Creative Business 101: Tips on How to Identify your Audience

Creative Business 101: Tips on How to Identify your Audience

Have you ever stopped to wonder why you are a creator? Many of us create as a hobby, for personal pleasure or relaxation. But if you are starting a creative business, you need to reframe this question.

“Why do you create?” becomes “Who are you creating for?”

In this post, I will share some quick tips for identifying your audience and how to use that information to design content that will appeal to your ideal reader or customer.

Creative Business 101: How to Identify Your Audience

What is an Audience, and Why Does it Matter?

When we talk of “audience” in the world of creative entrepreneurs (or any kind of entrepreneur!) we are referring to a pool of potential buyers of our work. Your work might be a novel, a painting, or a hand-knit sweater. It could be a song you’ve put out on YouTube or a film you’ve made. Even if you are not ready to sell your work, you can still make connections with your future customers. These people are your audience.

Identifying your audience is the first step you need to take when you decide to transition from being a hobbyist to a career creator. Who are you trying to reach? The answer seems simple. We want everyone to love us and buy our stuff. We want fame and riches and global recognition of our awesomeness, right?

(Okay, if you just nodded your head, go back and read Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur.)

The trouble is, if you cast your net too wide it doesn’t get deep enough to catch any fish. If you try to market yourself to everyone, you end up attracting no one.

How to Identify Your Audience

You cannot market yourself or your work to everyone on the face of the planet. We all like different things, and respond to different personalities. Identifying your audience comes down to two things: who you are, and what you do. This becomes: who is going to like me? Who is going to want what I have created?

Many creators don’t really stop to think about these things until after they have completed a project. We feel inspired, we work in a wild frenzy of creative activity, and after some crises of faith and existential dread, voilà! We have a thing!

If you have never considered your audience until this moment, that’s okay. I’m going to help you out. Once you go through these tips and you do know your audience, your next project will be much easier to market!

First, let’s talk about you.

“To Find Yourself, Think For Yourself.” –Socrates

Who Am I?

I don’t necessarily mean this in a deep, existential way. But if you know exactly who you are, this part will be easy. When I ask “Who are you?” I mean “How do you present yourself to the world?” Here are some questions to consider:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your gender identity and sexual orientation?
  • What are your religious beliefs?
  • What are your political beliefs?
  • What is important to you?
  • What charities and causes do you support?
  • What kind of people do you like to be friends with?
  • What kind of people do you not get along well with?
  • Are you a cat person? A dog person? Do you like animals?
  • What kinds of food do you like?

This is basic stuff, but it’s surprising how many people never really sit down and think about these things. Go back to the days of those 20 questions surveys you used to be tagged in back in the early days of social media. Take a few, just for fun.

Now how many of these basic info-bytes make it into your work? Is the protagonist in your novel similar to you or different? Do you draw themes for your art from your personal belief system? Do you curse like a sailor or prefer a family-friendly dialogue with your friends?

These are all important clues in order to answer the next question.

Who is my Audience?

It can be difficult to make the leap from “Who am I?” to “Who do I create for?” because it isn’t always a conscious part of the process. Think of a particular piece or project you want to find an audience for. Think of one, ideal person coming along and seeing your work and thinking “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!” Who are they? Who will get the most out of everything you’ve put into this piece?

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Level of Education
  • Political Views
  • Income Level
  • Religious Views
  • What is important to them?

Your audience might be exactly like you, or they might be quite different. For writers, your audience might be more similar to your protagonist than to you. For example, if you are a middle aged woman writing a YA romance, your work is more likely to appeal to a 15 year old girl than someone who is married with children, and a full time job.

On the other hand, if you are writing a science fiction novel about climate disaster and you are passionate about saving the environment in real life, your audience will likely share this passion with you.

Example: The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen

I am going to demonstrate the different between “Who am I?” and “Who is my audience?” by using myself and my first book as an example. You don’t need to have read The Timekeepers’ War in order for this to make sense. [If you have, great! You’re my favourite ;)]

QuestionsS.C. JensenAudience
Age?3618-45, geared toward 20s or people who remember their 20s
Gender?FemaleMainly women
Race?WhiteAny, characters are racially diverse
Sexual Orientation?BisexualAny, queer friendly
Level of Education?Bachelor’s DegreeAny, but must be curious, have a strong vocabulary, and be interested in exploring “big” ideas
Level of Income?Upper Middle ClassAny, especially people who have experience with poverty
Religious Beliefs?AtheistAtheist, agnostic, or spiritually curious
Political Beliefs?LiberalSocialist, or people who like to explore many political models and belief systems
Interests?reading, SF&F, outdoor activities, cooking, new medicine and scienceSF&F, readers, dark humour, sci-fi concept art, alien species, post-apocalyptic preppers
Place in life?married, homeowner, business owner, mother, well-balanced and contentyounger, still trying to figure out where they fit (or remember this feeling), ambiguous identity, searching for meaning in life, discontent, questioning everything
Discovering your audience example, The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen

You can see where there are a few places where my audience and I diverge from one another. Partly this is because people change, and we often draw on past experiences in our creative work. Sometimes it is easier to discuss difficult themes and ideas after the fact, and our work will resonate with both people who are currently experiencing similar issues or who have in the past.

Remember, the more specific you can be in identifying your audience the easier it will be to market your creative business or product.

“Your Attitude is an Expression of Your Values and Expectations.” –Zabid Abas

I Know My Audience, But How Does This Help Me?

Once you know who your ideal audience is, it’s time to produce some content that will interest them. If you are stumped about what to write about on your blog or socials, imagine your audience. What is your ideal reader/buyer interested in right now?

  • Does your work tie in to any current public events?
  • What interests do they have?
  • Have you read any books or seen any movies that would appeal to them?
  • Can you provide insight into a problem they might be facing?

You must use what you know about your ideal audience and apply that to everything you put out into the world. Your content is the bait you use to lure future customers to your feeds. People can’t buy your work if they can’t find you, and they won’t buy your work if they don’t find a personal connection with what you post.

How Do I Cater My Content to My Audience?

As a Writer:

  • book reviews in the genre you write in
  • top 10 books you look forward to reading this year
  • current events with parallels to your novel
  • personal stories that parallel the issues your characters deal with
  • entertaining tidbits in your shared interest categories
  • book nerdy posts about how to select your next read, organize your bookcase, or how to handle the emotional turmoil of a book buying ban

As an Artist:

  • behind the scenes in your studio
  • sketches to finished piece
  • other artists who inspire you
  • practical guidance on how to select a piece of art, how to hang a artwork, how to critique a work of art
  • news stories that connect with themes in your work
  • personal stories that your ideal buyer will relate to

As a Musician:

  • behind the scenes in your studio
  • live recordings
  • footage from performances
  • stories about your experiences as a performer
  • news stories that connect with themes in your work
  • venues reviews for areas you have performed in or would like to perform in

These are some idea to get you started, but as you can see knowing your audience is the key to producing creative content that works.

Be Valuable

In Creative Business 101: Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur we discussed the importance of providing value in your content. In order to do this, you must know who your audience is and what is valuable to them.

Use your platforms with intention, and focus on the platforms you feel most comfortable with. I spend most of my time on Instagram and WordPress, because this is where I like to hang out. Others enjoy the Twitter or Facebook experience. You don’t have to do everything at once, but whatever you do, you must product content designed to appeal to your ideal audience.

Discussion

Is there anything else you need to know about identifying your audience? Let me know in the comments and we can brainstorm!

If this article was helpful to you, please like and share so that it is easier for others to find.

As always, thank you for reading!

Revenge of the Aughts

Revenge of the Aughts

This is an interesting perspective on the careers of Bestselling authors who fall victim to One-Hit-Wonder syndrome. I wonder if the pressure to recreate that first success, either from their publishers or in their own heads, contributes to creative stagnation. Independent authors have an advantage here, I think, in that we have the freedom to keep trying until we find our groove, collecting readers along the way. The steadily prolific writers are the ones I look up to more so than the chart toppers. What do you think?

The world changed when Twilight was published on October 5, 2005.

Not so much with Midnight Sun, August 4, 2020.

I was obsessed with the Twilight series when it first came out in the middle of the aughts (or the 00’s) decade. SO romantic! SO exciting. I started the first chapter at the bookstore and read it all the way to the cash register. I read and reread all four books, watched the movies, and even read the leaked draft of Midnight Sun which Meyer put on her website after it was shared online against her wishes.

Then, like many book series, movies, video games, and music that I am absolutely obsessed with, it faded. Most of my other media loves continue to burn but pre-Midnight Sun, I knew I had outgrown Twilight as a reader.

I don’t like it when people criticize what others read, especially…

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Indie Feature Friday: THE AWAKENING by Natasha Oliver

Indie Feature Friday: THE AWAKENING by Natasha Oliver

TGIF, my friends! Today, I have another fantastic indie book to share with you. I’ve been reading a lot of Science Fiction from independent and small press writers this year and I have been so impressed! My Indie Feature Friday posts will highlight the cream of the crop. So if you love books, science fiction, and supporting indie authors, be sure to follow along!

Indie Book Review with Sarah Does Sci-Fi

Today I’m reviewing Awakening: The Evolved Ones Book One by Natasha Oliver.

Awakening: The Evolved Ones Book One by Natasha Oliver
Click through to Amazon

Natasha Oliver was born in South Carolina, USA, and has lived and worked in Japan, Singapore, and throughout Southeast Asia for more than 16 years. Most recently, she has spent the last two years in London, England but is in the process of moving home to the US as we speak. Natasha earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing at Lehigh University, and will be teaching Creative Writing at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida next year.

You can check out what she is up to on her website www.natashaoliver.com or on Instagram @natasha_oliver_author.

Indie Book Review: Awakening by Natasha Oliver

If you love fast paced, urban fantasy with a Sci-Fi twist have I got a book for you!

The Blurb:

In a world where humans are evolving, people are more curious than afraid. They look for answers from a handful of scientists who try to uncover why some develop abilities yet the vast majority do not. For most humans, it’s an exciting time, but for Evolved Ones – EOs – it’s a game of hide and seek that ends with far too many of their kind disappearing, permanently. Four years ago, Rox awoke without a single memory and the involuntary ability to heal. Speech and most of her higher level cognitive functions were working, but everything about herself felt unfamiliar. Plagued by insecurity and confusion, she leaves the only home she can remember in search of her true identity.

from Amazon

The Set Up

Rox is on the run, desperate to escape the people chasing her and to find out who she really is. From the very first page, we are sucked into Rox’s quest to rescue herself from a personal hell. She is stuck in limbo, being used by everyone who promised to help her find her identity, and she doesn’t even know if there is anything to discover. The unknown threatens to destroy her.

The Characters

I am a sucker for great characterization. Even in stories where nothing much is happening, if the characters are well developed and embarking on a personal journey, I am happy to move along with them. Oliver takes this skill to the extreme. She handles a large cast of characters with in-depth, emotionally driven character arcs. Each of the characters is fully developed, with a unique personality, compelling backstory, and complex motivations. You’ll even love the unlikable ones!

The Execution

This book grabs you, shakes you, and drags you along with it. Break-neck pacing, fever-pitched emotions, and non-stop action, Awakening has “Blockbuster Movie” written all over it.

This is an absolute must read for anyone who likes action-packed Sci-Fi with a heavy dose of raw emotion and character depth to go with it.

You can easily pick this book up and read it straight through. It is hard to put down, even if you know you have to wake up early. I might have had a rough morning or two because I was up reading after the kids went to bed!

I am dying for the next book, which is coming out March 7, 2021 and is available for pre-order now!

Sacrifice: The Evolved Ones Book Two by Natasha Oliver
Click through to Pre-Order today!
Acceptance: The Evolved Ones Book Three by Natasha Oliver
Coming Soon…

Technical Details

Natasha Oliver is represented by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia), so she is not technically an indie author. However, as her publisher doesn’t deal in fiction outside of Asian markets, Oliver has to act as an indie. Hybrid publishing is becoming more and more common, and I want to support my small press authors too.

The editing and formatting of Awakening is as flawless as the writing. I know you won’t be disappointed with this book!

5 Stars for Awakening by Natasha Oliver

I have said before, I will only be reviewing the best of the books I read for Indie Feature Friday. So you already know ahead of time that I loved this book. If you love science fiction, science fantasy, or urban fantasy, this fast-paced SF thriller is a must read.

A Note on Reviews:

Did you know that reviews are essential to independent authors’ visibility?

If you buy an indie book, first of all “THANK YOU!” from all of us. It’s a tough go out there competing with big publishing houses and their million dollar marketing plans. Any support you can give us has a huge impact.

Second of all, please leave an honest review on Goodreads and wherever you purchased your copy. Indie authors read your reviews! If you loved it, great! Tell us why so we can try to do it again. If you didn’t, that’s okay, too! Please tell us what didn’t work so that we can do better next time.

More Reviews

If you liked this review, check out the others in my Indie Feature Friday series!

Thanks for reading! If you’ve read Awakening, let me know what you thought in the comments. Which indie author would you like to see me review next?

Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again — Whatever

I’m sharing a wonderful rant today, from science fiction writer John Scalzi. This is a topic I’ve been mulling over a lot recently. In the past I have felt a bit guilty for not enjoying as many of the “canonical” works in my genre. Some have a kind of timeless entertainment value, but conceptually a lot of older Sci-Fi is immature and irrelevant my modern standards. The cultural depth and diversity of today’s Sci-Fi greats is far superior, in my opinion, so the dusty old classics. Anyway, read this rant and let me know how you feel about it. Personally, I’m feeling validated.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of […]

Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again — Whatever

Aristotle Gave Us More than Philosophy

Well, it’s day three of NaNoWriMo and I’m off to a flying start! I’ve got just enough time in the morning to get my words in before I have to start homeschooling with the kids.

I don’t have my usual time for blog posts this month. So, besides the Creative Business 101 posts I have scheduled for every Monday this month, I’ll also be sharing some useful posts from other blogs.

In honour of NaNoWriMo and the great art of story structure, I give you this wonderful post by Staci Troilo at Story Empire. Enjoy!

Story Empire

Comedy TragedyCiao, SEers. Have you ever heard the term polymath? I had to dig deep into my college days to remember the definition. (We won’t discuss how long ago that was.)

A polymath is a person with knowledge in a wide range of topics. Polymaths go far beyond the Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none level of understanding and experience. These are experts in multiple fields. We often think of the Renaissance when we think of polymaths, Leonardo DaVinci being among the most famous. But there have been several throughout history. And Aristotle was one of them.

We tend to think of him as a philosopher. But among his many fields of expertise were arts, sciences, economics, politics, and metaphysics.

As this is a writing site, we’re going to talk about Aristotle’s contributions to literature. Not his work itself, but his defining of the terms comedy and tragedy.

Aristotelian Comedy
In an Aristotelian comedy, the…

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Creative Business 101: Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Do you ever think about all the things you have to do in order to “make a living” and feel overwhelmed? Does that overwhelm stop you from pursuing your dreams?

I know that fear well. My husband and I are small business owners–we own a trucking company and I am a freelance business writer–and I am in the process of turning my fiction writing into a full time job. I have learned a lot in the past ten years about what it takes to turn your passion into a career. I still have a lot to learn, but I’d like to share this journey with you and help ease some of the fears you may be feeling.

How to Define Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

What Does Success Mean to You?

There is something to be said for the safety and security of a regular job. Anyone who has considered starting their own business knows the hardest thing to do is to step away from a regular paycheck and into the vast financial unknown of self-employment.

If your passion is creative–if you are a writer, artist, musician, or actor–making that leap is even more difficult. Society tends to think of creative pursuits as hobbies, not careers. Most people can’t imagine anyone making a living in a creative field. Sure, there’s your Beyonces and your J.K. Rowlings, but statistically we know it is more likely that we’ll win the lottery than to become wildly rich and famous as an artist.

And becoming wildly rich and famous is the epitome of success, is it not?

Redefining Success

Many people hold full-time jobs and create as a hobby and are perfectly content. But for those of us who are driven to create more than anything else, whose work days are consumed by the desire to get back to our true passion, it is not enough to create as a hobby.

Yet becoming a creative professional doesn’t seem possible. When you consider a creative career or starting your own business, the biggest concern you are likely to have is this: How much money will I make? Can I make a living this way? Will I be able to survive?

The Starving Artist Myth

Society tells us that being creative is not “a real job.” The world, which consumes vast amounts of creative products every day, simultaneously tries to sell us the Starving Artist myth.

I’ve written about this myth and the other toxic mindsets that creative people and entrepreneurs face in my articles 5 Toxic Myths About Creativity and Imposter Syndrome: Why You Are Self-Sabotaging (and How to Stop!) I encourage you to check these articles out, and identify any self-defeating beliefs you might be holding on to.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The work of creative professionals is all around us, from the digital art on our favourite websites, to the songs we hear on the radio, to the books we read and the movies we watch and the clothes we buy. The list goes on. And the people who create all the products we buy and the media we consume are not working for free.

Creative Success

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

Creative Work Has Value!

Success to most people is defined by recognition and financial security. I have good news for you: It is absolutely possible to achieve success by this standard as a creative person!

But it does not happen right away. And almost none of us will succeed by the impossible standard–of wealth and fame–upheld by society.

So, what is the point of chasing a dream so unlikely to “succeed?”

Achieving success as a creative person requires a shift in perception. When you are taking your first steps toward a creative career, it is important to let go of traditional definitions of success. You must redefine your goals in terms of value.

Why Value?

It can feel entirely pointless to maintain a blog when your posts get fewer than 10 hits a day. How are you supposed to write a newsletter for an empty mailing list? Why should you sweat over the perfect shot and caption when your Instagram feed has more crickets than comments?

Because success starts with value.

It may take years before you are able to quite your day job and become a full-time creator. You may have to make changes to your spending habits and your material expectations in order to “make a living.” Financial success and public recognition will not happen overnight.

But your skills and experience have value NOW. In order to be financially successful, people need to be able to find you. Your audience is out there. There are billions of people in the world, and there are thousands of people who want exactly what you have to offer. That is a big enough pool of future customers to make any creative person a financial success. But they have to find you first.

Great Expectations

Measuring your success in financial terms when you are first starting out is a recipe for failure. I fell victim to the trap of my own expectations after I released The Timekeepers’ War. I had no idea how to market myself as an independent author. I just wanted to write. I wanted my books to sell themselves. I had slaved away on that project for years and I wanted to see some kind of return!

But I didn’t have a foundation in place. I released my book into the wild and let it run free…

And it disappeared.

Feelings of frustration and overwhelm quickly became resentment. It built up in me for years until I hated even thinking about my blog or drafting my next book.

I became frozen by my frustration.

But being frustrated was not my problem. The frustration was a symptom of a bigger problem. This is what really threw a wrench into my gears:

I was focusing on my own success (or perceived lack thereof) rather than on providing value to my audience.

I was putting the cart before the horse.

It’s tough to motivate yourself with “success” as your only measurable. For one thing, it means different things to different people, and even different things at different stages in your career. For another thing, success takes time! You aren’t going to write one blog post and skyrocket to the top of Google’s search results.

So what do you do in the meantime? Where do you start?

You start with value. What is your ideal audience interested in? How can you help them? Because you can provide value at any stage in your journey as a creative or an entrepreneur. You don’t work for the audience you have, you work for the audience you want to have in the future.

A man should have duties outside of himself; without them he is a mere balloon, inflated with thin egotism and drifting nowhere.” –Thomas Baily Aldrich

Who Are You Creating For?

I want you to stop thinking about yourself for a minute. Stop thinking about you want from your creative business and start thinking about your future customers. Who are they?

Who is your audience?

  • How old are they?
  • What kind of education do they have?
  • Are they married? Do they have children?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What are their beliefs and values?

How do you provide value to your audience?

You have skills and knowledge that are valuable. You have to share it with the world in order for your audience to find you. It’s as simple as that. And when you start out, being of value is not going to immediately translate into financial gain. Your success as a creative person will be defined by how well you connect with other people, and how much value you can provide for them.

What has value?

  • entertainment: tell funny stories or share fun facts on your blog, let people hear the outtakes from your last recording session, share a sketch that went wrong, take people behind the scenes and show them what it’s like to be you, make your audience laugh!
  • education: share your tips for how to be successful in your creative field of choice, share books and videos that have helped you or inspired you, review products you use
  • inspire: tell your story, talk about your challenges, talk about your successes, let yourself fail and share what you’ve learned

Strategies for Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Success for the creative entrepreneur boils down to value. It sounds simple enough, but can be difficult in practice. I have some strategies for how to build success as a creative professional and I will be sharing them with you in the coming weeks. I plan to cover topics like:

  • How to identify you audience
  • How to provide value to your audience
  • How to optimize your website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts so that they are working together instead of competing with one another
  • How to convert your followers into customers
  • and more!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey and we can walk together on the path toward success, however you choose to define it.

Discussion

What has been your biggest struggle with getting your business (creative or otherwise) off the ground? What is holding you back? Please let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like me to cover in this series. Thanks for reading!

Trick-or-Treat! I have some Halloween Giveaways for you…

Trick-or-Treat! I have some Halloween Giveaways for you…

Happy Halloween, my spooky friends! I hope you enjoyed my series on creepy cryptids from around the world. We visited Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, Korea, Persia, Scandinavia, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and South America on our global tour of weird tales. Check them out if you missed any, and don’t forget to share them if you want to creep our your friends today!

Of course you do.

HUGE NEWS!!!

If you are on my mailing list, be sure to check your inbox for my letter today. I just sent out the cover reveal for my upcoming new release, Ghostlights!

Awkward Elaine dancing and everything!

If you aren’t on my list… first of all, what the heck! You should probably go do that right now. Click here to sign up, and you’ll even get a free copy of my novella Polaris. Don’t worry. I’ll wait right here…

Okay, all set? If you missed the special VIP only cover reveal, that’s okay. Just stay tuned for the official reveal in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m just dropping in with some Halloween treats for you. More FREE BOOKS!!!!

No big deal.

First Up: Corrogatio VI: After Dark

Monolith has been putting out a free horror anthology every Halloween for the last six years. Click the pic to get your copy! It’s a really fun collection from a diverse group of writers from around the world. You will be creeped out, grossed out, and probably never sleep again! I have two short stories in this issue, too. But you might find your next favourite indie horror author here!

Next Up: The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales

Last chance for a FREE copy of The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales!

This is your last chance to grab a FREE copy of my own flash-fiction and short story collection The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales. This book will not be available on Amazon, but starting Nov. 1, 2020 it will be for sale at all other online book outlets. Click through to download! You will be asked to sign up for my mailing list, but you are already on my VIP list, aren’t you?

More FREE Books!

Here are a few e-book promos you might want to check out if you’re looking to stock up your e-reader for the winter months. There are so many great books to choose from!

Happy Halloween!

There you are, I gave you your treats. No tricks now! We aren’t going Trick-or-Treating this year, but we will be baking and decorating Halloween cookies and cupcakes and doing a treasure hunt!

I hope you have a spooktacular time today, where ever you are and what ever you are doing. Let me know your Halloween plans in the comments!

Indie Feature Friday: GRINDERS by C.S. Boyack

Indie Feature Friday: GRINDERS by C.S. Boyack

I’ve been making an effort to read more books by independent authors this year, both to support indies and also to see what’s going on outside the world of Big House publishing. My focus is usually science fiction, but you will see some other genres pop up here and there. I will be sharing a review every Friday. So if you if you love books, science fiction, and supporting indie authors, be sure to follow along!

Indie Book Review with Sarah Does Sci-Fi

Today, I’m reviewing Grinders by C.S. Boyack!

Grinders by C.S. Boyack.
Click through to Amazon.com

I first discovered author C.S. Boyack through the Story Empire blog, where he is a frequent contributor. After reading a number of helpful posts on storyboarding, I wandered over to his personal blog, Entertaining Stories, and have been happily following along for a couple of years now. I don’t naturally gravitate toward blogs as my social-media of choice and I tend to lurk more than like, comment, and share. However, I do buy books (much faster than I can read them.)

I’ve bought a few of Boyack’s novels this year, and as they pop up in my e-TBR pile, I will be reviewing them here. This is the first!

Indie Book Review: Grinders by C.S. Boyack

When approaching a new-to-me author I do what any self-respecting book browser does. I gravitate toward the prettiest covers. This lead me to the purchase of Grinders and Voyage of the Lanternfish. Who doesn’t love neon lights and deep-ocean creatures, right?

I was in the mood for something in the sci-fi vein more than fantasy, so I started with Grinders.

The Genre-Mashup of My Dreams

I am a shameless detective novel addict. I can’t get enough of them. I love everything from gruesome true crime to ridiculous crime capers, but there’s a special place in my heart for the classic police procedural or detective novel.

Of course, the whole point of Grinders is that Jimi Cabot and her partner Lou are not detectives. They’re just bottom of the barrel beat cops.

The beat, though, is a cyberpunk dream. (Or is it a nightmare?) Set in a futuristic San Francisco full of holographic pop-up ads and illegally cyber-enhanced citizens, Grinders is like “Ghost in the Shell” meets “Law and Order.”

The Characters

Jimi nearly lost her job after the San Francisco PD discovered a secret from her past, and has been relegated to the Grinder Squad, a go-nowhere department run out of the basement at HQ.

Here, she meets Lou, a seasoned PD vet whose old-school skills have made him obsolete. He’s waiting out the days until his retirement and is a little resentful at getting stuck with the new blood.

There’s a great dynamic between Jimi and Lou as they are forever seeking a balance between her youthful enthusiasm and his cynical realism. Both characters have a lot more going on beyond the job, and Boyack weaves their backstories into the main plot expertly.

The Setup

Everybody knows that the Grinder Squad is a sham department. Theoretically, their purpose is to crack down on the growing Grinder problem–that is, black market doctors who install illegal cyber-enhancements. But Grinders are notoriously elusive and the PD basically uses it to drum up funds for the rest of the departments. The Grinder Squad gets stuck with the grunt work, while the “real cops” do all the fun stuff.

But Jimi is convinced that if she can bust a Grinder, she’ll redeem herself and save her career. If only she could get Lou on board with her plan!

The Execution

I loved this book. Grinders bops along at a steady pace, using the characters to drive the plot forward and explore the world without ever falling into the tedious exposition that kills a lot of SF novels.

The funny thing is, Grinders isn’t a fast paced action/thriller but it never feels slow. I got so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of Jimi and Lou, the interesting cast of characters they meet up, and their own personal struggles that I didn’t think a whole lot about the main plot line until suddenly all the connections came together and BAM! It all came together.

Boyack has a great sense of humour. In particular, I loved the way he poked fun at some current social phenomena by exploring where they might go in the future. Cyber shut-ins, crypto currency schemes, political correctness on steroids, and the inevitable result of aggressive helicopter parenting all get stirred into the mix with hilarious results.

Technical Details

I hate that I have to mention this, but I know how some people feel about independent books. I know the fear of spending your hard earned pennies on something that the author hasn’t even bothered to edit.

Fear not, fellow readers!

Grinders is well-written, cleanly edited, and formatted perfectly. You will get nothing less than the best. This is a professional product from an experienced writer, and it shows.

5 Star Review!

If you love science fiction worlds and strong character development, this is the book for you! Grinders will give you a lot to think about, but it’s fun and entertaining and emotionally driven. You aren’t going to get bogged down in a bunch of hard SF technical details and mumbo jumbo. You are going to care deeply about these characters and the fascinating world they live in, and you’re going to love the way everything ties together in the end.

A Note on Reviews:

Did you know that reviews are essential to independent authors’ visibility?

If you buy an indie book, first of all “THANK YOU!” from all of us. It’s a tough go out there competing with big publishing houses and their million dollar marketing plans. Any support you can give us has a huge impact.

Second of all, please leave an honest review on Goodreads and wherever you purchased your copy. Indie authors read your reviews! If you loved it, great! Tell us why so we can try to do it again. If you didn’t, that’s okay, too! Please tell us what didn’t work so that we can keep it in mind for the next book.

**I only review my favourite indie books on the blog. My goal is to support other independent creators and share my platform with positivity. I’m not here to criticize or bring down anyone, so if I read a book that I don’t feel is up to par I will let the author know privately. You will only find 4 and 5 star reviews on this page. Feel free to suggest a book for me to review in the comments!**

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you’ve got in your TBR pile. What do you think of Grinders? Have you read it? Will you? Tell me all the things…

5 Mega-Creepy Monsters from South America

This series on terrifying mythological creatures from around the world has been a lot of fun! But I’m running out of alliterative synonyms for Creepy Creatures…

Thank you for joining me on another exploration of local monster legends. It’s our last stop before Halloween and today we’re visiting South America! This continent is also way too big to have its cryptid fauna narrowed down to a measly top 5 list. But I’m going to try anyway!

5 Scariest South American Monsters

#5 Luz Mala

La Luz Mala, or simply the “bad light,” is a legend that dates back to the gaucho era of Argentina and Uruguay in the mid 1700s-1800s. La Luz Mala appears as a bright beam of light in the darkness which terrified local villagers and wandering gaucho cowboys. It was believed that these bad lights were the souls of the unbaptized dead.

For the adventurous, though, la Luz Mala offered the promise of riches. Stories tell of those who hunt down the source of the light to find human bones and ancient artifacts. Even the bravest were loathe to go searching for the bad lights, however, for anyone who took the treasures from the source of the light were doomed to die.

#4 El Culebrón

El Culebrón is a big, hairy snake with a cows head.

Yeah. I said what I said.

This Chilean creeper comes out of its cave at night to slither across the countryside and devour everything in its path. These creatures are particularly drawn to buried treasure and are said to appear at the site exactly 40 days after the burial. If you are burying your own stash of treasure and you want to be able to come back and claim it some day, you can pour alcohol over the site in hopes of repelling El Culebrón, or perhaps getting him drunk enough that you can sneak past him to retrieve your loot and high-tail it out of there.

Better yet, El Culebrón is said to attract riches to anyone able to tame it. Unfortunately this is not an easy task. The agreed upon method of domesticating a giant, hairy bovine reptile is thus:

  1. Find El Culebrón in the wild, perhaps luring it with your own treasure?
  2. Pluck the three longest hairs from its body without becoming a snake snack.
  3. Place the three hairs into a bowl of milk.
  4. Watch patiently which the three hairs transform into baby Culebrón. The biggest will kill and eat its siblings and tada!
  5. Enjoy your gold magnet.

Sounds simple enough.

#3 La Llorona

La Llorona is a tragic figure, but she’s no less dangerous for her sorrow. There are many variations on this legend and none of them are pleasant to read. La Llorona is the ultimate scorned woman.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden. Unfortunately, she fell for the wrong guy. After marrying the man of her dreams and bearing his children, the woman discovers that he has been unfaithful. In a fit of grief and rage, she murders her own children (usually by drowning them in a river) in order to get revenge on her philandering mate. Then, realizing what she’s done, she kills herself too.

But the tragedy doesn’t end there, of course. In order to get to the afterlife, La Llorona must find her children. Their souls are long lost, but in her desperation this spirit will grab any child she sees and pulling them under the water, too. La Llorona is often seen and heard, wandering along riverbeds, weeping for her lost children.

#2 La Ciguapa

This fiendish being haunts the deep forests and mountainous highlands of the Dominican Republic. It appears as a woman with long, thick hair and tanned skin which help it to camouflage as it stalks its prey. La Ciguapa is identifiable from your average wild-woman-of-the-woods by its backwards facing feet. But by the time you notice this little detail, it’s probably too late for you. La Ciguapa has a hypnotic stare and can compel you deeper into the forest, toward her lair, where she… well, we don’t really know. But if we’ve learned anything on this tour of mythological monsters, its that women who lure their victims anywhere are pretty much guaranteed to have one thing on their minds. That’s right. Roasting your liver on a spit.

#1 Pishtaco

There are many vampiric legends in South America. The most commonly known is the urban legend of El Chupacabra, which is actually a very modern myth only dating back to the mid-90s. The so-called “goat sucker” is certainly a creepy creature, but it lacks the depth of history.

Peuchen

I’m giving the Peuchen an honourable mention here. This shape-shifting blood sucker myth originates from the Mapuche people, indigenous to Southern Chile. The Peuchen seems to be a kind of flying snake-bat with hypnotic powers, and it is bent upon one goal only. To feast upon your blood. The only people capable of defeating a Peuchen are the Mapuche medicine women. This pretty much hits every item on the terrifying mythological creature checklist.

Pishtaco

Now, back to the main event. Pishtaco are creatures similar to the vampire, but instead of your blood, they are after your body fat.

Legends of pale-skinned vampiric demons lurking in the Andes began to surface in Peru and Boliva during the 15th century. The creatures were said to attack unsuspecting travelers, draining them of their body fat, and leaving only an emaciated body behind. Interestingly, these demons were able to disguise themselves as colonial priests and doctors (and later aid-workers, archaeologists, or any other white interlopers)

The scariest part of this myth is the way it reflects the every day horror of living under Spanish colonialism for the indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. Starvation and disease ravaged the local populations and seemed to spare the white colonizers. How else could indigenous people explain what was happening to their children? Beware the white-skinned people, they may be demons in disguise. History shows us how true this “myth” actually was.

Conclusion

Well, that’s our wrap up of the pre-Halloween creature feature! There are some conspicuous absences from the regions we’ve covered so far: I still haven’t looked into the United States, China, Russia, Japan, the Caribbean, or much of southern Europe. So that means, I’ll probably have to continue this exploration in the coming months. I’ll aim for once a week, and get back to my usual posting schedule with book reviews and posts about creativity, entrepreneurism, and–of course–the joys of science fiction.

Thank you for joining me on this tour! If you missed any of them, please check out the other posts in this series here:

What is your favourite mythological creature?

Did I cover it during my tour, or is there somewhere else I need to explore? Let me know in the comments.

5 Ancient Creatures of Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand and known for having some of the weirdest, scariest creatures on the planet. From deadly ocean creatures, to poisonous snakes and spiders, to massive carnivorous reptiles, to pine-cones big enough to kill you, these countries don’t mess around in the flora and fauna department. So naturally, their mythological creatures are weird and wonderful(ly terrifying) too!

I found at least twenty mythological beasts from New Zealand alone, so really it’s not fair to clump the two countries together, but I have one more stop to hit before Halloween! Maybe I’ll have to make this feature a regular thing so we can do some more in-depth exploration of local monsters.

Anyway, here are the scariest creatures I found…

#5 New Zealand’s Fairies

I’m cheating here and giving you a four-in-one deal. These creatures all fit together in the generic “fairy” category, and they’re very cool!

TE-TINI-O-HAKUTURI

A band of bow legged sprites that live in the forest for the sole purpose of seeking retribution for anything taken or desecrated without a proper offering to the forest spirits. They often take the form of insects or birds, and they are watching you.

PATUPAIAREHE

These fairies are usually human sized, with fair skin and bright red hair. They live in forested and mountainous regions. Interestingly, stories of these creatures seem to have been around since before white Europeans colonized NZ. Albino Maori children sometimes have pale skin and orange-ish coloured hair, and were once thought to be fathered by one of the patupaiarehe. These fair folk are extremely sensitive to sunlight, and are usually only found at night or on grey, misty days. They are said to lure humans with their ethereal fluting into the forest from which you may never return.

PAKEPAKEHA

These fairies, also fair skinned with red hair, are much smaller in stature. The gnome-like creatures are usually spotted riding down the river on a piece of wood or bark, and may be heard singing. White colonists of New Zealand came to be called Pakeha by the Maori people.

PONA-TURI

Grouping the pona-turi with the fairies is perhaps unfair. These pale skinned creatures are more like sea-goblins with long thin fingers and sharp claws, and a vampiric aversion to sunlight. At night, they pull themselves out of the waves and onto the shore to commit all kinds of mischief.

#4 Poua-Kai

The poua-kai are huge man-eating birds depicted with black and white wings with red crests. The creatures let out a terrifying cry, plunge out of the sky, pluck unsuspecting people right off the ground, and carry them away to their nests to imminent death by beak and talon. The scariest thing about the poua-kai is that this myth is based on a very real creature, the Haast’s Eagle which fed mainly on the flightless moa before they were hunted to extinction by humans. Moa’s being significantly larger than most people, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the Haast’s Eagle moving on to human prey once its main food source was eliminated.

#3 Taniwha

What’s scarier than underwater dragons? Shape-shifting dragons that can disguise themselves as aquatic creatures before snatching unsuspecting bathers or fishermen, dragging them below the surface to be raped and/or devoured! There are many, many stories of the Taniwha. Sometimes they act as guardians, protecting an area or a person. But they are always to be feared and never to be trusted.

#2 Ape Men

Another combo deal for you!

YOWIE

The Yowie is the Australian version of the Sasquatch myth, a large upright ape-like creature sometimes spotted wandering around the woods. Unlike most Australian fauna, these guys don’t seem to be particularly malevolent. They just like to keep to themselves in forested areas and occasionally pose for poorly focused photographs.

MOEHAU/MAERO

The moehau or maero are a New Zealand variation on the bipedal gorilla of the forest myth. These creatures are more aggressive than the Australian ones, though. They are thought to be about the same size as a human man, with long shaggy hair covering their bodies and ape-like faces. They carry carry stone clubs, have long knife-like claws, and an appetite for human flesh. In the late 1800s a woman and a prospector were slain, the woman’s neck was broken and the man had been partially eaten. The attack was blamed on moehau.

#1 Yara-ma-yha-who

Don’t let the cutesie, yodeling name fool you. The Yara-ma-yha-who is a terrifying creature. Australia’s own home-grown vampire which comes from Aboriginal mythology and is likely older than the European versions. While it doesn’t quite have the same sex appeal as modern vampire stories, the Yara-ma-yha-who is guaranteed to terrify. This creature is a squat, red frog-like demon with a huge mouth and no teeth.

How does it drink blood, you ask? Well…

The Yara-ma-yha-who waits in a fig tree for an unsuspecting traveler. Then it drops out of the branches and wraps it’s arms and legs around its victim, like a four legged octopus. As if that’s not bad enough, each of the creature’s hands and feet have a blood-sucking mouth on them. This thing sucks its victim dry with it’s leech-like appendages.

After gorging itself on the blood of a human victim, the Yara-ma-yha-who will take a nap, wake up and vomit the contents of its stomach up on the ground, crawl back into the tree, and wait for another victim.

Sometimes it will leave the victim alive, which is good news! Unless of course, you are attacked again. If your blood is sampled too many times, you may become one of the Yara-ma-yha-who, yourself.

Conclusion

And you thought giant spiders and salt-water crocodiles were bad! Have you ever visited Australia or New Zealand? Better yet, are you from there? Did I miss any of your favourite cryptids or mythological monsters? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this piece, come check out some of the other Fantastic Beasts from around the world: Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, Korea, Persia, Scandinavia, India, and Africa.

Thanks for reading!