Category Archives: Reading and reviewing

5W+H newspaper method gels writing beat

different wayI HAVE SIX FRIENDS THAT HELP ME WRITE

Every once in a while I get myself into a jam, and, though I think I have every thing I need in writing a piece of a scene, it fails to gel, I feel frustrated and tied in knots, and I keep going at it from all directions, starting and restarting the section without getting to a coherent flow.

I tried an old newspaper trick this morning.

Newspaper reporters have to make it fast and easy for a reader to engage with a story, get the basic information into the reader before she does the pre-computer equivalent of clicking on something else to read: giving up on one story, and finding either another one to read or moving on to the rest of her day.

Your English teacher probably taught you this, too (I didn’t have an English teacher, so maybe that’s why I came to this in a roundabout way).

It’s called 5W + H.

And it means, you recall, supplying the six pieces of information the reader needs to lodge the basics of the story in his head:

  • Who – people present or necessary to the story
  • Where – setting
  • What – is going on (the plot)
  • When – time, time frame, sequence
  • Why – are you telling this story? Why did they do it?
  • How – the plot reaches resolution, and the information is transferred securely into the reader’s head.

The order doesn’t really matter as long as, after a very brief period, the reader has enough to interest him to keep reading the details.

TV news people usually drag this out as long as possible, especially if there have been little advance hints all day (news at 11) – and now they have to supply the goods. They tease you along with the less interesting bits, finally supplying the actual meat of the story (which is often anticlimactic – I waited up past my bedtime for this?) after as many commercials as possible, when they could have ‘informed’ you the first time you heard about the story.

Writers can’t afford this – the reader won’t stick around.

For the writer of FICTION

The problem for a writer is when the dramatic pieces want to come first – the startling headline, the shocking news – but they won’t make sense without the more informational bits.

Readers have an empty gray-goo area in the brain, a formless void, when they approach a new story, and it has to be filled in quickly.

If you don’t reveal that this shocking dog’s death occurred, not in their neighborhood, but in Manila, they will 1) assume it’s local, and 2) be annoyed at you when they find out it’s not.

So the system is: shocker, fill in the absolutely necessary stuff to orient the reader, more shocking details.

But it’s not the reader’s job to avoid the confusion: it’s the writer’s job.

LEAD with the emotions

Life is boring – readers need vicarious experiences.

We are, as Lisa Kron says in Wired for Story, primed to absorb new information that we need.

Need is critical: grab readers by the emotions, and supply the details as quickly and efficiently as possible, and they will follow.

What I figured out was that I’m relatively good at doing these steps in a normal scene – hook, set the scene, supply story, leave cliffhanger of at least one question so the reader will read the next scene.

But not when I get tricky – for good story reasons – and try to cram a lot into the piece of scene.

Then I need to stop, make sure the 5W+H are provided asap, and choreograph the presentation of story information in the most effective way I can. Deliberately. As if I had a news desk editor with a lot of experience to satisfy, and the pickiest readers.

The contract with the reader

Lead the reader down the garden path, as it were, until we find the dead body.

If you can do this in a tricky case, it improves the facility for doing it in normal situations.

It comes down, after you’ve identified the 5W + H:

DON’T CONFUSE THE READER – FOR VERY LONG.

Just as soon as the reader starts to think all this is a bit too much, it GELS.

Because the critical information is all there.

And the reader is no longer confused, the dreaded info drop has been avoided, and the story is firmly lodged (one hopes) back in the reader’s brain.

The analytical side of my brain is very pleased with itself – the artistic side is chomping at the bit.

The details? You’ll eventually have to read Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD to grade my performance, but I can tell you the bit is the beginning of the second scene; it involves four people and four different settings; there is a tiny necessary shift in the timeline; the formatting helps (Lord knows how I’m going to do this in the audiobook version); and, if I do it right, it will bring you right back into the story with very little ’splainin’ (think Ricky Ricardo and I Love Lucy: “Lucy! You got some ’splainin’ to do!”).

Trust me, the other way was long and boring.

What say you? I love discussion.


Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create images for posts.

 

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Mainstream: when your writing category vanishes

mainstream

THERE USED TO BE THREE GENERAL CLASSES OF WORK: MAINSTREAM/COMMERCIAL, LITERARY, AND GENRE.

Where did the mainstream go?

Caveats

I’m writing this post to dump the contents of my brain* about what has happened to the classification of novels on sites such as Amazon BECAUSE of the desire to categorize everything into smaller and smaller bins so the reader can find exactly the kind of book he is searching for.

It isn’t meant to be a scholarly discussion of any merit – and I welcome differing ideas, but would appreciate a general sticking to the question: Where did the mainstream go?

Mainstream fiction – as opposed to what?

This is a serious question. Type ‘mainstream’ into your Amazon search box and you won’t find the novels you expect. Maybe I should say that I’m older, and these aren’t the novels I expect.

‘General fiction’ brings up so much stuff I would consider genre fiction that it’s useless.

Although very well written genre work elevates a good story to a literary quality – which is where such novels as Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale are, in my opinion – it doesn’t make it mainstream or general fiction – the story is, in my mind, literary SF.

What IS ‘mainstream’ (IMHO)?

Mainstream fiction is meant to be appropriate and engaging for a majority audience.

Some books which I would call mainstream:

Love Story

The Thorn Birds (when it came out)

Gone With the Wind (ditto)

On The Beach and Trustee from the Toolroom (Nevil Shute)

Airport (and many of Alex Hailey’s other books)

Hawaii (ditto, Michener’s work)

Exodus, QB VII (and others by Leon Uris)

Authors such as Sidney Sheldon (The Other Side of Midnight) and John Fowles (The Magus)

The Bridges of Madison County and the novels of Nicholas Sparks

Some of these books are now classified as ‘classics,’ but were mainstream when they came out. Others are currently classified as ‘historical fiction,’ but the same applies: they were meant for a very large audience of literate people, an audience that went from children/young adults to older people, male and female, and encompassed much of the educated population.

There were no conventions; this audience could handle a WWII novel, a novel about finances, or The Key to Rebecca. Or Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Mainstream. Commercial. Epic. General fiction.

Or simply what used to be called ‘a novel.’

And the category used to cover what was called a ‘big book’ – books with large casts of characters and elaborate plots, whether or not they were well-written, encompassing a spectrum of writing quality from Dan Brown to Ken Follett and Mary Stewart’s Arthurian legend novels starting with The Crystal Cave.

Mainstream novelists. People who wrote for the broad center of the complete reading public. Writers for whom plot and characterization were important.

But most importantly, people who did not want the reader to have to stop because of the language. The writing quality was sometimes awkward, generally competent, but stopped short of going into literary rhapsodies – because that would stop the readers’ flow.

Literary fiction then and now

A category which used to encompass everything from Proust (A la de temps perdu) to The Color Purple, ‘literary fiction’ used to mean stories that were intended for a more discerning audience than mainstream fiction, one with a more educated group in mind – and people who were comfortable with and appreciated language and description and minutiae and nuance. People who expect literary allusions and epigraphs and quotations from English poets, who can read Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day with pleasure.

I can’t. That kind of fiction, with its exaggerated precision and lack of plot (on the more literary or experimental end), makes me itch. These books are often taught in English and American Literature classes (the box where I found my husband’s copies had a large number of books of that kind) as ‘good for you’ and requiring study. It often meant work that was tinier in scope and more enamored of language than most readers were looking for.

Oddly enough, ‘literary’ as a category on Amazon is now used heavily by the big publishers to indicate that their books are better (and worth the much higher prices charged). When Data Guy puts out the quarterly charts of book prices by genre, the columns above 9.99 for ebooks are labeled literary and occupied mostly by traditional publishers: big 5, medium and small presses, and university presses.

Worse, literary is now the keyword associated with work which is the same as everything else, only better written. Literary fiction writers are probably screaming about that.

The problem with ‘literary’ as a category:

On Amazon, ‘literary’ has come to mean ‘mainstream.’

Now, ‘literary’ means anything not in a specific genre such as SFF or Romance or Thriller.

I’m sure authors of true literary books are not pleased to find their category invaded by everyone who thinks they write better than average prose.

The rise of genre fiction, partly propelled by Amazon and search categories

Books such as Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy were clearly science fiction. And The Lord of the Rings has always been fantasy.

Romance is a relatively recent category, but Pride and Prejudice is not a Romance; it is mainstream. Jane Eyre is now called ‘literature,’ but was mainstream when it came out.

Thrillers, mysteries, and such have always been genre – and some of its practitioners have elevated these genres by writing so well that we could probably call them literary mysteries, etc. – but the general audience I’m trying to delineate wouldn’t call them mainstream.

NOTE: there have always been omnivorous readers (I was one) who read anything they could get their little hands on, but we knew what we were reading when we chose a mystery or a science fiction story like Dune. Same stuff – only very well written.

Amazon provides all these categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories, but it doesn’t curate the lists. If you write ‘literary’ on your fantasy novel, it says ‘fine’ and shows that book with the literary novels and the fantasy novels, depending on other things like reviews and sales.

Nobody curates these lists online – it takes too much human time and trouble. Algorithms do it.

But it renders categories almost useless when anyone can put a paranormal romance with werewolves into general fiction. Or call their work literary. And I’ve had writers tell me they do this because their appropriate category is too crowded. Aargh!

What to do about this – assuming anyone cares?

And I do care – because I WRITE mainstream fiction, and I aim for the literary end of the writing quality spectrum – careful language. With the very strong warning to myself that it is NOT allowed to stop the flow.

I label it ‘literary’ and ‘general fiction’ and ‘psychological’ and ‘contemporary Romance’ (it IS a love story.

And I cringe when I do it.

I want my mainstream back. I probably won’t get it.


NOTE: If you’d like to see what the heck I’m talking about, Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, the first book in my mainstream contemporary love story trilogy, is available on Amazon US in ebook and print. For other countries, it’s easiest to type in the book’s name.

Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create images. I use fewer than 10 a month, so I have one of their free accounts. When I need more, they have very reasonably priced services with a LOT of flexibility.


*How and why I noticed the disappearance of the mainstream

I’m ideally positioned to answer this question because of an accident: for the past twenty-seven years, most of the energy normal people use for reading and writing fiction has been denied to me due to the energy-sapping disease called CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

In the beginning, merely surviving the illness and coping with the children took everything I had. After a number of years, things improved a bit (or older children require somewhat less intense mothering), and I started thinking how to stay sane, not merely alive.

Writing was the answer – something I could learn to do and had always wanted to and planned to do.

We won’t argue names and etiologies here, but CFS has a constellation of symptoms, and my worst three are:

  • Brain fog
  • Exhaustion
  • Pain

The relevance of this is that I don’t have energy for reading AND writing, and, because I wanted to write, and had a story to tell, I have spent most of that time on the debut novel Pride’s Children: PURGATORY. And I didn’t read much during that period. When I woke up, ‘mainstream’ had vanished.

It’s a subject close to my heart – as I write mainstream fiction, and, as an indie, I’m having a very hard time connecting with the right readers. A collection of terms such as ‘literary’ and ‘contemporary’ and ‘romance’ does NOT add up to ‘mainstream love story which deals realistically with disability, fame, and integrity,’ does it?

‘Write the book you want to read’ is then followed by ‘find the people LIKE YOU who want to read the same book but can’t/don’t write it.’ The problem: I have no idea how I would attract ME to my book. And the categories aren’t helping.

What say you?

Summer reading sale: Kindle Countdown for Pride’s Children

PC1 3D frontPride’s Children is on Kindle Countdown SALE at 0.99, US and UK!

For new followers – if you’ve liked my writing, here’s a chance to try my long-form fiction.

WARNING: not everyone likes it.

Decide for yourself!

Here are the links to go directly to the Amazon US and Amazon UK sites.

Worldwide sale means thirteen Kindle marketplaces

worldwide

IT DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS* – sale details below

Okay; I promised myself this one when my brain-fogged brain figured out that Kindle Countdown Deals are only available for the UK and the US: have a sale EVERYONE who has access to a Kindle or Fire device (or app) can take advantage of.

Amazon is not to blame; country regulations are to blame. At some point in the future, maybe France’s arcane regulations will allow online Countdown sales; don’t hold your breath – the French (or should I say the French government, for good or ill) have all kinds of regulations designed to keep prices for books high, digital books out of the marketplace, and bookstores in business.

It’s their country – their laws and rules and taxes.

The only time it’s my problem is when I wanted to hold a Kindle Countdown Deal for Pride’s Children in France.

I can, sort of, but I will be manually changing the prices daily (and hoping Amazon, which was very fast when I did it today, would continue to be fast – they don’t guarantee it). And I wouldn’t have the cute little Countdown deal image that goes on the product page, and tells people time is running out.

WAY too much trouble for moi.

*So that everyone who has access gets a sale (which ends May 1):

New authors need READERS, REVIEWERS, and RECOMMENDERS at the beginning far more than they need revenue; the small business that is a single-practitioner press (Trilka Press for me) has to become known, and that takes marketing and advertising and sometimes annoying everyone you know, on and off Twitter and Facebook.

(In fact, if you’ve heard this one before and have no interest, just skip the rest of this post.)

If the practitioner is slow, like me, the usual indie recommendation – write more books – is just another annoying thing ‘they’ say, with no bearing on your real life. Because you can’t.

Therefore, you want to make sure you don’t neglect anyone – which brings us to the following thirteen links for the marketplaces where Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sells mobi (and paper?) versions of your book if you  set yourself up in business with Mr. Bezos.

How to do your own sale:

Nobody told me – I think they must have assumed I knew. Nope. Newbie here. Just figured it out this month: I can do my own sale. In India. Or Canada. And Mexico, Australia, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, the US, and the UK.

But I have to do the work (I did: I checked out every link personally – they are not all carbon copies of each other with a tiny bit changed).

IF you have always wanted your own personal copy of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, but you live in Mexico, today is your lucky day. You WILL need an account with the appropriate Amazon, but then you can even buy it cheap, and leave it on their website until you eventually break down and buy a Kindle. Or get the Kindle app for your iPhone or desktop or laptop or iPad – or wherever you consume your digital breakfast.

At this point I’m not even going to nag you to read it (next week).

But I can’t do this very often – you guys want me writing NETHERWORLD, not futzing about running sales for PURGATORY, right? It takes more time and energy than you realize getting all these details right (not sure I have!), and it has to come from the ‘good time’ I have relatively little of.

I read the self-publishing blogs daily, and stay current, and ESPECIALLY pay attention to ‘things that can go wrong if you mess up’ and don’t pay attention. Trust me – I can mess things up so bad I don’t know if I can straighten them out.

The links (finally – she is going to stop talking and cut to the links!) for the 0.99-equivalent sale ‘worldwide’:

PLEASE be so kind as to let me know if ANYTHING doesn’t work. You guys were WAY too kind to mention before that the sales weren’t available in Australia and the others – and I never meant to leave you out.

If you don’t want to buy Pride’s Children or read it – that’s absolutely fine, I’m very clearly not everyone’s taste, as so many people have kindly told me lately, some MUCH more nicely than others.

I’d love to hear 1) if I’m doing anything wrong, and 2) what your experience as a reader or writer and sales was like.


** Many thanks to Stencil for the ability to make a few images a month free – they have a lot to offer and it is VERY easy to use. If you make a lot of image quotes, get the paid version.

Pride’s Children is on Kindle Countdown SALE!

PC1 3D front

I AM DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE AN EBOOK SALE FOR PRIDE’S CHILDREN: PURGATORY (BOOK 1)!

The Kindle Countdowns for the US and UK (sale for other marketplaces to follow on April 27 – I’ll let you know again) is announced on the books’ site with a few more details.

Please tell all your friends.

OR go directly to the Amazon US and Amazon UK sites.

Why I cannot read your writing

ask writer for feedbackTHE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM: USABLE FEEDBACK

A person who is becoming an online friend has asked me to do the impossible: she sent me a sample of her unfinished work, and asked for me to comment on it.

Worse than that, she has said nice things about my own published work.

She has no idea what she’s done.

I have been agonizing for two days over this simple request.

Why? Because there is no way to fulfill it OR turn it down.

If I didn’t value her friendship, I would merely have said, “No. Sorry. I don’t read other writer’s unpublished work unless we are in a writer’s group.” And let it go at that.

Instead, I’m going to send her back an email that says, ‘Please read THIS blog post about Why I Cannot Read Your Writing.’

With the bunch of links I have gathered (yes, I’m trying to pawn this off on the professionals), and a separate list for those which use bad language.

And the additional information about me:

  1. I have CFS and considerable brain fog: every minute when I’m coherent is fought for with blood.
  2. I am no one. I have published (self-published) one novel.
  3. I have been writing for twenty years, and just last fall got to the point where I had something publishable; it is impossible to condense that experience.
  4. I have NO editing experience beyond working on my own novels.
  5. I wouldn’t know where to start.
  6. I don’t want to. It will take/has taken me out of my safe mental writing place already.
  7. If you really, really need my commentary, my going rate is currently $1200.00 per hour (see 1., above), and we will still have to negotiate about whether I will work for you.
  8. Having to turn down a friend has already cost me those two days of agonizing over how to do this.

Google on your own the phrase, ‘I will not read your writing.’ In no particular order:

Relatively clean links:

dmattricino (Writers Digest)

Peter Clines

Gavin Pollone

Danny Manus

Links with language I don’t usually use (read at your own risk):

Chip Street

Cynthia Haven

Josh Olson

David Gerrold

What to do if you want feedback:

Create a critique group.

Join a writers’ group.

Join a professional association and request a mentor.

Put your work in public – which is automatically asking for feedback. I did this: I posted Pride’s Children, a new polished scene every Tuesday for two years.

Join Wattpad and post your work (they also have groups where you can specifically request feedback).

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? BECAUSE IT DOES

To be absolutely clear, I have not even read the rest of the email which incited this rant: as soon as I figured out what was being requested, I stopped reading the email. I did not read a word of the work sent to me.

And if you think I’m making a huge deal over a tiny request, then remember I take this step with the full expectation that I will lose this friendship which I value AND I will be called nasty names by others who may read this post.

Because… go read the links.

What say you: Am I being paranoid?

In training for a writing marathon

it takes what it takesFOR THE NTH TIME, I TELL MYSELF THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

The title of this post is meant to be ironic, as writing is a long steady race for me – and many others.

But it isn’t just the revising/editing/polishing of the rough draft that is slow, it is the entire preparation period, now complicated by having to use at least a little time for promotion of the previous book – a process which I assume gets worse as you publish more.

Added to that are the nice conversations (via email) I’ve had with people who’ve read Pride’s Children, some of whom have left lovely reviews.

And wondering about who the people are who’ve left reviews with either ‘Anonymous’ instead of a name, or who are people I’ve never heard of.

The latter kind are more exciting – one out of the first 12 positive reviews came from someone whose name I don’t recognize, who created a profile just to write this review, and vanished. (Thank you, Cris, whoever you are.)

Authors with more experience than I have, expect these. For me, each new oddity gets a tiny bit of attention. I scurry to make a copy of the review for my records when I see them, less Amazon decide for some reason best known to themselves to remove them.

VERBOTEN COMMUNICATION: READERS ARE OFF LIMITS

I’m fascinated by the interdiction on authors communicating with readers OR reviewers – and I can see it could easily become a zoo without the proscription. Half of the commentary I’ve read on Goodreads has to do with people defending or attacking two logical points of view:

  • authors should stay out of reviewer venues such as Goodreads and Amazon – those places are for readers only to express their opinions, except where clearly marked ‘for writers/authors’
  • some authors wanting to say thank you, thinking this will encourage reviewers – and lead to more reviews

I removed ‘desperately’ from the second phrase after I realized you can’t be impartial about these things if you use such adverbs. My opinion is that the first group is safest – if someone writes to me or posts a comment here or on the books’ site, they will get an answer, but I’m staying out of mine fields. Not nearly nimble enough, I’ve discovered, from trying to maintain peace and civil discourse on one of the GR threads.

PROMOTION – AN EFFORT HERE, AN EFFORT THERE

I’m waiting to hear from Ereader News Today whether they will take my money and give me a place on their lists; I’ve decided, after reading lots of things, that my primary category need to be ‘Contemporary Fiction,’ which may be the new ‘mainstream’ for stories set in the real world within recent memory.

There will be a Kindle Countdown Deal to go along with the ENT promotion, if they take me on.

I’m looking into Amazon giveways for ebooks and print books – Chris McMullen’s blog post had lots of details.

And I’m trying to get my brain organized to send a few print copies on walkabout via Book Crossing: you label the book a traveling book, get it a unique ID and register it at the site, and then either release the book into the wild (leave it somewhere, preferably where the cleaning staff won’t dispose of it) or give it a controlled release (ie, hand it to someone). If people keep handing it from person to person, or leaving it where someone can pick it up, AND go to the site to comment that they’ve had it/read it, you can see how far it goes in the world. Sounds a little iffy, but I’ve always wanted to do that.

One other advertising opportunity is to a specific group of people – if that works, I’ll report on it.

PREPARATION IS GOING WELL

I keep saying that – and I keep discovering new little areas of plot and characterization that I really ought to investigate BEFORE getting up to my ears in the writing.

It doesn’t help that I keep having days in which I stare at the wall, so I’m instituting some practices to minimize the effects of leaving the house, namely, much more deliberate resting practices before, after, and the next few days. Oh, and fewer carbs – those kill me.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll notice a lot less angst over the above – I do the best I can, and I don’t worry so much any more (because it never helps). Good days, like today, I try to use my time well. Bad days I try to ignore – but they are scary when my brain refuses to check in for a several days in a row (at which point I get really deliberate with those dratted naps – because, for me, the resting/pacing works).

The hope is that the preparation will mean that I can just write, and not have to stop and do research into obscure points, but I do realize you can’t predict everything you’ll need. It wouldn’t be any fun if you could.

But it doesn’t hurt to take a road map when you travel, does it now? Especially if you know you’re going to need frequent stops along the way.

Awesome BookRiot post: promoting a book you loved

If you love a bookI’M GOING TO DO AS MANY OF THESE AS I CAN

Couldn’t pass up spreading this link – separating the good books from the bad is what READERS do; writers are too close to them!

BookRiot has a splendid list of things you can do if you like a book.

I already got a few – such as taking a copy or two to the library (love the library and librarians of the Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton, NJ).

But many of these are things I simply don’t have enough energy to do (while the extremely slow fogged brain refuses to do the last couple of steps so I can start the actual revising of Book 2).

Help yourself to any ideas that appeal to you – and bookmark the post. Me, I’m copying it to a safe place.

I’ve always wanted to try leaving MY book in a public place

With instructions to pass it on and an email address where people can write to the author. As soon as I get my act together, I will. It just sounds like such fun.

I MIGHT wait until the snow melts.

Amazon PRIME plus a Kindle equals a free book a month

Jan 2016 free bookFREE MONTHLY BOOK BORROW FOR KINDLE, FIRE OWNERS with PRIME

January 2016 is almost over – have you borrowed your free book this month? There’s a snowstorm on its way where I live (NJ), and you should make sure your Kindle or Fire device is charged up – and loaded with books – so you will have something to do if all else fails.

You do it FROM the Kindle; it’s on the list of options on the starting pages.

Many people have Prime – the benefits are significant even if all you do is order from them several times a year.

Many people either don’t know – or don’t remember – that one of the Prime benefits for people who own ‘a Kindle, a Fire tablet, or a Fire phone’ is the FREE ability to borrow a book from the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) once a month – and keep it until they finish it. (Not Kindle apps 😦 – it’s their way of making the devices even more attractive.)

Any book in a storm (if the publisher agrees)

The book’s publisher has to have put it into Kindle Unlimited (KU) for you to be able to borrow it (I have put Pride’s Children: PURGATORY in KU); the author will get paid for pages read out of the Amazon fund for that.

Books priced right make their authors about the same for a borrow as a sale – and it doesn’t cost you a penny.

READ A BOOK – ANY BOOK – (even mine).

And don’t forget to do it again EVERY month.

Being taken seriously as a writer is daunting

First timePUBLISHING? BE PREPARED TO ENJOY THE TINY DETAILS OF THE EXPERIENCE

We went to a concert tonight, Princeton Folk Music Society.

And one of the long-time members, a wonderful woman who was active in the folk music scene when I was still in diapers, brought over a copy of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY – and asked me to autograph it.

It was a curious sensation, being treated seriously by someone I love and respect, and have known a long time. She went to the trouble of ordering the print version, and of bringing it to the concert where she expected to see me.

A FAN, IN PERSON, IN AN UNEXPECTED PLACE

But then she started asking questions – about the biblical quotations, real questions about how I chose them and where they came from. I have epigraphs and chapter titles which are quotations from the Old and New Testament.

I explained that several came from the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible (she’s Jewish). Of course we have different versions, since I obtained permission to use the words of the King James Version, and her scriptures would not have a New Testament.

I chose the quotations I did because they resonated for me, knowing that my readers might be from very different backgrounds: the words can be taken at face value, but they always have a deeper meaning, and one that may take reading further into the chapter to understand.

But she told me she had been going online to find out where the quotations came from – and I never thought about how some educated people like her might be interested in quotations enough to check them out.

The epigraphs as a whole tell part of the story: some are commentary on the worldview represented by the main character, some are a little bit of extra backstory (such as when I quote books Kary has written).

In addition, there are two ‘group characters’ represented by the media quotes I created in the spirit of what I’ve seen online – those that are supportive of a particular artist and those that tend to pick a few entertainers and find nothing but critical comments to make about them. The source attributions for these are as imaginary as the characters they refer to – but the models are ‘torn from the headlines’ of print media and TV news shows. My friend won’t find these online.

LEARNING TO BE ONE OF THE WRITERS (the grownups)

A warm fuzzy place in my heart made me happy. I am now a ‘published author’ and my book is available in the marketplace of books. It’s not that it hasn’t been true since last Oct. 28, but that these little steps on the way to FEELING like a real author happen when you least expect them.

I check out the Amazon Reports – and see that SOMEONE is reading Pride’s Children, because the graph of KENP (pages read) is non-zero. Amazon reports how many pages people read on Kindle Unlimited, in fairly real time, updated when people get near their computer – and you can SEE the numbers grow, almost see the pages turning. And I don’t know who the someone is. It could be a complete stranger. It could be someone I reached via a comment, or an ad, or a personal recommendation. All weird. Good weird.

I’m too new at this to get jaded for a LONG time.

Do you find yourself taken aback when someone treats you seriously in connection with your writing?

2016 and the writing of Pride’s Children

DEAR FOLLOWERS:

I beg your indulgence. I haven’t figured out which posts belong here (probably the general ones NOT about the books), and which on the Pride’s Children temporary blog. (new post over there, too, about the reviews slowly accumulating)

And the permanent site is still tangled in software I did not install myself, and which will have to be uninstalled and reinstalled.

There are a LOT of things on the to do list:

  • Writing Books 2 and 3
  • Fixing websites and blogs
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Audiobooks – should I decide to continue with my mad plan to produce the Read by Author version
  • Getting reviews for Book 1
  • Keeping up with Wattpad and WriteOn and…
  • Life

Unfortunately, there is only one of me, and I seem to be on the critical path in every one of these items, gumming up the works and slowing things down.

So you will have somewhat irregular blog postings, and occasional rants.

I thought writing was hard – but I can’t wait to get back to it – because the marketing, etc., is HARDER.

I have a bent for the writing, interest but little experience in the other, and tech skills to be developed on websites and blogs.

I’ll get there – I’m still enjoying all the bits and pieces, and it has been wonderful getting some feedback from complete strangers – and other feedback from some of the people I’ve been following online for the past four years and am in awe of.

But it may be slower than I’d like, because I want to push to make the writing faster, now that I kind of know what I’m doing in many writing areas. I think I can. I KNOW it won’t be fifteen years again, and I’d like to aim to get Book 2 finished in 2016.

Big goal – but if you don’t write them down, they have a tendency not to happen at all.

Wish me well. And I wish YOU well with your goals for 2016.

Do I HAVE TO write an Amazon Review?

 Do I HAVE TO write a review for PRIDE’S CHILDREN?

Heavens, NO – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to!

EVEN IF you said you would consider writing a review and I sent you an electronic ARC (Advance Reading Copy). The relevant word is ‘CONSIDER.’

But it occurred to me after several queries that many of my readers so far are NOT previous Amazon book customers – or even customers at all.

Is this your first time?

However, if what’s keeping you from writing one is that this is your very first review ever, I’ll make it easy by making the whole process familiar.

[The only hard part may be that you have to have an Amazon account; I’ve had mine so long I don’t remember how to start one.]

Where to start: read Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, Book 1 of the Trilogy.

Go on; I’ll wait while you read. Estimated time: 10 hours.

Heck, if you haven’t, you can buy the book or borrow it if you have Kindle Unlimited or Prime! here.

Or get a reviewer copy from me (email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail).

How to write an Amazon review IF you want to (MECHANICS):

Go to the book’s page on Amazon.

Scroll down to the Customer Reviews (after all the product information)

Click the box which says:

image 1You will be taken to a page showing, for a book, this set of FOUR boxes:

image 2Once you click ANY of the four, the following shows up:

image 3As you click in a box on each line, you get the little checkmark that says ‘Posted.’

NOTE: all are OPTIONAL – you can skip any (except the first, which gets you here), quit any time, and change your mind any time, and come back later and change anything. Unless you want to write your own words into the review box, in which case you will have to click some number of stars.

Here is Amazon’s own guidance for the STAR RATING:

image 4

How to write an Amazon review IF you want to (CONTENT – your own opinion):

What to say now becomes the slightly tricky part. Pick an imaginary friend. Tell her or him what you liked about the book (picture yourself writing an email to your friend). Say what you would say is you were trying to convince your friend that the book is good and persuade your friend to buy/borrow and read it. Compose in the box – or somewhere else, and then cut and paste:

image 5Pick a few words for your headline (it can literally be anything from ‘My opinion about…’ to ‘You will regret it if you don’t read this’) – the same words your would use in the Subject line of that imaginary email to your friend.

image 6Preview if you wish.

And click Submit.

You’ve completed your review!

That’s it – you’re finished writing a review. And have earned the author’s eternal gratitude. Not just mine – after you do one, you realize you’ve been wanting to express your opinion on a NUMBER of products – and I have launched you on your journey toward being a Top Amazon Reviewer and getting cool stuff sent to you to review.

Remember, you don’t have to – even if you said you would. This is an entirely VOLUNTARY activity on the part of the reader.

My FAVORITE response (thought reviews come a very close second) is still if you like Pride’s Children and want to see Book 2, tell your friends.

Any questions? Oh, and authors don’t need to see the reviews before they’re posted. This is a READER process – and we’re supposed to stay out.

To write good titles channel a newspaperman

PRIDE’S CHILDREN IS RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES

Part of the background of the novel I’m working so hard to get ready for publication is my fascination with celebrities, a tiny but life-long sideline of mine: in Mexico growing up, we read HOLA – which told you everything going on with anyone who was anyone, including the royal houses of Europe.

In the States, as an adult, I indulge this by reading People and similar magazines – at the dentist/doctor’s office. There is so much repetition, that once you have a good base, keeping up isn’t as hard as you think – you just tuck each new bit (which will probably recapitulate everything that ever happen in the celeb’s life) into your matrix of ‘data,’ and come back to it in a couple of months.

Life is a Soap Opera

I may have mentioned at some point that I have serialized Pride’s Children, Book 1, on several sites – to make connections in the online indie world, meet people, get new readers and their feedback.

One of these sites is VentureGalleries, and one of the two guys who runs it, Caleb Pritle, III, has been putting up chunks several times a week.

He chooses a 1000-1200 piece at a time, adds an episode title, and puts it up on the site.

He has the most outrageous episode titles, but the interesting thing to me has been that every one of them is lifted from somewhere in the episode.

When in the world did I write THAT?

The episodes aren’t quite scenes – his choice of divisions is to give serial readers a predictable size and approximate time-length piece, to be read on things like mobile phones.

So, for the fun of it, I’m going to go through the episodes he’s put up, and list them with their titles, and you’ll see what I mean.

One important bit: Caleb is an old newspaperman (I mean ‘experienced,’ not ‘agèd,’ when I say ‘old’) – and headlines have to grab. And he has a sensationalist turn of mind anyway – check out some of his books.

I honestly can’t remember writing some of these gems (the titles), but they are always IN the episode.

I’ve learned a lot about titles and grabbing attention from reading what he has been doing with my own words.

Thanks, Caleb!

Some ‘interesting’ episode titles:

3 – To hell with safe choices. She was going for…

6 – Did he have an affair with his co-star?

13 – Whatever the cost, her beauty was worth it.

14 – Love them, leave them, you never get to keep them.

24 – He liked living in the lap of luxury.

27 – It might be better posting an armed guard.

35 – For a writer, she was woefully inarticulate.

47 – She was jail bait, a child playing dress-up.

68 – Seeking sanctuary in the middle of the night.

74 – He sulked away like the coward he was.

86 – A woman who doesn’t gossip is a rare…

93 – Sincere flattery almost always worked.

99 – Sex changed everything and could never be undone.

109 – She had planned to expend her sexual tension.

116 – Why had she revealed her sordid secret?

128 – Would they fight a duel over a movie role?

136 – Hell’s deadline for tips was midnight.

144 – Was her mother sleeping around with movie stars?

152 – The most erotic thing a woman could do for a man.

158 – Why did she pray for the unborn baby to die.

163 – Was he on his way to hell?

He’s not done yet, so there will be more for me to shake my head at

They have ebooks and regular books and blog posts – always something going on.

This isn’t the full list – it’s not all posted there yet – but I can remember shaking my head at his ability to turn my simple words into lurid headlines when a particularly good one came across my desk.

How do you title your work, and what grabs your attention?

Thanks to Quozio.com for the ability to make quotes.

What the writer does when bored

HARD AT WORK. REALLY. MAKING PROGRESS. SLOWLY.

Cover design is fun. And hard exacting work. With pixels. And typography. And photographs.

It doesn’t look like anything until it’s done. You will see it then. Right now, it’s a pile of mostly things that haven’t worked. Yet.

If you want to see how it’s done by a pro, read JM Ney-Grimm’s posts: go to the site, and type ‘cover’ into the search box. Read everything.

For your entertainment, and because my eyes are closing and I can’t write a real post but I miss doing it, a blast from the rather recent past:

My notes dated March 18, 2015 at 2:58 PM.

I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for someone. Not for me – it is the someone’s doctor’s visit.

Me, I’m bored.

I just went through the process of finishing the most significant step of a project I was forced to undertake (civic duty and all that), and have gotten it to the point where I email the whole thing (in painful detail) to those who need the information to fix THEIR problem.

I was worried that I might be wrong – but going THROUGH the process and writing it all out showed me that not only was I RIGHT, but that the problem was way bigger than I had thought, and they had all the additional stuff WRONG, too.

So, vindicated for having undertaken the project, finally (it has been HANGING OVER my head for TWO YEARS), I feel pretty good – and I can get back to my writing.

Tools make it easier

Only all I have is the computer (no big external monitor), and the chiclet keyboard that comes with the MacBook (which I only use when FORCED to), and I can only see one page at a time or so, and that is not how I usually WORK, so I’m antsy.

I’ve done everything on the WIP that I can – and that’s saying a lot, because I’m writing/revising/editing the next-to-last scene, which is heavy. I need time, concentration, a nap first, and two hours in which I can let my brain assemble the pieces into a whole.

And I CAN’T do it here.

So I reread everything, and then put it away until I can get back to my desk.

I can’t sleep, work, go anywhere – and I will be interrupted in less than 15 minutes, so what do I do? I write this – and you guys get a post about what a writer does when totally bored?

The answer is: write.

If not on the computer, in a notebook.

I have been known to borrow paper and pens from a hospital nurses’ station and from the chaplain in a different hospital, to ask for writing materials in a hotel or a store if I didn’t bring anything.

Get the thoughts OUT of the HEAD, capture them on the PAGE, and the brain is happy and entertained.

The doctor comes out – I close the laptop. The doctor disappears again – I open it back up.

Really, this is a total core dump. And there’s nothing in the core!

Aaargh!

Normal people play games on their smart phones. I don’t have one, and I’m not normal!

What do YOU do when totally bored? Are you a reader or a writer?

The fun of watching live readers

chinchilla sitting on a hand

Gizzy – silent reader?

A LIVE READER IS A SPECIAL PLEASURE TO A WRITER

I am very, very honored lately by a phenomenon I had noticed, but not paid particular attention to, until I finished writing Book 1 of Pride’s Children: watching someone get hooked on my writing.

It starts on here or on Wattpad. I notice my stats go up – I’m getting more views than normal, and the list of posts visited on my blog takes on a pattern.

Here on the blog, I notice the sequence of chapters and scenes, one right after another.

On Wattpad (where I had been posting a scene twice a week), because of time constraints (it takes time to format and post a scene), I have a notice after Chapter 14, Scene 7:

If you like Pride’s Children, the whole story is up on my blog – link. Please tell me if it is inconvenient for you as a reader to switch to my blog, and I’ll reconsider posting the remainder here on Wattpad.

The special position of serials and live writing

So a reader knows I haven’t abandoned the story.

Every reader of a live serial knows that there is always a possibility the author won’t finish.

That gut feeling is balanced by knowing the work is available as soon as possible. It’s a trade-off. Many people, burned once too many times, refuse to read until the serial is finished. I don’t blame them – I’ve started reading several, only to find the author has other things to do, for whatever reason, and stopped, for now or for good, before I could finish reading.

Live writing (okay, I thought I had enough of a buffer. Hehe) was MY choice.

Readers owe writers nothing; writers owe readers…?

Until a book is published and available for sale, writers owe readers nothing. George RR Martin doesn’t ‘owe’ his readers the rest of his saga, even though they (Geek and Sundry on Youtube, Write, George, write like the wind) seem to think so, and are especially persuasive.

Writers have no more control over the real world than anyone else.

Even popular writers may find a publisher 1) having the rights to the rest of the books in a series, and 2) refusing to execute those rights. Ouch!

If you know only half the readers you need to survive will buy the next book, you may end up abandoning those readers.

What does the reader owe the writer?

Absolutely nothing.

There is, especially right now and for this book, no ‘contract with the reader’ made by anyone who chooses to read a few words of the story.

None.

I, the writer, hoped to heck I’d get to this point, promised MYSELF I’d get to this point, have promised MYSELF I’ll get to Book 3 and write The End.

But readers have not made ANY promises to ME, implied or explicit. Nor should they.

Context: finishing Book 1 of Pride’s Children

But, until I had actually finished (even if there are two more books planned, plotted, outlined to the last detail, and in rough draft form), I might have been on that same list of author interruptus. For all I knew, as I slogged along for all those years, I might be incapable of finishing.

Or force majeur might have kept me from finishing. Things HAPPEN.

The pleasure of the through reader staring on the blog

But now that I AM done, I get to enjoy my readers more.

It warms the cockles of my heart.

The pattern starts showing: I may not catch the beginning, or a reader may have been here all along, reading weekly, but now the Scene pages get viewed in succession over a day or two, until I get another hit on Chapter 20, Scene 6 (End of Book 1).

Whew. Another one made it safely to To Be Continued.

The pleasure of the Wattpad reader

I notice a different pattern: if it is a Wattpadder, Chapter 14, Scene 8 shows up on my list of views, and I know ONE more reader there has made the leap, clicked on my link, and done the hard part: moving to a new venue.

Since Wattpadders read on mobiles, this requires effort. It also usually means they read the first almost-14 chapters on Wattpad – which is a kick all by itself: I am not a undemanding writer.

The through reader is better than chocolate

These readers tend not to skip or skim. If they read at all, they get immersed (several have been wonderful enough to let me know).

It is an honor to be taken seriously like that.

I DON’T NEED ANY REACTION TO BE HAPPY: seeing the pattern complete makes me squee.

The reader who makes it through silently, like my chinchilla Gizzy (if she read), is welcome.

One in ten or so takes the additional step of letting me know what their reaction is, and those comments and emails are balm to the twitchy writer’s soul while doing all these OTHER tasks necessary to make a book salable.

My request of the through reader is different

EVERY response that comes, even simply reading to the end, is welcome. Readers owe me nothing. I repeat: nothing. I grew up in the time when you didn’t even realize the writer might still be alive!

Additional possible reactions: Like. (Or vote on Wattpad.) Eventually, consider buying (though they’ve already read the story, so at this point I don’t anticipate that). If Book 1 is for sale, a review on Amazon will be welcome (I promise I’ll put a link out when that’s true, and I’m trying my darndest to make it happen asap).

But MY preferred form of response, whatever else you do, Gentle Through Reader, is that you take a moment, think very hard, and see if there is ONE person you would recommend Pride’s Children, Book 1, to (dangling preposition and all) – and get them started on Chapter 1.

If you’ve done that – and that explains why I’m getting more through readers – my humble thanks to you.

And if you read the whole thing, your vote on the prologue – keep, rewrite, delete – is welcome any time, too.

Plus, of course, we’re always open for comments.