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)

 

 

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.

Word Association..

From the Desk of the CEO…

Everyone talks about how “nice” people are. In business, there’s a stigma attached to this label.

“Oh, their staff is so nice there!”

And then all your friends shuffle in and blindly follow the “nice” signs to the “nice” building. The problem is nice doesn’t always mean that you’re respected. People can hate one another and still play nice at work because that’s what the rule book says to do. And vice versa, you may respect your co-worker but they aren’t exactly the person you’d want watching over your children or pet.

I’ve lived my life trying to be nice. I lived trying to prove the old adage, “nice guys finish last” wasn’t true. I hate to tell you this, but it is. Only with time, age, and experience did I learn something. I’ll give you this bit of advice for free, but you won’t believe me until you’re old enough to see its truth with eyes of wisdom.

Nice guys do finish last because you cannot treat everyone nicely. You can treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve.

There was a cleaning lady at my former employment that didn’t speak English very well (she understood it, she just couldn’t speak it well in return) but she was a hard worker and she smiled everyday. We’d all shuffle in at 7 a.m. blurry eyed and grumbling after she’d just cleaned the sink and coffee area, then brewed the two pots of coffee. I remember looking down at the sink basin and seeing it sparkle. The girls were making their cups of coffee, muttering good morning’s and gossiping about this or that before continuing on their way back to their desks. I stood there looking at the aftermath with complete embarrassment.

Grain’s of sugar and powdered creamer dusted the counter. Drops of coffee trailed from the carafes, down on the floor and out the door. Napkins were discarded, straws scattered…it looked like a bunch of toddlers came in. I remembered how it felt for me, personally, to come home everyday and having to clean after working all day because no one respected the hard work I put into scrubbing the kitchen the night before.

Without a word, I started to straighten up. She kept telling me, “No, it’s ok. This is my job.”

I said, “It is not your job to teach them to respect themselves, or other human beings.”

The “nice” thing to do would’ve been to clean up after themselves. The “nice” thing to do would’ve been to say “good morning” to the woman they see every day, smiling at them with fresh coffee waiting, and a clean counter area. They didn’t even grace her with that much.

What does this have to do with SSP?

It’s simple. I don’t run my business to be nice. Let me explain why. When people don’t get what they want, you find that “nice” is just a mask. It’s a facade they wear to get what they want. When they don’t get what they want, the mask falls away pretty fast. It’s simple to get past the B.S. when you treat them with the respect they deserve straight away. Everyone here at SSP earns their level of respect from the new author to the veteran author.

The new author works hard, the veteran author takes a new author by the hand and gives them a mentor. We are a collective hive of energy — you thought I’d say collective though didn’t you..this isn’t the Borg, you psycho — that helps feed each other’s passion for our craft.

In order to continue doing what we do, we must have respect for one another’s flaws, strengths, differences and be willing to go through it all together. That means, we are a family and anyone that bullies our family, attacks our family, takes from our family, or harms our family becomes invisible to us.

We don’t lash out at others because that gives them power over us. No, the others should become background noise.  I’m trying to elevate (at current count) 38 lives of people that are counting on me. They’re counting on me.

Which brings me to full circle: You will be treated with the respect you deserve is a floating line. You can start out with high level of respect but you must maintain that respect. You cannot drop your guard, you must always surround yourself with the company of those you aspire to be like, you must always keep your eyes on the goal, and never keep company with the people that have grievously transgressed against those that support you.

Being the CEO of SSP has been the biggest blessing of my career life. When people tell me I’m so “nice” I have started to correct them. I’m not nice. I’m respectful. I’ll only be respectful, because being nice is nothing more than a fake smile.

Until next time..keep your Stitch together.