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October 18, 2012 — 537 words

Best Before…

By Letitia Coyne

I’ve discovered that people have use by dates.

Well, maybe they are ‘best before…’.

People have a taste in music that was born in the years that they cared about words and beats and such. People like a particular style of clothes. Most of us can find something to wear prêt-à-porter, but it never quite gives us the feeling or the look we know was our best. Far too many of us get about with the hair style we chose in our golden years. It’s dated now and youngsters whisper, ‘Is the hair on purpose?’, but we carefully apply the heated rollers, firm hold gel, and gossamer steel hairspray each day before we leave the house.

There is a great deal of hard-edge painted on eyeliner gadding about. Often it is teamed with platinum blonde hair that is edging toward the purple-grey discount home bleaching kit shades and single-hair width eyebrows, but once it was THE look and we knew we had IT.

Once we were the cutting edge. Once we were the Avant-garde and we were shaking it with the best.

Even authors knew there was a way to put words on a page.

Once there were rules – but although they seemed to be set in stone, the overview of language shows it was actually always fluid. Even if teachers in the forties and fifties and sixties whacked our knuckles and berated us as fools when we misplaced a comma or couldn’t remember our Latin roots, they were really only commanding their own brief and glorious moment of literary certainty. A passing fashion. Not only have those rules all changed, the world does not want to have to recall them. Fashion, as Oscar so wisely pointed out in regard to clothes, is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. Language buys us a little longer than six months, but it still passes and is just as despised.

It doesn’t matter if we wrote revolution in the 50s or beat in the 60s or psychedelics in the 70s or punk in the 80s or glorified capitalism in the 90s or apocalyptica in the 00s or Sparkly YA primers in the 10s, it is hard to shake the formula that made sense and spoke truths to the masses when we were flying ahead of the winds of change. We are creatures of habit. We repeat what we know. If it doesn’t seem to work, we do it again with even more determination.

Some very lucky people have an eye for the classics. They choose labels that do not date; their hair is simple elegance and their make-up barely there natural beauty. They loved the bands that lasted and they know their classical canon. Chanel No. 5 has never been out of style. They are widely read, and when it comes to writing they come like water and like wind they go. Wondrous superhuman creative paragons. All praise to them.

Most people shine briefly and then the world moves on.

People have use by dates.

I wish it wasn’t so.

October 11, 2012 — 594 words

Wuthering Heights

By Letitia Coyne

Recently, our Editor-in-Chief, AM Harte reviewed Wuthering Heights at Goodreads. Her motivation to read the Emily Bronte book began some time ago with a conversation in ergoFiction.

Plainly it is a book that divides readers. For my part, I love it. It’s not a five star read, maybe a four and a half, but I don’t mind the unlikeable characters. Happy endings are not the norm as far as I have seen in real life; people are rarely wholly ‘good’ and fewer actually develop the redeeming characteristics we like to see in our fiction.

Heathcliff and Cathy are not nice people. They are sociopaths at best, psychopaths at worse. Heathcliff feels no human bonds and has no empathy for any other person. He is driven by revenge, and we can only use our imagination to provide the awful details of his methods as he rose to power in the wild places of the world.

Cathy is no better. But none of the characters of Wuthering Heights, except perhaps for Nelly Dean, are.

I think that is one of the reasons I do like it so much.

No one in this story is virtuous and no one learns a great life lesson. That is real life. Wuthering Heights is a train wreck, and that is why many other readers hate it.

We like to see, as a general rule, character growth and development in the fiction we read, not the spiral descent into suffering that is the reality we live and prefer to ignore. Not many of us as individuals, or the multitudes around us, reach an enlightened state where love for all creatures great and small helps us overcome the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. People, ordinary people who are not heroes and heroines of fiction, tend to make their mistakes and keep making those same mistakes throughout their lives without ever realizing their own complicity in their suffering.

Yet in fiction we like to find a world where the light is bright at the end of the tunnel, and characters find their way to happiness.

The idea of imperfect and driven heroes moving toward an inevitably bad ending is common in yesterday’s fiction. All through the classics: Moby Dick and Anna Karenina, half the plays of Shakespeare, Russian and German literature as a whole.

It probably still exists in the fiction of today, but titles escape me for the moment. What we do see all too often when truly flawed characters appear in modern fiction, is a miraculous healing of dangerous traits. Characters like Heathcliff and Hamlet do not get better. They do not forsake their misogyny. And yet, the half-understood badass hero of modern fiction can be turned from drinking, gambling, violence, misogyny, masochism, narcissism, etc by the love of a good woman. That I do not like. I can read and enjoy unlikable characters, but unlikeable characters that turn into paragons of virtue to suit a plotline are loathsome.

Wuthering Heights is a good point of discussion on this subject because most people have read it, by choice or otherwise. And whether readers enjoy it or not, whether they like Miss Bronte’s writing, or her characters, or her bleak world, or even Joseph’s laboriously accented English, or not, at least, AT LEAST she understood her characters and she allowed them to live their lives on the page as they should.

That’s what I think, anyway.

October 2, 2012 — 879 words

Flattr and the Internet Wilds

By Guest Author

by Aelius Blythe

The wild and transient pulse of creation beats here.

Here in the digital spaces, everyone creates. Here in the digital spaces, everyone is a writer, a photographer, a journalist, an artist. Here in the digital spaces, everyone can shout and be shouted down. And as intoxicating as Here is, this rough and tumble mess that is so... internet begs the question: why does anyone create here at all?

Simple. It's fun.

But what's fun isn't always profitable. And what fills your heart doesn't always fill your wallet. Choosing this new world means leaving behind the support of the old, and lurking fears wonder if poverty is the price of creation.

Maybe it is.

Most of the unorthodox writers I know accept this price. We trade support away for freedom. We trade comfort away for creative control. We trade a paved road away for a machete to cut our way through the wilds.

It's okay because it's fun.

But not everyone thinks there needs to be a trade-off. While we accept certain sacrifices and challenges for the sake of our work, others are busy not accepting that there need to be sacrifices and challenges -- or maybe not so many. Others are busy not accepting that digital arts need to go without support. Others are busy not accepting that the path of independent creators needs to be hard and lonely. While we, machetes in hand, hack through the new, pathless wilds, others are running ahead to make the wilds more hospitable.

The Flattr team make up some of these others.

Flattr is a micro-payment system for free stuff. A "Like" button with a few cents attached.

It's just a few cents.

Here and there.

Maybe a dollar.

But for myself, as a small time newbie, micro is about as much as I can manage. After all, when you're a small time newbie, not too many people are opening doors for you. And when support is hard to come by, accepting the spare change of a few supporters means more than waiting for a big check.

Of course, creativity has always found some way to support itself, and so too in the internet age. Donations and ad revenue and sales have lined the pockets of many creators. But in the internet's chaotic mess, there's a bottleneck at the most popular doors to success and not everyone gets through. And while donations and ad revenue and sales find their way to a few talented creators, Flattr -- and other new models of support -- opens the door to a few more.

Some people look with dread on the masses of creation online: the meme fields, the cat forests, the troll caves. Some people shake their heads at the folly of trying to find a new path through these wilds. Sometimes even we independent creatives roll our eyes at the crazy technologists that think they can change things for us. And maybe it is crazy to think this chaos can be made any easier. Maybe it is better to look at the sacrifices and challenges and accept them, rather than hack through them.

But I look at the book in my hands.

It's a POD collection of blog-posted fiction. Not something everyone would be ecstatic about. The only professional thing about it is the cover. But this is my work and, goddammit I am proud of it!

I don't have experience with many crowd funding methods. Here on the internet, one size doesn't fit all. One size fits some. Maybe Kickstarter gives some writers covers and physical books. Maybe PayPal buttons are some artists' bread and butter.

Maybe we don't need a new model.

Maybe some people look at all the paths through the mess of creation here and think the new ones just add to the chaos. Maybe some look at the growing, pulsing mass of creation and think it is too much, too chaotic, too uncertain.

I don't.

I look at the book in my hands.

I look at the book I can hold in my hands, the pages I can flip, the ink-on-tree pulp, the cover that I could never have produced myself. I look at what I -- just one voice shouting in the forest of words Here -- hold: my book, my work, a tangible something, that grew out of a few cents here and there, maybe a dollar. I look at it and I'm happy for a few cents. I look at it and I'm happy for the people who think things can be different, that this new world, this chaotic, uncertain path doesn't need to be so scary and lonely.

A shiny new cover and printed pages aren't success, but they are rest stops on the way. These wilds are tough, we need stops along the way. We need all the support we can get.

Even if it's just a few cents.

About Aelius Blythe

Aelius Blythe is a writer, digital rights activist, and blogger at CheapassFiction.com.

September 28, 2012 — 366 words

The Antithesis Blog Tour:
The End!

By 1889 Labs

If you missed some of the tour posts, check out the Week One and Week Two recaps.

Today is the LAST day of Terra's blog tour for The Antithesis... which means it's your LAST chance to enter to win print copies of the entire series.

I mean, damn. How good would all 5 books look on your shelf?

Here are the final blog tour stops for you to enjoy:

Guest posts:

Interviews:

  • What does Terra do when she's NOT writing? Read this interview to find out.

Reviews:

  • Lizzy's Dark Fiction "adored Leid more than any heroine as of late. She’s like a tiger -– beautiful, exotic, but dangerous for your health in close quarters. I have 10 or 15 different texts highlighted in my Kindle of the awesome verbal exchanges between [Alezair and Leid]... Every time they meet is like a hit and you can help but turn page after page looking for that next high."

  • "The Antithesis does a good job of creating an unusual scenario, unique worlds, and new races," says A Bit of Dash.

Win Prizes!

Commenting on the blog tour stops above is one way to enter to win. Fill out the fun little widget below to make sure you've got the best possible chance of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurray!

For more information about the tour please visit the splash page.

September 27, 2012 — 1,122 words

Fish-Slapping and Naval-Gazing Water Rabbits.

By Letitia Coyne

Do you know what happens when the Xbox red rings?

If, like me you own a houseful of adolescent males, initially you will be unaware that your worst fears are about to be realized. You might imagine mowed lawns, washed cars, movies rented, even in flights of pure fantasy, washing up done and folding put away.

Wrong.

When the Xbox red rings in a house full of adolescent males, the N64 comes out of retirement and those Mario Party songs you thought you would never have to listen to again, start repeating through the house. Did you think you’d never hear Snowboard Kids again? I did. Did you think if someone was twenty-five they were too old to laugh hysterically at Super Smash Brothers?

Wrong again.

When the homegrown spawn were small, one was an early riser. He was up with the sun every day. I could get up with him at 4am or 4.30am, or I could, as I did, teach him to make his breakfast cereal and come to my room where he could see a red and a green spot on the vcr buttons.

All he had to do was put in a video and press green.

Born into the techno generation, he’d learned the vcr manual by the time he was four and was rebuilding computers from the dump shop by ten, but in those early days he would put on his videos of Spot, Bananas in Pyjamas, Thomas the Tank Engine, or Wiggles. And he did. Over and over and over again.

To this day, if I hear the start music of any of those children’s shows, I develop a tremor and a facial tic.

There’s been talk this morning of reconnecting the SNES and Sega and if I hear Alex the Kid start I might jump off the roof.

So I watched some movies.

Michael Rennie was there The Day the Earth Stood Still, as we know, and not Keanu Reeves. Apart from grave concerns about a mother who leaves her first born in the care of a homeless stranger, I prefer it to the remake by millions. Except that there are few commonalities to compare, really. So I watched Michael Rennie save us all from ourselves, again.

Watched Berserk on and off; it can run for days and weeks without pause.

Watched Evil Dead, Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness. I love these three movies, as terrible as they are. They’re wonderful. [I loved Hercules, TLJ, too.]

Watched Dead Man. Just moving art, isn’t it? I love it. There are times I wish for colour, for the landscapes, but I’ll never get enough of this movie. It’s like a painting you hang on the wall for years and never tire of seeing.

Watched Reservoir Dogs, and Inglourious Basterds, and The Great Dictator.

Also watched All Quiet on the Western Front. I've never seen the 1930 original, I must. And a remake is in production for 2012. I wanted to move about after that, but ended up putting on Eric the Viking because AQotWF makes me so sad.

I will have to watch some more Python now and reaffirm the knowledge that no matter how bleak and hopeless the world looks, it is really just a big mass of total absurdity and nothing to be worried about. In any melting pot the dross floats to the top; the thick shit at the bottom gets burned; most people are blind men patting elephants and holding forth on the result; and interdependence is a dirty word when everyone is so damnably accomplished.

I have some kippers – it’s time to dance.

I read some reviews.

Reviewers need a big clap; it isn't easy. It's a role which will come to the fore more as the independence movement in digital fiction progresses. Those readers with real insight and the ability to summarize a book reliably for the wider audience will emerge with great power. All hail the powerful.

Meek, you will have to wait until you inherit the earth, I'm afraid.

I entered the giveaway at bibilotastic a while ago. That was exciting – I was trying to win an apple and some kindling. I posted my comment, noted my favourite Romanian poet and posted my entry off to the team. I’m still on tenterhooks. Who knows if I’ll win!

I doubt it. I never win anything.

In fact, centuries ago when I was born, the universe stamped me with the special mark it puts aside for those who are destined to sit, wizzened up in a cave with a hessian robe and hemorrhoids, contemplating navel fluff.

The universal powers said, "Don't give that one nuthin! [Except in the 80s – it was a really great time to have been rich.] Wastes everything. Bastard!" Instead they made me a Scorpio water rabbit, and left me to think about humanity and its endlessly fascinating insanity.

Of course, the other navel gazers know my cave. It has the satellite dish, conservatory, and Gucci door mats. Have to look the part.

That’s all.  I need a Bex and a little lie down.

Then back to my dancing!

Lxx

September 24, 2012 — 335 words

The Antithesis Blog Tour:
Week Two

By 1889 Labs

I assume you've seen all of last week's The Antithesis blog tour posts!

Well there's even MORE for you to enjoy... and MORE chances to win some awesome prizes!

Interviews:

Guest posts:

  • What materials or influences inspired The Antithesis? Find out on The Avid Reader!

Reviews:

  • The Antithesis got 5/5 stars from Kaidan's Seduction!

  • I am Indeed reviewed The Antithesis, concluding that it combines "the best features of action manga and urban paranormal".

Excerpts:

  • "As we approached the base, Leid tripped over her own feet, landing on her knees. I moved forward, but she shot out a hand to stop me. I froze. Then she lurched, vomiting blood all over the first step." Keep reading...

Win Prizes!

Commenting on the blog tour stops above is one way to enter to win. Fill out the fun little widget below to make sure you've got the best possible chance of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurray!

For more information about the tour please visit the splash page.

September 18, 2012 — 440 words

The Antithesis Blog Tour:
Week One

By 1889 Labs

If you haven't noticed yet, we're running a blog tour for The Antithesis!

There be PRIZES! Guest posts! Book playlists! Reviews! Interviews! Exploding heads!

Yeah, I was kidding about the exploding heads bit.

...Maybe.

More seriously, here's a recap of the blog tour posts we've had so far.

Guest Posts:

Book Playlists

  • On Simply Infatuated there are NINE songs plus an excerpt from The Antithesis to give you a taster of its darkness.

  • Prefer your music more instrumental? Try this playlist instead.

Book Reviews

  • My Seryniti says: "People are getting heads chopped off and straight away I’m in love with one of the main characters."

  • My favourite quote from Beach Bum Reads is: "Hell, your main character is a physicist who lives in Purgatory."

  • And we scored a hat trick with yet another fan. "You need something to keep the passion for books alive, and The Antithesis definitely provided that," said Words I Write Crazy.

Win Prizes!

As USUAL -- what do you mean, you don't know how this works?! -- commenting on the blog tour stops above is one way to enter to win. Fill out the fun little widget below to make sure you've got the best possible chance of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurray!

September 13, 2012 — 1,206 words

Serial Fiction: the New Wave of Publishing.

By Letitia Coyne

Guess what: serialization is the next big thing in publishing. Amazon says so. They are marketing their new kindle with serial novels a plenty. It’s new! It’s brilliant! It has a proven track record harking back to Dickens, but authors and readers had completely forgotten this form of writing until Amazon came along!

Not.

I got a bit frustrated when I read the articles that blossomed around this idea of serialization making a comeback. You see, serialized fiction is not a forgotten art. Thousands of authors have been writing episodic stories, and millions of readers have been reading them. The only people who forgot they existed were the big publishers and the authors who continued to cast votive offerings before them, who spat on any form of writing that did not conform to the publishers’ guidelines.

Those same authors now hear that a publishing house is buying serials for kindle packages. Hoorah. Serials are the new black!

Yes, I’m sarcastic and venting a bit here. It beggars belief that so many people can wear such tightly focused blinkers that they do not look at the world they have chosen to colonize. And I risk offending you, dear reader, who might well be a reader or writer who had never heard of the world of serialized fiction. Sorry.

Serial fiction has been continuously written and read online since the advent of the PC. It began as soon as authors found there was an audience out there for what they wrote in blogs and zines. It began, as might be expected, as predominantly speculative fiction, but over the decades it has grown to encompass all genres. It began as free content. As digital publishing has exploded and DIY ebooks have become widely accepted, many web fiction authors have experimented with ways to sell their work, too.

Some provide a ‘tip jar’, an easy way for readers who enjoy the story to make a donation. Some authors offer a subscription, and readers can affect storylines and character development, or receive special, premium content extra to that which is provided free. Recently, some authors who have developed a wide following and who have made considerable gains in offering paid-for content have found remarkable success with kickstarter  projects.

Where a particular serialized story has been plotted to arrive at a conclusion, other authors have chosen to remove their storyline from free view, edited and rewritten the text where needed, and released the once episodic piece as an ebook. Because this writing has been going on for many years, there are much loved serials which, when published in book form, can become eight or ten hefty volumes.

My introduction to web fiction came through the Web Fiction Guide.

As a community, the WFG has changed a little in the last few years. There is less emphasis on review and shared experience than there once was, but it remains one of the finest and easiest to navigate directories of serial fiction on the web. Most, if not all of the stories listed are available to read for free.

There is a vast list of titles. From there, readers can find ratings and reviews for most of the serials listed. Most individual serials with a regular readership have their own forums for discussion of the plots, characters, and themes, but for more general group discussion of trends in fiction, recommendations and support, the WFG provides its own active forum.

Also associated with the WFG is Top Web Fiction, a list of series which are voted on by readers to provide a constantly updated view of what is hot on any day.

The WFG is not alone. There are a number of directories which specialize in serialized fiction. One of the first to be developed was the EpiGuide. Home to a number of long running soaps and serials, the Epi also has a popular forum with an active and supportive community for both readers and writers of web serials, and perhaps most importantly, is the hub for the annual WeSeWriMo – web fiction’s answer to Novel Writing Month.

Muse’s Success is a web fiction wiki, where reader participation is encouraged in the sharing of reviews, thoughts and ideas, links and information. Anything web fiction.

Protagonize is a community for collaborative web fiction. Authors can extend a branch on any story, taking the original idea off on a tangent, or refreshing an idea that had lost momentum. The membership is huge and reader participation very active. Primary schools worldwide have used Protagonize as a base to encourage literacy in young people, allowing them to see their own work published online.

A group of authors, all veterans of the serial novel, contribute regularly to Digital Novelists. Most of the names here have made the successful transition from free content to the marketplace. Again, this is no new phenomenon. At weblit.us they were experimenting with direct to kindle subscription more than a year ago.

For young readers and writers, there is Fiction Press. Not to all tastes, I’ll admit, but popular and active, with stories across all genres, forums and RPGs.

Spreading both serialized and complete novels, Wattpad is an enormous library of fiction with a readership to match.

There are fan-fic sites too numerous to mention. There are graphic novels and web comics, published on a regular schedule, that have drawn in audiences as long as the screen has been lighting up. And authors of each type of web serial have found ways to bring their work direct to readers on their pc, or their laptop, or their phones or their tablets. This is not a new phenomenon.

And, of course, as a publisher dedicated to bringing the finest in web fiction to a wider audience, 1889 Labs has been publishing serialized stories as novels since 2006. This is not new.

What is new, and what are constantly changing, are the models for connecting readers and authors. That is always an exciting place to be, as technology moves and great minds move with it. At 1889 Labs we are working on the best ways to connect our readers with great fiction.

What does an author need, today, to capture your attention? What is the most convenient way for you to view the digital fiction you love?

What really will be the new wave of publishing?

September 8, 2012 — 221 words

The Legion of Nothing Blog Tour PRIZE WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

By Merissa Tse

The blog tour and giveaway has come to an end! What does that mean? Well, after an entire month of suspense, it means I get to tell you WHO WON THE KINDLE! And the other prizes! Are you ready?

Congratulations to first place winner Joye Barr, winner of an Amazon Kindle and a kindle copy of the Legion of Nothing: Rebirth!

Congratulations to second place winner Deanna Reza, winner of a
Legion of Nothing: Rebirth t-shirt and a print copy of the book!

And finally, congrats to our third place winners, who will each get an e-copy of both Legion of Nothing: Rebirth and The Antithesis by Terra Whiteman! Here they are below:

Crystal Renee
Jonathan Laughlin
Dacia Joyner Vaughn
Jaime Cross
Melissa Dawn

Thanks for everyone who entered and followed the tour all month. We hope it was as fun for you as it was for us. Remember that The Antithesis 3: Beta is being released THIS MONDAY and we have another blog tour to celebrate! Wootwoot. Yipyipyipyipyip.

All winners should receive an email shortly!

September 6, 2012 — 1,064 words

Claustrophobia.

By Letitia Coyne

I’ve just spoken with an author and independent publisher about her claustrophobia. And about her despair. I’ve talked a lot here about the freedom of digital publishing and the individual constraints necessary when external boundaries are taken away. I’ve babbled about the falling fences and absent gatekeepers and limitless choices, but the flipside that emerges is claustrophobia.

It’s a bit like standing in a queue. Once we stood in line for years, quietly but impatiently waiting for our moment to shine. It came, we sparkled briefly, we smiled and bowed, and we moved back to the end of the line and started queuing all over again. When there is no longer a line, when there is anarchy and we are all free to rush to the front, the more delicate souls among us get crushed in the rush. Those with the loudest voices and most strident tones, and sometimes the greatest bulk, will squash the frail, the less confident, and the introverted; the arty types.

Since I first discovered the world of online fiction, I have regularly heard the reassurance that quality will rise, the rush of mediocrity will pass, and the deserving will inherit the world. That never happened in the traditional world of publishing. I think, most often, the loudest is heard, the dross floats to the top, and the inheritance is torn into ragged shreds that aren’t much use for anything but mopping up the bloodshed. Is that cynicism creeping in?

The crush is not a bad thing, really. Sometimes change only comes by riot and revolution. There is far more to gain from a world with free expression than there will ever be harm. For those, like me, who are horrified by the new 20% writing-80% hard-out self-promotion rules, there are quieter back streets to haunt. At least there we can watch the winners win and mumble under our breaths.

So – back to my chat about claustrophobia. We were discussing reviews and the difficulty of raising a profile in the claustrophobic, sardine-packed book sale sites. We all snigger when the likes of Mr Ellory or Mr Locke or Mr Rutherford are caught making up their own five star positive feedback, and we all know the names of others who play that game, but in terms of numbers – career altering numbers – even the liars are rarely rewarded with much space in the spotlight. There’s a riot in the market-square; tall poppies are targets.

Sadly, as much as I uphold my faith in the natural laws that assure us that this riot, too, shall pass, I see too many fragile and beautiful souls crushed or teetering on the brink of giving up their art.

That is overcrowding; that’s what it does. It stretches the resources too thin. There is not enough for all to take as much as they would like, and there is no longer a regulator to decide who will have and who will have not. And as in nature, it is the loudest and the most aggressive, not the most deserving, who take the greatest share. Nature is what it is, but it can be very hard to watch.

The trouble, I think, is not that some authors of dubious literary merit will succeed and others, better, will not. The trouble is the prize itself that we are all wrestling in the streets to touch.

We think the prize is a vast collection of five star reviews.

We decided that is how we would determine the best.

We allowed our work to be strung up on the auction block and when there were not four hundred five star reviews forthcoming, we found a way to provide them for ourselves. And the system our anarchy was supposed to have deposed, *coughAmazoncough*, allowed that self-defeating standard to rule in terms of sales and recognition.

I maintain my healthy cynicism about the claims of authors who do not wish to succeed/make money/become well known/bestsellers. It is a dream most humans cherish in one field or another. But poverty has never pushed artists to abandon their art. It has been the backbone of most artistic communities throughout history. Artists starve; it’s what they do.

The prize we were seeking when we got diverted by the new real was validation. Validation. To be told – that was good. I enjoyed that. Genuinely.

That’s why some authors can excuse themselves for buying fake reviews or drafting friends and family into the fray. Aside whisper to self: If fake reviews fool the true punters into reading my work, they will see how good it is and genuine validation will follow. Maybe not. It’s a slippery slope and no one wins anything.

Validation. Not reviews. It won't equate to sales, but it fills the hole inside that drives you onward through the screaming crowds. So, here’s a happier, personally invaluable example of finding validation.

Recently, the lovely Julie O’Yang invited me to fictionaut. I have for a long time read work on that site and marveled at the quality. Jewels, I thought. I was a little bit in awe of the company I found myself in. I went into the quieter spaces there, a bit more like a library than a market square on Sunday morning, and I whispered some tiny little poems and I painted a snippet of flash on the wall.

And it appeared; not begged, not sought out with a cover letter detailing personal bests and a history of violence and bloodshed in the arena, just there, whispered back just as quietly.

“That was good. I liked that.”

Validation.

If you feel it is time to drop the pen and take up the sword once again, try finding a quiet place away from the rioting masses, the sort of place you always wished you could belong, and do whatever it is you do best.