Every year this date reminds me that we STILL have no diagnostic marker, treatment, or cure for the devastating disease that stole my life as a physicist in 1989, the week of Nov. 5th.
Another year with nothing really new that can turn me back into a functioning person.
Or even help new victims.
Except that this year there is an understanding that, if we didn’t know what virus had done the damage, ALMOST ALL of the long-covid victims would be diagnosed, based on symptoms, with ME.
But we know that virus, and possibly that will help some of the targeted research that now has been funded to figure out the mechanism of the damage and find a way to reverse some of it.
And maybe, MAYBE, some of that research will benefit newer victims of ME/CFS, and possibly – though the damage is so long-standing it’s hard to think how – those of us who have been waiting for decades.
If you pray, pray for us.
If you’re not the praying kind, think of us kindly.
We’re still sick – and I wouldn’t wish this illness on Putin.
Meanwhile, Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is still in existence because of ME/CFS, and NETHERWORLD will be out very soon (the disease makes me very slow).
And they cost the reader nothing but a few minutes.
If you’ve never done it before, or it’s been a while, that first one seems, uh, hard.
Often the best time to write one is when you have just finished a book, and can’t wait to share.
But many people are shy, tell themselves they’ll write one later, and never end up doing it.
So: to make it easier, save either the link to this post, or to Rosie’s, and be ready the next time you’re bursting to say something, to extend your time in the book’s universe just a little bit longer.
Rosie Amber’s Review Templates
Rosie Amber has a lovely set of templates that will get you going on your review. Fill in whichever of the prompts you like (not necessary to write more than about twenty words), and voilà, review!
Want to write something longer? Keep typing and wax eloquent. Tell other potential readers why you like a book.
Create in your wordprocessor of choice and copy/paste, OR write directly into Amazon’s prompts for a review. The templates are SO much more encouraging and helpful than facing a blank page or review form. Thanks, Rosie!
While at Rosie‘s, check around – there are so many wonderful reviews. There’s an easy sign-up to have the blog come to your inbox.
Can you tell I’m getting ready to ask you to read and review a book?
He kindly provided a long list of questions, and after I got started, I realized I should post this here, and just leave the first two answers as a teaser on his blog, which you should visit and follow.
He starts his post with:
Publishing gurus are full of ideas for you. To optimize your sales, they might suggest new covers. They will tell you that your only barrier to startling success is a simple (yet costly) tweak to your book description.
Here is my list of answers – a good set to answer for yourself in writing. I’ve edited or changed his questions a bit in places to suit me better – you should read his.
What is success to me?
People reading and reviewing my mainstream trilogy – I am pretty sure it will take off in a big way some day, and these people keep me writing.
What works for you?
Doing it exactly my way, designed for a damaged brain and no energy – because it works.
Everyone else’s suggestions – I can’t follow them, and when I make the big effort, they don’t work for me.
Have you tested other options?
Yes, though not extensively – I’m VERY slow, and this takes time away from writing.
Have you played with the variables?
Not a lot – by definition, half of A/B testing is going to be wrong!
Would you drop what isn’t working?
In principle, yes – but I have to somehow decide people who don’t know me and my work know what they’re talking about. So far, not convinced.
Are you doing more of what works for you?
I am – and I do as soon as I identify something that works, I do more of it. When I have time and energy, the kicker.
What haven’t you succeeded at trying that might work?
Going viral (not something you can just ‘try.’) Getting on Oprah or equivalent. Practically, attracting a BIG influencer who goes to bat for me.
Have you tried that?
Have asked maybe ten – they all have shied away or answered in generalities or haven’t answered at all. Doing things their way works for them; altering, looking at the outliers, not so much.
Before changing, have you completed other projects?
Yes. I can only work on one thing at a times – very little ability to do elsewise.
Have you analyzed pros and cons of a strategy such as changing genres?
Not until I finish the mainstream trilogy (but I managed to tuck some historical fiction AND some science fiction into it).
What would your costs be?
Funny: They go from me, my time, and my energy, immediately to a very expensive version of let other people do it. I could probably afford it, if I were convinced it would make a permanent difference – but I don’t believe that, because the limitation is still me.
What would the cost/benefit of getting paid helpers be?
I would have to sell a LOT more books to make them pay for themselves, and, since I will never be able to create much of a backlist, there won’t be much help from other work, so it would depend on a single huge campaign for the trilogy.
How much money do you need to live?
Fortunately, I’m retired, settled into a retirement community, and okay.
How much MORE do you need for WANTS?
Lucky that way – none.
Do you have the helpers to effect this change?
Not yet, though I’ve approached several possibilities, and listened carefully to their answers.
Would this be an investment, or money down the drain?
It’s my life, and my only chance of a legacy, since I became chronically ill.
Is a helper worth the time or mental toll it will require?
Haven’t found one yet that is.
What’s keeping you from trying?
Lack of energy.
What’s the worst that could happen?
No increased sales, and the loss of a lot of money which should have gone to charities and the kids.
What’s the best that could happen?
Breakout – and a fame which wouldn’t make much difference to a very isolated disabled life, but would be fun (instead of always being odd woman out).
Is the new way of working a passion, an excuse, or an escape?
Passion, of course. Nothing else is worth the kind of effort necessary.
What makes your new approach significantly different from old projects that failed?
I’m doing it myself; the failed one approached traditional publishing and didn’t get a brass ring.
Are you happy or excited to make this new commitment?
Haven’t had a credible proposition yet; there’s one possibility in the works – a PR company. I’m waiting to hear, because they will have to do all the changing – I don’t have the capacity to.
As working people, the ‘system’ promised us, if we worked hard and saved our pennies for retirement, didn’t spend it all, that we would enjoy some years of healthy living, ease, family, and freedom.
Now they want to renege.
The rest of the world wants to go back to ‘normal,’ ignore any public health measures that might prevent passing on a deadly virus which keeps mutating into something even more dire (so far), has killed oh, around a million Americans directly, and, if I’m reading the statistics right, another million or so in ‘excess deaths’ – deaths which wouldn’t have happened if normal ailments had been treated in hospitals in a timely manner.
Well, those hospitals were full of covid patients – still are.
And after every new peak, ‘they’ are quick to assume it’s the last of its kind (remember after Delta, and before Omicron cases started climbing stratospherically?), and give up restrictions before people get tired of them.
The view from the vulnerable block is pure astonishment
In the US and in much of Europe they are already preparing to ‘live with the virus’ – everyone will eventually get it, THE OLD, SICK, VULNERABLE, IMMUNOCOMPROMISED, FRAGILE WILL DIE, and the world will go back to being a lovely place for idiots to party and catch covid at a concert, restaurant, or bar.
And take it home to Grandma.
Who needs Grandma anyway?
People who might have lived for years, decades
Because what they had, while not fun, is manageable: diabetes, heart disease, obesity…
Or potentially curable: some forms of cancer, getting a replacement kidney or a part of someone’s liver or a heart transplant…
are incredibly susceptible to getting covid.
They don’t just fade away: death from covid is painful, exhausting, humiliating – and with little support from family and friends – lonely.
And people dying of covid in a hospital cause other people not to be able to lifesaving surgery or care – and die, too.
Let us get rid of one of these right up front:
Obesity. It’s an ugly word. It’s a word of our time. Before, the chubby of us had reserves for surviving – and potentially fighting off – some diseases, and lasted longer.
Be that as it may.
It is not something that someone can change quickly. Or at all.
Doctor-supervised diets have a 2% success rate after two years.
And it is a cop-out. Just because a doctor doesn’t like it, and blames everything on it, and says, “If you just lost weight and exercised, you wouldn’t be sick,” doesn’t make it so.
And back to the important qualification for being useless: there isn’t a person on this Earth who can lower their weight consistently and safely QUICKLY.
Another is exercise
For post-viral illnesses such as long-covid, ME/CFS, and possibly any others such as chronic Lyme disease, exercise is CONTRAINDICATED. Read that carefully. It means: “Doesn’t help and DOES harm.”
The exercise-and-it’s-all-in-your-head brigade have been thoroughly debunked, their statistics shown to be bad science, and guidelines are changing everywhere. Not fast enough – and with rearguard actions by the biopsychosocial cabal trying to claim their methods actually work (they don’t want to lose all that lovely research money, ‘treatment’ money, and prestige; and in some cases knighthoods or damehoods (sic?)).
New people with our diseases are needy and desperate. They will grasp at anything that offers hope, and they are not good at separating the quacks from the legitimate scientists. They are given something and told it works, and they try over and over, blaming themselves when non-proven methods actually DON’T work.
Worse than that: they make themselves sicker. For every post-exertional crash, the baseline lowers on what a person can safely do. Enough of those, with the very best intentions, and people end up bed-ridden or worse.
Exercise is dangerous for people recovering from these viruses. DANGEROUS.
I always thought, when I was younger, that I would be able to work my way out of anything by just putting the effort in.
As an old person, I would keep walking, keep doing yoga, have the time for more exercise.
And that people who ‘let themselves go’ had brought it all on themselves. Well, some of them have. But I’ve been trying for over three decades and guess what? NOPE. You can’t work yourself out of CFS.
You DO stop going to doctors because they don’t like illnesses without a cookbook approach. They don’t like mysterious illnesses that somehow have normal bloodwork – for the tests the insurance companies will allow.
They don’t like taking into account one of my widely-shared symptoms: intolerance of medicines. We are the people who get all the side-effects of almost everything that works for ‘normal’ people. I actually went through four of the five classes of blood-pressure medications after getting stents (and both Plavix and Effient – which made me deadly ill). My last cardiologist in New Jersey said the fifth kind of BP drugs would most likely make me quite sick, so we skipped them.
The protection of the booster shots for the immunocompromised
should be extended to the elderly if it is warranted.
I’m in the vulnerable category – I got my fourth shot, considered the second booster shot, four days ago. My arm still hurts and a day after the shot during which I felt as if I had the flu was followed by two days of not getting much done because of being a bit woozy and brain-fogged, and I don’t care at all.
In a week and a half or so, I will have whatever immunity my body can build up from the shots, and I was the one who nagged my doctor’s office as soon as the CDC said people like me should have another booster.
We are back, cautiously, to congregant dining – but the husband and I are taking it very slow because I don’t want to get covid at all (I already have the equivalent of long covid; online friends who have had covid on top of ME/CFS are struggling). Everyone here wears masks, distances socially, and avoids as many group activities as possible – except for today, when we celebrated the lives of those fellow residents who left us this past year with a short ceremony and two songs – sung through my KN95 mask.
We are all wondering what will follow Omicron and its B version.
It will take a long time before people like me will feel safe – and seeing mask and other requirements vanishing left and right, when the scientists tell us it is NOT over, doesn’t help.
PLEASE continue to be careful and smart even when the official rules relax.
The life you save may be someone you love.
I’m hoping my brain will be usable for writing fiction tomorrow.
Please pop over to prideschildren.com and follow if you are a fan of mainstream fiction of the ‘big book variety.’ There is a short story prequel there and a sample. PLUS the first scene of NETHERWORLD, and reports of how close it is to being published.
This post was composed while not completely with it – may be a bit ranty.
It is axiomatic that there are no overnight successes.
Because it takes huge amounts of determination and preparation to be ready to respond well when an opportunity finally comes along – and if you’re not ready, it will leave you in the dust and move on.
Take your American Idol singer
The pipes that astonish are not natural, spur of the moment, magically angelic. Nope. If so, they are most likely to freeze at the first sign of stress.
The singer not only sings a lot in the shower, but has had parents paying for individual teachers, has been singing in the church choir, has spent years listening to music, and has been through a whole list of roles in the school plays.
Being on stage in front of a bunch of strangers and wowing Simon Cowell is not a fluke.
The illusion that it is sudden and unexpected and a direct blessing from Heaven is for the AUDIENCE. The ones who want to jump on the bandwagon as it goes by because, “I’m just as good as she is.” It keeps them buying the advertised products, watching the shows, purchasing tickets for Kelly Clarkson when she comes to town.
Even the little Wow! stories are the product of hours and hours and hours of cameramen recording every remotely possible candidate practicing in the hall – to be scrolled through for the exciting bits AFTER the winner has been chosen.
It matters only for the individuals
The producers don’t care who wins – they have SO many contestants that their triage is stricter than that after a major accident: they may let a few charismatic duds go through a few levels they aren’t qualified for – one leaves in the random possibility because crowds are fickle, but the staff’s job is to make sure that the two or three possibles culled out of each thousand who apply are usable.
They have no investment in a particular candidate. It’s dangerous to have one because talent and stardom are unpredictable beasts.
But the individual candidates, those who want to win, have to be ready to win – if it happens.
Artists need support BEFORE
before they are recognized as somehow ‘good.’
before they get discouraged and stop producing amazing work.
before everyone else discovers them.
It is even more important for those who are slow, or for whom doing the work is a great mental and/or physical effort.
I know that I will never forget the earliest responses on Wattpad from other writers, the ones who kept me cheerfully sharpening my nose. Because they KNEW – and SAID so – BEFORE others.
Peter Hyland, one of my characters, says,
“None of my friends are perfect. And most of them are irreplaceable. They provide the mirror when I get too big for my britches. New ones are hard to find.” He squinted at the dying sun. “I need them far more than they need me.”
PRIDE’S CHILDREN: PURGATORY, Chapter 13
It is hard for people to commit, to say, “I’ve found this new writer/photographer/painter…, and you should look into their work” to recommend someone to a friend. What if the friend doesn’t like the new artist? Easier not to say anything, and just nod wisely.
But once the wagon is full, one more supporter isn’t going to make that much of a difference.
Getting started is hard – but up to the writer, who is the one to make the decision when something is first ready to be released to the public.
But keeping it going is much harder still, and that’s when the support can make the difference between someone going on to do creditable work – or quitting.
It may or may not be important, or a stepping stone of any size, but I’m saying thank you to all my readers who have been saying, “I like what you write,” since I started putting Pride’s Children out in serial form on Wattpad.
You may or may not have noticed the new badge on the sidebar.
Pride’s Children: PURGATORY has been named Indies Today’s 2021 BEST CONTEMPORARY novel, and I’d love it if those of you who read mainstream fiction would pop over to my other site, the one for the books, and sign up to follow that blog as I get ready to finish and publish the second novel in the trilogy, Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD.
I am Director of Marketing for Trilka Press, the imprint that publishes my books, and may some day publish other writers (don’t hold your breath quite yet).
I am the PR department, as well. All of it. And the Art Department. And IT. And Housekeeping and Bookkeeping and Landscaping and…
I am in charge of all financial decisions; we are still at the venture capital stage (me), so I’m VP of Finance.
All self-publishers are entrepreneurs by definition. We make all the decisions which affect us, except for those made by our printer and distributor (in my case, only Amazon – changing that will require work I don’t have time for now, but it’s on the very-long To Do list of the CEO and COO of Trilka Press (again, me)).
Advertising is solely my responsibility at the end of 2021
If I want to advertise (takes time and effort away from writing), I choose the venue (Amazon, FaceBook, and, in one horrible expensive decision years back, the PAW (the Princeton Alumni Weekly), which I was allowed to advertise in as a former staff member – circulation 90K prime potential readers – cost >$600, RoI = $0).
And I set up the ads. And pay for them. And fulfill all the requirements of timing – and due diligence. I should have asked PAW for some statistics – it turns out that particular advertising section, published twice a year, is filled with other self-publishers and some perennials, and is probably not a good place to peddle fiction by unknown authors who get a tiny number of words to hawk their wares. Duly noted.
So, like all of us, I spend some time managing promotion for myself (I know, sounds so tacky!). Or I’m depending on the kindness of strangers, which is erratic.
You get over it when you realize you want readers, readers in general have been conditioned to be wary of SPAs (self-published authors), and it’s up to you.
If you happen to be lucky, or go viral in some way, good.
Don’t count on it.
Even in the pushy real world, most overnight sensations have been at it for at least ten years. Or are connected. Or know something about somebody (just kidding!).
The power and control are heady – and scary!
Unlike many indies, I am not solely supported by my writing (a good thing!). But I also don’t want to write only for myself, at least not past this trilogy, because it is an incredible amount of work, takes all my available energy, and I worry about leaving fans hanging if something happens to me during the (very long) time it takes me to write something to my standards – and don’t want them to see how far below that I start.
Twenty-one years so far – and the final book will consume at least my next five years.
This little win I just received – the lovely and letter-perfect review from Jennifer Jackson at Indies Today – showed me how much encouragement affects my ability to focus. Duly noted again – but it’s not the kind of thing you can say, even to friends: “Please tell me something nice about my writing.”
I do my part for other writers, and they have been wonderful, but modesty and not-bragging were ingrained in my generation by our parents, whose generation fought WWII, and had their priorities pretty straight by the end of it, in many ways. Did they overdo it? Probably. All parents do, no matter how perfect we think we are.
But I digress…
I generally avoid low-price sales
How can conditioning people to expect something for almost nothing be a functional business model?
Someone commented recently that most free or 0.99 downloaded books are NEVER read.
The exception is the books which somehow get read, and make the reader a fan who then purchases or borrows from library or streaming service the author’s other books.
And up until now I didn’t have other books.
The exceptions I can live with include:
Sales to raise a book’s rank (for Search Engines)
Sales to promote a series which already exists
Sales to promote a launch
Sales to capture any remaining market for a bestseller already out a while
Or sales to take advantage of a blip
In other words, sales which have an expected (or hoped for) return on investment. That investment can be considerable, and the return is not guaranteed, but, for example, most writers mention in writing groups (self-selected) that they’re happy with BookBub deals and get a significant bump from them. ‘Loss leader’ I believe the marketing folk call it. BookBub doesn’t lose, authors who don’t do well hope maybe next time, and readers get bargains or freebies.
I’ve noticed Netflix keeps raising its prices. Because ‘give stuff away free’ is not sustainable. And Amazon and Facebook make money from the ads. But authors who don’t get that boost might be subsidizing the whole experiment.
Anyhoo – moving right along – BUY!
If you have a business reason for a sale, you will eventually learn which ones work.
Amazon is being very efficient these days: the $0.99 price took less than an hour to show up today, so THE 0.99 E-BOOK SALEis on. At least until four days after January 14, 2022, when my first Hello Books promotion will be over. The price will then return to $9.99.
PLEASE take advantage of the timing – I am hoping for a bump in ranking which might help later, and followers who might be interested in NETHERWORLD.
If you go to PURGATORY‘s page, I would appreciate it if you scroll down to the Editorial Reviews and tell me what you think of the new version – I modeled it on The Goldfinch‘s ER, and Amazon was very responsive as I worked on changes – an hour or so instead of their published ‘3 to 5 business days.’ Much appreciated, because it is almost impossible to get those things right the first time, and it took me three iterations.
The probability of a lower price is minuscule – I think ‘FREE’ doesn’t work for my kind of author and book.
[NOTE: The paperback is not on sale any more (Amazon was playing with it).]
Really looking forward to your comments – readers and writers. How does any of the above reflect your experience?
And if you are interested in NETHERWORLD, but haven’t popped over to the books’ site to Follow it, now is a good time to guarantee you hear about things like sales.
When you are reaching the end of writing a novel, it looks as if you’ll never finish.
Encouragement comes in odd places:
a reader wanting to know when the next one is out
sales you didn’t expect, didn’t advertise for
the writing going particularly well
a tough section written
and a review that blows your metaphorical socks off (one gets so jaded).
This morning, my inbox contained a link to that kind of review, and I encourage those who are here for the fiction to take a quick look at the books’ sister site, Pride’s Children . com, and sign up there if they haven’t – because NETHERWORLD will be here early next year, and that encouragement keeps me focused.
An encouraged and supported writer (thanks to all my visitors and commenters and fellow bloggers and friends from FB and GR – you know who you are, and I hope you know how important you are) is a happy writer, and is probably writing much better than a discouraged one.
I don’t buy the drugs-and-alcohol motivated writer narrative (one reason being because my body doesn’t process alcohol fast enough and I don’t tolerate most meds), so I have to go on HAPPINESS, the universal salve.
Sleep and lowered stress would be nice, too, and research to treat and cure this dratted disease (ME/CFS). I’m doing the best that I can.
After I wrote the above, I realized that I think of them separately (personal choice), with effort being the whole mental atmosphere surrounding what writers do – from paying attention to things other people never notice, including information on publicity, covers, and selling – and work being actually sitting down and turning that attitude into things such as a finished ad or a description that rocks or any number of other ‘deliverables.’
‘WORK‘, of course, includes the writing itself, the finished words on the page of a pdf you are about to upload to Amazon or others.
And know it’s the best version of the story you are able to provide that mysterious elusive creature, the Reader.
After that, Amazon takes over and supplies copies of the WORK to those who pay for it.
For many of us, Amazon is currently publisher and distributor, for a hefty portion of the rewards (30% for ebooks, more for print books). I am currently okay with that. Because that equation is far worse on the traditional publishing side, and many of the benefits to using them (editing, covers, advertising, promotion, reasonable advances, royalties) are on the path of the Dodo bird.
Writing successful fiction requires two additional things:
Finding your potential readers, and
Getting them to try your writing.
If you haven’t truly written a good book that readers would buy if they only knew about you, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME when you promote and advertise and stand on your head to do PR. You may fool some of the people some of the time, but that is rarely a recipe for commercial success.
Indeed, after reading some authors’ latest ‘work’, I know I will never read another from them.
But the whole discoverability part of writing is hard, tricky, and requires the one thing I don’t have: energy and the capacity for endless self-promotion.
If you have written ‘a good book’ for a segment of the population
the satisfied readers should be clamoring for more.
If you have more (backlist), they have a lot to discover and enjoy.
If not, well, keep working. And some readers will never get that pleasure from you again, but it won’t be your fault, if you’ just keep truckin’.’
And hope for some luck, or ‘Here a miracle occurs,’ or going viral, or catching someone’s eye…
Some of us will simply have to hope for an afterlife, and wait to ask Margaret Mitchell what happened to Scarlett. Assuming she still cares – the afterlife runs on different rules, I believe.
And now I’m going off to nap, followed by keeping my nose to my particular grindstone.
I do so want to finish. It’s coming nicely. And every time the idea that life might be easier if I spent it entertaining myself instead of torturing myself with imaginary people, I have managed to fight that attitude off.
What are the things in your life that you will never give up on?
HOW MUCH TIME do my potential readers spend looking for SOMETHING, ANYTHING interesting to read before finding a few possibles,
HOW MUCH MORE TIME do they spend starting and then giving up on books that pass their initial selection process – BEFORE they find one they like and actually enjoy reading to the end?
Readers may have preferences, but the good ones, the educated literate WHALE readers – the ones who read a lot of books, hard books, complex books, and often buy them in hardcover (which I will produce when I have 1) a lot of time, or 2) Amazon lets me into their beta hardcover program), and then RECOMMEND them to their friends – are often happy to just read ‘a good book.’
Because their appetites are not satisfied – no matter how many books are on their To Be Read piles.
They are not looking for ‘more of the same vampire books.’ Or ‘the latest James Patterson book.’ Or another ‘clean Romance.’
They are let down by what they read (have you seen how many NEGATIVE reviews there are on books such as The Goldfinch? They won’t all be people who can’t handle the complexity and bought it primarily as a coffeetable book!).
They want what writers are counseled to produce: a good book
So it got me to thinking about my writing, and what I am trying to produce, a good story, a book that is worth the time invested in reading it, a book which will make the same Reader want the next in the trilogy.
It’s easier for me to vet my potential Readers than for me to try to please everyone (an impossibility).
So I’m going to try to QUANTIFY the ineffable
There’s an example: If you are potentially MY Reader, either you already know what ‘ineffable’ means, or you will figure it out from context and a dictionary – because you like words and enjoy pinning down ones you’ve seen before but don’t remember exactly what they mean. And either way, it will give you PLEASURE just sitting there on your page.
If ‘ineffable’ appearing in your reading material is annoying because you think the writer’s being elitist or you’re done with SAT words, your are NOT my potential Reader.
Because ineffable came to my mind as what I wanted to say (and I did a quick check to make sure I didn’t have it mixed up with something else – fatal to the point I’m trying to make). Something unquantifiable because it is big and complex: how to help Readers know the value of my work – to them, the only people they are really interested in satisfying.
Everything else is miscommunication.
And I’m going to quantify it in a very me way
I’m going to make a list of books which have influenced Pride’s Children by being favorites of mine still years after I’ve read most of them, and why.
I’ve done this on Goodreads when carefully looking for potential reviewers, using the Compare books feature, especially if they’ve reviewed and I can see if our reasons for loving a book are compatible.
All you have to do to find out if you are potentially a Reader of my fiction is to see if several of these hit you in similar ways.
For the actual writing part – because we can love the same books without me being able to produce a coherent sentence in a similar style – I will make my standard recommendation: go to Amazon, to the print version – because my formatting is part of how I want to write. The ebook is available and I love it, too, but ebooks have reflowable text on purpose so you can change fonts and sizes to suit you; great for reading, not so great for seeing if you like everything about the author.
Read – but don’t get hung up on – the description; these are always being tweaked to occupy the very limited real estate on the book’s page. It is an indicator, not the definitive reason for choosing or not choosing a book.
Read some of the reviews. I’d choose several of the top reviews (most of the longer 5* ones from older men) and maybe a couple of the few negative ones (you’ll know what I mean if my writing will appeal to you). Go for the long ones – but not the ones which summarize and ruin the plot: you’re looking for reviewers like you.
Read a few pages of the Look Inside! – by the end of the third scene you will have met all the point of view characters, by the end of the first chapter or two you will have picked up the as-needed style of alternating them, and by the end of the sample, if not much sooner, you will know if – in your opinion – I can write.
Ten or twenty minutes spent will tell you all you need to know. And you should spend that on a potential book; Pride’s Children PURGATORY will take you a good while to read.
That’s it: checkout my list of influencers and read a bit of the actual writing, and then, if you’re one of us, buy in your favorite format and get to reading.
I can guarantee it’s a good story; after all, it has occupied all my usable writing time for the past twenty-one years, I’m almost finished with volume 2 (which ends well but still leaves you wanting more), and volume 3 is completely plotted and exists in rough draft form (so you know I know exactly where we’re going).
What kind of a good story?
Well, here is a partial list of the themes woven in there somewhere:
Love is based on trust
Children matter – and must be protected
Beliefs are important
Beliefs lead to action
Right beliefs lead to right action
Good will prevail
Life throws stuff at you – how you handle it is who you are
You can’t stay married to someone who doesn’t want you
Some people are objectively better than others
Evil exists – and can’t be excused
Love transcends age
We have a capacity for intense love: of a character. Of an actor. Of a story.
Disability themes: how common it is, the intrinsic value of the person who is disabled, and the empathy I want developed in readers and the world.
And the overall theme: How you live your life PROVES what you believe. And believe in.
Now for those influencer books:
(you will want to have read – and liked or have been affected by – at least several):
Dune (plus Dune Messiah and Children of Dune)
On the Beach, Trustee from the Toolroom
The Thorn Birds
The Left Hand of Darkness, Roccannon’s World, Planet of Exile
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Strong Poison, Have his Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon, Talboys
A Tale of Two Cities
The Dying of the Light (also named After the Festival), A Song for Lya
The Foundation trilogy
The Crystal Cave, The Last Enchantment
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Brave New World
The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Snow Falling on Cedars, Our Lady of the Forest
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Three Musketeers
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Name of the Rose
A good serving of these plus a familiarity with Shakespeare and the Bible.
That’s basically it
Spend a bit of time vetting your reading material – you will be spending hours of your life you will never get back – and then settle in to a nice long encounter.
You may also pray for good health for the writer; in this case, she needs to be semi-functional to be able to write at all.
IF you are persuaded, leave a comment saying why – feedback is crucial to writers, especially if you want more work from them.
Episode #1 – The Affair of the Tricycle Seat Repair
This isn’t my tricycle – mine is a mystery brand – but it is extremely similar. One of the things that was normal this past week was a trip to the Tinker’s Den, my first.
Here at URC, an early resident refused to move in unless he was allowed to bring his basement workshop and woodworking tools. So they accommodated him by building a room off the corner of the south underground garage, and named it the Tinker’s Den. That was 20 years ago, and the workshop is used by a variety of people doing projects.
Well, earlier in the week I finally took the trike seat off because something was wrong and it had way too much side movement, but I hadn’t been able to see what was wrong while it was attached.
When I got it upstairs, I figured out the where the seat was attached to the post, a nut had come off of a bolt, and the bolt was sitting diagonally at an odd angle, attaching nothing.
To make the story short, I called Tenney, the resident whose name is listed for the Den, and we spent an enjoyable if somewhat frustrating hour or so taking the seat apart to get at the bolt, finding a replacement one (the one on the trike must be metric, so our nut jar didn’t have a suitable replacement), and putting the whole back together – and having a nice chat as I helped.
I miss doing that in the basement of our New Jersey house, where I had a full workshop – and plenty of nuts and bolts in jars before we moved. Of course, there had been no need to use a workshop for two years here.
Episode #2: The Affair of the Head Shot
The other bit of normal life was another request of another resident: I have arranged to have an interview of me as a writer published on a blog, and the blogger kindly sent me a list of questions – and a request for a photo.
On her site, I saw that the photos of other authors were much better quality and definition than the snapshot cutouts I have normally used before (yes, I knew I’d have to do something about it some day, but when you’re indie, there are a lot of things on the list).
In any case, when we came to URC, Marion had done a very nice job with her very good camera of taking pictures for the Resident Directory, so I asked if she would take a few for me for the purpose of a head shot – and she kindly agreed.
We settled on Friday morning at 11 (I cannot guarantee being up and functional earlier, though I often am, and I didn’t want to have to call, bleary-eyed, and reschedule).
She had walked around a couple of days before at that time so as to find some good backdrops among the greenery, so we set off to take pictures, her walking (she’s 91), and me on Maggie2.
And spent about an hour using various pieces of greenery as backdrops – and then she put the twenty or so photos on a flash stick which I downloaded to my computer last night.
We were masked, and stayed the required 6 feet apart for most of the time, but talked as we went, and I am so grateful because we have no idea when real normal will return, and I was dreading the whole process (I don’t usually like my pictures), but quite a few of the ones she took are very good. She is amazing.
She was surprised that I want to do the photo editing myself, something I’m reasonably competent at – but I’m really not good at selfies, and an outside photo place is not in the cards right now.
Episode #3: The book blogger reads
And finally, I found out via Mention, where I set up a request that sends me an email when Pride’s Children PURGATORY is mentioned anywhere on the web, that a book blogger whose siteWritten Among the Stars I visit regularly (she does very good reviews) has started to read it, and her thoughts thus far are:
“This was another one that the writing style took me a little while to jump into to and I was a bit concerned that maybe the story just wasn’t for me. It didn’t take long though for me to catch up and really start to enjoy myself. I adore Andrew. He is quirky, funny, smarmy and just so much fun.”
You know how hard it can be to persuade someone to read something different – and all authors try to find sources for more reviews – so I am very happy that she persisted, and am looking forward to hear what she thinks of the whole.
Little things matter when you’ve been in quarantine a long time.
Please use the comments to tell your stories of what makes you feel normal right now!
Demographics are characteristics of a population. Characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, education, profession, occupation, income level, and marital status, are all typical examples of demographics that are used in surveys.
Mar 12, 2012
Birds of a feather flock together.
I need a different kind of marker
Something that has to do with the kind of reader people are, and the type of books they pick on their own.
When I get the chance to ask, my readers usually have some of the following features:
They have read a lot, starting in childhood
They have read classics – for pleasure – and were not forced to; books such as Jane Eyre and A Christmas Carol and Pride and Prejudice
They’ve read good contemporary books of their times – Rebecca and The Thorn Birds and Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird and The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Their repertoire often includes good SF and Fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings and Dune and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and On the Beach
But some of my best reviews have come from older men, and some of my best readers are young women, and my incredibly supportive fan is Marian Allen who is in my general age group.
How on Earth do you call that a demographic?
There are hints
One reader told me he had learned a lot about himself, and would be rereading.
Another has told me he was surprised to be pulled in.
Others have mentioned liking my writing.
you have managed the best instance of “the story is not finished, but this segment of it feels finished” that I have ever encountered
Many start, and put it off because they find a density they want to read slowly – and I wonder if they ever get back.
My return visit had me entrapped in Prides Children and I haven’t GOT TIME, but maybe just a little more…supper time… must go…one more section… but just wanted to say its VERY GOOD, and what an ironic and sharp eye you have for le mot juste, and the silence pregnant. Very enjoyable, no sign of the damaged mind but I resonate strongly with your main character’s memory lapses and undefined connections of perfect lucidity once connected for the more lumpen Elise! I have not yet reached her TV appearance but it beckons. [italics mine – the TV appearance is very early in PURGATORY!]
I poke at it with the damaged mind
I wonder why there hasn’t been more recommending to friends who read.
I wonder when Elena Ferrante’s mystique is debunked, and suddenly her work isn’t as good.
I wonder when there should be a niche for disabled/chronically ill authors, with a little bit of slack from the establishment – and they tell me they are not taking indie self-published authors, while there are few in the category who get published by the traditional publishers. A pro bono approach I could submit to.
I wonder when I watch younger, healthier authors putting gobs of time into keywords and marketing and boxed sets and book magnets and publishing more books – and there is no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I can do any of that.
In this, my model, if you like, is John Kennedy Toole, who didn’t do any of that, because he was dead. A Confederacy of Dunces was pushed by his mother after he died by suicide, and won a Pulitzer after it attracted (was forced onto) the attentions of an influential writer, Walker Percy.
I need a Mentor, an Influencer, someone with a Voice
And haven’t a clue how to get one.
I need to ‘go viral,’ when that is as intangible as you can get.
I need to do only the writing, and am told over and over that all authors want this, and should get off their duffs.
I think I would do a great deal better on the writing side if I had some confidence in ideas which might pan out – and that I could actually do.
I listen, I learn, I think. I follow, I read, I think more.
I’ll figure it out – or literally die trying. Morbid? Realistic?
I’ve started a hundred tiny brush fires, at great expense in time and effort. One of these days, one will burn down the fences.
And if you’re in one of my categories – or can add to that list – please let me know.
Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make graphics.
Also let me know if WordPress is causing you grief by putting in ads; supposedly the ones on a desktop go below the posts, but I understand the ones to mobiles can be intrusive.
And meanwhile, visitors are welcome from anywhere!
Stop and say hello – comments welcome. I’m going to steal the following from a fellow blogger: I like to have the last word, so you’ll always get an answer. If you don’t, know that I still read your comment – and decided to let you have the last word on the subject (at the end of an exchange, usually).
Things are getting a little less crazy around here.
We went to visit our kids in Boulder, Colorado, and had a lovely long weekend.
Then we came home, and I had an old friend visit for two evenings – she arranged her life to be able to visit, and it was so good to see her again. We go back 50 years+!
And then came the visit to the new, nice dentist – except that he had an emergency, and the total time dedicated to an appointment which was literally across the road came to over four hours – and I get wiped out by long out-of-the-house events.
I don’t care – all these were desirable (I love dentists who don’t find anything needing doing, even when a bit of a porcelain crown cover came off) – and much appreciated visits with loved ones.
I’m getting to the new stuff.
One of the residents here, of the several who have read Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, chatted with me this afternoon about her reactions to it – and has offered to connect me to her book club. Book clubs are wonderful ways to get word of mouth out to serious readers, and I look forward to maybe even visiting some of the many in our new city.
I get so few opportunities to just talk and answer questions about my writing (one tries not to be a pushy author) that it was a real pleasure, as well as good for the soul. She got so many things about the work.
One of my main questions – because it’s a trilogy – is always whether readers were unsatisfied at the end of what is known to be the first volume, and feel cheated in any way. She said no – but she can’t wait for the next one – which is balm to my senses.
She also said she had trouble putting it down, and for someone whose nightly habit is to read a bit with her doggie settled in her lap, and then go to bed, I find it cheering to be unputdownable.
I ordered and received a proof copy from Amazon. Createspace has closed, and the automatic transfer to being printed on demand by KDP (?) has to be checked out. The cover looks fine (except that it says ‘proof’ on it, right through the middle of Kary’s head), but I need to compare the paging, and look for the few errors that have been corrected, and make sure they are using the latest file. Due diligence. Then I’ll see about ordering some replacement copies to have as my pre-move supply has all been given out at our new community.
And the usual small problems.
My .mobi electronic ARC has NOT worked for the last two people I sent it to, which means Kindle changed something, and I need to re-create the file to send out for reviewers. There are few things worse than getting someone to read and review for you, and to send them a file they can’t open!
It is irritating to have to spend energy on something that was working fine. And it means going a long way back, and worrying about the version of Scrivener (I have v3, and haven’t updated to it yet), and figuring out a bunch of things such as Compile for ebooks…
I just found my writing books – I used to have them at my right hand while writing, but haven’t since everything was packed and shipped: what have I missed and will it show in the new scenes?
I still haven’t recovered from last July’s crash.
I can’t remember where I was on so many little details of life. And writing.
But this is the last move
before I finish the trilogy – if I have anything to say about it. And the good Lord gives me life and brain.
Things can only get better – I’m excited at the possibilities, and cheered by finding readers here.
I will get my software, computer, and backups under control. I’ll keep writing, and make the progress I had hoped for from the new digs.
We moved Feb. 5, and soon after that, one of the other residents dropped this off outside our door, based on a discussion he and my husband had about growing a coffee plant both as greenery and for the purpose of some day processing the beans – and making a cup of coffee from scratch.
The photos I posted before were of the barely emerged cotyledons (the first pair of leaves from a seed).
Water – specifically too much watering – is a problem for seedlings, and I was determined not to kill off the first living thing someone had given us a present in our new community.
But I was in no real condition to take care of a plant, and we were all winging it.
Becoming a plant midwife by necessity
The thing just sat there on the windowsill for days.
Mindful of the over-watering bit, I scrambled to put just a drop or two of water on the hard outer seed coating keeping the leaves enchained. Several times a day, I would paint the surface with a drop of water, hoping to hydrate the membrane so the plant could push the leaves out.
The giver had said something about helping the leaves emerge, and after days of the water-painting big, I finally decided to try something more proactive. I was convinced I’d already killed the thing anyway.
This is all happening after a move
The final move. To our apartment, the one that has two bedrooms and baths, and had taken three months to customize for us.
More disruptive than I could have known, the move took the few things I had managed to fish out of boxes for the temporary apartment (and five months is a long time to essentially live out of a suitcase) – and threw them in boxes to be transported up one floor, and over three units.
I lost everything all over again.
And I have not been so exhausted in a long time. I still am. ME/CFS doesn’t give you more energy because the stress level increases; the opposite is true.
Because, as everyone else knows, when you change apartments every single item has to be moved from one to the other. It isn’t a gentle thing.
The movers were great (and put our bed with the light bridge finally back together with all the pieces – it had been separated last May!), but the results were still as if a bulldozer had been used.
How is this relevant?
I couldn’t find anything to work with!
This is a tiny plant an inch or so tall, with twin stems, and I knew I could break the seed heads off with one careless or clumsy move.
Exhaustion isn’t helpful when doing fine work.
Finally, after a search through the Amazon boxes (because those contained the more recent stuff, as having been packed after the long move; the things from the original packing were in Home Depot boxes), I found my emergency sewing kit, and the perfect tool: a dressmaker’s pin with a spherical plastic head to grip and a very fine point.
With the pin, and shaking fingers, I slashed at the confining cover little by little until I could fold away most of the hard casing, and over the next two days a wrinkled green thing emerged from each seedhead. At the beginning, it looked like the surface of a tiny brain.
Then the hydraulic pressure unfurled them a bit, and I was surprised to see two leaves separate from each.
They are very shiny. You may be able to see that the liberating process left a few tiny holes in the leaves. My bad, but it’s free!
Also, you can see that the other three coffee beans are starting to rot (the one in the foreground has turned almost black), which is how these get started.
Of course, this means they will need their own coffee cups one of these days.
This is a metaphor for the way things are going
Because more and more people here have read PC, and all my print copies are out being read, and one person even insisted on buying the copy from me.
I have had to order a proof copy in the new system, as these are no longer being printed by Createspace.
If it’s basically identical, and uses the correct pdf files for cover and interior (I have heard horror stories), then I’ll have to get a few more author copies to have around.
None of this is marketing
As soon as the current situation improves (I actually finally started last night with something easy, and unpacked a couple of boxes today), in two or three hundred years at the present rate, I will plunge into both finishing Book 2 and marketing Book 1.
But meanwhile, I continue to find new readers one at a time, here and online, and some encouraging comments.
There is an oddness to the idea of pineapples in the wild that pleases me.
The modern pineapple is a huge, heavy fruit, supported by a strong stalk. Much like modern melons, watermelons, and papayas, it is hard to believe (okay, impossible) that they are the way we see in the supermarket solely due to evolution.
Evolution produces fruit which attracts animals that eat the fruit and scatter the plants’ seeds, with their poop (fertilizer) somewhat farther away than the plant can throw. In our case, the pineapple, continents away. Shop Rite has pineapples.
Why pineapples, and why now?
Because I have to get back to writing blog posts.
It has been a desert for a while, as all the chores crowded in to vacation and retirement community decision and coming back to a house where everything was in boxes (for the painters) and the staging ladies had transformed the now-sparse contents into a model home.
So many things that HAVE to be done crowded out the optional ones.
The lack of window shades on most windows makes it like living in a fish bowl, only fish are not required to clean their own bowl. It’s nice if they do (by eating the algae, etc.), but that’s asking for perfection. Husband has done marvels with something I didn’t even know existed: temporary paper shades from Amazon which get cut to the right width with scissors, and attached with temporary mounts.
Sleeping has been possible, at least in our bedroom.
Where did THIS pineapple come from?
Stencil – I was looking for an image to write some words on, and the pineapple grabbed me, since I know I saw a picture the kids took on a hike with a wild pineapple growing in a fields (might have been a former Dole plantation).
Today is the first day in a while that something major and required didn’t take over all the energy for the day, but I have gotten out of the habit of putting my thoughts into some kind of order, and I’ve been a total slug all day.
And now we come to the single part.
I check my emails several times a day. Just habit. And hoping there might be an interesting thing to read, or a tidbit of a conversation setting itself up. And one not purely utilitarian and needing an answer, like the email from the woman at the solar company who needs my monthly input to get me the solar energy credits (SRECS) from our installation.
With me ignoring my blogs, and all, I am reduced to input (you don’t get much if you’re not writing) from two people today who saved my brain from the mush: a patron on my Patreon who commented on the new scene available there (the finished scene from Book 2 that I’m serializing). A very favorite patron.
And one of a kind I hadn’t seen in a while: a reader on Wattpad who commented, and is reading the beginning of Pride’s Children which remains there as a sample, as allowed by Amazon’s KDP for books in KU.
With limited promotion for either of these sites, I don’t often get comments. But getting one – from someone discovering my writing for the first time – was a kick in the seat of the pants as to how much I need feedback.
Single project authors can get lost.
Stories of authors saved by someone else: John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces, (whose mom insisted on getting his manuscript accepted for publication after he committed suicide in despair – and won the Pulitzer – posthumously). Austin Tappan Wright, Islandia (whose wife typed up his 2400 page manuscript after he died). Even Stephen King, whose wife rescued Carrie from the circular file.
How many more are there out there who spent years, decades on their creations (Tolkien) AND (the more important part) created something of great value?
Rescued by a single act of feedback from a reader?
Computers, word processing software, and the internet now make it possible for writers to create works which are massive and available to many – if the many only look.
As in everything, I fear the great majority of the epics are not great fiction (wouldn’t know, haven’t read them) simply because of Sturgeon’s Law: statistically, they can’t be. But those many projects include a few good ones for some reader somewhere.
Readers keep us writers working. It’s that simple.
Unless the writer has many other sources of support as a writer, the projects can seem hobbies, dilettantism, something to do that is not video games or watching TV.
I thank today’s two readers. It had gotten a bit parched. I’m still here. I love readers.
Must get moving both on writing – and promotion – to find more. I am not unhappy to admit I need them. Even if I claim to write for myself.
We came here for the kids, and it has been a great gift to see our three plus one significant other – for meals, for pool time, for watching Moana last night with them all in a pile like puppies.
But you can probably figure out it isn’t as easy as I would like!
There is a lot of walking (for me).
There is seeing middle son spend seven hours biking up, and then down, 10,000 ft., using enough energy in one day to fuel me for a year.
There is me being unable to walk as far as the ocean – so I haven’t been in it. They say it is warmer than the pools – which have been ‘heated,’ but consistently too cool. And the hot tubs, except for one, late at night, too hot to stay in for very long, with an annoying sign that says the elderly shouldn’t use them! Bollocks to that.
Hawaii apparently doesn’t have all-inclusive resorts, so fooding has been more complicated, and the five of them (four plus husband) have had to go shopping several times.
Why am I complaining?
Because I’m pretty useless for most of the tasks. My chef offspring have been feeding me – we still respect the matriarch enough to keep her around.
But it is mildly annoying.
And I realize how marginal I am when it comes to taking care of myself in a strange place, I who used to take care of three little ones in strange places, more or less (I’ve had ME/CFS since before the third one – who is now the designated driver on the rental car!).
It galls a bit.
I don’t care.
It is wonderful to see their bonds still intact, and strengthened by the pleasure of being together, my far-flung kiddies. This is one of my prime concerns – so many people don’t know their own adult siblings all that well any more.
I had a lovely talk with a woman from Chicago; she said the idea – get together once a year with everyone for a vacation (not an original idea) – was brilliant. I told her SOMEONE has to initiate it – or it won’t happen.
Some families have a beach house of a cabin somewhere – that probably works, but I’ve heard stories of very uncomfortable accommodations, especially as little ones come along. I think using a resort is better.
The other part is making the three of them pick the dates – so they have to work together before – and the place. That way it isn’t foisted on them by Mom and Dad.
I suggested that it NOT be around the holidays – then they’ll be able to go to their in-laws for Christmas – when travel is expensive and complicated.
They picked May. It would have been perfect had we not been right in the middle of putting the house on the market, but even that has had its good side: the painter has repainted our interior while we are not there!
So hello from Maui
And we’re leaving tomorrow. I did note it took me until this morning to wake up feeling adjusted to the time zone.
Just look at the picture: it’s gorgeous here.
Reminder: royalties and page reads for Pride’s Children (above right) in May being donated to #MEAction for advocacy for us ME/CFS types – sorely needed. Thanks for all who have participated.