Thoughts on Exhibiting at a Con as a Woman

This past weekend I was exhibiting at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comiccon (AKA ComiKaze). This is only my second con and was my first big con.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about how women are treated at cons, whether as a cosplayer, a panel participant, or just an attendee. Sometimes you get harassed–verbally or physically–as a cosplayer because, to some men, a costume gives them permission to ignore societal norms and stop treating you like a person. Sometimes you get talked over because obviously a man understands the subject matter better than you do in your tiny woman brain. And sometimes guys are just jerks and you get treated like shit so things like The Backup Ribbon Project has to be created.

We all get this. We get it because it’s really not all that different from our day-to-day lives except maybe we’re in a costume this time, or our harassers are.

But today I’m gonna talk about having a table at a con as an artist and the bullshit I had to smile through. These were mostly microaggressions, so I’m sure some will dismiss them, but I think they’re indicative of the crap we are trained to put up with because it’s easier to just smile and avoid rather than confront. And, who knows? Maybe a guy will read this and see himself in these douchebags and maybe he’ll try to change. That’s all we can hope for, right? A little bit of change.

So, if you’re reading this, you probably know who I am and know that I’m a writer. If you’re here because you saw this linked on Twitter or somewhere and don’t know who I am, well, I’m a writer. I have three series out under this name, all various shades of Fantasy.

I am very lucky to have a supportive husband who will go with me to conventions to help me man the table, move the heavy boxes, share the long car rides, watch the table to let me take much-needed breaks. But that’s all he is at these things: my helper. My husband is not a writer or an artist (though he his a martial artist, that doesn’t apply here). He wears shirts that promote my books and website, he passes out business cards for me, he supports me.

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But guess what reader? 7-8 men out of 10 who approach my table automatically assume he’s the writer/artist at the table. Now. I know what you’re thinking, “Shauna, that’s an honest mistake.” So let me further explain.

Behind my table are two huge stand-up banners that have “SHAUNA GRANGER” written across their tops. Affixed to the front of my table is another banner that says, you guessed it, “SHAUNA GRANGER” in bold white lettering against black.

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Now, fine, maybe their eyes miss the last ‘a’ in my first name and they think it says “SHAUN” but give me a second. Behind the table are two chairs. I sit in one, dead center of my table with a clear space in front of me for signing books. My husband sits in the other, off to the side, and slightly behind me.

And, I’m not counting the people who also looked at my signs before making eye contact and asked, “So, who’s the writer?” Because, yeah, there’s a chance we’re just manning the table. No. I’m talking about the men who would look at my banners, glance at my books, then look right at my husband, never at me, and say, “So, you’re the writer?”

Now, here’s another funny thing, reader. People who assumed I was the writer, or who didn’t assume either of us was the writer, would smile at me when they realized it was me. They would ask me about the books and nod and listen. When they bought books and I offered to sign them, they’d light up and say, “Yes, please!” The guys who assumed the writer was my husband? Would then lose their smile, lift their eyebrows, and then very quickly leave the table when my husband would direct them to me, the writer.

What the fuck guys? What the actual fuck?

This happened a lot. A lot.

At one point my husband looked at me and said, “Wow  they really do just assume it’s me, don’t they? Just because I’m the guy at the table. What bullshit.”

Another thing that happened that really tested my patience were the guys who made fun of my books or my very presence at the con as a novelist, not a comic book artist.

Yeah, that’s right. You know these guys, the ones that think it’s funny to tease you about who you are or what you’re doing. I’ll give you an example of a conversation I had with a guy who was probably ten years younger than me and had absolutely no intention of ever buying my books.

Guy: So, I imagine it’s pretty hard to be a novel writer at a comic book convention.

Me: No, not really.

Guy: Really?

Me: Really. I have a different product, so it stands out.

Guy: People actually buy your books?

Me: Yes.

Guy: Do you sell a lot?

Me: I do alright.

Guy: *smirks* Right.

Me: Well, when people do buy, they buy whole series.

Guy: Right because they can’t buy them anywhere else.

Me: No. My books are available at all retailers.

Guy: Really. (no, not a question)

Me: *strained smile*

Guy: So. Tell me about this series. *points at Elemental Series*

Me: *Give brief explanation because it’s 5 books*

Guy: The Elemental Series.

Me: Yes. *Starts to explain what “elemental” means*

Guy: *cuts me off* So, Potassium, Magnesium…? *Stupid asshole smile*

Me: Yeah, alright.

Guy: So what’s the story about?

Me: I just told you.

Guy: No but what’s it about.

Me: Each book?

Guy: Yes.

Me: *starts to explain book one*

Guy: *cuts me off* Do people ever come back the next day and tell you they liked your books?

Me: The very next day? No, I don’t expect people to read a whole novel series in less than 24 hours.

Guy: So they don’t.

Me: They usually find me online later.

Guy: Online. Right. *walks away*

Yeah. Bullshit like that happens to us all the time. See, I consider everyone who comes to my table as a potential new reader. Even if they start off as a jerk, I am in sales mode so I don’t treat them like jerks, even if they deserve it. But if you’re never going to be interested in something a woman has created or if you’re coming up just to be a total asshole, don’t waste our time. Move along and find a table only manned by men. Only go to a table where you might spend money, not just to make yourself feel like a big man because you’re not. You’re a tiny man.

Guys, don’t be these guys. Because, honestly, we only have so much patience and you might be the one we lose it on.

ETA: The guys who would wait to approach until after my husband would leave the table. I’d see them lingering, their eyes glancing in my direction, not really talking to anyone at any other table, and then my husband would leave for a minute and the lingerers would swoop in to talk to me. It was creepy and they never bought books.

ETA 2: The asshats who tell you to smile. I have been told to smile by men my whole life. My whole life. I don’t stand around or walk around like a grinning idiot. How weird would that be really?! But men would come up to my table, from the opposite direction as the one I was looking and would say shit like, “You’re supposed to smile when a customer comes up.” Like, bro, I wasn’t looking in your direction, but thanks for the advice.

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It’s New Release Day!

Today is the day! Today is the day that Wycked – The Seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel is live!

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I am very excited to have this book out in the world just in time for Halloween. And I’m even more excited to say that I broke my record for pre-orders with this book!

If you haven’t had a chance to pre-order it, you can just go buy it now! Here are some helpful links for you:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks

I’d also like to give you some information about a contest I’m running right now. You can enter to win my very own author proof of Wycked, personalize and signed just for you!

It’s an easy enough contest. All you have to do to enter to win is post some reviews of the previous six Matilida Kavanagh Novels. You can post on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, iBooks, and Goodreads. That’s six websites, for six books, so you can have as many as 36 entries into the contest!

Now, don’t worry; I don’t expect you to post 36 unique reviews. You can just take the review from each book and copy paste it to the other sites. And you don’t have to review all of the books. If you only want to review one or two, then that’s fine. If you only review Wytchcraft on Amazon, that’s your one entry. If you take that review and copy paste it to three of the retail sites, that’s three entries for you. You follow? You can enter as many times or as few times as you like.

Also, if you were one of the awesome people to pre-order Wycked, that counts for an extra entry. Just show me proof of purchase before the release date (today) and it’ll count!

So, you can either send me links or screen shots of your reviews and pre-orders to shaunagranger @ gmail . com (no spaces). You have until midnight on Halloween to get your entries in. I will pick a winner on November 1st. Good luck!

Revising, editing, and all the rough drafts.

As I sit down to work on yet another rough draft, I thought it might be interesting to read about how I revise and edit a new book. Because I also offer manuscript critique services, I see a lot of books before they’re ready from new writers. It’s always hard to know when a book is done and it’s time to let it go out into the world and flourish or die by its own merit, but you do need to spend a significant amount of time on it before that happens.

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First, I outline the story. When I was a new writer, I didn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, so if you’re not an outliner, don’t freak out; everyone is different and things change from book to book.

Once the outline is done, I fast draft the book. This means I write daily, usually taking 1-2 days off a week so I don’t burn out, until it’s done. There are some days where I might just get 500 words or 1,000 words, but my goal is 2-4k words a day. But, again, every book is different. As long as I make some progress, I’m happy.

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Then, when that first draft is done, I back up my work in 2-3 different places. I like to email myself the document every day so I don’t ever lose any work. But when I finish, I email myself again the completed document. I also save it to a memory stick. This way, if something happens to my computer, my book is safely stored in two places that can’t also be damaged by whatever killed my computer. When I was writing my fourth book, Fire, my hard-drive crashed and I lost about 20k words because I wasn’t in the habit of emailing myself on the daily, just at the end of a draft. It was devastating. Never again!

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Then I walk away. I close the file on the computer and I don’t look at it again for at least a week, sometimes as much as six months. Again, it depends on the book (and deadlines). But I get away from it and do other things. I clean the house, I read other people’s books, I relax. I do things that have nothing to do with the book I was writing. I may even start writing (and finish) another book before I ever come back to it. There’s a few reasons for this but the main reason is so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

You just spent a couple of months to the better part of a year focused on this one story, it’s been loud in your head, the characters alive and and controlling. If you come back too soon, you’ll remember everything and you won’t see mistakes, you won’t find the plot holes, you won’t pick up on the weaknesses or the thin characters. You need to read your rough draft as though you weren’t the one who wrote it.

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I like to print out a copy of the MS to go over it the first time. This way I’m not working on it in the same medium that I wrote it. I am familiar with it on the computer screen, so my eyes and mind might trick me into reading it the way I wanted it to be, not the way it is. By printing it, it becomes a new book and I can take a bright red pen to it and make corrections and notes to transcribe back on the computer. That’s the second draft.

Now, depending on the book, this is the right time to give it to beta readers to go over. I like to have at least two readers, but three is ideal. You want readers who will give it back to you in 2-4 weeks. This gives you another break away from the book, but also ensures your readers focus on your book so they don’t forget what they read in the first half because they took so long to finish it.

Wait to make any changes to your MS until you hear back from all betas. This gives you the chance to see if critiques are just personal preference or if you really missed something because they all mentioned the same thing(s).

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Now I go over the book again, this time on the computer, comparing beta notes, seeing if I agree or not. If I agree with a change, I have to make sure I thread it through the whole book. That’s the third draft.

Now I put it on a tablet to read it as an ebook. You may need another break or you may be ready to just dive in. So, again, I’m reading it in a different medium and more like any reader who bought it would read it. I use the highlight and note function to keep track of issues and changes I want to make. Once I make those changes, I’ve got a fourth draft.

Only on the 3rd or 4th draft does my editor get the book. Because I self-publish, I pay my editor for her services, so why in the world would I send her a book before it’s ready? I wouldn’t, and neither should you. I often get MSs that are not ready and people are paying me a fee to go over the book and 90% of the time, most of my notes could have been caught by the author or by a beta reader to be addressed for free.

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Once I get my MS back from my editor and implement the line-edits and content-edits, I am up to the fifth draft. Guess what? It goes back for a proof-reader to comb to make sure we didn’t miss any tiny mistakes.

So, in the end, I’m publishing the 5th or 6th draft. I don’t always use beta readers because sometimes I’m up to the 5th, 6th, or 7th book in a series and I can’t expect friends to do that much work for me. But the first book in a series? A stand alone? A trilogy? Yes, I use beta readers for all of those.

You will get to the point where you start to hate your book because you’ve read it so many times, but that’s what it takes to polish it, to develop those characters, to make the plot compelling. This is the work that goes into a book. Getting that first draft is the easy part, making it a book is where the hard work really is.

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Writing is re-writing. This is the rule you should be living by.

Cover Reveal: The Seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel

Hello my loverlies!

I’ve been waiting to share this cover and title reveal with you for ages now. Seriously, I had both ready before I even started outlining the new book. But this week I crossed the 50k word mark in the book so I think the time has come.

First, the official release date will be October 25, 2016. So if you’re able to come to Comikaze this year, it will be available that week, just in time!

Here are the pre-order links if you’d like to be a superstar and get that:

AmazonSmashwords | Kobo | Barnes and Noble (coming soon)

Now, without further delay, the seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel:

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She’s be manipulated, hunted, and caged, now Mattie is fed up and ready to take on the establishment. It is time for a regime change. It is time to expose the lies and crimes of those in charge.

At least that’s what everyone else wants. Mattie just wants to avenge her parents’ death and find a moment of peace. But in order to do that she will have to help her friends with their plans to overthrow the Los Angeles Coven and the Grand High Witch and her cronies.

But with nightmares and anxiety plaguing her, can Mattie do this and keep what little of her sanity she has left? She’ll find out when she enters The Witch Trials of Los Angeles. 

More Carrots than Sticks

My day on the Spellbound Scribes’ blog. Maybe you need to hear it, yes you, who is doing a great job even if your boss doesn’t think they need to tell you so.

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Before I became a writer, I had a number of other jobs. Some were pretty good, others really weren’t. Obviously, none of them were my passion, but the ones that were especially bad were so because they were the kind that stole pieces of you, every day, until you were little more than a hunched over, dead-eyed employee, who was just waiting for enough PTO hours to take a mental health day.

Some jobs are just tough and that’s okay, they need to be done, and often those are the jobs that pay pretty well because of how hard they are on you, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally. But what makes those jobs bearable or unbearable is the work environment. At my worst job (and best paying), I had a manager look at me and say, “No one should need to hear ‘You’re doing a good job!’ or ‘Nice work…

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I’ve Kept My Promise About Patreon

If you remember, I posted that I was giving Patreon another go and I promised I was going to be better about posting there and making it worth your while to become a patron of mine.

Well, I think I’ve done a fairly good job about it.

There are some exclusive fiction posts that only patrons can read and I’ve started adding some flash fiction for everyone. Yes, that means these posts are available to anyone to read, without pledging any money.

The flash fiction I’m working on right now is a novella set in the Ash and Ruin universe, which, believe me, was difficult to get into the mood for after the week we’ve had. But I’m pushing through! Fiction is where we find escape and help to deal with the real world around us. So I keep writing.

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck

Anyway.

I hope you’ll check it out, check out the reward levels I have set up for patrons. If you become just a $1 a month patron, you will be included in the acknowledgements of my upcoming book, the seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel! If you sign up for a higher amount, you’ll get some awesome, tangible rewards!

Check it out here.

My Alter Ego Has a New Release!

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The release days for Leila Bryce Sin are always a little quieter, but I think her books are a little louder.

The projects we’re currently working on are the Brimstone War Novels. Fun, dangerous books set in the hot desert of Las Vegas with demons and angles and all manner of supernatural creatures fighting and loving until one side wins.

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And today the second book in the series released!

If you like your Urban Fantasy with a little more heat, a little more skin, a little more steam, you might want to check this series out. I think it’s a great place to start your summer.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords