This is a guest sermon I gave at Nichols-Bethel United Methodist Church yesterday, discussing the importance of perseverance in writing and in other aspects of my life. Even if you’re not religious, I hope you’ll listen to this message and that it touches a base with and inspires you. Perseverance is vital to life, and for me, praying to God has helped me to keep persevering.
Once a writer’s work is published it is out there—and at the mercy of the critics. Reviews are what help spread the word about their writing, but the simple fact is that not everyone is going to like it—or at least be glowing with praise. Of course, one would hope they would, but people have different likes and tastes, and so they will find certain things they like—and don’t like—about a particular work. A writer puts hours—years—of passion and hard work into it, and to have it criticized—yes, it can make a writer feel low.
I know. People have posted reviews of Mystical Greenwood over the past three years. Most, I’m happy to say, have enjoyed it. But there have been aspects about it that weren’t to their taste. For example, some thought the language was still too flowery, or didn’t like the alternating points of view, or had trouble connecting to the characters, or felt I didn’t do enough showing not telling in regard to characters’ emotions, and typos. It has been discouraging for me. But at the same time I’ve noticed some aspects of the story and how it was told were disliked by some but praised by others. While the dislikes certainly have stung, it demonstrates how people have different opinions, and, as a writer, one can’t please everyone.
Criticism should never be deliberately insulting or hurtful. Constructive criticism helps writers become better by encouraging them rather than insulting them. It was one of the founding points I included when I started my own critique group years ago. But there have been reviews of books that were harshly negative. Edgar Allan Poe was nicknamed the “Tomahawk Man” because when he reviewed something (or someone) he didn’t like, he was absolutely brutal and unrepentant towards the author and their work. But it’s also been observed that many critics in his time would be positive no matter what, and some even took bribes in exchange for giving glowing reviews. Poe, on the other hand, was honest, and most of those he heavily criticized aren’t as well known today.
It goes to show if not everyone is glowing with praise, there’s a plus side: your work is being taken seriously. Books that have been heavily criticized have endured, becoming literary classics. Several were banned for one reason or another, but that has become a badge of honor for many books, many of which were revolutionary for their times and for literature. And writers mustn’t forget about constructive criticism: they can see what could have been done better. Writers can take that (gradually, of course) to become better at their craft. So while it is difficult to get over criticism, it is possible. It may initially hurt, but a writer can rise up again and become better. Writers should never stop believing in themselves and their writing. And in my case, with Mystical Greenwood no one has yet to give it two stars or one, so that’s a good sign.
- Kayla Ann. Responding to Criticism.
- Zikra, Nour. Will Negative Book Reviews Hurt Me? Writing Advice.
Check out this Q&A I did with author Elizabeth Holland:
Many thanks for this opportunity, Elizabeth!
Happy Holidays, everyone! Wishing you all a Happy New Year, especially after a year like this. Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, which is the origin of many winter holidays. As the light and warmth of the sun will return, may the new year bring new light and warmth for all of us! I am certainly hoping 2021 brings changes and progress both career-wise and in writing.
And don’t forget: books (and book reviews) make great gifts! My Amazon author page was updated to include more anthologies from past and present, including As the World Burns, which came out last month.
This month will mark this website’s 5th anniversary (twelve days from today, to be exact)! I’d already done a post looking back after two years, but five years is one of those major milestones that several people mark. So here’s a summary of what this website has seen and went through in five years.
I started out knowing nothing other than I had to set one up in advance, as many friends had advised me so. I looked at other indie authors’ sites to see what I should do, made some choices of my own, and took advice from others about what to include and how to improve it. Over these five years, the website has gone through a facelift as well as a change in domain name. I learned a lot as I went along.
This post is my 60th. I started out discussing personal insights and aspects in the craft of writing, and have since expanded to marketing and sharing books in my inscribed collection as a means to promote other authors. I’ve made guest appearances on many other authors’ blogs too, the majority of which were interviews about me and my work. All can be found on my site’s blog page.
When I started this site, I had two publications in poetry and creative nonfiction, respectively. The latter prompted me to create a Facebook Author page (two months prior to the website). Because of this website, I set up accounts on Twitter and Tumblr, and found new ways to be active on YouTube and Goodreads. And now I have an Amazon Author page!
This website has witnessed more publications in poetry, short stories, and the biggest of all, my novel Mystical Greenwood (which was also a finalist for an award). The Nightmare Whispers anthology series came out a week ago, and Fae Dreams, also from Fae Corps Inc, yesterday. More are in the works, and/or are awaiting publication. Here’s a teaser in an old open mic reading I did at the MWA in Annapolis of some short stories:
This website has been used to promote my work as well as many events that I’ve participated in, in-person as well as virtual. I have acquired followers and readers from all over the globe!
The top ten places from which I’ve had views as of now:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
Last month, in fact, had more views than any other month before it, and the day with the most views (as of this moment) when my last post came out.
It has been quite a journey so far. Who can say where I’ll be in ten years? All I know is that I must keep pressing on, learning and experimenting.
The episode is on Podbean too.
Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to listen to their other episodes!
And be sure to keep an eye out on my poetry and short story pages for upcoming links to the anthologies Fae Dreams and Nightmare Whispers: Madness Echoes from Fae Corps Inc! They’re due to come out at the end of the month! Some links are already available for preorder!
Interesting to note that some of my work that will appear in those anthologies are tied with earlier days of writing. “Crossing the Estuary” was originally a high school creative writing assignment I’d thought lost but rediscovered. “Candlelight” was an assignment in college where we had to write a poem in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” following specific guidelines (yesterday was the anniversary of Poe’s death). I recall I actually started writing it on Halloween!
Here is my latest guest appearance, with the talented poet and blogger Vatsarah Stavyah, in which I discuss being a writer as well as my novel Mystical Greenwood:
Many thanks to Vatsarah for this opportunity!
And for those of you haven’t seen or heard yet, I am going to have some short works appearing in two anthologies from Fae Corps Inc, Fae Dreams and Nightmare Whispers, Volume II, scheduled to be released on Halloween! Another poem will be appearing in another upcoming anthology from Indie Blu(e) Publishing titled As the World Burns. Be sure to keep an eye on my poetry and new short story page for future links!
Also, as today is 9/11, I ask for a moment of remembrance for those who died on this day 19 years ago, and for those who were affected by it.
During the COVID-19 crisis, a number of marketing opportunities opened up for me. I’ve already shared a few of them in previous posts, but here are others.
Here is a guest post that I did for author C. A. Campbell, in which I discuss how online marketing took on a greater role during the stay-at-home order, especially with Twitter and certain hashtags:
Many thanks to C. A. Campbell for the opportunity to speak about it!
As I mentioned in my guest post for Campbell, I appeared Live on Twitter as part of a virtual book tour sponsored by Our Own Write, which had been set up in response to the fact that several writers’ conferences had to be cancelled due to the crisis, including, in my case, the Maryland Writers’ Conference.
In the tour, I read an excerpt from Mystical Greenwood and answered questions. My broadcast got cut off in the middle due to technical issues, and I had another issue with the camera, which is why a good part of it is “black,” but at least I didn’t get cut off during the reading part.
Still, I enjoyed the experience very much.
Go check them out if you have a book that you want to promote at their future events! I highly recommend them.
Finally, though this was in the works beforehand, I did a short interview with the British-based Chat and Spin Radio. I appear 25 minutes in:
Overall, yes, marketing changed quite a bit because of COVID19 and staying home. But, as I said in my guest post for Campbell, it’s all about pressing on.
Check out this interview I did with my friend and fellow author Ally Aldridge as part of her “Behind the Book” series, in which I discuss my novel Mystical Greenwood. Many thanks, Ally, for this opportunity!
Many thanks to author C. L. Schneider for including my book among her newsletter’s guest indie authors!
The link to the second appearance in this post’s title, sadly, is no longer active. But this was basically its content:
Mystical Greenwood, Book I of One with Nature
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the land of Denú who has always longed for something more in life. His life changes when he encounters a gryphon and a mysterious healer. Drawn into a conflict against one determined to subjugate the kingdom, Dermot and his brother Brian are forced to leave their home.
A legendary coven must now reunite, for they are Denú’s greatest hope. In the course of meeting unicorns and fighting dragons and men in dark armor, Dermot discovers a deep, sacred magic that exists within every greenwood he crosses through, but his own role in this conflict is greater than he suspects. Can he protect those he loves, or will all that’s good be consumed by darkness?
Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Nook:
Andrew McDowell has been writing since he was a child. He has written and published fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. He studied at St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland. Andrew is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor for the literary magazine JMWW. His novel Mystical Greenwood was a Finalist in the 2019 American Fiction Awards for Fantasy: Epic/High Fantasy, and he won second place in the creative nonfiction category of the 2014 Maryland Writers’ Association’s Literary Contest for his essay on his experiences with Asperger syndrome.
“I believe that there are few books for teenage boys and girls out today that match the excitement, the creativeness, the originality, the great characters, and the adventure this writer captures so well.”
- Karen DeMers Dowdall, Author of The Captain’s Witch and Garrett’s Bones (read her full review on her blog)
“Mystical Greenwood is a coming of age story full of poetic writing that keeps you mesmerized from start to finish. I loved this read!”
- Nour Zikra, Author of Divinity Falling and Dance with the Devil
“A wonderful fantasy story set in a highly imaginative setting where nature is revered and respected.”
Chris Hall, Author of You’ll Never Walk Alone, The Silver Locket, and Following the Green Rabbit
“This book was what I read when I needed to center myself and feel more at peace, and I rooted for the characters the whole time. There was adventure, excitement, heartbreak and triumph.”
- Rose J. Fairchild, Author and Contributor to Through the Sunshine
“If you have a passion for nature, animals and fantasy, and want to see skies light up with ancient magic sorcery while learning the secrets of the greenwood, then pick up this tome.”
A. R. Clayton, Author of Memory Bound
“I enjoyed the book on many levels–the appealing main character Dermot, whose arc of self-discovery is well imagined and revealed. The cast of intriguing major and minor characters who exist in a beautifully evoked natural world which I particularly enjoyed along with the thoughtful reminders of human responsibility for that world.”
Susan Moger, Author of Of Better Blood