Now VS Right Now

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This has been a topic of conversation among a lot of authors. Some say, “You have to get books out to succeed.” Authors take this to mean, “I have to put a lot of books out, right now.”

Ah, if it were that easy!

As a publishing company, Stitched Smile has a responsibility. Not only to the authors, but to the readers. We deliver the highest quality we can because we’re asking our fans and readers to pay for these books. I don’t care what other authors and publishing companies do. What I do care about is what we do.

A lot of time and effort goes into helping new authors develop a skill. Yes, being a good story teller may come naturally for some people, but writing a good story is another skill set. It comes later. It comes with practice and challenges. These challenges come with learning to take critique and mentoring others (forcing you to take another perspective and helping you watch for things in your own work).

We have a lot of interns who donate their time to Stitched Smile. They are the backbone of our company. Without them, we’d have poorly edited books and be no different than the hundreds of publishing houses out there. When we built “the house” of Stitch, we vowed to “change the face of the independent publishing world“, and with the help of these talented individuals (both behind the scenes and at the forefront) we’ve accomplished this goal. With our integrity.

It’s been hard. I’ve made mistakes.

No matter what, though, I will keep doing everything I can to ensure that Stitched Smile stays the course.

We offer our time and mentoring to authors who would never have been given an opportunity without us (don’t believe me? ask the authors!). We’ve made dreams come true for authors who only wished to see their books in print. As result, we’ve given them a polished story with a great cover, and helped find them readers.

We’ve protected their reputations by dedicating time away from our own writing, family, etc., and turned out the best face of their work.

Authors who want “right now” don’t usually last in our company. Not because they can’t make it, but because it isn’t our model of business. It’s a sad moment when an author decides to move on. Even more sad when they discover, perhaps, the decision was a hasty one. At the same time, we have authors who have gained all of what we set out to give them and who confidently go on to bigger and better things. (Trust me when I say, it is a proud moment and I wish them all the success in the world.)

It sucks when, as a “boss”, I have to make the hard decisions. And I will. For the rest of the “family”. We’re birds of a feather and it is what has made us so strong while providing an unforgettable experience.

There is no “right now” in Stitched Smile Publications. It must simply be right. I put my name on it. My officers put their name on it. My interns use their experience for resumes. People are counting on me … and damnit, I’m not letting them down.


ABOUT 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)

SSP’s WIHM8 – Veronica Smith

The last day of February, I’d like to bring the spotlight to a friend and fellow author, Veronica Smith.

I met Veronica as a reader. I found out that she lived close to me, so we decided to meet at the local Starbucks to exchange the copy of The Unsaintly she won in a contest. Since that day, we’ve been great friends. I love watching her grow, not only as a person, but as an author. She has a fascinating imagination and there’s no telling what you’ll get with each story!

Let’s get to know Veronica!

 

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Veronica Smith lives in Katy, Texas, a suburb west of Houston. Her first full length novel, Salvation, was just published in December 2016. She self-published a short story, Last One in the Chamber for You, My Love to Amazon. Her first novella, Chalk Outline, was originally self-published but is the process of being re-released. She also has several short stories published in anthologies and e-Zines. In addition to writing, she’s a co-editor for two anthologies. Follow her to get the latest on her works.

 

www.facebook.com/Veronica.Smith.Author

https://www.amazon.com/author/veronicasmith

https://twitter.com/Vee_L_Smith

https://kvzsmithwordpresscom.wordpress.com/

https://www.wattpad.com/user/kvzsmith

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Veronica-Smith/e/B014JCZQT4

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33407538-salvation?ac=1&from_search=true

Veronica Smith – Bibliography

 

Novel: Salvation

Novella: Chalk Outline

Short story (self-published): Last One in the Chamber for You, My Love

Short stories (in anthologies):

Kelly’s Labyrinth in 47–16 : Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie – Volume II

A Zombie Christmas in A Very Zombie Christmas

The Treehouse in Bite Sized Offerings

Naughty or Nice in Collected Christmas Horror Shorts

Fate and Destiny in Crossroads in the Dark

Commuting in Eight Deadly Kisses

The Cat Lady and Sunday Morning in Fifty Shades of Slay

Revenge is a Dish Best Served by Grynn in Grynn Anthology

A Vacation Fit for a King in ODDisms

Preston’s Nightmare in Sweet Dreams

One Last Conversation in Unleashing the Voices Within

Zombies at My Gate in Zombie Chunks.

 

Coming soon in anthologies/e-Zines:

N is for Nightmares in ABC’s of Murder

Anesthesia in Siren’s Call eZine Issue 31

Countdown in Apocalypse Rising

Abdominal Bride in Guts & Gore

The Lottery Ticket in Dark Chapter Press: Edge of Darkness

Some Children are Just Born that Way in Dark Chapter Press: Kids Volume Two

 

Co-Edited:

Man Behind the Mask anthology

Unleashing the Voices Within anthology

The Unsaintly Chronicles: The Anti-God

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!

WIHM8 – Writer Vs Editor – Briana/Kate

reaper“Katelyn Murphy is everything one could ask for in an editor; not only does she catch all of the grammatical and/or punctuation errors that inevitably accompany any first (and subsequent) draft(s), she is also an extremely insightful and in-depth reader, with the ability to offer helpful suggestions that will take any story to the next level and beyond. 
With clean highlighting and detailed notes, Kate manages to point out inaccuracies, inconsistencies, areas of repetition, etc., while always maintaining a positive tone and encouraging attitude. From the beginning of our working relationship, Kate has been open, friendly, and available. She is always ready and willing to engage in discussion regarding my work, and she never insists that changes be made based strictly on her own thoughts and opinions; rather, she makes inquiries about the intention behind the work, and how that intention might be maintained while still elevating the work itself. 
How does she keep the tears … uh, I mean the doubt away? Well, she’s honest. She lets me know what works and what doesn’t. She points out things that make my stories both weaker and stronger, and helps me find the best way to tell the strongest story possible while remaining true to myself as an author. It’s as simple–and as complicated–as that. 
Long story short? Katelyn Murphy is a kickass editor, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
Briana Robertson

WIHM8 SSP STYLE! Larissa Bennett

 

Larissa is probably one of the coolest cats you’ll ever meet. Like my previous WIHM featured editor Kate Murphy, Larissa makes the SSP authors look good. She is also delightfully nerdy and fun. We acquired her from SNHU as well (seriously, don’t know what’s in the water there but they need to patent it).

Let’s get to know Larissa Bennett!


 

No automatic alt text available.I graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing. I also hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Creative Writing with an emphasis on British Literature and Mythology.

I am an amateur Tolkien Scholar, having been a fan and studied his works for the past 15 years. In February of 2015, I presented a paper at Ohio State University focusing on an analysis of the linguistics Tolkien used in his writings. This paper was presented during a weekend event titled “Popular Culture and the Deep Past: Tolkien Days.”

I have a great love of poetry and write in all styles and genres.

I enjoy reading Fantasy, Horror, Thrillers, and Mysteries. A few of my favorite authors are Patrick Rothfuss, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen King, Terry Brooks, Justin Cronin, Neil Gaiman, J. K. Rowling, and many others.

I edit under my name and publish my own writing under the name Daron Shea Casey (dscasey).

Do You Review? Calling all Bloggers!

typewriter 1Hey guys!  We’re starting to get things in order for the new year and we’re looking for fresh, new reviewers!  Do you have a blog? Do you love to read horror or dark fiction?

We’re selecting only the most interesting and active people for this opportunity. If you’re interested, please comment and let us know.

We are also looking for bloggers who are looking for authors to do interviews or guest blogs. Are you looking to increase traffic to your site? Give us a shout in comments and we’ll hook you up with one of our fantastic authors!

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.

Lead by Example

One of the hardest things about starting a company for me was the fact that my face is now out there. A lot. Admittedly, I was not very comfortable with this. If I’m honest, I’m still not. What brings me comfort, however, is that my face is the one that my new authors and staff see. Why is that important? Well, think about it. How many of you get to interact with your boss on a daily basis in a way that is encouraging, warm, and … dare I say it? Fun! It’s these aspects of what we do that I like to bring to the table every day.

Yes, we have a job to do. Yes, we have deadlines and it is stressful at times. At the end of the day I ask myself, “Do I love what I’m doing?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

I’m sure you hear me say that a lot. Well, it’s true. It’s relevant to this post because that’s the exact same energy I expect from anyone that works for Stitched Smile Publications. The best part about that? I’ve never had to tell the team that.

I’m always greeted with happy “e-faces” in our messages. (We’re all spread out, so we use Facebook messenger to chat daily and conference platform to hold our weekly meetings). The team comes together like a large family at a dining room table. We laugh and play, we vent and support one another. You know what else happens? Magic. We brainstorm. And because everyone’s ideas are valued, I get some pretty fantastic ideas.

This post is about being an example to those around you. People don’t want to follow someone that is walking around with a dark cloud over their head. They’re looking for that spark of light. They’re looking for direction, and the confidence to get them there.

Before I get online every day, I make sure my head is in the game and where it needs to be. Of course, there are days when I’m a complete twit, or I lose things, or I’m running around like the white hare. I have a team that sees what I put into them and the company, so when those days come? They have my back. 

My previous boss was an amazing mentor. I learned from him without him having to teach me. Do you know how? I watched him, and I took my cue on how to be successful by his actions. He took care of the employees first, then himself. When we got new office furniture, he had an old desk from 30 years ago. When we had new chairs, he still had an old torn leather chair. When our offices were painted and looked shiny and new, his was dingy and had the icky scuff marks.

I wanted to do for my boss because he took care of us. When I became ill, he would check up on me. He worked with me because he valued what I brought to the company and to him (I was his Executive Assistant).

I’m saying “I” a lot right now, I know. It’s imperative that I paint the picture of my experience so that I can properly impress upon you how much I learned, what I took from it, and how/why I implement it now.

The example that I lead with is what I was given, and what I hope to reflect from my own mentor because he inspired me. He made me want to be better. If I can do that to just one person around me, whether it’s an author, an editor, or an illustrator… then there’s no telling how far we can climb.

Teaching another person is the ultimate stretch of the immortal thread. You’ll never know just how far your touch has reached, or what impact it has made on another life. It is also a sacred responsibility for that reason alone. Try to remember that when you’re looking at yourself, maybe wondering why you aren’t in a position of leadership (if that’s what you desire). Are you ready to harness that responsibility? Are you ready to be accountable?

I hope so, because that’s the next part of being a good leader. Holding yourself accountable is a hard thing to do. You have to be able to admit when you’re wrong but also to have a solution. No one wants excuses. No one wants to keep hearing, “I’m sorry”. They want to hear how you’re going to fix it.

Elevating others is the next step in being a leader. No one likes a glory hound. Give your team credit and let them shine. Note: In the darkness of space, it only takes a small amount of light for the eye to be drawn to it, and each orbiting body will reflect a certain amount of light. And so on, and so on..

The goal of this post is really to inspire your inner leader. Everyone has it in them. Control your path, and your future, by leading the way for yourself. Become a leader in any way you can; at work, at home, in sports, etc.. Give yourself permission to reach for whatever it is that makes you happy and pay it forward to someone else. Teach them something new (pitch a ball, play a game, fix a flat, publish a book!) and you may find that you’ve had it in you all along.