.

It took me a while to realize that the biggest part of my job as proprietor is to protect and defend the writer. I’m much more vigilant than I used to be, but sometimes business must be done, whether the Muse likes it or not (usually not). So I keep my repair list close and apply as needed.

Do you struggle with irreconcilable differences between your proprietor and your Muse? How do you cope?

COMMERCE & CREATIVITY—HOW TO KEEP THE BALANCE by @paulinebjones #TheArtistUnleashed #IndieAuthors #selfpublishing

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Click HERE for submission guidelines.

Pauline Baird Jones is the award-winning author of sixteen novels—and some short stories—of science fiction romance, steampunk, action-adventure, suspense, romantic suspense and comedy-mystery. (She did mention there’s a lot going on inside her head.) Her latest release—and the launch of her Uneasy Future series, is Core Punch: A Baker & Ban!drn Adventure. Originally from Wyoming, she and her family moved from New Orleans to Texas before Katrina.

Connect with Pauline:

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Want 1000+ views on a single post? Book yourself in as a guest on The Artist Unleashed.

Every Wednesday of every week is The Artist Unleashed. If you'd like to write a guest post to help promote your blog, website, service, or books, or anything else you want to draw attention to, please contact me via to book yourself in.

I have slots available from Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

All posts for this feature must be inspiring and/or motivating, and encourage discussion. I will not just post your book blurb, cover, and purchase links. One, because you are more likely to attract attention to your work if you have something interesting to say. And two, because I would like my blog to offer useful and interesting information for my readers, not blatant advertisements.

I will tweet and Facebook your posts several times during the week to get it as much exposure as possible. Highest views on a single post = 1000+. If you want to reach that 1000 views mark it means you need to provide interesting content and make an effort in sharing the post on various platforms as much as I do. This is a collaborative effort.

When you send me your post, please include:
  • A title (you'd be surprised how many people forget!)
  • A call to action at the end (A question related to your post to ask readers, which will make it easier for them to leave a comment.)
  • A head shot (JPEG please, do NOT embed it into your Word Doc, I need it as a separate attachment)
  • A 3rd person bio 50-100 words including all your web links
  • Word count: 500-1000 words

It is your responsibility to send me your post on time. If I do not receive it two days before you are scheduled to post (i.e. Monday) at the latest, I will arrange for someone else to take your place, and your post will then be pushed back to the first available date. I will send you one reminder the weekend before, but that is it.

Also, please only book yourself in if you are serious about sending in a post. I realize that things can happen to cause delays, and I'm very understanding when life interferes with your good intentions, but the amount of people who cancel (multiple times, sometimes) at the last minute is rather astonishing, and I'm left to scramble for replacements. Please do your best to avoid this. A bit of respect is all I ask.

To view all past Artist Unleashed posts, CLICK HERE.

The earlier you secure a date the better. Whenever I publish announcements the slots disappear like hot cakes.

Please contact me via to book.

Have a great week!



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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Made to Feel Pretty ... Then Ugly For the Sake of a Sale

I was shopping in the main square of Athens the other day, and something rather disturbing happened to me. It really made me wonder about the absolutely morally demeaning sales tactics of the people I encountered. And I thought it would make an interesting blog post, so here I am.

Let me start from the beginning.

I was in town running some errands. I had a day off work, so I thought I’d wander around and do some window shopping. I really didn’t feel like going home, as I spend the majority of my life at home (I’m a freelancer).

I walked past a marketing stall, and the lovely woman behind it asked me if I’d like to be in a TV commercial advertising some beauty products. EEK! No thanks, I thought, but I’m flattered nonetheless. The lovely woman, with a genuinely sweet smile on her face, asked me why:

“Is it because you’re short on time?”
“No, I just don’t speak Greek that well so I don’t think it would work.”
“You speak Greek fabulously, don’t be silly,” she said.

I laughed and said thank you, and we got into a conversation about where I was from, yada yada yada. You may think I was being being sucked into this, but I knew exactly what was going on. But I had time on my hands, and I didn’t want to go home, so I thought I would play this out and see what happened. Who knows? I might get a story out of it! I thought. (I did, as you can see.)

The conversation on the side of the road ended in her telling me how lovely and white my skin was, and that I must really take care of my skin. “Well,” I said, “I don’t do much at all. I just keep chemical products off my face.” Again, I said thank you for the compliment.

This led to the sales woman telling me about the beauty treatments the salon she works for offers. She said she would give me a voucher for 300 Euros off any treatment I liked, but asked if I would be willing to follow her a few meters down the road, to the building the salon is in, in order to register all my information and speak with a consultant about which treatment to get.

My stomach started to gurgle as I smelled something fishy. I asked, “Okay, I get 300 Euro off, but how much is the treatment to begin with?”

She told me that all prices differed from treatment to treatment and the best way to see what was available and what they cost was to come to the salon.

Okay, I thought. I have a bit of time on my hands, let’s see where this leads. I wouldn’t mind being pampered a bit.

We got to the salon and entered a very very sterile and florescent green waiting room. It was almost like a hospital and I realised that this place was more than just a salon, but somewhere where you could get things like electrolysis done. I internally groaned. I despise this kind of shit. I’m happy with my body the way it is. But ho-hum. I was there. And it was a nice cool place to get some relief from the heat for a few minutes.

The consultant took down my details, and told me what treatments I could get the discount on. I opted to go for a facial. But then she described that it wasn’t a typical facial, but a very unique procedure in which my pores would be chemically treated to allow moisturizer to soak into my skin properly. Or something to that effect. I’m not sure I understood all the technical words in Greek.

And this is where it got ugly.

She began to scrutinize my face, with a rather revolted look on her face. She told me that I had a lot of open pores, unattractive red blotches, and pimples, and asked me if I’d been to see a doctor about it. That a woman my age shouldn’t have skin problems this severe. (SKIN PROBLEMS? SEVERE? What a crock of shit. We get a period every month and the hormones from the period cause pimples. And it was stinking hot outside, of course I was red!)

A doctor? I squealed inside my head. Did she think I was a moron? The only reason she could see any blemishes on my face was because she had a horrid florescent light shining directly into it. None of that stuff is even visible in the daylight.

She then said that their treatment would fix all this stuff up, and it would only cost me ... wait for it ... TWO THOUSAND EUROS after the discount. Of course, the woman’s face was caked in so much makeup I couldn’t even tell if she had a nose.

I scoffed, stood up, and said, “Sorry, I’m not interested, but thanks for your time.” (Yeah, I can’t help but be polite.) Didn’t last long though, because the consultant jumped out of her seat and stood in front of the door, and with a very fake smile said ...

“But don’t you want your husband to love you?”

I imagine it was the horrified look on my face than inspired her to move out of my way. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough.

When I finally got out of the building, of course, I went into a clothes shop and looked at my face in a mirror. I held a T-shirt up to my torso so I didn’t look like an idiot. Sure, my face had a few blemishes, but who cares? Why the fuck are we so conditioned to think our appearance matters so much? Now, I felt guilty for even considering the woman was right about my face. And I bought the lovely T-shirt I was holding.

At least someone made a sale out of me that day.

Has anyone ever challenged your self-esteem like this? Tell me your story.

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A beauty consultant asked: Don't u want yr husband 2 love you? Read the story here: #selfesteem #beauty #writers



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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Artist Unleashed: THE WRITER’S AGONY & ECSTASY by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Okay, perhaps an overly-dramatic title. A writer’s life is easy: sit down at the computer and write, make stuff up, invent a character here, a plot there. It’s not like being a deep sea fisherman, a miner, a brain surgeon. In comparison, writing is a doddle.


But as Ernest Hemingway said: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

And that’s what led me to the title of this post. It’s the act of creation – of making real, ideas that have previously existed only in your imagination, of giving life to characters you first glimpsed in the shadowy world of the subconscious – that causes both agony and ecstasy.

Writing fiction involves digging deep, using what is often described as the right side of the brain, which is creative, intuitive, imaginative. It drags you – sometimes screaming – from the conscious world into the subconscious. This can be painful as our culture privileges the left side of the brain, the logical, analytical, rational side. To enter the subconscious is to enter a dream world where anything, the magical or the crazy, can happen.

And this is where the agony and the ecstasy come in.

Let’s consider the agony first as this seems to be my almost permanent state during the first draft of my current novel. My mantra comes again from Hemingway: The first draft of anything is shit. I also take comfort from writer, Roz Morris, who says in Nail Your Novel: My first drafts offend my every sensibility. If you saw them you would think I’m not capable of reading, let alone writing.

I wrote the first draft of my novel Unravelling as part of my MA at Bath Spa University. I had a manuscript tutor, Tessa Hadley, whose advice and guidance was invaluable, other tutors and a manuscript group who critiqued the chapters as I wrote them. For some reason, all that input made the process less painful. The first draft of my next novel The Piano Player’s Son was harder, but I still didn’t anguish over every word.

So, what’s happened that the trauma is much greater with my current novel? I think one reason is that as a result of those two previous novels, my MA and my teaching, I’m much more aware of the craft.

I stare at the computer screen, paralysed with fear. I can’t write because I’m afraid of writing shit. I know only too well the answers to the problem (I've spouted them to my writing students often enough), but somehow I can’t silence that inner critic, can’t separate the drafting from the editing process, can’t let the creativity out of the bag because the craft is keeping it firmly shut.

Despite all I know about writing a novel being a two-stage process: drafting and editing, deep down I want my novel to come out fully-formed the first time round. But as Iris Murdoch said: Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea. In other words, the wonderful prose that is in my mind, the intriguing characters who will leap from the page, the brilliant plot twists I imagine, will not appear on the page first time round – and maybe not second, third, or fourth attempt either.

But at the same time I know that it's only through writing it down that it becomes a tangible manifestation of anything approaching that brilliant idea. It's an important document that will give me something to shape and build on.

My agony derives from a continuing duel between creation, intuition, imagination, the forces that drive me to write, and logic, reason, analysis, which stand there watching my endeavours, shaking their heads, pronouncing ‘But this all rubbish!’ It’s this that can sometimes make it feel as if every word is being carved from stone.

All of this so far has been about agony, but what about the other half of the equation: ecstasy?

Ironically, one of the joys of writing, the aspect that gives it its thrill and exhilaration is also in writing the first draft. When ideas flow, words pour from my fingers onto the computer screen, characters leap onto the page and become real, the excitement of the journey creates an enormous high, like surfing waves or enjoying breathtaking scenery.

The agony and the ecstasy of writing are twins, opposite sides of the coin of creation. The writer accepts the suffering, in some cases relishes it, in the hope of the joy to come. Without the pain of a shitty first draft, there will be no stronger drafts ahead, no completed novel, no grateful readers, no joy. The ecstasy is a product of the agony – a writer must embrace both.

What is your agony and ecstasy?


THE WRITER’S AGONY & ECSTASY by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn #theartistunleashed #indieauthor #selfpub #amwriting

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Click HERE for submission guidelines.

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn published her novel Unravelling in 2010, and it has since won three awards. Her second novel The Piano Player’s Son was published by Cinnamon Press in 2013 after winning their novel writing award. A number of her short stories have also been published or successful in competitions. Lindsay has an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University and combines writing with her work as a creative writing tutor. She is currently working on her third novel.

Connect with Lindsay: Website | Facebook
Check out her books: The Piano Player’s Son | Unravelling

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Monday, 14 July 2014

I'm on @WritersDigest talking about tackling character consistency today. Drop on by to win Polish Your Fiction!

Hope you all had a fab weekend!

Did you watch the World Cup Final last night? Despite being half German, and living in Greece, I was rooting for Argentina. But every single team I root for ends up losing. Perhaps their loss is all my fault. :-)

On a more positive note, I'm on Writer's Digest today, talking about tackling character consistency. I'm also giving away a copy of Polish Your Fiction!

Comment on this post for the chance to win.


Have a great week!

PS: Take a gander at my announcements below, too. There are goodies to be gotten. 



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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Do You Agree, Or Disagree? (#9) TOPIC: Is the Fight for Gender Equality in Literature Causing More Segregation?

This campaign #ReadWomen2014, which aims to bring gender equality to the literary world is a really lovely idea. And I'm all for supporting it. But I can't help thinking that ... singling women out is just going to cause more segregation. If we really want to support gender equality, shouldn't we be aiming to read books from an equal amount of men as women?

What do you think? Do you think the fight for gender equality in literature is addressed in the right way?

Is the Fight 4 #GenderEquality in Literature Causing More Segregation? #ReadWomen2014 #Authors #amreading #GenderBias



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Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable, the heartache is paralyzing, the fear is searing, the anxiety makes my head spin. It is only when I find the quiet in the fear that I find my strength and my purpose. And I write. And write and write. I am finally home.

I posted this status update on FB a few weeks ago. The private responses surprised me:

“How, how do you find the quiet place?”
“I have many dark places in my head and I fear them.”
“I have severe bouts of anxiety about my writing. How do you deal with yours?”

How I wish I had the answers to these questions. So many artist friends I speak to deal with this darkness, these demons inside our heads that refuse to die. They are demons of self-doubt, of low self-esteem, of fear of rejection, of fear of success. Sometimes they can take over and instead of motivating us to do better, they paralyze us. When this happens to me, I find myself in a scary place where I cannot move forward with my work, I cannot do anything. I just sit and stare at the computer and feel this sense of hopelessness and loss that seems insurmountable.

When I decided that I needed to face this darkness, I knew I had to make a few key changes. First, I needed to face the fact that I was going to have very dark days. I made a conscious decision that when the dark days came, I would deal with them instead of letting them take over my whole world. Let me tell you, before I go on, that it was not easy to learn. I failed miserably along the way; in fact, I failed spectacularly along the way.

But then, slowly, I began to learn how to handle the demons. I began to notice the signs of their arrival and to strategize how to deal with them. I recognized that this feeling of darkness was a luxurious gift that I gave myself. Perhaps that sounds idiotic, but this is how I explained it to myself: Feeling sorry for myself, being worried about the future, feeling “less than,” or feeling anxious was a luxury that I could not afford. I was, I am, a working writer and in order to work, I need to have a clear mind.

Strategy one: When I feel a pang of anxiety coming my way, I just get up and walk out into an open space—the deck, the patio, the street. And I walk. This helps clear my head. If the feeling is particularly strong, I listen to really loud, happy music. Many times, just this helps a lot and lets me get back to my desk energized and ready to work.

Strategy two: I wear a rubber band around my wrist and when I start to worry about my work, I pull the rubber band really hard. It smacks my wrist and reminds me that worry is fruitless and that I need to continue to work more and worry less.

Strategy three: This is not pretty, but when no one is home, I crank up my Bollywood tunes really loud and dance until I break out into a serious sweat.

Strategy four: I make a gratitude list every night before I go to bed. I write about what I am thankful for the most and keep going till I hit ten items. By the time I reach the tenth item, I am usually smiling.

Strategy five: When nothing else works, I realize that perhaps it is my brain’s way of saying I need a break. I distract myself by cooking, or reading a funny book, or watching my favorite TV episodes.

Then there are times when I just sit still and let the thoughts go by. This is possibly the easiest and yet the hardest strategy. If I can let them go and not get entangled in them, then I am home free. I find my quiet and outlast my demons.

(I hope you will find this helpful. If the feeling of anxiety won’t go away, I seriously suggest you speak with your doctor to discuss your symptoms.)

Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you cope with it?

OUTLASTING YOUR DEMONS: HOW TO COPE WITH ANXIETY, by @mbhide #TheArtistUnleashed #WritersHealth #Authors #IndieAuthor


Want to guest post on The Artist Unleashed?
Click HERE for submission guidelines.

Author, writing coach, and popular speaker Monica Bhide, known for her exotic cookbooks and beguiling essays about food and life, has released her first short story – “Mother. “It is included in the anthology Singapore Noir (Akashic Books, 2014). She is currently working on her first collection of short stories.

An engineer by training, Bhide followed her instincts to become a sought-after food/travel/parenting writer. She has been published in national and international publications including Food & Wine, the New York Times, Parents, Cooking Light, Prevention, AARP-The Magazine, Health, SELF, Bon App├ętit, and Saveur, to name a few.

She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Kitchen Window and a frequent speaker at the Smithsonian and at national and international writers’ conferences. Her work has garnered numerous accolades: her food essays are included in the Best Food Writing anthologies of 2005, 2009, and 2010, while the Chicago Tribune chose her as one of seven noteworthy food writers to watch and Mashable selected her as one of the top ten food writers on Twitter.

Bhide has published three cookbooks, the latest being Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen (Simon& Schuster, 2009).
Bhide lives in a suburb of Washington, DC with her husband and two sons. Visit her website, Modern Indian Cooking & Food Writing Workshops by Monica Bhide.

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