Interview with Lisa Vasquez and MF Wahl for Dread Central

Sometimes I come out of the basement…

http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/214013/exclusive-qa-with-stitched-smile-publications-ceo-lisa-vasquez/

WIHM8: Author Vs Editor – Loretta/MF Wahl

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses, tree, outdoor and closeup“I enjoyed working with Loretta on my novel “Disease”. She’s respectful of the author’s vision for their work while at the same time being a stickler for the rules of writing. What was really fantastic about the way she works is that she would explain the thought process behind many of her edits, as well as educate when issues were purely technical and could have been avoided.”

“I enjoy the editing process when the editor and I click. It’s like have an extreme beta-reader in my corner, and Loretta was a fantastic extreme beta-reader.”

Loretta is currently working with M.F. Wahl on her novel, “DISEASE” currently featured on WATTPAD! Show some love. Go read and vote!

Loretta is a retired paralegal secretary and loves crafty projects (StampinUp), reading and cooking!

Let’s Talk: Uncensored

Author_Lisa_VasquezAs the CEO of an independent publishing company, things are hard. Let’s be honest, I’m not making six figures or living the life of luxury. You know what, though? That’s not why I do what I do.

Sometimes, people do things because the passion is there. That’s why we have “starving artists”. It’s about the art, the craft, or the calling that comes from someplace else. It doesn’t let you eat or sleep unless you’re pursuing it. Stitched Smile Publications is that calling for me.

I don’t do this for the fame. I don’t care if my name is mentioned alongside the logo. I do this because I want to elevate the independent authors and the independent companies who share the vision.

What I’ve seen lately has broken my heart.

Dishonest business practices standing at the pulpit in front of its flock. People are inherently good and want to help others. They give when they have little to assist those they perceive as suffering. In the end, what happens is bitterness and distrust because they eventually find out the wool was pulled over their eyes.

This … is why the Indie World has such a bad reputation.

Be honest. You put more into the business than you could afford. You screwed up. People appreciate honesty. I don’t want a sob story. I want deep down, gut wrenching honesty.

I guess it stems from my own origins. (And NO this isn’t a sob story, these are facts) My parents never had much. My father was a multi-recipient kidney transplant patient. I watched my parents struggle my entire life. Ever shared a can of asparagus among 5 people? Ever search the couches for change so your kids could eat that night? That’s where I come from.

You want to know what my dad did? He worked.

He went to dialysis in the morning. He came home, took an hour nap. He got up and went to school and made the Dean’s list. He came home and took a nap. He got up at 7 P.M., ate dinner and worked until 4 am at a band gig. He picked up milk and cereal on the way home and woke us kids up for school.

This man killed himself to make sure the bills were paid. The best thing about him was that he could turn an idea into a real business. He was honest, and hard working and watching him create something from nothing with his wife by his side was nothing less than inspirational.

He went from working menial jobs to owning his own successful business. He didn’t do it with hand outs. He saved and worked extra hours (yes, even as a terminally sick man with 3 hours of sleep a night), and he went without. We all did, because we had faith in him.

And my mother? My mother worked a shit job because insurance companies wouldn’t take my dad with his condition. He was dying and they were killing themselves to keep him alive. See the irony here? She would work from 5 A.M. until 2 P.M. on her feet in heels (the owner insisted) as a hostess for a restaurant down the block so she could be close to home in case my father ended up in the emergency room -which happened quite often.

I don’t know how many times we’d come home to an empty house and wonder if our dad was going to come through the door that night.

We were the only kids in grammar school (back in Stone Age) with written consent from the principal to carry pagers. We had to know if we were being picked up by family friends or just going home to …wait.

I watched the tears well in my parent’s eyes when they couldn’t give us a new pair of shoes or afford to buy the name brand cereal we loved. (Though mom got creative and put the generic cereal in the name brand boxes…took us yeeeaaars to catch on. Good one, mom.)

Because I had them as role models, I’ve been sitting here every month putting all the money I have into this company. There were times I wondered how to make the bills and not once did I think to ask for money for the light bill. Not once did I set up a GoFund to help myself. If I set up campaigns or GoFund it’s to help my authors because I know if I help my business, I help myself.

I have no business running a business if I don’t know how to! My authors count on me…Do I make mistakes? Hell, yes. And I am open about it. I’m honest and say, “I fucked up. I’m sorry.”

I don’t lie about it. Once you shake the congregation’s faith, you’re done. I’d rather give you something for the money you donate or offer to me, or do some work for you in return than to be handed charity or help for a dishonest reason.

So What Are My Other Options?

Patreon [link] – (from their page) 

Patreon is the best way for creators to earn ongoing revenue directly from their fans.

For creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs). Fans pay a few bucks per month OR per post you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new. Learn more about becoming a creator on Patreon HERE.

For patrons, Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator’s community and pay them for making the stuff you love. Instead of literally throwing money at your screen (trust us, that doesn’t work), you can now pay a few bucks per month or per post that a creator makes.  For example, if you pay $2 per video, and the creator releases 3 videos in February, then your card gets charged a total of $6 that month.  This means the creator gets paid regularly (every time she releases something new), and you become a bonafide, real-life patron of the arts.  That’s right–Imagine you, in a long frilly white wig, painted on a 10-foot canvas on the wall of a Victorian mansion.  And imagine your favorite creators making a living doing what they do best… because of you.

Tee-Spring [link]

Teespring is a platform for custom apparel. The company was founded by Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton in 2011 in Providence, RI as a way to simplify the process of selling custom T-shirts.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re offended? This may apply to you. It stands to reason that if this rubs you wrong, you might have less than honorable intentions.

Let me make it clear, if you genuinely have no other recourse than to ask for help and you’ve exhausted all other options, this post is not aimed at you. People sometimes need help. People want to help.

People also want to lie.

Be careful. Ask questions (you have a right to ask them). Ask for transparency (receipts for charitable donations, records, etc.). The last thing I want is to have good people lose money. That goes for those needing it, and those giving it.

 

 

logoABOUT THE AUTHOR: By design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well. When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche. She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher’s Liaison for the Horror Writers Association. In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Publications.

You can read Lisa’s work in several anthologies, or by purchasing her newly released novel, “The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride”. For more information and updates on Lisa’s work, you can find her at: http://www.unsaintly.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo), Twitter (@unsaintly), Instagram (unsaintly)

 

 

Terrible Toys (A Christmas Poem) by Lisa Vasquez

Twas the night before Christmas when under the moon
A feeling of sadness was followed by doom
The children were still in their beds drenched with red
While toys giggled madly and danced on their head
A doll with one eye held a knife in the air
The Robot ate entrails with Ole Mr. Bear
Mother let out a scream high and shrill
While Barbie and Ken went in for the kill
I crawled to the stairs to make my escape
To be met at the top by a man in a cape
“Let’s go to work” he whispered to Jack-in-the-Box
Who sprung on back, followed by Fox
Army men shouted out into the hall
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall!”
I let out a shout and attempted to run
And that’s when the cowboy … he pulled out a gun!
“Howdy Partner” he said with a growl
“Get him!” the wolfman said with a howl
I grabbed my son’s bat and swung it around
I smashed the Robot , I kicked down the clown
Then what to my wondering eyes did I see?
The tree had grown teeth and was coming for me!
The elf on the shelf laughed as he taunted
“There’s nowhere to go! This house is haunted!”
The lights were hung ‘round my neck with great care
Little green men tied me into a chair
I cried and I begged, “Please let me go!”
Behind me I heard, “Ho! Ho! No!”
St. Nick came around me and gave me a grin
“You’ve been naughty,” he said, tapping his chin
He turned to the toys and they all gave a cheer
“It’s time to begin! Santa is here!”

 

 

Author_Lisa_VasquezBy design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well. When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche. She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher’s Liaison for the Horror Writers Association. In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Publications.

Her work can be found in several anthologies, and her upcoming, full-length novels will be released in 2016. For more information and updates on Lisa’s work, you can find her at: http://www.unsaintly.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo), Twitter (@unsaintly), Instagram (unsaintly)

 

A year in review (2016) – by Lisa Vasquez

This year has been amazing. Stitched Smile Publications has accomplished so many things and the best part about it is it was all accomplished together.

We’re a small, independent house. We knew going in we weren’t going to be rich and that’s a good thing because being rich wasn’t the goal of Stitched Smile Publications. The goal was to “change the face of the industry” and to “unleash the voices” of our authors.

There have been growing pains, but at the end of the day … or year … I can say we have grown into a company I’m proud to call my family.

THE GENESIS
January 6, 2016 – Stitched Smile Publications was born. Through a 12-hour, grueling “launch party” on Facebook, we emerged with a rebel yell. Our first publications were received well. More than well. We were embraced, and people began talking about us.

CREATING AN IMPRINT
SSP did something unique and it turned out to be a goldmine because we’ve acquired a staff that is professional, educated, experienced, and well-rounded. While some have come and gone for their own personal reasons, there’s not one person still in the company who doesn’t have a hand in the daily operations of Stitched Smile Publications. I’ve said from the beginning, if someone stays, it is because they want to be here. If they leave it’s because they have fulfilled whatever journey they came here for. No matter what happens, the imprint of our company will be in them wherever they go. And for those who stay? They give back in so many ways, from becoming mentors and taking on a leadership role with the VIP authors to adding “illustrator” as well as “author” to their resume.

This truly is … The House That Stitch Built. Brick by brick, word by word.

DEFYING OBSTACLES
I feel the most important aspect of our family is how many close friendships have been forged. Despite adversity, jealousy, and negativity, the core members of our publishing house have remained “stitched together”. What that means is we fight for what we believe is the reason we’re here: To tell stories, to make important changes in the industry, to educate, develop, and motivate new writers. We have cultivated an environment where authors feel encouraged, get the support they need, and have fun doing it.

REPUTATION FOR QUALITY AND EXCELLENCE
In less than a year, we’ve created a reputation for quality and excellence. We’ve raised the standard for how serious authors are treated and in return given them a voice … not only in their writing but in how their company is run.

We don’t believe we have to put others down or perpetuate unprofessional rivalries to make us look better. In fact, that was one of the reasons Stitched Smile Publications was created. Authors were caught in between publishers who felt it was OK to participate in drama, slander, name-calling, and other unprofessional behavior. We’ve seen the negativity and we’ve rejected it. If you have time to post things on social media, it should be things that uplift our author’s work.

That’s what we believe.

THE CREAM RISES TO THE TOP
Am I painting a Norman Rockwell picture for you? Well, it’s definitely not all a rose colored view. Like all businesses and relationships, there are strains and fallouts. With so many personalities, especially when dealing with individuals adept in expression, it is never happy-go-lucky, shiny-happy-people, day in and day out.

It’s the strife which strengthens the bond. It’s the common vision and passion for what matters keeping our eyes on the future.

Without further ado – I’d love to share with you our year in review.

 

“This Anthology, is dark, twisted, sick, and some what erotically perverse at times, and I LOVED IT. An excellent collection of short horror stories that will have you turning on a light in the night. If you love your stories creepy, and scary, do not miss this!”  – Amazon Review of “The Voices Within”

“An excellent tale of vampirism and the age old lore that we all know well. This story was truly scary and filled with numerous moments where I was constantly thinking how what I knew made sense compared to what I learned while reading this. The story was told mostly in a timeline perspective. A series of events from start to finish that made up each chapter and then told the story vividly and in a most descriptive fashion. A history lesson based on lore and real fact about not just Vlad the Impaler but also as he progressed or matured. This story focused on not just Vlad Tepes but also other historically known possible vampires throughout our history. This reader most enjoyed Wallachia being mentioned as the vampire lineage was focused on the further the story progressed. This is a story filled with horror, tragedy and family bonds and so much more. This story is for vampire lore fans who enjoy fiction laced with credible historic fact.” – Amazon Review of “Strigoi: The First Family”

“I have to admit, I’m getting a little burned out on zombie books … but this one is different. It drew me in right away and then I didn’t want to put it down. I love a story that lets me see into a character’s heart and soul. Dredging Up Memories does this very well. At times, I wondered if the main character, Walker, is crazy—his friendship with Humphrey??—but it didn’t matter. Crazy or not, he is so human…so fallible. AJ Brown’s story has more depth than most zombie apocalypse books; it’s almost philosophical in parts. Everyone the main character comes across has an impact, leaves him with new lessons learned. In this sense, it reminded me of The Little Prince—only much darker and filled with zombies. What impressed me most about Dredging Up Memories is the high level of talent Brown shows in his writing. When I finished this book, I immediately got another story by AJ Brown. I’m still reading it, but it’s proving to be just as compelling and well-written as this one. One final comment: I found it interesting that Brown was able to write a ZA story without using obscene language. I’m not a prude when it comes to language, but this was refreshing.”  – Amazon review for “Dredging Up Memories”

 

What we have in store for next year will blow you away. We hope you will be with us for the ride!

Lisa Vasquez
CEO Stitched Smile Publications, LLC.

By design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well. When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche. She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher’s Liaison for the Horror Writers Association. In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Publications.

Her work can be found in several anthologies, and her upcoming, full-length novels will be released in 2016. For more information and updates on Lisa’s work, you can find her at: http://www.unsaintly.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo), Twitter (@unsaintly), Instagram (unsaintly)

The Necessary Evil of Feedback

Here’s the thing. Feedback–real, honest feedback–is hard. Whether you’re giving it or receiving it, it can be a rough thing to do. But if you want to be a good author, and more, if you want to be a reader who experiences good authors, you can’t pull your punches when it comes to giving an honest opinion of someone’s work.

Quality doesn’t come easy–an idea that’s seemed to disappear in today’s day and age where everything is PC and God forbid you say anything that might offend someone. But it’s true. If you want to write quality work, and better yet, if you want to read quality work, you have to be brutally honest.

And here’s the thing about honesty: sometimes–often times–it hurts.

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Let’s face it. None of us likes hearing that something we’ve put our heart and soul, time and effort into isn’t 100% amazing and fantabulous. (And yes, I’m aware that’s not a real word. But it rocks and is fun to say.) But that’s what’s wrong with the publishing world these days, specifically indie and self-publishing. John Doe writes a novel, sends it to his mother, his lover’s brother, and his best friend’s other friend and says, “Hey, what do you think of my book?” And because these people either a) love John Doe, b) may or may not have experience in reading a book with the intent of quality control, and/or c) don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, they tell John Doe it’s the best, most original thing they’ve ever read. So John Doe slaps a cover on it, professional or not, and sets it up on Amazon to sell. And it joins the never-ending quagmire of self-published “novels” that, frankly, suck, and does nothing more than add to the trepidation and hesitation that comes along with purchasing a self-published work. Making it that much harder for the rest of us.

There’s this idea that has permeated the human mindset that anybody can write a book. Technically, that’s true. Anybody who has the will and determination can type out 50,000+ words in this or that order and call it a story. They can then format it, upload it, and call it a book. But the hard truth is that not just anybody can write a good book. A successful book. Writing a good, successful book is a process that requires a recipe with multiple necessary ingredients. One of those is honest feedback. Constructive criticism. Just like when you don’t put the baking soda in your cookies, if you don’t utilize the honest opinions of others, even when they’re hard to take, your work is going to come out flat and lifeless.

Two scenarios for you, both personal:

Number 1: A peer of mine asked me to send him one of my stories. Didn’t matter which one, any story would do. He just wanted to get a sense of my writing. So I sent him a copy of “Phobia,” a short story I’d written based on two of my own personal fears. I was extremely proud of the piece (still am) and felt that it was probably one of, if not the, best representations of my work. I waited anxiously for his opinion on it, sure that it would get a grand review. But when he came back to me, his response was fairly lackluster. It wasn’t enough, he said. It was a solid piece of work, but it needed more. He didn’t connect with the main character. He didn’t feel her fear, didn’t feel her pain. He felt she was more of a caricature, rather than a true character. She didn’t come off real, and that was enough to not make the story.

I was more than a little deflated immediately afterwards. Disappointed. What I thought I had done so good of a job portraying, obviously hadn’t translated to the page. While it was tough to swallow, I also respected this peer’s opinion. I trust him. I’ve read some of his work and it’s damn good. So if he’s telling me my piece needs work, then it needs work. He didn’t say that to hurt my feelings. He told me that to make me better. To give me a better chance of succeeding in this dog-eat-dog world where we’re all trying to get ahead. Was the initial reaction painful? Sure. But if I’m serious about making it in this business, that’s what it’s going to take.

Number 2: Another peer asked me to read a short bit of a piece she’s working on. I read it, and my initial reaction was not a good one. I didn’t care for it. So I read it again to try and figure out why. And once I did that, I had to figure out how I was going to tell my peer. I won’t lie, I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t care for it. That it didn’t hook me. That it wasn’t drawing any real sense of emotion from me, though I knew exactly what emotions I was supposed to be feeling. But I did tell her. Because that’s my job as a reader. Because that’s what she asked me to do.

Did she feel some sense of disappointment at what I told her? I don’t know. But I would assume so. I would assume most of us do when we don’t get the reaction we were hoping for. Was she mad about it? She didn’t seem so. I asked her for more, so I could expand my context, and maybe give her a different opinion when I had a better idea of where she was going. She sent it. It’s currently in my inbox, and I’ll be reading it once I finish writing this blog.

Giving and receiving constructive criticism is a skill. A necessary one. And you’ve got to have both if you’re going to write in this world. Now, let’s not mistake constructive criticism with destructive. You can tell someone you don’t like something without being a jerk. You can offer suggestions on how to make something better, rather than simply saying “This sucks.” Like I said, it’s a skill.

That being said, if you can’t take an honest critique, knowing that some (or all) of it might be more negative than positive, you shouldn’t be in this business. And if you’re unable or unwilling to tell someone the things you don’t like about their work, then don’t offer yourself as a source of feedback. And if they ask you to, don’t hesitate to respectfully decline. No response is actually more helpful than a false positive, crazy as that sounds.

So, do you have the skills to be in the business? The good news is, even if you don’t now, just like any other skill, this too can be developed. Work at it. Get better. Go forth and conquer. Succeed. You can do it, if you’re willing to embrace all its necessary evils.

Much love!

 

~~Briana Robertson, Author, Stitched Smile Publications~~

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Briana Robertson is an emerging speculative fiction author, working primarily within the genres of horror and fantasy. Her love of authors such as Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling has developed her own need to put pen to paper. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and broadcast on online podcasts. Her debut novel is in the works, set to release in 2017. She currently lives in the Midwest, with her husband, three daughters, and their Maine Coon, Bagheera. Be sure to visit her website, as well as follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,WordPress, and Pinterest.

Invest In Your Audience

If you want to create a book and market it in 2016, then you need to educate yourself about marketing methods. These ideas need to be at the forefront of your project before you begin to pen it.
Networking your contacts in the area of your expertise, your baseline of friends and family and your email list of people who are interested in seeing you move forward as an author.
Do you have an idea that will help build community interest in your area? Do you have a particular story that you feel you have a unique angle? Is there something new that you have stumbled on that can make an interest group take notice and rally for you?
Or, is your work purely fiction, fun and just simply enjoyable, but sellable?
Being aware of people who are already invested in your idea, or YOU in general while you are working on your manuscript is a great resource which will only increase in value once you have finished your product.
Blogging is important, tweets, Instagram, google+ pictures that are related to your project, groups who you are already interested and like what you are saying or showing via posts are invaluable. Make sure that you do not just throw crap up. People will tweak to that, and your in will soon be an out. Be genuine have fun, show emotion, be invested in the group itself.
DO NOT expect that since you are part of an FB NICHE Group that you will automatically have people who will purchase your work.
This idea that no matter what you throw out because “It’s just words” or “It’s just work” will also come off fake as hell. You may fool your potential audience once or even twice, but they will eventually figure out that all your doing is trying to write something that is close to what they like. People do not like to be treated as if they are stupid.
Write what you know, write what you enjoy. Learn everything that you can about the subject matter and invest in the time it takes to do it well. Then have it properly edited. Your fan base will appreciate that you took the time to do your research and development and will reward you with sales and bring others to buy your works.
Just my 2cents,
Jackie Chin
Marketing Director for Stitched Smile Publications
Producer, Host of Zombiepalooza Radio Live12052463_10204158658201423_3937086368703109353_o