Friday, 12 September 2014

What's your view on contest entry fees?

I'm over at Vine Leaves Literary Journal today talking about contest entry fees. There are a lot of myths out there (rather negative ones) and felt the need to set things straight.

You can read the article and comment here:
WE’RE NOT ASKING FOR YOUR MONEY SO WE CAN CHILL OUT ON AN ISLAND RESORT: A literary journal editor’s view on contest entry fees

Would love it if you dropped by and contributed to the discussion.

Easy Tweet:
WE’RE NOT ASKING 4 YR MONEY SO WE CAN CHILL ON AN ISLAND RESORT @VineLeavesLJ's view on #contest entry fees #litmags

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Artist Unleashed: MODES OF TRAVEL THROUGH TIME, by Dennis Higgins

I would like to thank Jessica Bell for having me to the Artist Unleashed event.

I am Dennis Higgins, author of time travel stories. I am the “Gone But Not Forgotten” guy. My own books are not heavily into science or sci-fi. The stories involve the intimate and detailed lives of my traveler which I call Time Pilgrims.

Today I would like to explore the many modes of travelling in time from several different points of view and authors. The guy who started it all was my hero, HG Wells and the mode he used was the same as the title of his famous book, The Time Machine. The machine was a Victorian invention which propelled his protagonist into the future. It really was early steampunk, if you think about it. The George Pal, 1960 movie version of this title, has actor Rod Taylor amazed at the changes going on around him. He watches a woman’s dress shop and the changing styles as the years move up, making him comment to himself, “That’s a dress?”

In more modern times, Doc Brown created a time machine out of a 1980s DeLorean in the Back to the Future movie series. When the stainless steel reached 88 miles per hour, via the flux capacitor, it propelled him and Marty to various times. Their adventures always seemed to lead to disaster, which made Doc Brown comment, “I wish I had never invented this infernal machine.”

Jack Finney used a machine and the famous New York City, Dakota apartment building to travel back to the 1800s.

There can’t be a post like this without talking about a time-traveler first seen in 1963 on the BBC in the UK. Doctor Who uses a device stuck in the image of an old police box called the TARDIS. The letters stand for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It is infinitely large on the inside and can move the doctor and his colleagues anywhere and to any point in time.

Superman flies around the earth backwards, relative to its rotation, making it literally reverse in time. While the USS Enterprise in Star Trek slingshots around the sun to transport them back or forth.

In various books and movies, there has been anything from switching bodies with people from past lives, to mirrors, genies in bottles, books, stones to totally unexplained phenomenon in order to transport individuals in time. There does seems to be one common thread weaving itself into most time travel stories…romance. Love can often transcend time and space. It is the most powerful emotion we humans possess.

The book, originally titled, Bid, Time Return by Richard Matheson was renamed after the popularity of its screen adaptation to, Somewhere in Time. In it, Richard Collier uses a unique technique to travel back to meet the woman he had become obsessed with. He goes to an old hotel and removes everything modern from the room. He uses the power of his brain to concentrate on her and the time she was in the hotel. He eventually makes it and joins her in the past. I happen to love this concept. SPOILER ALERT: His fateful mistake was accidentally bringing a modern penny with him. Upon looking at the little cent, he is whisked back to his own time. So remember this: If and when you time travel, you must bring the correct currency with you. Especially if love is involved.

Now, if I may, I would like to give you the time travel mode used in my books. First, a person has to be born with the God-given ability. Not everybody is, but those who are, must realize the secret and now I will reveal it to you because, you may have said ability. It is contained in the simple element of water. The same water that is around us and within us. It is the water that has existed in every time period since the Earth was formed. It is the conduit to every possible timeline. So it is the same water that character’s Kevin and Cheryl encounter down Route 66 in 1946, where Katya and Cyrus find themselves in the great Chicago Fire of 1871 and when Cathy Callahan finds love in 1906 during the San Francisco earthquake. Water, along with training and concentration is the mode of transportation used in my Time Pilgrim series.

Gone but not forgotten. Comment with your favorite person, place or thing from the past for a chance to win a free Smashwords eBook of Parallel Roads (Lost on Route 66). I will pick (3) three winners from my favorite answers.

What mode of time travel would you use? Where and when would you go?

MODES OF TRAVEL THROUGH TIME, by Dennis Higgins #TheArtistUnleashed #Timetravel #fantasy #selfpub

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

Dennis Higgins is a world traveler and distant relative of Davy Crockett. A native of Chicago, Illinois, he has always possessed a romance with things of the past that are gone but not forgotten. He now lives in the suburbs with his lovely wife, two dogs and a couple of birds.

Among his influences are: Richard Matheson, Jack Finney, Dean Koontz, Joan Wester Anderson, Peter S. Beagle and Audrey Neffenegger. The Time Pilgrims series is exciting and treasured by young adults, new adults as well as full blown adults.

You can find Dennis Higgins at

Dennis's books

Coming January, 2015: Tomorrow’s Borrowed Trouble

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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Artist Unleashed: HOW TO REFRAME A LITERARY GENRE – KARMA LIT, ANYONE? by Stephen Weinstock

The first piece of advice you read in Book Biz manuals is that a writer should choose a genre, learn all about that kind of book, and tailor their brilliantly inspired work accordingly.  Publishers organize decisions around these beloved genres, booksellers need them to put your book on an easy shelf, and readers won’t find you if Medical Thriller isn’t stamped on your forehead. I’m here to say:


I considered crafting this article as a practical guide to creating a new, personalized genre as a marketing tool, complete with a title like “25 New Sub-Sub-Genres Flooding the Book Market,” or a handy checklist like “Seven Steps to Confuse the Bookseller.”  But frankly, not following a tried and true genre is impractical, and makes marketing the book tricky. But the book business is radically changing with self-publishing and online platforms, so I propose that how we look at genres is changing as well.

Certainly the amount of sub-genres is unbelievable. As in New Adult Paranormal Steampunk. The idea of a Hybrid genre is no big deal anymore, and helps catch attention. If many writers are freeing themselves from the Big Publishers, then they are free to dream in any genre they wish.

As they say, I have one book in me. It happens to be a series – 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles – with eleven volumes and 1001 chapters that will take the rest of my life to complete, but whatever: it’s the one book that drives me, which I desired to write before I read any manuals. Since I started life as a stage director and earned my bread as a musician, when I got around to writing I was motivated by a Big Idea and not a genre. In fact, one of the things I love about my series, where a character recounts a new past life story every chapter, is that I explore many different genres. This lifetime is in 17th Century France (historical fiction), that lifetime is on planet Proclivita (sci-fi), another lifetime is an Arabian Nights love story (medieval romance). Hybrid gone wild!

These days there are many authors whose ideas outrun their genres, especially us self-published writers working outside the box. We still contend with a market defined by genres, but perhaps it’s time for a more expanded view of things. I’m not pushing Genreless Literature; I’m no anarchist. But on bad days when I wander the self-marketing online desert bemoaning my neglect, nay my rejection of a comfy genre, I notice others posting articles about new genres, or genres that re-define old categories. Kindred souls! My ears prick up, and I feel a faint hope that the answer is to create my own genre, or cozy up to a new one that fits my work.

A lovely case in point. For years there’s been a somewhat fringe non-fiction genre called New Age, which included self-help books, spiritual reflections, occult histories, and psychedelic memoirs. Great stuff, but often in the back corner at Barnes & Noble, or only found at the gift shop of a yoga retreat in the Sierras. Lo and behold, I found the Visionary Fiction Alliance.

A group reframing the New Age genre with a defined purpose, and specifically for fiction authors. Bless them: since 1001 has a reincarnation theme, I had investigated self-publishing with Hay House, or partnering with a spiritual bookstore, but their books were always non-fiction. Finally, a group that recognized a broad area of fiction that didn’t fit traditional categories, but which was a rich trove of artists and material. I noticed  others working out this genre, but with a different name:

The best definition or name may work itself out in time, but the point is that creative minds were defining their identity, recognizing a large cache of books, and promoting a genre.

The idea of inventing a new genre to define my non-traditional hybrid of hybrids (hydraid?), was so refreshing that it led me to consider a sub-genre, of Visionary Fiction, or perhaps Fantasy.  In my research I discovered a slew of reincarnation fiction. Mostly romances, two present day beauties discovering their dripping passion is based on an intense past life connection in ancient Egypt. These books fit a larger Time Travel Romance sub-genre that includes blockbusters like Time Traveler’s Wife and the Outlander series. Then there are hybrids mixing Mystery or Thriller with the reincarnation theme, like Russell Perry’s The Returning.  

Finally, there is literary fiction playing with past lives, such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas1001 could fit in there, too.

As I ponder this genre –

Reincarnation Fiction? 
Past Life Fantasy? 
Karma Lit?

– I think of my friends at the Visionary Fiction Alliance, and realize that if I’m serious about inventing a new genre, I have to promote it, raise awareness, write articles, reach out to authors working within it, and even advocate for its inclusion in genre lists on Amazon, Goodreads, or Publishers Weekly. A daunting task, but by promoting the genre you promote your book, and visa versa. 

Since this is a nascent concept for me and for the publishing field (is it? I mean, how old is steampunk anyway?), I invite you to consider its value and practicality, to share and promote other newly minted genres you’ve heard of, or to conjure up a new genre for your one-of-a-kind tome. As I weigh the worth of pursuing this avenue, I’d love to hear your responses.

HOW TO REFRAME A LITERARY GENRE: KARMA LIT, ANYONE? by Stephen Weinstock #TheArtistUnleashed #IndieAuthors #selfpub

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

In his past life before 1001, Stephen Weinstock created music for theater and dance at the Magic Theater, NYU, Juilliard, and LaGuardia Arts High School (the 'Fame' school).  By day he brings dancers to ecstasy with his improvisations, but at night he enters the world of metempsychosis and fantasy.  1001 concerns a qaraq, a group of intertwined souls who come together over a 1001 lifetimes, a frame tale structure like The 1001 Nights holding it all together.  For online stories and blogs, see his website

Find 1001: The Qaraq, Book One of The Reincarnation Chronicles on:

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Friday, 25 July 2014

The Top 10 "Artist Unleashed" Posts of 2014 so far ...

So, it's that time of year again.

This will be my last post until Monday September 1st. Why so long, you ask?

Well ... next week I'm heading off to coordinate the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop.

When I get back I will be taking a much-needed 10-day vacation to a hotel by the sea so I can become a vegetable (not baked, must keep my white skin!)

Then I will be spending the rest of August getting in some quality writing time before I have to start the day job again.

But, don't disappear just yet. If you're in search of some interesting reading content, how about you take a gander through some of this year's The Artist Unleashed posts in which a variety of writers and artists share a wealth of information related to their creative field?

Need a starting point? Here are the Top 10 most viewed Artist Unleashed posts of 2014 so far:


2. A MAD MAN TRIED TO KILL ME, by Jeremiah Walton

3. THE 7 MYTHS OF VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS, by Pandora Poikilos





Happy reading and have a wonderful summer!



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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

Want to guest post on The Artist Unleashed?
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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