Author Archives: Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

About Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

I write. And I blog. And I love every minute of it. Some day I will be known by the single name - Liebja (lee-ebb-jah), which, as far as I know, I invented when I was 14. A long time ago. My debut novel is now available on Amazon - Pride's Children: PURGATORY. First of a mainstream love story trilogy.

Success for literary fiction defined

WHY DO I WANT TO BE WIDELY READ?

Success? I don’t know if others are in the enviable position of not writing for a living, but I am. Which is good, because I’m what we used to call glacially slow, until the glaciers started calving and melting with climate change. A friend called it ‘at the speed of continental drift,’ which still works.

My concern is that after I’ve put twenty-two years so far into the first two books of a mainstream literary trilogy, I want READERS. Legacy would be nice, but that isn’t exactly an aim, and if you’re not known during your lifetime, you will have to be unbelievably lucky in today’s world to be known because someone championed your work after you left us.

Disability – and now – retirement make writing my personal choice. I always meant to do it when I retired from computational plasma physics at Princeton; disability just made that happen at 40 instead of 66.

I spend my energy parsimoniously – there isn’t much of it, and I want it spent on writing when it is discretionary. I’m sure that if I had managed to persuade a traditional publisher to take me on, the marketing would have still been a problem – most traditionally-published works get six weeks on a bookstore shelf before they disappear.

I would like to see all the hoopla be about the quality and especially accessibility of the writing itself: as I have always found books such as Rebecca and Jane Eyre eminently accessible STORY- and CHARACTER-wise, that is what I’ve aimed to write. Maybe my view of ‘literary’ is flawed or limited (personally, I’m not a fan of ambiguity – others love it, or of speculative fiction – ditto, or of creatively formatted fiction): I want better, more intense, more compelling fiction with care for all the factors that make a ‘good book’. Which is why I appreciate the genre fiction with a literary quality – ‘Dune’ isn’t just SF: it is at least literary-quality SF, at best literary storytelling.

The problem is that ‘literary’ now covers anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere, a common contamination.

Instead of being the fiction that subtly raises literacy – and pleasure. As it was for me as an American child growing up in Mexico, with limited access to books in English and no libraries.

I want READERS. Readers who find what I write better than their usual fare. That’s how I define ‘success.’ It requires that I do a much better marketing job somehow.

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To see what I mean by ‘accessible’ and ‘pleasurable’, try the short story prequel to Pride’s Children.

If you like that, consider tackling the longer novels:

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY

Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD

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Who and what a writer is matters

WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG, YOU TRY OUT FEELINGS

And the books which become favorites, the ones you remember, are the ones that make you feel good somehow.

Because that’s what you get objectively and subjectively when you read/buy a writer’s book: their particular take on a life, love, and the universal.

It isn’t accidental that some books become classics: they appeal to something in the reader that makes the reader buy the book as an adult, and read it to their children, because it’s an easy way to say that: this is what I want you to grow up loving – and feeling – because it was important to me, and I want you to have it.

As you go through life, and get battered, you choose

But you have to read widely first, so you find out what you need.

Is it The Velveteen Rabbit?

Is is Pooh, original or Disney (or both)?

Is it mysteries or gory serial killer thrillers? Do you like fantasies and are you satisfied when someone else – the protagonist – is The One? Or do you prefer stories in which, due to the writer’s skill, YOU are the center, the quester, the One.

There’s a whole MATRIX of other relevant bits

  • Historical time
  • Gender
  • Location on this planet or an alternate universe
  • Ending
  • Language
  • Complexity of ideas
  • Style and tone and vocabulary
  • Originality

But the most important one is always: how does it make you FEEL?

Because that’s what you’re looking for in the next story, the next favorite, the next book.

And that’s what will determine a basic satisfaction with what you read, and what you look for when you take a chance on something new.

I’m a sucker for well-written books

And I get annoyed when that leads me astray: well-written – but with a basic nastiness to the ending; well-written – but with an underlying misogyny or racism; well-written – but with characters you’d never want to meet in real life.

I still remember one book which was recommended by a literary blog I no longer recall and which the reviewer said it was a shame more people hadn’t read, since it was so well-written. I bought it! I read it! I was indeed very well written. And the recommendation made me miss the early red flags, because the story, about a murdered young girl, and how it affected her family and friends, turned into a story which blamed the victim for her own murder – because of the way she ‘responded’ to the sick adults who perverted her innocence. And the final conclusion to the story was that it wasn’t important to identify and stigmatize the killer!

I deleted the book from my Amazon account, something I rarely do, but haven’t been able to scrub how it made me feel from my mind.

Because first the writer described how wonderful she was and how everyone loved her – and then destroyed her by saying she deserved what happened to her! As if anyone, especially a child, a teen, deserved to be murdered.

It makes me wonder WHY someone would write such a book. And realize there’s a whole subculture of writers who do – and readers who love those books.

When I write I make conscious choices

I leave the characters those turnoffs that the big trucks use on a mountain road when their brakes fail – but I can’t make the characters use them.

I adopt the slow burn: things happen with enough time to think about why, to consider consequences, to justify actions. There are plenty of stories – and real life events – where something pivots on a tiny accidental point. They don’t interest me because there is nothing a character can do to avert the coming disaster – they will cope with the change, and the coping will show who they are, but it’s a cop-out, and, under dire circumstances, even good people make mistakes. And have to live with the consequences of a split second.

Not much in the way of subtlety with the turn-your-life-on-a-twisted-dime stories, especially if the reader can see it coming at the previous mile marker. Plus, those books don’t reward re-reading, and that’s a waste: depending on a trick ending is a fool-me-once.

I WANT to write something re-readable.

I want it to take several readings to see many of the connections.

I want most readers to have to go back and read the previous volume before the new one – or to have internalized what came before so they wouldn’t have to (I’ve had both kinds of readers comment about this).

I offer the usual bargain:

I do the work – you tell me how it made you feel.

Then tell me how it worked for you.

Try it out on the prequel 1500 word short story Too Late.

Then remember there’s plenty more where that came from.

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Phoning in a bad editorial review

PAYING FOR AN EDITORIAL REVIEW GUARANTEES NOTHING

I’m going to be very careful with this post, as getting a bad editorial review is one of the hazards of paying for reviews: your book could be crap, and a proper reviewer is entitled to say exactly what they think of it.

This reviewer sends you the review as a courtesy, so you can tweak any problems before it gets published.

Sometimes you have the recourse of requesting that the review be dumped, and I have exercised that right.

So any quotes I list from the to-not-be-published review are my only product for my money – as only the reviewer and I should have access to the content, and therefore no one should be able to search for the quotes on the internet, and identify the person I’m complaining about here.

Got it?

I will leave off any identifying information

and write only about the substance of the review, which is the subject of my complaint in a general way (I can already see readers wondering how bad Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD was, and whether I simply can’t take criticism).

Indies like me need a few impartial honest editorial reviews and we need to pay for them. They – in full, or quotes from them – go in the Editorial Reviews section of the book’s Amazon page.

Having a decent editorial review legitimizes you as an author, gives you some credibility.

We need to choose our source, as it can get into real money (for example, a Kirkus review is almost $500), and it will take a lot of sales to make that review worth the expenditure.

There are many other reputable review services available to self-published authors (SPAs), less expensive ones, but the field is, like literary agentry, completely unregulated, even taking into account that the ultimate result, the review, is published for anyone to see.

One would hope for some self-regulation, but the standard thing for an author to do if you don’t like a review is to let it sink like the millstone it is and hope no one sees it.

FIGHTING a review is not done, and will get you branded a ‘difficult author.’

Again, got it?

So why am I taking the risk?

Because I had expectations (silly woman?) that a professional reviewer would at least read the book.

Or enough of the book to be able to say something real and thoughtful about what I spent 7 years of my small supply of good energy producing.

When I was offered the draft review to tweak

my heart sank.

I wrote back, after a bit of reflection at the complete mismatch between my understanding of my book, and the review:

…I have been looking forward to your review for a long time.

And now I have to ask you to completely cancel publication.

If you have any interest, let me know, and I can provide you with a list of all the points your review did not mention that are critical to the story continued in NETHERWORLD.

I don’t know what to think, but the review below in the email you just sent me is not something I would want published if I have any choice in the matter. It does not represent the continuing story nor the characters.

Email, 11/5/22

I did NOT expect a response other than cancellation; what I received was:

Oh my! The review can of course be put on hold.

Please let me know what was wrong or missing. I will go over my notes and re-read, and re-do the review to get it right.

Sometimes I leave out some points in a story in favor of trying to preserve some elements of surprise for the reader; but in this case it sounds like I missed too many and was too general.

Please let me know specifics, and I’ll work at identifying where in my notes I went awry, and will redo the reading and notes as needed.

Lovely offer, so what’s the problem?

I’ll go into specifics of a few things below, but ‘missing a few points’ was not my interpretation.

In fact, when I started to make a mental list of the ‘few points,’ I quickly realized that the entire book had been left out, and a completely generic Romance review was what had been supplied.

If anyone knows Pride’s Children, they know that it is NOT a Romance, was never intended to be one, and misses every trope that a Romance reader expects from a satisfying Romance. Romance is a perfectly viable category with dedicated writers and MANY more readers than literary fiction – and enviably lucrative – but I don’t write Romance.

I’ll let a reviewer for PURGATORY comment:

…And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!), nor is it predictable or syrupy…

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R37NLDE4OZP2AG/

In fact, as much as I respect Romance writers and readers for knowing and getting what they like to read, I have been fighting Pride’s Children being categorized as a Romance everywhere that crops up, including Goodreads, where the librarians refused to do anything because some READERS had chosen to include PC on a shelf with ‘romance’ somewhere in its title.

Pride’s Children is a LOVE STORY embedded in a mainstream trilogy set in the intersection between Hollywood and writers

From the same reviewer:

…This is solid general fiction of a very high order, in the best Realist tradition, exploring human interactions and relationships between enormously well-drawn characters who come fully alive, as real, intensely human people. These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well…

Op. cit.

And now for a few review details, so you can judge for yourself

The whole mention given to Bianca, arguably the most important character in NETHERWORLD, is “And then there’s Andrew’s film co-star Bianca, whose debut film is starting to make its mark on the world,” followed by a single reference to ‘the dance between these three’ and one to ‘a triangle of connections, ambition, and obsessions that embraces scheming, film industry politics, and love and friendship alike.’

The rest of the review tries, generically, to make a two-character Romance out of the friendship between Andrew and Kary: “… recommended pick for prior enthusiasts of the tale, who will find the ongoing growth and connections between Irish megastar Andrew O’Connell [sic] recluse author Dr. Kary Ashe continues to introduce challenge and revised their visions of life…” and “…As each makes their way through dates, other life connections, and events that test their talents and perspectives, readers receive an intriguing contrast in personalities and love that will especially delight prior followers of Andrew and Kary’s worlds.”

The ending tells libraries that NETHERWORLD has “… thought-provoking escapades and interpersonal conundrums where all the characters are both villain and hero will welcome the nicely-developed tension and psychological insights…”

All the characters are both villain and hero?

Excuse me while I gag. The whole point of Pride’s Children is that integrity and morality are NOT relative, not subjective, not ‘opinions,’ but fraught choices with consequences even for those who don’t get to choose.

What do authors do with bad editorial reviews?

Distinguish here first between the REVIEW being bad and the BOOK being so bad the review which says that is good, but this can be irrelevant unless the book is so hyped people go to the original source to see what was actually written, which could lead to a firestorm of sorts until the internet finds the next flaming pile.

The most obvious and most common response is to find some chunk of words in the review that can be used as a pull quote – words to put on the cover or in an ad – that are TECHNICALLY not a lie, because those words, in that order, appear in the review, even if the review context clearly negates the pull quote. Easy? “…one of the best thrillers…” from an original “Nowhere NEAR one of the best thrillers…” Usually a bit more subtle, but you get the idea.

Or if lucky or money is available, a bad review can be buried by several good ones. With the additional fillip of implying the unwanted review is somehow sour grapes.

Dropping the review completely means the loss of whatever was paid for it, which is sometimes the only option.

Arguing about the review in public, WITH names, is best left to well-paid PR pros, because of all the positive and negative ramifications. ‘Going to war’ is expensive, with pitfalls.

Another option, mine, is to use the review carefully as a cautionary example of what can happen, for the newbies to learn from and more experience writers to commiserate about. And then to put it behind you. And, of course, never use that reviewer or editorial review service again.

I briefly considered one OTHER final option

Complaining to the service managers or owners about the review and the reviewer.

Not probably the best option – the reviewer may have been bringing in cash for the service for a while.

Possibly an excuse for the review service to dump the reviewer (usually added to other examples of the reviewer cutting corners or losing their touch).

But extremely dangerous to the individual unarmored AUTHOR, because people won’t necessarily remember that there was some justification for a complaint, only that a certain AUTHOR (those horrible people) had the nerve to complain about a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER, followed by closing of the ranks of the pros and more complaints about, in this case, entitled indie AUTHORs.

So I’ll stop at ‘cautionary tale,’ hope I get some feedback and not too many people trolling (if you are not a regular, that behavior will get you banned before leading to any posting of your comment; regulars are welcome because I know they will be civil).

I can’t be the only one unhappy with a paid-for review that seems entirely unrelated to the book.

Am I?

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Oh, and don’t forget to BUY the book (or going to Booksprout to request an ARC if you are even considering writing a review), so you can make your own decision if my happiness with NETHERWORLD, and especially its ending, is a crock.

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Surviving an extraordinary month in one piece

View of a bridge down a city street with tall buildings; snow is falling, there are cars and people on the street.
So many places you can be!

WHERE HAVE I BEEN AND WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?

I am just coming out of a period that started, really, far before Sep. 26 when I went to Stanford U. hospitals for a badly needed surgical repair.

It involved taking care of myself in ways I had to learn, going through all kinds of medical tests to make sure that someone with ME/CFS (me) would be a suitable candidate for surgery at all, and then getting there at the right time without the coronavirus putting a stop to the whole parade: I literally had a covid PCR test on Sunday Sep. 25 in a parking lot in Redwood City – all ready for the hospital the next morning – and being fairly sure I was not sick, but knowing that the juggernaut would come to a shuddering halt if I happened to be and be asymptomatic.

And it would take months to get another surgical date, months I did not want to have to face.

Husband and I had isolated in our apartment in the retirement community for over two weeks, going out for doctor’s appointments, and husband going down to dining to retrieve takeout every night for dinner so we wouldn’t be exposed to the cases that seem to randomly infect this place now that people are being so less careful with masks and gatherings.

I had literally been waiting 2.5 years for this surgery date, since I needed it just as the pandemic was getting going in 2020, and anyone who could avoid going to a hospital did so.

Before going to my medical destiny, I published NETHERWORLD:

The Pride and Joy – NETHERWORLD

It was finished in March, but the complications of the health stuff kept me from focusing on cover and formatting, and I finally got help from friends, Bill and Teresa Peschel of Peschel Press in Hershey, PA. Bill kindly and accurately produced the cover from my notes and comments (patient man!), and responded to many rounds of requests for corrections to the interior formatting of the paperback – and I did the final touches to the ebook cover and interior produced by Scrivener on Sep. 18 and 19 and uploaded the files, which Amazon accepted with relative alacrity, making me no longer a one-book author.

And then came the surgery and its aftermath – the HORROR

The operation went fine, and the results have been stellar and relatively painless, and most everything now works properly, and all of it as well as possible.

But pain management went flooey – starting with side effects of medication changes the week before, and then continuing for the most pain I’ve ever had, for weeks, accompanied by side effects from other new medications designed to help, to finally me getting off EVERY NEW MED, and back to my long-time stable pain medications from before – and them slowly being enough.

I tried to tell them I’m a non-standard patient; I thought they had listened.

Nope.

Don’t know what I’ll do if I ever need to do something like this again, but there will be some very interesting and thorough conversations somewhere along the line: ME/CFS patients are NOT normal patients.

It’s over, I will be released from restrictions in a week

and I will be able to use our warm therapy pool, and then work up to riding my tricycle, and longer trips that the bare minimum rides on Maggie, my Airwheel S8 (a bicycle seat on a hoverboard).

And after getting my brain back these last few days, and catching up enough on sleep to be coherent (pain makes it IMPOSSIBLE to get rest), I have a big paperwork task to finish and send to the accountants.

And I will then be able to start up my new Macbook (I got the midnight blue one), and plug away at organizing the upgraded software I bought it for, and get going to finish the trilogy by writing volume 3, working title LIMBO.

I will be back to whatever passes for normal in this body and this household.

Nothing has yet changed on the research horizons

Rather, it seems that every day some scientist group has a new theory about what may be going wrong in the aftermath of viral infections such as Covid-19 and ME/CFS, and they want research money to find out if they’re right.

One of them will figure it out – the economic impact of millions of people coming down with Long Covid cannot be tolerated.

Except for the diehard holdouts, most doctors are starting to believe that post-viral illnesses are real and not psychological, or hysterical. They have no clue how to help us that gets down to basics and CURES us yet, but they are starting to treat the symptoms and minimize some of the miseries.

There is where HOPE lies: enough scientists committed to figuring it out, supported by research funds. Whether it is too late for people like me who’ve been ill for decades won’t be known for a while, and indeed the research horizon, my husband cautions, is more likely to be five to ten years than anything much faster: the coronavirus does an incredible amount of damage.

Some of it may not be fixable. I may not be fixable. Which would be a bitter conclusion I’m not ready to face yet.

All us post-viral illness folk still have to make it through the days

If you have it, my sympathies. If you have managed to avoid long covid, please be careful – if you get covid, your chances are estimated at 10-30% to not get better.

Have sympathy if you are not ill or have not lost someone dear – the tragedies are endless.

And send good vibes, pray, or cross your fingers – because I can’t wait to get back to spending my daily tiny allotment of energy FINISHING Pride’s Children.

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If you read mainstream fiction, or psychological literary fiction, and haven’t read NETHERWORLD, it’s on Amazon in ebook and print. And in KU.

I would love to hear what you think – especially about whether it ends suitably.

And you can sign up to be informed about matters connected with the books at prideschildren.com.

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Applying for writing awards is hard

BECAUSE LIEBJABBERINGS IS MY WRITING BLOG, TOO

When I post something on my other blog, the one for the Pride’s Children books and stories, that might be of interest to the people who follow my writing posts here, I’ll usually provide a link.

The latest post there talks about the psychology of putting yourself forward for awards, something which still feels somehow odd, if not wrong.

Self-promotion is weird. Filling in things like ‘Author Bio’ and talking about yourself in third person, because that’s what the traditional publishers do, is weird.

The simple act of submitting your work for an award, which wasn’t successful for me for a long time (and it is only recent that my work received one), is still weird.

But if I don’t, no one will. And that’s a sobering thought.

Pop over to the post – and if you ever think you might read my fiction, Follow – so you’ll find out about sales and samples in a timely manner. And the sales before they’re over.

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How to read and review NETHERWORLD

PRIDE’S CHILDREN: NETHERWORLD IS WAITING FOR REVIEWS

If you hurry, you might be the first to post a review – poor NETHERWORLD is sitting on Amazon without a single one as I write this.

I’m slowly getting over the aftereffects of surgery, so I will be more proactive in the coming months.

FIRST SALE FOR NETHERWORLD BEGINS OCTOBER 19

because Amazon needs its price to not have changed for 30 days, and I have set up a Kindle Countdown Deal for my readers who follow this blog: you can even buy it for $2.99 in ebook on Amazon US that day (unfortunately, countdowns are a US thing, too).

OTHER ways to read and review:

IF you want to download an ARC

follow this link to the books’ site, and it will tell you how to join Booksprout and become a reader/reviewer (they even have other books you might like to download and read). While you’re there, if you haven’t clicked ‘Follow’ before, feel free to do so now – it is the best way to get details about the book delivered to your inbox, and to hear about sales in a timely manner.

I’m using this method because I am still not well enough to handle the back and forth of individual communication about ARCs; if you want that, it’s going to be about a month before I can commit to doing it (it takes a lot of work on my part).

I would appreciate it very much if you join, download and read, and review – and it will be much faster for you.

IF you would rather buy

simply mosey over to Amazon’s page for Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, and choose ebook or print. It is a bit longer than PURGATORY, but the ebook is the same price.

And, of course, I would still love a review!

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It’s that easy.

But be warned: I write long books.

But then: that may be partly why my readers love them.

I’m slowly getting back to functional, but surgery isn’t easy for someone like me. All anyone really needs to know is that it seems to have been successful, and I’m working on the pain part, and can’t wait until I’m back to what passes for normal for me.

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Thanks to those who go beyond

Who will tell you what to read?

WHAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF YOU CAN’T EVER READ

Seems such an obvious statement, but being invisible is a big problem for authors – getting the title of your book out there is a constant pressure, and you become very fond of those who make the effort on your blog, their blog, a writing site, a reading site, or any place where readers who would like YOUR books congregate.

And then something has to persuade them to read enough words to get to a ‘Call to Action,’ which can be as simple as a recommendation followed by a link.

The problem of recommendations

If the subject of what you’re reading comes up naturally, I don’t find it too difficult to ask a few questions about what someone new to me likes to read.

I rattle off a couple of favorites of mine – say Jane Eyre and the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries and maybe Dune – and watch to see if the listener’s reaction is fight or flight.

No one likes pushy authors, those who insist their books are ‘for everyone.’ Because it’s not a very believable statement in general, though people who are glad they read Jane Eyre have the most flexible mindset (which is why it gets so much attention). The enjoyment, or even that the story was self-chosen, are the keys – such a reader probably plowed (or ploughed) through similar long-lasting books.

I tried reading A Confederacy of Dunces – an award winner with a good author story (John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when he couldn’t find a publisher, his mother persuaded a legendary literary agent to champion the book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize), but had to force myself to finish Chapter 1. Because it may be brilliant, but it made my gorge rise and choke me. ‘Icky’ is the best I can remember about that long-ago attempt I have no desire to repeat. I don’t get very far into Lolita, either, for similar reasons. Or The Catcher in the Rye.

I can’t imagine their authors spending time with those characters, however good the writing may be.

So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and am glad I don’t have to assign either book to, say, a class of high school juniors (assuming teachers still get to make those choices), and then have to talk about it in class.

It’s personal for the author

And books can become a personal crusade favorite for readers who then recommend, gift, or lend something they loved.

So, if you LIKED a book, take a moment and do SOMETHING to encourage the author to keep it up:

  • Rate the book
  • Review and rate it
  • Blog about it
  • Recommend it to a friend
  • Leave nice words on the author’s websites
  • Buy an extra copy to lend
  • Send a copy to a friend or family member
  • Use as gifts
  • Ask your library to order the book(s)
  • Write a guide
  • Mention your favorite parts
  • Tell people you can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy
  • Hire a band to parade in DC in costume
  • Anything you would like if YOU had written the book.
  • Be your most creative.
  • Give a copy to any medical personnel who have no empathy for diseases like ME/CFS – this will allow them to live the life of one – without actually having to get it, or Long Covid, or Post-polio Syndrome, or Lyme disease – or any one of a bunch of post-viral syndromes and similar misunderstood ‘invisible’ diseases.

Crusade for indie books in principle by doing something a little beyond your normal response – the author will be delighted.

It’s not the money (though adequate royalties of around $6 per any version I have are about three times larger than many traditional authors make per book) – I crave the readers. Thanks!

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Don’t forget – the Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD ebook is IN KU, and

The NETHERWORLD ebook goes on sale (Kindle Countdown Deal) for a week starting October 19 – lowest price you will find it.

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NETHERWORLD ebook is live – prideschildren (dot) com

And the print version is ‘In review’ at Amazon

If you are interested in my fiction, and haven’t signed up at its site, click on Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD‘s announcement post for the ebook – but the print version is already up, cover and all, and Amazon has notified me it may take 3 days.

The ebook took ONE HOUR to be approved, late last night – I guess no one else was up!

Details at the link – not everyone who comes here is interested in fiction.

Check there, too, for the details of the two Kindle Countdown Deals that are set up – one for PURGATORY, Sep. 21, and one for NETHERWORLD, Oct. 19. Best way to pick up a copy of either.

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CASCADE is Mark and Steffi and Chapman sticks

There’s a water fall in those hills, somewhere.

A BLOGGER’S OBLIGATIONS: SHARING FINDS

When we find something that blows us away, that touches us somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts – sometimes for an odd reason – in this case because something about Mark reminded me of our middle son, so that when they appeared in my FaceBook feed, with an instrument (the Chapman stick) I’d never heard about, I was intrigued enough to listen: we need to share.

They travel – and busk.

There are, according to Mark’s website, about 8000 Chapman sticks in the world.

It’s like saying ‘there are about 8000 pianos in the world.’ Not a very big number. Not surprising I’d never heard of them (the Chapman sticks) or seen them played.

Their music is unique. There are links on his site to the inventor and pictures, if you care to follow.

The music is the important part

The first video I saw, on FB, was them playing ‘Hallelujah cover on two Chapman Sticks – performed by Cascade,‘ and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is one of my favorite songs. Their instrumental cover is simply beautiful.

Because of my ME/CFS, I have a very hard time listening to music, instrumental or otherwise, and have a horrible tendency to get earworms from it, and to not be able to get it out of my head for literally weeks (I think it’s one of the many processing problems from the damage the disease does to the brain).

So I don’t listen much any more – but Cascade’s versions don’t kick that pile of dust up. I just went through making up a weeks’ pills, listened to 3-4 of their pieces, and none of them wrangled my brain to the ground, so I was immediately prejudiced in their favor, because I LOVE music, and miss it greatly.

So here are a few links for the like-minded

Let me know what you think:

Lost in Time, filmed at Lake Constance in Germany.

The Way Home, new from July 2022.

Floating away, street performance in Molde, Norway.

May you find something you love.

They have the usual CDs and digital downloads – I’ll explore them in the future and definitely get some of their music.

Bon appetit!

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NETHERWORLD is a few tiny steps from uploaded to Amazon – but Mark and Steffi were a beautiful interruption, and I needed to find something like Cascade.

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Should blogging identities be kept separate?

You can’t help but be connected!

SHOULD YOU MIX YOUR AUDIENCES?

I’m an acquired taste.

This blog has 967 followers as of today – and I’ve been at it since 2012.

I’m two posts away from 700 – and no, that’s not why I’m blogging today.

Many blogs I follow have posts every day. I don’t necessarily want to do that, even if I could.

The blog I really care about is the one for the Pride’s Children books, prideschildren.com (I did have the sense to buy the domain way back in the early years, along with this one and a couple of others I keep just in case, such as the one with my full name).

But PridesChildren.com has 40 followers, and this blog has 732, and I’m wondering if I’m somehow neglecting to get readers who come HERE to continue on to the PC blog – assuming some of them read mainstream fiction, or, Oh, Joy!, have read some of my short fiction and want something more.

With limited energy, a staple of my life, I have to choose every day that isn’t too severely brainfogged, where to do some writing:

Where does the (writing) time go?

When one of the volumes of Pride’s Children is being written, that’s where the efforts mostly go, unless I physically can’t accomplish much because the time is short.

When I have something specific to say or to record for posterity (which often includes my own odd brand of writing advice), I blog at Liebjabberings (here). I’m actually considering writing a book of advice for writers – if there is any interest in my coping mechanisms.

And when I want to look polished and professional (even though I usually write in PJs) and am reminding myself that I have one chance to make a good impression with the fiction I care the most about, I blog at Pride’s Children. Or when I have something to say about a launch, or a sale, or an award.

And there’s always something on both sites that needs updating or polishing – feel free to weigh in.

Do I already have some crossovers?

Yes, but not as many as I expected.

So I’m making an open invitation: try out my short fiction here, go follow me there (or on Amazon at my author page), and you’ll know when I have a publishing event you might be interested in.

Other things to do

Contact me (See the About page) – ask me anything, or suggest a topic for a post. I love questions, and would be happy to write about something (assuming I have anything to contribute).

Comment on a post – I look at them as conversation starters, not articles of truth. Love chatting.

Recommend me to a friend, as a blogger or fictioneer.

Read something – try out the short fiction. Or a favorite post of mine. Or dig into the old ones with the strange titles.

Why now? Because NETHERWORLD is so close, and I’d love to give it a good party sendoff. And because sales are short-term events, and I’m figuring out timing that would be most beneficial – for more people to acquire ‘the taste.’

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Font lessons learned the hard way

A LOT CAN CHANGE IN SEVEN YEARS

In 2015, I was publishing a book for the first time, after spending a gazillion years writing the first book in my Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy, PURGATORY.

Newbies have a lot to learn, and it is an intense experience if you do it yourself, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way you will forget the steps.

But you have to allow for change – from the outside world – and it won’t take you or your needs into account.

I forgot two major things: software changes and computer crashes.

Software changes negate some changes you make to your copy

I was barely surviving, even back in 2015 when I spent a summer learning graphics and covers and formatting, and I thought that, between my notes and my blog posts, I was saving enough information to do it again with the second book in the trilogy (eventually named NETHERWORLD).

I didn’t even think – no spare brain cells – that the process would be different in a few years, and that it would take me seven to write the next book. Seven is a big number of years in computers.

Because of several computer crashes during those years, and a coast-to-coast move from New Jersey to California, I had to rely on backups for some of my major applications, and sometimes those backups came from outside my own storage systems.

When you download such a backup, you get a pristine copy, ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE YOUR MODIFICATIONS.

And the major mod that bit me was that on several of my indispensable applications, including Word, Scrivener, and Pixelmator, I had installed fonts I used for the interior and the exterior of the book – duly licensed and paid for – because I liked them.

Find your fonts: on your computer – or download them again

Because I included a Design Notes page at the end of the printed copies of PURGATORY, I had a list of all the fonts I used, their licensing information, and where I’d downloaded them from; plus where I’d licensed them from, with a copy of the invoice and registration information.

Not easily accessible – I didn’t think they would disappear, so I was cavalier about storing them properly – but (and here I credit Apple for saving my bacon several times by making a back of my data at the time of the crashes) they were there on my computer backups, and I eventually located all my information.

Font information is now stored in a MUCH clearer fashion, in a folder on my Desktop labeled 2022 PC Storage/2022 PC FONTS (incl PC1 fonts), and backed up on my computer and in the iCloud, so I won’t have to do this again.

[NOTE: this is where I’m trying to save other users, especially self-published authors (SPAs), time and effort – do this from the beginning, and add all new fonts to this storage system, and don’t be like Alicia.]

Fonts I use for covers or exteriors for Pride’s Children:

  • Alido (monospaced, from SummitSoft, licensed in the Big Graphics Bundle)
  • New Yorker (a very good imitation of the expensive official one, free from Allen R. Walden, to be credited)
  • Goudy Serial (from SoftMakerSoftwareGmbH, licensed) in 6 weights
  • Sorts Mill Goudy (free from Barry Schwarz, credit)
  • Cambria (pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
  • Book Antiqua (monospaced, pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)

Saving – and printing out and saving in physical form – the licensing information is a good idea; fonts are someone’s Intellectual Property, and you don’t want problems with a published book because you don’t have the required information handy to prove you licensed what you use – SPAs are a small business, and it helps to behave like one.

Install the fonts on your system

Before you do anything with additional fonts, they have to be installed on your computer in a form you can then add to your software.

For the Macs, this means installing them into the app Font Book, which couldn’t be simpler (assuming the font is one of the approved font types – which I found listed at Apple Support).

The extra fonts I chose for PURGATORY were all .otf or .ttf, which made it vastly simpler for me: double click on the font, Font Book opens automatically, click Install.

Book Antiqua and Cambria were IN the Font Book already, which makes me think that installing Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac also installed the Office fonts properly. Thanks, Microsoft!

Transfer the fonts to your software – if necessary

On the Mac I don’t have to do this! All the fonts in the Font Book that are not grayed out were now available when I opened Pixelmator!

And now I’m back where I was, font-wise, before the computer crashes and the move, and know a lot more than I did then.

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Scary time of absent brain

The future is boundless; our life, not so much

Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.

Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.

I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.

THERE IS NO POINT

in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]

It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!

Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.

As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.

It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.

There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.

Hope I’m still around.

More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.

Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!

It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.

The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.

Because love hasn’t been translating into action.

So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?

But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.

Physical problems have been the stumbling block

I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.

Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.

And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.

I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.

So I shouldn’t worry, right?

Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.

If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.

Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).

Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet

but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!

I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.

So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.

If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.

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As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.

I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.

And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.

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It’s that time: typo hunting time

THE PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD

In the publishing of the next book, every self-published author has to face the fact that typos exist, are blamed on the author (who has ultimate responsibility), and are as hard to eliminate completely as cockroaches.

What is a practical limit for the number of typos?

A little checking provides a couple of rough guidelines:

  1. A typo per thousand words is too many.
  2. Three typos in ten thousand words is proofing to a professional standard.

That standard means that, in a novel of 187,000 words, one could discover 56 typos – a huge number – and still be within professional quality. But it’s a twenty-chapter book, and that is only 2-3 typos per chapter, which doesn’t sound quite so bad.

The kind of errors matters

Using the wrong word isn’t a typo – it’s a mistake. It often comes from not knowing a word well enough, and not looking up the correct usage if you’re not certain.

There are a number of these anthills to die on, and experienced writers will know the difference between may and might, principal and principle, and verb affect/effect and noun affect/effect.

No one but beginners should have problems with its and it’s, or their/they’re/there. A professional writer needs to be certain about the basics, and have a cheat sheet for the ones which cause them trouble personally.

And it never hurts to check again, reinforcing what you know, challenging what you think you know. I am getting very humble in that department, as my damaged brain keeps throwing me the almost right word, I find it slightly odd – and have the sense to check. The bigger your vocabulary, the more chances for this to trip you up.

Leaving out a short word is a typo – a good friend just caught me leaving out ‘to’ from the infinitive ‘to commit’ – thank you!

The little shorties which are the wrong word, but are an actual word, are one of my peccadilloes: it, if, is, in – it is so easy to type the wrong consonant!

Transposing a couple of letters or leaving off a final letter – happen frequently to all typists, and can be very hard to catch. Sometimes the best way is to have the robot voice of your computer or program read you your own deathless prose – and make you giggle. My current typo-in-hiding is leaving the final ‘r’ off ‘your,’ which sounds funny when read back to me – YMMV.

Paying for professional proofing

does not guarantee perfection, unfortunately. It may be worth it but I think it doesn’t teach you anything. You’ll still make mistakes and typos, and have to figure out how to make the corrections stick in your writer’s mind, if they’re the kind you can learn from such as using a word incorrectly.

If you accept the corrections made by a pro too quickly, you may not move the problems into long-term memory properly – and so will continue to make that kind of flub. It’s worth taking some time to ask yourself why they happened, and whether you can make a permanent self-fix.

And you’re still the one with your name on the book.

So wish me well on what is the final proofing:

Sending out ARCs I think are perfect, and getting back the little niggly (and wonderfully welcome), “I liked it – but on page #n, you have a typo…”

Embarrassing – but I am grateful for every catch.

And vow to learn from them.

Can’t be perfect – but I can always become better.

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Love in the time of pandemic

AND WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Gak! It’s been almost a month since I posted anything!

There was a lot of quarantining in that time. NOT because we were exposed to Covid, though some independent living residents in this facility were (we found out because they had dinner with friends in Assisted Living at the Friendship Table, and the AL people ARE tested regularly because they’re in the health-care portion of our facility).

And because those people in IL who WERE exposed to the people in AL who tested positive, the State of California required them to quarantine for FOURTEEN DAYS in their apartments. None of the IL residents got Covid, thank goodness, but WE had a vacation in Lake Tahoe with our kids a few weeks later, and realized that WE wouldn’t be able to go IF we got exposed ourselves, here, and then had to do the same quarantine for 14 days.

That is, we quarantined for 14 days so we wouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days – at an inconvenient time which would put the kibosh on OUR vacation. Mixed up world, eh?

So – any progress on publishing NETHERWORLD?

Well, yes and no.

For the ms., I created an easy ARC from Scrivener – the complete, very long pdf of the whole thing (~500 pages), and sent it to the first person who’s offered to review AND buy it on launch day (thank you, David!), and as a backup complete proofed file to several places, including my amazing beta reader (thank you, Rachel!), and gave my husband and children the necessary information to manage my literary estate (and publish Netherworld) if something happened on the trip/vacation/return. You never know.

The formatting is no further than that.

For the cover: I have all the pieces, an updated Pixelmator 3, and an updated Learn Pixelmator 3.5 video course (free update – thanks folks!).

I’ve bought licenses for the two cover images from Dreamstime, acquired another photo from the same friend who supplied the sky for Purgatory’s cover, found a couple of low-res images to guide me in the changes I’ll need to create the cover in my head, and put the whole thing into a folder and a backup on the iCloud. Phew.

Now I just have to do the work, get it past my cover mentor (thank you, Jessica!), and create ebook, paper and hardback covers to spec, and then, because I want to make one change to them, redo a bit of the Purgatory covers (bigger name so it shows on the thumbnail, add the award, etc.) which really amounts to redoing a fair amount of the Purgatory covers AND creating the hardcover one.

I have my permissions from Cambridge U. for my KJV quotations – feels nice and official.

I got my copyright certificate from the Library of Congress! I always feel better after I do that, for whatever it might be worth.

Launching is, of course, dependent on having something to launch. I had approached a PR firm, put up with a long delay to talk to them, checked in with them and received a promise of an answer of some kind before the end of May, and than have been ghosted. It does remind me that if people are not reliable in the small things, it’s probably better not to rely on them for the big ones, so that firm is permanently off the table. Too bad, because I liked them, and had already invested some effort into them.

I’m still obsessively re-reading the end of Netherworld – and not changing a word. I promise explosions, and I hope they are well received.

I want to continue getting into writing LIMBO

I literally can’t wait – because there are only a few hours between the end of 2 and the beginning of 3, and I’m very happy how that turned out.

And I’ve already started writing Chapter 41(LIMBO goes to 60).

BUT I’ve been dealing with some medical problems for 2.5 years to no solution, and I’m in the middle of trying to fix some things that really need fixing, and it’s a slow process because disability means EVERYTHING is so much harder – from making phone calls through phone systems that won’t just let you call someone to make an appointment, to doctor visits which consume an incredible amount of prep time, energy, and recovery time, to a whole slew of medical tests with the same problems – which the new doctor insists on before she will even consider DOING something.

Plus a big paperwork problem I’ve finally admitted I had to step in and manage, do some of, get help, hand over to the pros…

And my limited number of daily spoons is gone every day before I manage to write. Because it’s not just ‘write a few words’ now – it’s the whole huge Book 3 planning review, restart, clean up, carry stuff from 1 and 2 typical glorious mess of starting the final volume in a trilogy. Drives me up a tree that I can’t just do it.

But I’m literally doing the best I can

And not managing to sleep very well with all the above, to boot.

I can tell stress that I’m fine until I’m full-body blue, but that does NOT take away the stress. It just doesn’t add worry, but the things I’m having to do are stressful in and of themselves, and that is such a deep autonomic process that you can’t affect it much.

Plus the physical problems have extra pain and much discomfort associated, which has to be micromanaged – and I was already exhausted before that.

There are signs, portents, and possibilities

of improvements, but not fast.

This is literally the first time I’ve even been able to think of writing a simple blog post, in the whole past month.

Life happens – you deal.

I know what my primary aim is (if family is okay), but I’m not able to DO it right now.

Don’t worry. Nothing TOO horribly grim. But I’m all tapped out of spoons every day, almost the end of the morning, when I’ve done nothing yet.

But stuff slowly gets done, and goes into the rearview mirror queue from the To Do list, and I’ll get there.

On the bright side

my oldest daughter is helping me select my new computer for the foreseeable future – my current lovey is from 2015, and can’t be upgraded far enough because then my necessary old software – Office 2011 for Mac and Dramatica Story Expert – won’t work, and I don’t have the mental bandwidth right now to deal with another potential crash.

Everything is properly backed up (Time Machine and iCloud), but bobbles with computers cost me days or weeks when they happen, so for the first time in a long time, I’m being proactive: a new Macbook Air with the M2 processor and good camera should take me far into the future and definitely through LIMBO.

It will, however, require some learning – not my strong point.

So that’s the update:

I’m working as hard as I can on the critical list items

I’m as far along with Netherworld as I can be, including covers

Ditto redoing the Purgatory covers

Ditto writing into the future with Limbo

and dealing with the sorry carcass which makes all of this possible at all in as graceful a manner as I can against the extra stress of having to do it at all, and the unbelievable amount of extra energy it takes

AND, courtesy of my lovely assistant Sammy, whose last day is today (she’s graduating! going on to grad school! going home for the summer!), I have already acquired an assistant for the fall (another senior – so I’ll get 8-9 months of her life, and leave her a changed young woman – but seniors are really handy), and she’s interested in learning the self-pub aspects of the job I haven’t had time to do with Sammy because other things were more, uh, important.

And the ability to write this post reassures me that there’s still a ‘me’ here.

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More when there’s actually progress on this laundry list.

Be well. Have a great summer. Don’t work TOO hard.

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PS: If you are desperate to read NETHERWORLD, and wouldn’t mind writing a review to be posted when it’s published, email me (abehrhardt at gmail), make your case, and I’ll send you what I have at the time.

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