I Have To Do This: X-Factor USA

I know this isn’t what this blog is for, but I ABSOLUTELY have to do this post about X-Factor, because I feel like this can be connected to the publishing/marketing process. So first I’ll rant a bit about the show, then I’ll make my point.

Firstly, the groups.

Simon Cowell is mentoring the groups, of which two are left: Fifth Harmony and Emblem 3. He’s not very happy with how they’ve been ranking, but they’re both still there as of right now (I’m probably going to be writing this as they’re doing the double elimination…)

Fifth Harmony are GREAT. They’ve got beautiful voices, they blend really well, and I could see them being the next big girl group if things work out for them. They’re lovable and I think the way they sound together is amazingly wonderfully exciting. Putting them together was a brilliant idea. But girl groups are always a hard sell, and that’s always on my mind as I watch them struggling to move up the rankings.

Emblem 3 are… well… They have a very distinct sound and feel and I’m really not a fan of it. That being said, I’ll try to judge them fairly. They can get pitchy. I find them annoying.  On the other hand, I can see how someone who likes that sort of music would really like them, and boy bands are sort of a big deal right now. I’m willing to bet that everyone voting for them is between the ages of 10 and 18, and probably a screaming female. Probably. In all fairness, though, they had a great performance this week and I think they should be very proud of it. Great song choice, for starters.

Next, the young adults.

Demi Lovato (whom I adore on a personal level), is mentoring the young adults. It’s not going well, with Paige Thomas and Cece Frey both having been in the bottom two. To be fair, though, Demi didn’t get a lot to work with, so trying to figure out what to do with them to work them up the leader board has been a bit of an uphill battle.

Paige Thomas has a nice voice, but it’s not particularly special. She loves to dance, but when she does she gets pitchy. She went with fantastic presentation previously, but this week was a more typical presentation and I feel that it suited her better. I didn’t like the song and I didn’t like the performance, though, even though I loved her outfit, and I think she could be facing elimination this week despite her best efforts. (UPDATE: Paige was sent home straight away, so I called that one)

Cece Frey has killer high notes and a crazy fierce attitude. I love her outfits, and while I was surprisingly pleased with her performance, she’s not going to last long. She’s a bit whiney, her voice grates, and she gets REALLY pitchy quite regularly. The judges are right, she should probably go home soon.

Next, the teens.

Britney Spears, queen of teen singing, is mentoring the two thirteen year old girls who are absolutely phenomenal. She literally doesn’t even have to try, these girls are so good.

Carly Rose Sonenclar is literally unreal. Demi and Simon have decided that she has to be an alien, and I’m inclined to believe them. This was her second week in a row of outdoing the originals she’s really blowing us away. There’s no way this girl is going home, and honestly if she doesn’t win, firstly I’ll be shocked, and secondly she won’t have to worry. She’s getting a record deal anyway.

Diamond White is just a star. They send her home, they bring her back, and then she just blew us all away week after week. This girl has a spark, she’s so frigging adorable, and she’s got the voice of an angel. She can’t compete with Carly, but she’s able to give any of the others a run for their money.

Finally, the over 25’s.

L.A. Reid is their mentor, and he drives me nuts. He’s silliness and annoying and inflammatory, and if I’m going to disagree with a judge it’s nearly always him. He’s got easy sailing so far with these two, but there’s still plenty of room to go wrong.

Tate Stevens should already be famous. I mean, seriously, the fact that he isn’t already on the country hits list is almost unconscionable. His voice is so rich and full. The only concern I have is that I feel like this week he picked the wrong song for his voice. I’d like to hear him do some Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw, but him singing Keith Urban was distracting to me because I spent the whole time thinking about how he shouldn’t be singing it. BUT even if he doesn’t win, he should be getting a record deal, absolutely.

Vino Alan… K, I’m going to be fair. I really don’t get this guy, but I can see how someone could. Is tattoos don’t bother me too much, but his hand motions do. I’m not a huge fan of his voice, but it’s good, and I can appreciate it, except that his stage presence is just incredibly distracting. Somehow, though, America REALLY LIKES this guy, so I’m not sure. (UPDATE, he got sent home this week in the sing-off against Diamond, so apparently I’m not the only one who wasn’t a fan)

SO, now for the point.

Basically, the way the show works is a TON of people audition. This is like sending out a query letter. Then they do bootcamp, which is like getting to the point where they’re taking your manuscript. Then they sit down and decide who’s going to the judge’s homes, which is like picking out books to represent, and then they support those books through the rest of the process. The judge’s then decide who goes to live shows, which is like sending it to the publisher, and with a week of live shows where each judge gets rid of an act, that’s the publishers deciding who to promote (roughly, of course, number’s wise it would be much fewer). After that, it’s ALL up to the fans, and if you are going to be number one, it’s the fans you have to please, not the judges.

And sometimes, the publishers (judges) get it completely wrong! They love something that America hates. Even industry professionals don’t always get it right, and they’re competing with other industry professionals who sometimes do get it right, as well as other books by the same publishing company that they are also promoting, which could take away some ‘votes’ (sales) from your book.

It’s a tough world out there, and if you need a reminder how how unfair things can sometimes be, how sometimes publishers don’t give the best advice, and sometimes a bad day can get even the best books to be passed over. The wrong mentor (agent, publisher) can mean disaster for a career that could have been blossoming into something beautiful.

If you get put down at any stage on this process, don’t lose heart. It doesn’t mean that your book is bad or that your pitch was terrible, it just means that you are a human marketing to other humans, and all humans make mistakes, whoever’s mistakes they were. If they were yours, learn from them and move on. If they were someone else’s, don’t take it personally. They’re allowed to screw up sometimes, too.

Cheers,

C

A Couple of Updates

Firstly, I got a rejection letter from Prairie Schooner. It wasn’t as polite as the one from upstreet, but very professional and not mean.

I’ve sent “Soon” off to Gemini Magazine now, and we’ll see if I get better results there.

Secondly, I have the story for my new novella, and it all came to me in a dream. My working title is Retraining, and it’s tagline (I’ve never done one before, so don’t laugh) is “Is it Stockholm Syndrome or love?”

Basically, it’s dystopian, set in Eastern Europe in a small country no one cares about where a dictator is facing a student-led revolt. The leader of the revolution has been captured, along with some of her followers, and and is being retrained to fight for them instead of against them. The son of the dictator is integral in the retraining, but there’s lots of inner conflict for him and the girl who led the revolt.

And you’ll have to read it for any more detail than that!

I expect to have it sent to Natalie for edits before my semester is over, and it might even be done with edits by Christmas, but I’ve got to save up money for copyright again, now quite a bit of it (if you all buy my novella, Those We Trust, I might have enough by summer).

So far I’ve got about three chapters of Retraining written (considering I had the dream last night that’s pretty good), and I’ll try to keep you all posted on the progress of it.

Of course, this means that Not All That Glimmers is being put off until Retraining is finished, but to be honest, I’m sort of trying to decide how to get from point A to B on that one, so it’s probably a good thing.

Cheers,

C

Chocolate

I’m not exactly a specialist on food, although my stomach would say otherwise.

However, if there’s one thing I am a bit obsessive about in my knowledge and experience with, it’s chocolate, and I think many people could say the same. I have tried a lot of different chocolates in my day, and with all the stuff coming out about how good dark chocolate is for your health and how chocolate can actually be a brain-booster, I think it’s about time I make a list of the five greatest chocolate brands in the world (obviously I’ve not eaten every chocolate brand, so if there’s one you think is missing from the list, PLEASE leave a comment about it’s awesomeness).

1. Lindt: Okay, who has ever had an okay Lindor truffle? Am I right? Those things are like all the good things in the world in one little ball of chocolate. But Lindt has actual chocolate bars as well, in many varieties, and OMG they’re amazing. If you’ve not had yourself some Lindt chocolate you have not ever truly had chocolate.

2. Fazer: Yeah, so I don’t think there is ANY way to get this in the US (if there is let me know, please), but this is a Finnish brand of chocolate that I recently ate my last bar of. The stuff is fantastic, even if you’re just getting the milk chocolate bar, but they’ve got killer caramel and this Mayan chili pepper kind. They’re amazing. If you’re ever in that part of the world, look for this chocolate because it’s AMAZING.

3. Cadbury: My favorite is the caramel, but even though the chocolate is, in my opinion, a noticeable step down, it’s still amazing in all it’s many forms. But I just really like caramel in chocolate bars. Or in general.

4. Ghirardelli: This is pretty good chocolate, although it’s very thin and there’s not a lot of it. The really fun stuff about these chocolate squares is the filling that makes it so wonderful. There’s mint with dark chocolate (love), caramel with milk chocolate (really love), and raspberry with dark chocolate (love), to name a few. It’s an American company, developed and made in San Francisco  for those of you purists. You don’t have to eat Hershey’s to get American chocolate… it can actually taste like gourmet chocolate!

5. Reese’s: All right, technically this isn’t about the chocolate, and Reese’s are actually a subsidiary of a larger company, but if you’re not allergic to peanuts how could you possibly have a problem with anything from this delicious line of sweets? On top of being a chocolate lover, you’re reading the words of a girl who’s a bit of an authority on peanut butter, actually eating spoonfuls of it for whole meals at times, and even being nicknamed Peanut Butter in high school for a time (long story). The peanut butter in Reese’s is better than any peanut butter I’ve ever tasted, and it’s encased in chocolate, which makes it even better. Between the peanut butter cups (wonderful), Fastbreak bars (I eat these ALL THE TIME with nougat and all that other deliciousness), Reese’s Pieces (duh), and all the different mini’s and extra-large ones and whatever else they’re making…. You literally can’t go wrong with Reese’s! Except the one with the wafer in it, that’s really not that great, to be honest. BUT THIS STUFF IS GREAT and if you want deliciousness without the cost of some of the other chocolates on this list, I heartily recommend it.

Cheers,

C

Maybe I Should be a Janitor

No, I’m not actually going to become a janitor, but someone on LinkedIn posted an article about jobs famous writers had before (and sometimes while) they were famous writers. Two of them were janitors (Ken Kesey and Stephen King), but there was a massive variety between them, many of them doing multiple odd jobs.

I’ve talked about day jobs before, and I’m certainly a fan of them. Nobody wants a day job, but it’s good life experience for writing and a great way to remind yourself that nothing good comes easily. There’s nothing wrong, in my mind, with getting your hands dirty and getting a bit of work experience. Do I want a day job? No, but if I need one, I’ll roll up my sleeves just like everybody else.

But my biggest concern with people putting up articles like this is that people are reading this looking to copy the path of a particular author, finding that Stephen King was a janitor and signing themselves up for such a job hoping to replicate that experience.

Part of why we write is because we are NOT our writing ancestors. We have fresh ideas and experiences and style to bring to the table. Why would be bother writing if everything we had to be had already been said in the same way?

If we’re getting across that we’re different people, we should have different experiences, as that’s what feeds writing.

The most important thing to get out of the article, I think, is that there is no one career that the majority of great writers have done. You can have any day job you want! It’s part of who you are, part of what makes you interesting, part of what influences your writing. Why should you be like everybody else?

Go forth and work! 😀

Cheers,

C

Final Papers Aren’t as Scary as They Look

I’ve been complaining lately… a lot. Firstly, I would like to apologize. I shouldn’t whine so much. Especially now that I’ve got the first of my drafts for one of my essays completed.

You see, I was sitting there, Sunday night, panicking because I was sure that I wasn’t going to finish my 8-10 page draft in time (or ever) when I had an epiphany.

Double spaced, 8-10 pages is about 3,000 words, in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Of course. And 3,000 words is the typical size of one of my novel chapters, shorter than some of them. And I write my chapters for fan fiction (same size), I write them about 100 words at a time to keep myself going and make it seem less daunting with everything else I have to do. When I’m on a roll, I can write 3,000 words in an  hour.

Suddenly my 8-10 page paper looked a lot less daunting and I was able to calm myself, taking it 100 words at a time.

Of course, once I got into the swing of things I took off at about 1,500 words, finishing it all in a flurry and rubbing my eyes right around midnight, and finding that I had nine pages of a solid first draft.

As I was telling a friend of mine, who was quite stressed about final papers as well, if you think about it in small chunks of work (not time, it’s too easy to waste time), even the most daunting of writing projects are finished before you know it.

Cheers,

C

Surviving Finals Season

This is very, very important to all college students.

I really shouldn’t even be writing this right now as I’ve got two MASSIVE papers with drafts due tonight. So my first piece of advice is NOT to blog on due days.

My second piece of advice is to read and reread all emails from professors VERY carefully, especially if you have them for more than one class.

You don’t want to turn in a paper late because you’re exhausted and you’re brain’s fried. Keep very close track of all due dates and their shifts and changes.

Get sleep.

Make sure you buy things you need before you get to the scary part of the semester, because you won’t have time to shop for things like note cards and razor blades and you’ll either have to do without or get someone to shop for you.

And most importantly, don’t forget that even if you don’t get an A, life will go on.

Probably.

Cheers,

C

Lots of Good News!

First of all, I would like to thank all FIFTY people who are following my blog. YES, fifty. I’m stunned, speechless, and you all know who you are. Pat yourselves on the back.

Secondly, this seems the appropriate time to point out that my novella is now available on several sites other than Smashwords! Kobo, Diesel, and iTunes are all carrying Those We Trust, so if you’ve not bought your copy you no longer have excuses (except you starving college students like myself, you’re forgiven).

If there seriously is some economic reason you can’t get a copy, send me a message and we can work out a coupon code for you. I really do want you all to be able to read it, and since you’re faithful readers of my blog who will (I hope) write a brief review for future readers to know what to think of the novella, I’m more than willing to give you your own coupon code.

Speaking of reviews, when I was checking to see if my book was available on various sites I discovered something pretty cool about Diesel…. THEY PAY YOU TO REVIEW. It’s not a lot, but if you read a lot and do a quick review of each thing you read, you can rack up easy money pretty fast. TO BUY MORE BOOKS. 😀 You get the idea.

So now I encourage you all to get your copies of Those We Trust and write reviews and such. It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t even have to be complimentary. Just be honest.

Cheers,

C