Category Archives: Susan Speaks

Susan Speaks: How About an Eye Update?

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It’s been forever since I’ve shared an eye update with you guys. That’s actually a good thing — it means there’s been nothing to say. The eye has been and remains stable.

And it was that way last week, too, when I saw the surgeon. He’s happy with how it’s healed, although he finally did admit I’ve got a handicap in the form of what’s called a Lamellar hole. It’s confusing to explain what exactly that is, but its presence explains a few problems I have with my vision: letters drop out of signs and the eye chart. And, something I noticed a year ago: I’ve developed a touch of face blindness.

Which means that if I’ve known you for years and I suddenly don’t recognize you, it’s not because you look terrible. It’s because I truly cannot see you well enough to make out your features. Or because my brain can’t interpret what my eyes are seeing, and can’t make the connection to the memory I carry of you. I’m not sure which; I haven’t asked that question.

The fact that I’ve got this slight face blindness is is really strange, given that the damage is to my non-dominant eye. You’d think that the dominance would overrule the distortion. Okay, *I* expect that. Except, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Which leads us to another big question: how can I work as an editor if letters drop out of my vision?

That’s where it gets weirder: when I’m looking at my screens, my dominant eye kicks in and compensates. And the surgeon says, too, that my brain is learning to adapt to the dropped letters. I’m figuring out, he says — and I agree — how to look at things so that I can get a more complete picture. I’m learning how to look around the hole in my vision.

Bizarre, isn’t it? You’d think it’d be the other way around, that I’d struggle with the small stuff and have faces down cold.

But eyes, as we’ve all learned through this crazy adventure, are tricky, confusing, confounding, and amazing things. At one point during this whole ordeal, I looked at one of my surgeons — I think it was the cataract guy — and said that if I were 20 years younger, I’d go back to med school for ophthalmology. This is really cool stuff.

So what’s the upshot of all this? I get to see the surgeon once a year now, so long as I check in with my optometrist in between my annual surgeon visits, to make sure my eye pressure is behaving. That problem probably won’t ever go away, and so I need to stay on top of it to keep it from damaging my optic nerve. I’m willing to do that, even though it means having my eyes dilated twice a year and letting them touch my eye with that strange blue light. Like everything else, you get used to it.

Another upshot: this is what it is. It’s not nearly as bad as it could have — should have — been.

And I can work as well, if not better than ever. In some ways, I work more slowly, more thoroughly these days.

Just… if we see each other in public and I don’t seem to recognize you, don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, it’s Stevie.” (Except, you smartass, use your own name.) Like I said, it’s not you. It’s the strange gift of my right eye.

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Susan Sets up Shop in Littsburgh!

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West of Mars logoWhat’s this Littsburgh stuff? You all thought I was West of Mars!

Well, I am BOTH. Littsburgh is the literary hub for us publishing folk in the city of Pittsburgh and maybe you missed it, but West of Mars definitely refers to the only city or town of Mars in the United States. The question I usually won’t answer is how far west of Mars I am, but that’s because I hate it when people show up on my doorstep. Of course, showing up on my back deck is even worse, so don’t do that, either. And before you go, “A-ha! I’ll use the garage,” know that’s where the boy’s bows are stored. Just sayin’.

So because I’m both West of Mars and a proud part of the Littsburgh community, Nick and Rachel and Katie were more than glad to feature me with a quick four-question interview about my story, “Undaunted,” in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories.

I know I’ve done other interviews and stuff about it already, but somehow, seeing myself up on Littsburgh, being an active part of the writerly community… it’s darn cool.

Check it out. If you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, what are you waiting for?

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Reviewers Wanted!

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Like short stories?

Sure ya do.

Especially since one of them was written by me, and you know you want to read what I’ve come up with now. I’ve heard feedback that it’s VERY different from my older stuff. More polished. Less angry. And it certainly felt different as I wrote it!

So. I am willing to hand over digital copies of the anthology to anyone who’d like one — with the caveat that you leave a review at whichever book review site you like. Amazon, Goodreads, B&N… I don’t really care. I just want to see the reviews happening, so that others can read the work of 20 damn good writers. Or 19 damn good writers and me. Whichever. You can decide and mention it in your review.

If you’d like a review copy, let me know. But remember: I expect a review! Maybe not a day after I hand the copy over, but within a reasonable period of time.

Reviews sell books. They expose books to new readers who otherwise wouldn’t hear of a book. They HELP. They are the best way to say thanks for taking the time to write, hone, revise, craft the tale in your hands.

Be polite. Write reviews.

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Author Promo Opp with Louise Wise

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West of Mars logoA fun graphic to start us off!

Because let’s face it: there’s nothing fun about trying to promote your book. With my upcoming anthology release (more on that later), I’m in the same boat: you’ve got to reach people, tell them about your project, encourage them to buy it. It’s thankless work, and it’s hard, not to mention time-consuming.

And because I like to take care of my friends and clients, it’s worth it to me to take the time to pass along word of bloggers who are open to promotional events at their own site.

Like this one. Louise Wise, owner of Wise Words Book Blogger, has openings and opportunities that she’d LOVE to see be filled up. (Sort of how I feel about the Featured New Book Spotlight!) Unlike me, though, she doesn’t have one static question. She’s got a bunch, and they change according to the month you’d like to be featured. Stop in and check out what she’s looking for.

Yes, it’ll take you some time and effort to write a post on these topics. From a blogger’s point of view, I get it: we want fresh content, not recycled stuff. From a reader’s point of view, I get it: we want fresh content, not recycled stuff (and yes, I am thinking of the one best-selling author who wrote three guest posts for one of her books and then flooded the blogosphere with those three. By the time she was done, when I saw her name, I groaned. NOT a way to get someone to buy your book!). But as an author, I also get it because time spent writing yet another unique guest post means time away from fresh material.

Still, I think it’s worth it. You never know how or when you’ll find a new fan, and if you make the right kind of fan — the one who’ll follow you around the Internet and be a magnifier for your appearances without crossing that line into creepy — they are worth ten times their weight in gold. Those are the sorts of fans who’ll sell a hundred copies of your book for you, and they are the kind we all dream about. Admit it.

So… check out what Louise is offering to all of us and if you’ve got the ability to make the time, go for it. I’m certainly going to try — after all, anthologies are HARD to sell.

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Susan Speaks: Visit With Me

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It’s a BUSY week here at West of Mars, starting with yesterday’s visit with my client, Carol Kilgore. Stop in and see what I have to say about crowdsourcing your editing.

And then pick up the first book in Carol’s new trilogy, Jalapeno Cupcake Wench. I loved working on this with her, and I think if you’re into mysteries, you’ll like this a lot. It’s light, it’s fun– but it’s also thought-provoking and with quite a bit of substance.

Stay tuned. I’m busy with edits, as always, and as always, there’s room in my queue for your manuscript if it’s not already there. But there’s also a lot scheduled to be happening here at the blog over the next couple of weeks, and you won’t want to miss any of that, either.

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Susan Speaks: Two Years and Counting

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So. Remember that time I fell off my bike and damn near lost an eye?

Yeah, me, too. Believe me, I remember… well, I don’t remember most of it happening. The parts that I do remember are seared on my brain, still easily pulled from my beat-up memory. The parts that I don’t remember are, I’m told by the concussion specialist, lost forever. Black holes where I know something ought to be.

Occasionally, I reach for those black holes, but there’s nothing there. It’s like that moment in the Luray Caverns when they turn out the lights and there’s nothing… but this is even more absolute than that because at least while you’re in the unlit cavern, you are aware of your heart beating, your breath. You are aware of you.

These black holes are truly nothingness.

And it only took almost two years, but I can finally describe what I see out of my damaged eye, when I close the good one: the wallpaper pattern doesn’t match up. There’s a skip, a jump, an outline of a figure that’s not perfect. Go look at badly hung wallpaper and you’ll see what I mean.

Thankfully, that goes away when I open my good eye. Life is seamless again, as it should be. As I took for granted before this all began. And maybe that was the point of it all: to see the world differently, because — for better or worse — I certainly do.

Two years… it’s a long time. But I’m here, I’m working, I’ve got this down to a science and any of my clients will tell you that if anything, I’m more sharp-eyed than ever. That’s the most important part, I think. What I have to offer my clients has only gotten better. And yes, I continue to be able to take on new projects, written by new authors. Or new projects written by clients who drifted away after my accident, for whatever reason.

Let me help you make the best book possible. But let’s start tomorrow. Some anniversaries… they need to be observed quietly, introspectively. This is one of them.

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Susan Speaks: Purposefully Dark

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Although I’ve been at my desk, working, during this holiday break, I decided that since most people aren’t, anything I could or would post would wind up being ignored. So… West of Mars has seemed dark.

I hate the word seemed in fiction because it’s often used incorrectly. Webster’s defines it “To give the impression of being” (or something darn close to that; let’s see how good my short-term memory is these days), and in fiction, that’s often attached to something that actually doesn’t give an impression. All too often, what’s being tagged with seem winds up doing more than giving an impression.

And so I may seem to not be around, but that’s not the whole picture. Because I’ve been here, working, both on client work and my own fiction. My workspace is insanely comfortable and I love to be in here. And there’s only so much Two Dots that a girl can play.

I have Lines of Distinction and Featured New Book Spotlights coming up in the new year. I am debating doing a year-end reading roundup like I used to, but truth be told, I didn’t read 40 books this year (I think my number stands at 38 or 39) and… they weren’t particularly memorable books. At first, looking over the list, I thought it was me, being pickier about the books I read for pleasure. But looking back at various roundups (Here’s 2011’s), I truly was more excited about what I was reading. It felt like in 2017, I was just reading books as a way of marking time.

I will have to fix that.

Give me book suggestions, will you? Books that you love, series you can’t wait to spend more time with.

And send me your manuscripts to edit, so I can afford to buy and support more of the really good stuff that’s being written. See how the cycle works? Buy it, read it, review it, blog about it, someone else buys it, reads it, reviews it, blogs about it… and on and on.

Let’s power some really good stuff to the forefront in 2018, shall we?

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Call for Submissions: Musical Speculative Fiction

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This one just opened on December 1, and you know it’s in my wheelhouse, since it’s got a musical theme.

Here, let me explain

Triangulation, Parsec Ink’s themed speculative fiction annual, is now in its 14th year, and open for submissions. Whether you’re a new or established author, we hope you’ll send us your outstanding fantasy, science fiction, weird fiction, or speculative horror. Just tell us a story we won’t forget.

Theme: This year’s theme is “music”. Tentative title, Triangulation: The Music Edition. We’re looking for stories where music, a musical instrument, the parts of music, or musical culture make an appearance in a meaningful way. As a thematic element, you can apply a light touch or go “full tuba”. Be aware that we may retool the title of the collection, depending on the exact quality and character of the submissions we receive. If you’ve got a better title than “Triangulation: The Musical”, don’t forget to let us know in your cover letter.

Looks like Rock Fiction, smells like Rock fiction… probably quacks like Rock Fiction, too, if you can hear the music in a quack.

I love the idea of melding speculative fiction in with Rock Fiction. The possibilities here are absolutely endless, so push yourself to think of something more than the song that summons a demon, okay? Go. Have fun. Speculative means that someone somewhere’s gotta speculate, so speculate away, turn it into speculative fiction, build it on a musical framework, and you’re done.

(as if it’s that easy, huh)

Entry deadline is 28 February, so you’ve got some time to think of something, write it, polish it, and send it off. (Yes, I edit short stories — for those of you who may need me.)

And it’s a paying market, too. That’s always a nice thing. Semi-pro rates (2c per word), and contributor’s copies.

Get busy! And note that they, too, are using Submittable for their submissions. If you don’t have a Submittable account yet, what are you waiting for?

Need the submission guidelines again? Here they are.

And, as always, if you submit something and make the cut, report back! I love being able to brag about you guys.

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Still In Need of Promotion?

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Books do tell our stories! Not only should we support the NEA and NEH, but we should support each other, as well! Let me do that by sharing promotion opportunities with you.

Featured New Book.

Lines of Distinction.

Two easy promotion methods that I offer here at West of Mars — why aren’t more of you using them?

If you have, or if they are too hard for you (really? All you graphic teaser people?), here’s another promotional opportunity for you. It’s over at Wise Words Book Blogger, where Louise Wise is looking for current affairs articles written by your protagonist.

Seriously.

And seriously fun, no? Especially if you have a protag who doesn’t share your worldview. Stretching yourself to understand how your character would view something happening in the news right now is a great way to get to know not only your character, but to gain a better look at the world, as well.

We’re always told to write what we know, but sometimes, the demands of fiction don’t allow us to do that. This is a great opportunity to learn new things, stretch your writerly wings, explore a bit — and get some eyeballs on your project(s), too.

Go for it. Tell Louise I sent you — and be sure to drop me the link when it runs!

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Call for Submissions: Hot Holiday Reads

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Here’s an anthology I was invited to join. Not quite a call for submissions, but it’s an anthology! And they could have hated my story and sent it back, but it’s one of my favorite from the Trevolution. Grab a copy if you haven’t already.

Today’s call for submissions is for you romance writers and man, I wish I had something to submit. The deadline to submit is November 10, so if you’ve got something that needs a final polish, go for it. Otherwise, start on something for next year! (I am NOT kidding!)

The source is Fuse Literary — yes, a literary agency! — but don’t expect to back door your way in, and don’t disqualify yourself if you are already repped (but, of course, DO let your agent know what you’re up to, as they have a vested interest in your career). This is an anthology Fuse puts out annually, and the money from it goes to charity.

If you’re picked to contribute, you’ll get $10, which can be turned over to the charity, wink wink nudge nudge.

Here’s more about what they’re looking for:

The theme is winter-holiday romance. This can be any holiday in winter, any romance sub-genre, any heat level, any orientation, any fetish, etc. All are welcome, and diversity is encouraged.

Stories of all lengths will be considered, but this is not the place to submit a full-length novel.

We’re signing non-exclusive rights, so you’re free to publish your story elsewhere (let us know if your story has been published before).

As always, there’s no submission fee.

If your story is accepted, you will receive a single payment of $10, which you can choose to have donated directly to the Lung Cancer Alliance.

If you have any questions, leave a comment here so everyone can benefit.

For the record, this is the fourth time they’ve done this, so they’re old hands at by now (one would imagine). Submit your best!

And, since logic says they’ll go for the nice round Number Five (don’t ask how five is round; it is my brain), if you don’t have anything, start planning for next year. At worst, you’ll get a chance to write and push yourself and grow a little bit as a writer. And how is that possibly the worst that can happen?

Here’s the link to submit again.

As always, if you make the cut, let us know so we can brag about you and post links when the anthology goes live. Best part of the day when we get to do that!

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Another Source for Promotion!

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Speaking of promotion, here’s a freebie for my friend JJ Hensley. Pick up his latest, why don’t you?

I love my clients, and I absolutely adore being an editor. I get up every morning, eager to see who’s dumped what in my inbox, and what’s happening in my current edit-in-progress. I am one of the luckiest people ever, because I get to work with great writers on great projects.

But having great projects that turn into great books doesn’t mean anything if readers don’t ever hear about them. That’s why I offer the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction.

It’s also why I like to share your success stories, and also to let you know of calls for submissions… and for promotional opportunities. Like this one.

The POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing blog is accepting Wednesday Book Spotlight submissions from now until the end of the year. All you have to do is email NN Light your name and book title, and they will take it from there.

It’s first come, first served, of course. But it’s promotion, and who doesn’t need promotion?

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Call for Submissions: Women on Writing

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Pink Snowbunnies
I’m totally going to have to have a graphic made for these calls for submissions. Wouldn’t you agree? Anyway, this is the cover for an anthology that I submitted to — and made the cut. Seems fitting to include it here.

WOW-Women on Writing hosts a twice-yearly contest and call for submissions for both flash fiction (word count between 250 and 750; open topic) and creative non-fiction.

There IS a $10 entry fee, but they are clear about where the money goes (yay for transparency!) — and they are only accepting the first 300 entries. That sounds like a lot until you stop and consider that entries are open to writers worldwide and we all know I’m not the only one spreading the word about this contest!

Yes, it’s a contest. Did you miss the other times I mentioned that? Winner gets the entry fees — and more!

BUT there’s a few extra twists happening here. One is that for double the entry fee, you can get a critique back on your piece (once the contest ends, obviously. Right? Wasn’t that obvious?) — and having been a judge in a contest that asks for critiques, I’ve heard from the entrants that the critique is really nice to have in your hands. (THAT was some weird discussion, as I couldn’t out myself as a judge!)

The rules for non-fiction are a bit different, so go check them out at the WOW-Women on Writing site.

And, of course, be sure to read ALL the rules. There’s a downloadable file, so be sure to download, open, and READ IT. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by skipping that step (why am I giving myself the stink eye?)

Enter away! Once they hit the max number of entries, the buttons will be disabled, but as I’m typing this, they are live, so go have some fun!

As always, if you make the cut at any stage or wind up the winner, be sure to let us know so we can all cheer you on. And remember: you can totally do a Featured New Book Spotlight for published short pieces, as well!

Good luck, and here’s that link again.

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Tip O’ the Iceberg

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It kinda boggles me that I have to say this, but… here goes.

Vague, bombastic comments are a hallmark of our current Narcissist in Chief. He loves them.

But guess what?

They’re a form of narcissistic abuse.

Once again, I’m faced with the difficulties imposed by narcissistic abuse. It’s sneaky. Pernicious. Insidious. (Not sure of the difference? See what Merriam-Webster has to say!)

And it’s hard to remember that not everyone has learned to spot it so easily.

So. Let me break this one (and all the other vague statements) down.

These sorts of vague statements are a tease, a way to keep you coming back for more. How often do your local TV news broadcasts tease you like this? “Did that really happen? Find out at five!”

And, of course, anyone my age or older remembers Who Shot JR?

This is one of the reasons this form of abuse is so effective: we’re used to it. Acclimated to it, accustomed to it. We almost don’t think about it.

But we should. And we need to.

Because a narcissist uses this sort of vague tease to control you. To keep you sitting at his feet, salivating and anxious for the next tidbit that he’s going to dole out… whenever he sees fit to. Which could be soon, or it could be later, or it could be never because most likely, there was never anything to wait for. No iceberg, and no tip of it. At least the news media delivers on that promise to tell the story during the 5 p.m. newscast. After a looooooong summer of wondering, the world found out who shot JR.

A narcissist, though, won’t give you the answers. For one thing, he’ll tell you that you’re not worthy of being answered… but he will never admit that the second he feels he’s losing you, you are suddenly worthy. That’s when he will set his hook, cast his bait, and you’re caught up in his cycle once again.

Truth be told, he’s not interested in satisfying you; he’s interested in keeping you close, your attention fixed on him. He’s oh, so very vested in watching his victims run in circles, trying to figure out what he’s talking about. That confusion you feel, that need to know, to be seen, to be acknowledged. It feeds his need. He’s got you, his captive audience, and it’s sooo good. All that attention, hanging on his every word. He never has to explain himself, instead using a word here, another tease there, and he’ll watch his minions spin off into emotional reactions that allow all reason to fly out the window. They’ll continue to sit at his feet and salivate, and they’ll always be at the ready to do his bidding… because they’re always waiting for a satisfaction that never comes.

This, friends, is abuse via control. It’s a deliberate manipulation of your attention, your choices, your focus, your thoughts. It’s a constant keeping you on tenterhooks, constantly keeping you craving his attention, his favoritism. He’ll take you to the point where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, where you are so utterly dependent on him that you couldn’t identify which way was up if you lay on your back on the ground and stare at the sky.

Don’t fall for it.

When the Narcissist in Chief makes these kinds of statements — and let’s face it, if he did it on Facebook, we’d all accuse him of vaguebooking and be angry with him — ignore them for the gaslighting and abuse they are. Don’t reply to him, don’t use his name.

But do call out the behavior. Do teach others what to look for, how to recognize the abuse for what it is. Talk amongst yourselves, not to him.

It’ll drive him crazy and make him escalate, sure. But it’ll also drive him to make mistakes — and that’s when we’ll all begin to really see the winning happen.

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Susan Speaks: I’m Standing Right Here

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Another in an intermittent series dissecting what something looks like, but in reality isn’t.

Last week, there was a lot of talk online. Seems the Narcissist in Chief made a comment about how his wife was sad she wasn’t present.

Except… she was standing right beside him.

Most people wrote it off as dementia. It’s an easy enough excuse. It’s handy. It seems to make sense — and it’s the default explanation used by many, so it’s also the most comfortable reasoning. Dementia! Surely that’s it!

But those of us who’ve experienced this garbage firsthand, we know better. It’s not dementia. It’s not a mistake made by a garbled old man.

Oh, hell no. It was a quite deliberately aimed comment. And while the rest of the world was writing it off to the first, easiest, most popular reason, the target herself knew what was going on: She was being told, point-blank and in front of millions, that she didn’t count. That she wasn’t wanted there, that her presence offended, that she should have stayed home. She had erred in some way, and maybe she knew what that way was and maybe she didn’t, but it didn’t matter. The message was sent. And I promise you, the message was received.

If I had to guess, I’d say someone is jealous that his wife — who he recently introduced as “the star of the … family” — is better liked than he is.

And he can’t have that. Narcissists never can, even though spouses and children are generally viewed as nothing more than extensions of themselves, there only to serve the purpose of making the narcissist look good.

But there’s also a war within the narcissist happening here: No one can get more attention and love than I can. And they love you, which makes me look good.

A narcissist can’t understand that it’s okay if the object that’s supposed to make him look good is more popular.

And so he lashes out. He refuses to acknowledge her existence, her presence.

And that, my friends, is abuse.

The world witnessed a man abusing his wife. And very few people can even recognize it for what it is, let alone speak up about it.

Let’s change that.

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Susan Speaks: More Interviews!

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The cover of Trevor’s Song, because that novel is as personal as this post. If you’ve read it, please leave a review! If you haven’t, grab a copy at your favorite retailer.

I don’t usually get this personal when I give interviews. I don’t like to, and I often skip them. I encourage all authors to draw their own boundaries about what they will and won’t talk about, and I encourage their/our hosts to allow them/us to do so.

But something compelled me in this media query. Maybe it’s my own need to finally share with the world my real perspectives and my real truths, things I’ve kept hidden from all of you but increasingly not to myself. Maybe I’m making up for fifteen years of hiding.

Or maybe I just feel comfortable talking about it at last. Certainly, my truth may be another’s lifeline, salvation, or help. Hell, maybe it’ll inspire some fiction, and that’s the best compliment an editor like me can get.

The article is up at Reader’s Digest. I’ll let you click through and read it, not because it’s too horrible and personal to talk about but because a reporter did some good work and you should check it out and give her props for it. Fiction ain’t the only kind of writing I love and respect (it’s just my preferred type of writing to work on), and I encourage you to seek out good writing and good reporting wherever you can.

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Clicky Clicky!

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Yes, that’s an invitation.

My new site design went live just now — well, last night most likely — and I’m showing it off.

There are, of course and as always, some bugs to work out. I know some links are broken. It might even be more than some.

BUT, to celebrate and to invite you to look things over, I’m making you an offer, one I hope you won’t refuse:

Either 50 pages edited for free

OR

$50 off your edit

IF you find the most typos on the site.

Now, the blog archives are HUGE. They go back almost eleven and a half years. So I don’t expect you to wade through all of them (especially because that’s where the most broken links are). But if you want to, there’s a lot of work in the past eleven and a half years that I’m proud of. A lot of fiction, even, if you are thinking of hiring me or never really paid attention to my writing chops because you’re so focused on my editing skills.

Those of you who know me well know that despite the prickly exterior, I’m generous and a softie at heart. Which means that maybe there are going to be more than zero free or discounted edits offered around here. I’m not promising anything because it depends on how generous a mood I find myself in, but…

That’s the offer.

Either 50 pages edited free or $50 off your whole thing.

You choose.

Have fun checking out the new site.

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Another Promo Opportunity for Authors!

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Seems like a good time to remind us all that many of our fellow authors rely on grants from the NEA and NEH to help pay the bills.

In addition to Lines of Distinction and the Featured New Book Spotlight, both of which always have openings for authors of all ilk, I’ve got news today of a site that loves to post author interviews. And they make it super easy!

The site is called The Book Squirrel. Know going in, my friends, that they consider themselves to be family-friendly, so that means:

I will not feature erotica, violence, or covers that are erotic/look like porn.

Got that? I expect you to honor that.

Seriously.

After that, though, things are pretty easy. There’s a choice of questions and you answer up to ten of them, then submit. Provide the buy links for your book and your social links and voila. Interview completed.

It’s easy, and I’m all about easy, so I encourage you guys to take the time and answer the questions.

As always, remember to tell your reader base where to go in order to visit the site and see your answers for themselves. And if you’re so inclined to add The Book Squirrel to your reader and discover new stuff, well, I highly encourage that, too! Remember that to be part of the community, you have to act like part of the community.

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Call for Submissions: Short Stories

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This is an anthology I’m featured it. It was unjuried and authors were invited to submit. But still! It’s a publication credit, and don’t discount those.

I have some very dear friends in publishing, and because they are dear friends, I’m always happy to share news of what they are up to. This one, however, I almost didn’t talk about, simply because I don’t want to expand the pool of submissions and make it that much harder for myself to make the cut. See how much faith I have in you guys?

But then my sense of fairness kicked in and if it’s good for me, you know it’s good for you. So here you go.

Running Wild Press has put out a call for submissions for a new short story anthology. This will be their second, so you’ll be getting in on the ground floor of something pretty special. Or maybe not the ground floor, but the first floor, right? Because it’s the second anthology and the first was the ground floor…

Yeah, yeah. You’re not here for a close-up look into the demented world of Susan’s brain (but it’s such a good editorial brain!). You’re here for the deets and the links.

I don’t know much else. There’s no talk of payment, so I’d expect that’s not something that should motivate you to submit or not.

What there is talk of is genre. And here’s what they say about that:

Genre agnostic. Great writing and great stories that cross genres.

Now, to me, that’s pretty contradictory. Are we agnostic, or do we want to cross? One or the other, please! Or… as I ultimately decided, maybe they just want really good fiction and won’t care if it’s agnostic or if the story’s been colored outside the lines.

Oh, and a 15,000 word limit, too, so you have plenty of room to have fun and play.

Submit via Submittable before September 15.

Good luck, and if you make the cut, be sure to let me know so we can all cheer you on!

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Call for Submissions!

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So I like bringing you guys opportunities to further your writing and/or your careers — because the world deserves the best writing we (yes, me included in that) can offer.

Except that by telling you about them, unless it’s my own site, I can’t really endorse them. I mean, most of what I bring to you is stuff I come across, not opportunities for promotion or calls for submissions that I have personal experience with. Which means you should always, always vet an opportunity carefully, even though I’ve already looked things over and decided that hey, they look pretty solid.

Today’s entry fits that category: I looked ’em over but have no personal experience with them.

Crystal Lake Publishing will be opening their submissions on October 1 of this year. I know! That’s a month and a half away, so why am I telling you about it now?

So you can write something, silly. Pull out something you’d set aside and polish it up. Whatever it is you have to do.

They ARE looking for haunting stories. Not necessarily ghosts, but something that’ll stick with the reader. And yes, they want it dark-themed (but no, although the anthology will be called Tales from the Lake, they aren’t looking for stories with lakes).

So that’s the bare bones, no pun intended. I’ll let you go over to Crystal Lake Publishing and read their call for submissions. You’re big people and you’re professional writers. You can do some of the leg work yourself.

Have fun. Let me know if you need a set of eyeballs on your piece before you submit it, and definitely let me know if you’re accepted.

Now, go rule the world with your literary stylings. That’s an order.

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Susan’s Decoder Ring: “On Many Sides”

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For better or for worse, there’s something about me that’s Edward Cullen glitter to narcissists. They love the challenge I pose, and they always approach me knowing I can see straight through them. That gives me a lot of power over them.

But now with a Commander in Narcissism at the helm and influencing more than just real estate, it’s time to teach you guys how to use the Magic Decoder Ring that all of us who’ve survived narcissistic abuse learn to create.

Let’s start with the speech the other day. The one that was carefully scripted — until the end. And if you watch carefully, you can see when the decision to add “on many sides” is made. You can see the smug face that no narcissist can hide after they’ve lobbed one they know will be successful.

But here’s the thing about those three words: The fact that they pissed off half of America, if not all of it and if not a good cross-section of the world, was a bonus. A calculated and deliberate bonus, sure, and here’s why:

It was very clear that our NPD’s handlers had been very clear about the importance that he read the statement, only the statement, and nothing but the statement. What makes it clear? The fact that it happened.

But right there at the end, just as everyone relaxed — hey, he did it! He listened! He behaved! — he slipped those three words in. Frustrated hands flew in the air. Disgust crossed faces. Handlers and advisors turned on each other, screaming, pointing fingers and flinging blame that you couldn’t control him and Eff you, I did everything I could! No one can control that bastard!

I’ve witnessed these scenes. They’re not pretty.

And the narcissist loves them. Feeds on them, even.

Because the narcissist has no conscience. There’s no distinction between positive attention and negative attention. So all the NPD processes is, “Look at that reaction! I really riled them up and I’d only do that if they loved me.”

And don’t forget the bonus: “While they’re going on about how great my speech was, no one will pay attention while I do this over here. It’s okay that it’s illegal. They love me! They won’t mind. Besides, look at them. They don’t care what I do.”

That’s the easy part. The part any psychologist can tell you.

Now, listen up to the deeper part. This is the part the survivor can tell you.

That’s the message that was sent to the speechwriter: MY contribution was the best. The part I added? Got the biggest reaction. And because mine was better, yours sucked. It was inadequate. You are nothing next to me.

Logic says if the NPD isn’t happy with the speech that was written, the speechwriter would be fired.

But… this is narcissism. And one of the best things a narcissist does is play with the victim’s emotions. Which means not only will that speechwriter stay around, but his/her inability to write a speech as good as the NPD’s is something that will be held over his/her head… forever.

Why put up with it?

Because at the same time is the challenge: top me. C’mon. I know you can. I hired you because of how good you are. You are the exact person I need. (But really. I’m the best. Not you. Me.)

It’s a sick cycle that victim and NPD engage in. It’s blood to the vampiric NPD, so they’re not going to end it. The victim has to stand up and leave the relationship.

I know. You think all this is a stretch.

But stay with me. I’ll keep outlining the message of narcissistic abuse as they happen or are revealed. You’ll learn to see the pattern. You’ll learn to see how the gaslighting works, how the abuse happens. Narcissistic abuse is the most insidious of all forms of abuse, but it’s time to step out of the shadows and show you how it works. How to defuse it, and how to identify it so you can save yourself from being its victim.

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