Seems such an obvious statement, but being invisible is a big problem for authors – getting the title of your book out there is a constant pressure, and you become very fond of those who make the effort on your blog, their blog, a writing site, a reading site, or any place where readers who would like YOUR books congregate.
And then something has to persuade them to read enough words to get to a ‘Call to Action,’ which can be as simple as a recommendation followed by a link.
The problem of recommendations
If the subject of what you’re reading comes up naturally, I don’t find it too difficult to ask a few questions about what someone new to me likes to read.
I rattle off a couple of favorites of mine – say Jane Eyre and the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries and maybe Dune – and watch to see if the listener’s reaction is fight or flight.
No one likes pushy authors, those who insist their books are ‘for everyone.’ Because it’s not a very believable statement in general, though people who are glad they read Jane Eyre have the most flexible mindset (which is why it gets so much attention). The enjoyment, or even that the story was self-chosen, are the keys – such a reader probably plowed (or ploughed) through similar long-lasting books.
I tried reading A Confederacy of Dunces – an award winner with a good author story (John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when he couldn’t find a publisher, his mother persuaded a legendary literary agent to champion the book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize), but had to force myself to finish Chapter 1. Because it may be brilliant, but it made my gorge rise and choke me. ‘Icky’ is the best I can remember about that long-ago attempt I have no desire to repeat. I don’t get very far into Lolita, either, for similar reasons. Or The Catcher in the Rye.
I can’t imagine their authors spending time with those characters, however good the writing may be.
So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and am glad I don’t have to assign either book to, say, a class of high school juniors (assuming teachers still get to make those choices), and then have to talk about it in class.
It’s personal for the author
And books can become a personal crusade favorite for readers who then recommend, gift, or lend something they loved.
So, if you LIKED a book, take a moment and do SOMETHING to encourage the author to keep it up:
Rate the book
Review and rate it
Blog about it
Recommend it to a friend
Leave nice words on the author’s websites
Buy an extra copy to lend
Send a copy to a friend or family member
Use as gifts
Ask your library to order the book(s)
Write a guide
Mention your favorite parts
Tell people you can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy
Hire a band to parade in DC in costume
Anything you would like if YOU had written the book.
Be your most creative.
Give a copy to any medical personnel who have no empathy for diseases like ME/CFS – this will allow them to live the life of one – without actually having to get it, or Long Covid, or Post-polio Syndrome, or Lyme disease – or any one of a bunch of post-viral syndromes and similar misunderstood ‘invisible’ diseases.
Crusade for indie books in principle by doing something a little beyond your normal response – the author will be delighted.
It’s not the money (though adequate royalties of around $6 per any version I have are about three times larger than many traditional authors make per book) – I crave the readers. Thanks!
If you are interested in my fiction, and haven’t signed up at its site, click on Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD‘s announcement post for the ebook – but the print version is already up, cover and all, and Amazon has notified me it may take 3 days.
The ebook took ONE HOUR to be approved, late last night – I guess no one else was up!
Details at the link – not everyone who comes here is interested in fiction.
Check there, too, for the details of the two Kindle Countdown Deals that are set up – one for PURGATORY, Sep. 21, and one for NETHERWORLD, Oct. 19. Best way to pick up a copy of either.
This blog has 967 followers as of today – and I’ve been at it since 2012.
I’m two posts away from 700 – and no, that’s not why I’m blogging today.
Many blogs I follow have posts every day. I don’t necessarily want to do that, even if I could.
The blog I really care about is the one for the Pride’s Children books, prideschildren.com (I did have the sense to buy the domain way back in the early years, along with this one and a couple of others I keep just in case, such as the one with my full name).
But PridesChildren.com has 40 followers, and this blog has 732, and I’m wondering if I’m somehow neglecting to get readers who come HERE to continue on to the PC blog – assuming some of them read mainstream fiction, or, Oh, Joy!, have read some of my short fiction and want something more.
With limited energy, a staple of my life, I have to choose every day that isn’t too severely brainfogged, where to do some writing:
Where does the (writing) time go?
When one of the volumes of Pride’s Children is being written, that’s where the efforts mostly go, unless I physically can’t accomplish much because the time is short.
When I have something specific to say or to record for posterity (which often includes my own odd brand of writing advice), I blog at Liebjabberings (here). I’m actually considering writing a book of advice for writers – if there is any interest in my coping mechanisms.
And when I want to look polished and professional (even though I usually write in PJs) and am reminding myself that I have one chance to make a good impression with the fiction I care the most about, I blog at Pride’s Children. Or when I have something to say about a launch, or a sale, or an award.
And there’s always something on both sites that needs updating or polishing – feel free to weigh in.
Do I already have some crossovers?
Yes, but not as many as I expected.
So I’m making an open invitation: try out my short fiction here, go follow me there (or on Amazon at my author page), and you’ll know when I have a publishing event you might be interested in.
Other things to do
Contact me (See the About page) – ask me anything, or suggest a topic for a post. I love questions, and would be happy to write about something (assuming I have anything to contribute).
Comment on a post – I look at them as conversation starters, not articles of truth. Love chatting.
Recommend me to a friend, as a blogger or fictioneer.
Read something – try out the short fiction. Or a favorite post of mine. Or dig into the old ones with the strange titles.
Why now? Because NETHERWORLD is so close, and I’d love to give it a good party sendoff. And because sales are short-term events, and I’m figuring out timing that would be most beneficial – for more people to acquire ‘the taste.’
In 2015, I was publishing a book for the first time, after spending a gazillion years writing the first book in my Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy, PURGATORY.
Newbies have a lot to learn, and it is an intense experience if you do it yourself, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way you will forget the steps.
But you have to allow for change – from the outside world – and it won’t take you or your needs into account.
I forgot two major things: software changes and computer crashes.
Software changes negate some changes you make to your copy
I was barely surviving, even back in 2015 when I spent a summer learning graphics and covers and formatting, and I thought that, between my notes and my blog posts, I was saving enough information to do it again with the second book in the trilogy (eventually named NETHERWORLD).
I didn’t even think – no spare brain cells – that the process would be different in a few years, and that it would take me seven to write the next book. Seven is a big number of years in computers.
Because of several computer crashes during those years, and a coast-to-coast move from New Jersey to California, I had to rely on backups for some of my major applications, and sometimes those backups came from outside my own storage systems.
When you download such a backup, you get a pristine copy, ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE YOUR MODIFICATIONS.
And the major mod that bit me was that on several of my indispensable applications, including Word, Scrivener, and Pixelmator, I had installed fonts I used for the interior and the exterior of the book – duly licensed and paid for – because I liked them.
Find your fonts: on your computer – or download them again
Because I included a Design Notes page at the end of the printed copies of PURGATORY, I had a list of all the fonts I used, their licensing information, and where I’d downloaded them from; plus where I’d licensed them from, with a copy of the invoice and registration information.
Not easily accessible – I didn’t think they would disappear, so I was cavalier about storing them properly – but (and here I credit Apple for saving my bacon several times by making a back of my data at the time of the crashes) they were there on my computer backups, and I eventually located all my information.
Font information is now stored in a MUCH clearer fashion, in a folder on my Desktop labeled 2022 PC Storage/2022 PC FONTS (incl PC1 fonts), and backed up on my computer and in the iCloud, so I won’t have to do this again.
[NOTE: this is where I’m trying to save other users, especially self-published authors (SPAs), time and effort – do this from the beginning, and add all new fonts to this storage system, and don’t be like Alicia.]
Fonts I use for covers or exteriors for Pride’s Children:
Alido (monospaced, from SummitSoft, licensed in the Big Graphics Bundle)
New Yorker (a very good imitation of the expensive official one, free from Allen R. Walden, to be credited)
Goudy Serial (from SoftMakerSoftwareGmbH, licensed) in 6 weights
Sorts Mill Goudy (free from Barry Schwarz, credit)
Cambria (pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
Book Antiqua (monospaced, pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
Saving – and printing out and saving in physical form – the licensing information is a good idea; fonts are someone’s Intellectual Property, and you don’t want problems with a published book because you don’t have the required information handy to prove you licensed what you use – SPAs are a small business, and it helps to behave like one.
Install the fonts on your system
Before you do anything with additional fonts, they have to be installed on your computer in a form you can then add to your software.
For the Macs, this means installing them into the app Font Book, which couldn’t be simpler (assuming the font is one of the approved font types – which I found listed at Apple Support).
The extra fonts I chose for PURGATORY were all .otf or .ttf, which made it vastly simpler for me: double click on the font, Font Book opens automatically, click Install.
Book Antiqua and Cambria were IN the Font Book already, which makes me think that installing Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac also installed the Office fonts properly. Thanks, Microsoft!
Transfer the fonts to your software – if necessary
On the Mac I don’t have to do this! All the fonts in the Font Book that are not grayed out were now available when I opened Pixelmator!
And now I’m back where I was, font-wise, before the computer crashes and the move, and know a lot more than I did then.
Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.
Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.
I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.
THERE IS NO POINT
in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]
It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!
Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.
As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.
It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.
There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.
Hope I’m still around.
More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.
Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!
It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.
The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.
Because love hasn’t been translating into action.
So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?
But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.
Physical problems have been the stumbling block
I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.
Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.
And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.
I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.
So I shouldn’t worry, right?
Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.
If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.
Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).
Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet
but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!
I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.
So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.
If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.
As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.
I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.
And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.
Gak! It’s been almost a month since I posted anything!
There was a lot of quarantining in that time. NOT because we were exposed to Covid, though some independent living residents in this facility were (we found out because they had dinner with friends in Assisted Living at the Friendship Table, and the AL people ARE tested regularly because they’re in the health-care portion of our facility).
And because those people in IL who WERE exposed to the people in AL who tested positive, the State of California required them to quarantine for FOURTEEN DAYS in their apartments. None of the IL residents got Covid, thank goodness, but WE had a vacation in Lake Tahoe with our kids a few weeks later, and realized that WE wouldn’t be able to go IF we got exposed ourselves, here, and then had to do the same quarantine for 14 days.
That is, we quarantined for 14 days so we wouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days – at an inconvenient time which would put the kibosh on OUR vacation. Mixed up world, eh?
So – any progress on publishing NETHERWORLD?
Well, yes and no.
For the ms., I created an easy ARC from Scrivener – the complete, very long pdf of the whole thing (~500 pages), and sent it to the first person who’s offered to review AND buy it on launch day (thank you, David!), and as a backup complete proofed file to several places, including my amazing beta reader (thank you, Rachel!), and gave my husband and children the necessary information to manage my literary estate (and publish Netherworld) if something happened on the trip/vacation/return. You never know.
The formatting is no further than that.
For the cover: I have all the pieces, an updated Pixelmator 3, and an updated Learn Pixelmator 3.5 video course (free update – thanks folks!).
I’ve bought licenses for the two cover images from Dreamstime, acquired another photo from the same friend who supplied the sky for Purgatory’s cover, found a couple of low-res images to guide me in the changes I’ll need to create the cover in my head, and put the whole thing into a folder and a backup on the iCloud. Phew.
Now I just have to do the work, get it past my cover mentor (thank you, Jessica!), and create ebook, paper and hardback covers to spec, and then, because I want to make one change to them, redo a bit of the Purgatory covers (bigger name so it shows on the thumbnail, add the award, etc.) which really amounts to redoing a fair amount of the Purgatory covers AND creating the hardcover one.
I have my permissions from Cambridge U. for my KJV quotations – feels nice and official.
I got my copyright certificate from the Library of Congress! I always feel better after I do that, for whatever it might be worth.
Launching is, of course, dependent on having something to launch. I had approached a PR firm, put up with a long delay to talk to them, checked in with them and received a promise of an answer of some kind before the end of May, and than have been ghosted. It does remind me that if people are not reliable in the small things, it’s probably better not to rely on them for the big ones, so that firm is permanently off the table. Too bad, because I liked them, and had already invested some effort into them.
I’m still obsessively re-reading the end of Netherworld – and not changing a word. I promise explosions, and I hope they are well received.
I want to continue getting into writing LIMBO
I literally can’t wait – because there are only a few hours between the end of 2 and the beginning of 3, and I’m very happy how that turned out.
And I’ve already started writing Chapter 41(LIMBO goes to 60).
BUT I’ve been dealing with some medical problems for 2.5 years to no solution, and I’m in the middle of trying to fix some things that really need fixing, and it’s a slow process because disability means EVERYTHING is so much harder – from making phone calls through phone systems that won’t just let you call someone to make an appointment, to doctor visits which consume an incredible amount of prep time, energy, and recovery time, to a whole slew of medical tests with the same problems – which the new doctor insists on before she will even consider DOING something.
Plus a big paperwork problem I’ve finally admitted I had to step in and manage, do some of, get help, hand over to the pros…
And my limited number of daily spoons is gone every day before I manage to write. Because it’s not just ‘write a few words’ now – it’s the whole huge Book 3 planning review, restart, clean up, carry stuff from 1 and 2 typical glorious mess of starting the final volume in a trilogy. Drives me up a tree that I can’t just do it.
But I’m literally doing the best I can
And not managing to sleep very well with all the above, to boot.
I can tell stress that I’m fine until I’m full-body blue, but that does NOT take away the stress. It just doesn’t add worry, but the things I’m having to do are stressful in and of themselves, and that is such a deep autonomic process that you can’t affect it much.
Plus the physical problems have extra pain and much discomfort associated, which has to be micromanaged – and I was already exhausted before that.
There are signs, portents, and possibilities
of improvements, but not fast.
This is literally the first time I’ve even been able to think of writing a simple blog post, in the whole past month.
Life happens – you deal.
I know what my primary aim is (if family is okay), but I’m not able to DO it right now.
Don’t worry. Nothing TOO horribly grim. But I’m all tapped out of spoons every day, almost the end of the morning, when I’ve done nothing yet.
But stuff slowly gets done, and goes into the rearview mirror queue from the To Do list, and I’ll get there.
On the bright side
my oldest daughter is helping me select my new computer for the foreseeable future – my current lovey is from 2015, and can’t be upgraded far enough because then my necessary old software – Office 2011 for Mac and Dramatica Story Expert – won’t work, and I don’t have the mental bandwidth right now to deal with another potential crash.
Everything is properly backed up (Time Machine and iCloud), but bobbles with computers cost me days or weeks when they happen, so for the first time in a long time, I’m being proactive: a new Macbook Air with the M2 processor and good camera should take me far into the future and definitely through LIMBO.
It will, however, require some learning – not my strong point.
So that’s the update:
I’m working as hard as I can on the critical list items
I’m as far along with Netherworld as I can be, including covers
Ditto redoing the Purgatory covers
Ditto writing into the future with Limbo
and dealing with the sorry carcass which makes all of this possible at all in as graceful a manner as I can against the extra stress of having to do it at all, and the unbelievable amount of extra energy it takes
AND, courtesy of my lovely assistant Sammy, whose last day is today (she’s graduating! going on to grad school! going home for the summer!), I have already acquired an assistant for the fall (another senior – so I’ll get 8-9 months of her life, and leave her a changed young woman – but seniors are really handy), and she’s interested in learning the self-pub aspects of the job I haven’t had time to do with Sammy because other things were more, uh, important.
And the ability to write this post reassures me that there’s still a ‘me’ here.
More when there’s actually progress on this laundry list.
Be well. Have a great summer. Don’t work TOO hard.
PS: If you are desperate to read NETHERWORLD, and wouldn’t mind writing a review to be posted when it’s published, email me (abehrhardt at gmail), make your case, and I’ll send you what I have at the time.
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).
The traditional answer to this is, believe it or not, NOTHING.
Because a reader’s review is as much their opinion as your book is yours.
And you are grateful to have a reader who was moved to take up keyboard and leave you feedback.
And because you cannot please everyone.
And, most importantly, because have negative reviews is a rite of passage for writers, and now you’ve had yours.
And here you thought having all 5* reviews was a mark of a good writer, and now your stellar reputation is trampled forever.
Is acceptance your only option, then?
The first instinct may be to send out destroyer missiles, but that may not actually remove the stain on your reputation.
The review stays.
But I came across a very creative way to use and benefit from that bad review on a blog post of Tahani Nelson, a fantasy writer. She turned a negative review (a reader got almost to the end of the book quite happily until she realized, oh dear, the warrior princess was gay!) into a great ad for her book. I won’t spoil her thunder – she deserves people to go read her post. Or at least scroll down to her ad. It’s gorgeous. Go ahead – I’ll wait.
So, I thought – YOU have some 1* and 2* reviews
What creative use are you going to make of them?
First, two of the ads (maybe written by the same person?) have the same error: ‘It is 545 pages long.’ Um, no. The book is 485 pages long.
The reviewer accused me of writing tedious descriptions about everything. Um, no. If anything, I am extremely parsimonious in the description department for a peculiar reason: Pride’s Children is written in very deep close multiple third person point of view, and I only use descriptions a character would actually THINK at the moment, which eliminates most descriptions (characters don’t do more than noticing a detail or two most of the time). Whether they’re tedious or not, that I’ll leave up to the individual reader, but I try to think of something obvious but fresh or relevant.
One reviewer must have thought the first paragraph of the prologue – a short excerpt from a faux New Yorker article that is my link between books, and the ‘outside’ view of the story from a magazine writer’s perspective years later – was actually the first paragraph of the book – and called it a run-on sentence. The paragraph is 79 words, a complex sentence but not a run on. The prologue is labeled Prothalamion – in honor of Dorothy L. Sayers who used one brilliantly in Busman’s Honeymoon.
The actual first sentence in Chapter 1 is 11 short sentences in 93 words. With periods or ellipses between them – clearly delimited.
I was accused of needing to prove I have an immense vocabulary. Why, thanks, I do know a lot of words, but all I try to do is use the words the characters would use. Which sometimes is very constraining.
The missing clues to my bad reviews (so far)
Several pieces in the negative reviews clued me in to the problem, and it’s a different one than I originally thought.
“I read Pride’s Children because of my daughter’s suggestion. I am not a fan of romance novels”
“the book was much too long. It could have been easily condensed to 2/3 the length”
“The number of quotations before each chapter was overkill – for the most part they only made sense to me after the chapter had been read.“
And these pieces from positive reviews give different clues:
“These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well. And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!)”
“I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.”
There are MANY Romance readers and writers in the world – and they do extremely well by each other.
But they have styles and tropes and limitations and expectations, among others:
only two characters in the relationship (excepting the exceptions for subgenres)
a point of view that goes back and forth at certain times between the two lovers-to-be – in the same scene
a particular style of covers
a happy ending (HEA – happily ever after) or (HFN – happy for now)
And somehow or other, even when the cover, description, and ad copy try to convey that Pride’s Children is NOT a Romance which follows what the readers expect, some readers picked it up, read, noticed things were not what they expected – but kept going all the way to the end (skimming, I’m assuming, in some places) – and still decided they were not happy, and left a review. An unhappy one. A 1* or 2* review.
I think that may mean I need to work on my ad copy. I don’t know how to say ‘mainstream love story’ as opposed to ‘Romance’ – because it sounds horribly condescending somehow, but wouldn’t you want to know there were supernatural beings or zombies in a book before you chose it to read, given your preferences either way?
If you read, or even prefer, mainstream love stories, and haven’t signed up to be notified about mine, please hop over to the Pride’s Children blog, and follow so you will be informed when they come out. Not frequently – I’m dreadfully slow – but they’re big fat complicated stories when they do.
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.
GOING TO ABSURD LENGTHS TO MAKE TIMES AND DATES WORK
There are two parts to verisimilitude: characters and plots.
When you graft a fictional character onto a world in a historical context – changing the name of the president, for example (still missing President Bartlett of the West Wing, not so much the Presidents Underwood of House of Cards), is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, because FICTION.
But there is a significant difference between an alternate history – one which answers what if? questions about what would happen if something changed due to that fictional occurrence (President Lincoln survived the Civil War) – and one which aims to change only a few features of an event, without completely changing the chronology of what happens after.
Because, within wide parameters, most people aren’t important enough to change history, and writing things a little different to end a personal story in a particular way is a perfectly valid fictional technique: you don’t imagine the 1950s differently, but your sleuth solves cases in them.
My fictional world is the real world
I want you to think, when you finish reading my WIP, that you’ve read something that really happened.
But because I chose Hollywood (and Bollywood added to it in the second volume of the trilogy), I need a worldwide stage for some parts, which has resulted in characters at times in very different time zones being aware of or communicating with each other.
Or traveling from one place to another and back.
Or of something they do affecting a different character somewhere else.
Stories aim to give you the flavor of reality
Stories – even very long dense epic stories – give you only a tiny part of what ‘happened.’
Try to document your day. In just one 24-hour day, you perform thousands of actions, make hundreds of decisions. Even listing them in a recording as you go through the day would take forever.
So the writer in a novel has to give you enough of the right kind of scenes so that you think you’ve lived with the characters – but are actually seeing a tiny fraction of what real people would do in that time.
The RIGHT tiny fraction. To give an illusion of time passing and being present.
The writer has to know a lot more than the reader
Or readers will notice the gaps. Call them plot holes, inconsistencies, anachronisms. Or my favorite: refrigerator moments. Because you’re at the refrigerator at 3am and suddenly it occurs to you that there was no logical reason for something that happened in the plot, but you were swept away by the action, and didn’t notice. It may have been Lawrence Block who mentioned no reason for the Estonians to be eating chocolate chip cookies (my memory is very vague on the topic).
Well, I don’t want any of those.
I don’t want readers to say, “Wait a minute – that couldn’t happen!” Because it would pop the ‘suspension of disbelief bubble, and damage the flow.
So I go to a lot of trouble to make sure something might have happened that way.
MOST readers will never notice the hole, or if they do, care.
Funny thing: in my mind, that doesn’t absolve me of the requirement to make sure there aren’t any I can see.
In practical terms in NETHERWORLD
It means that when I do my complicated alternation between characters, and something has to happen on a close timeline, I spend effort making sure that timeline is actually possible.
If two characters alternating are on different continents (a recent example), and there is a plane flight from one of those continents to a place on a third one, I use a lot of convenient time/date software (what time is it in Berlin when it’s 3am in Shanghai?) in coordination with other software which tells me how long the flight will be for a particular aircraft.
Sometimes I’ve had to reset the time for a particular sequential scene.
Other times I’ve had to start a scene earlier or later, build in a gap, or have it end at a different time.
The interesting thing to me has been that when I get that involved in the details of ‘could it work’, I find myself feeling more like a detective than the plotter of a novel.
I’m discovering what happened rather than creating it.
It has been eerie how real the timelines are – and how I’m able to fit the changes in without it rippling through the rest of the scenes.
Some scenes are anchored in REAL TIME
I’ve chosen to insert a character into an actual historical event, so I have to make sure a barrage of physical actions happen around that exact event.
I don’t want a reader to remember something – that year that award ceremony happened on a Monday, not the usual Sunday – and me have gotten it wrong.
It’s enough fiction that I’m putting my characters into that ceremony.
I want the reader to have the spine-chilling thought, “Hey. Wait. Am I remembering it wrong?” because my fictional part fits so well into the past reality.
And it’s not that many years ago.
Next time I may pick something without these real-world anchors!
Or in a fictional universe.
I never realized how much work it might be until I was up to my neck in alligators in the swamp.
As a reader, what do you do when the glitches are so obvious you can’t ignore them?
As a writer, am I crazy to worry about these tiny details?
To satisfy its customers, to make searching for what they want easy (easier), to supply it efficiently.
By revolution I mean both also that things turned around – 180° – from where they were, sort of, before.
Because before this all happened, ‘literary’ was a separate category in bookstores.
And literary meant a number of things:
Difficult to read, requiring great attention
Small in scope – One DAY in the life of Ivan Denisovich
Using difficult flowery language
Very detailed – a navel closely observed and described
Slow and languid
Somehow not for everyone
Requiring a large SAT vocabulary
For people with an MA in English or Literature
Suitable proof for a doctorate
A credential for teaching English or Literature
With a limited audience
Maybe French or translated from Italian or Russian
Often not ending anywhere near happily
Add or subtract from my list what comes into your head when you hear ‘literary novel.’ Please feel free to mention them in a comment.
What’s the revolution, you ask?
That ‘literary’ now means ‘traditionally published good stuff’ on Amazon, and is seen as almost the exclusive purview of, you guessed it, the traditional publishers large and small.
The books that are vetted by agents and editors at publishing companies (excluding the celebrity stuff), and are therefore both ‘better’ and ‘not for the hoi polloi.’
The other similar term is ‘historical,’ which is a little fuzzier and often about WWII, sometimes about WWI or the American Civil War.
Because the term ‘mainstream’ disappeared, and is not the same as ‘contemporary,’ which can be attached to, say, a Romance and a worldview: ‘Contemporary Christian Romance’ is a searchable thing.
It is considered presumptuous to label your own work ‘classic.’
And ‘General Fiction’ is not a category, but a garbage can.
‘Psychological’ is filling the empty slot somewhat – almost all novels for grownups are psychological, but is confounded by ‘thriller,’ ‘horror’, and ‘women’s fiction.’ With, of course, nothing actually labeled ‘fiction for men.’
It used to be possible to find mainstream fiction by looking for ‘a novel’ on the cover. No more. It now means only ‘book of at least 50 pages.’
It doesn’t matter for mainstream because
I’m convinced readers of mainstream fiction who use Amazon come there to find a good price on something they’ve already decided to buy.
I don’t think they search on Amazon. Not beyond maybe being attracted by something similar being offered by the ‘also read’ bots. There is just too much stuff.
They get their recommendations elsewhere – book critics (who rarely do SPAs*), reviews in the few places which still have book sections (print journalism has taken a lot of hits lately, too), and the publicity material put out for their best-selling authors by the traditional publishers (other authors get bupkis from traditional publishers – return on investment isn’t worth it).
So the market is saturated and sopped up by the same few titles which keep those offices in Manhattan open for the publishers (and their unpaid interns).
I’m hoping for virality. It can make the huge difference to a start – and then the writing must maintain the quality so that future books, even if widely spaces, are eagerly awaited.
Feel free to help kick that off – if you like mainstream fiction.
Don’t let ‘the system’ keep producing same old, same old – and then complain you can’t find anything you like to read.
Thank you for listening to the daily rant. Now, if I could just manage to do it daily! 🙂
Oh, and the answer to the title question is yes: ‘Literary’ has too many negative and restrictive connotations in the minds of too many readers.
‘Literary’ is not a good substitute for such terms as mainstream, ‘big book’, epic, blockbuster, or commercial novel. It isn’t the same. Even when the intent is to make it a synonym with ‘well written.’
IMNVHO (In my not very humble opinion,)
Final note: Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is taking part today and for the next few days at a promotion at HelloBooks – which has many other wonderful bargains for serious readers of General Fiction (its category) and many other genres.
*SPAs = self-published authors, sometimes known as indies or independent authors
I didn’t expect to, not this late in the middle book of a trilogy.
I capture these thoughts when they happen, hoping to have something to refer to when it happens again.
The constraint here is both the calendar – the end is near, and the content until the last scene is what it has to be – and a sense of pace.
In the real world, things have their own importance, and can’t be hurried – or slowed. Their pace is what their pace is.
In fiction, however, technically every bit is under the immediate and complete control of the writer – nothing happens without her say so – and completely not. Why? Because the pace you work hard to develop as you go seems to have a built-in speed you didn’t put there.
I’m not used to this
All pantsers are familiar with this.
Whereas I, an extreme plotter, like to think I’m in control of everything.
The story takes over.
And you bumble around in the dark until you learn.
Oh, and try doing this with WRITER brain fog!
You can’t write chaos smoothly
But it can’t be completely chaotic stream-of-consciousness either, not for very long on the page: the Reader won’t stand for it.
So it’s a mixture, and, from deep third multiple pov, you have to credibly present a chaotic situation for a character you’ve already developed (starting that way in Chapter 1 or with a new character is a different ballgame), and who is usually much less confused.
So you will get a little indulgence from your audience, but don’t want to presume on that – or they’ll start skimming, and you’ve lost them.
So, another skill attempted in the craft.
I wonder what the beta reader will say.
If you’re a reader, do you notice this kind of thing? And how much patience do you have for a change in how you see characters, especially when they’re under stress?
If you’re a writer, has this one bitten your ankles?
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 much reflection, some of it in writing, other of it in the middle of the night, I have realized that the win, to be mine, has to come from me.
A real win is one you create yourself, the hard way, with blood, sweat, and tears. Since you EARNED it, you OWN it.
Since you created it, it can’t be taken from you (do remember your backups off site, though!).
Someone buying Pride’s Children PURGATORY – in paperback! – is a win, as is someone purchasing the ebook, or taking it out at Kindle Unlimited, especially when I haven’t done any marketing in ages. But it’s not something I have control over.
I had a recent win against Covid
As soon as the CDC said immunocompromised people would be on the short list for the early boosters, I asked my doctor AND my facility about it – to no avail. They said, “When we get it, we’ll let you know.”
But I started seeing other people with my same illnesses posting on FB about having already received the booster shot.
Regardless of how (I wouldn’t lie to get one, but don’t even know if others did, though there have been newspaper reports of lying), the key fact was availability.
So I nagged the doctor’s office, reminded them of my immune status, and they made it available. Then I arranged Medvan transportation, went and got the thing, suffered through the side effects (second day was quite flu-like, and I had more brain fog than I anticipated for the days after that), and, in another week or so, will feel I have done as much as possible to protect myself. And did NOT take that dose from someone getting their first vaccine.
I finished a tricky chapter in Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.
As I get toward the explosive end of NETHERWORLD, it is getting even more important to get it exactly right, because even less time separates the end of 2 from the beginning of 3 than separated the end of 1 from the beginning of 2, and every story-second counts.
Sending Chapter 35 off to my beta reader was a key step: it is the 3/4 mark in several ways, and I have been forced to make the tiny detailed decisions that make the difference NOW, and not in some writing future – ‘when I get to it.’
It’s getting harder and harder physically and mentally
I acknowledge that, and move on.
Restarting after the brain fog is always tricky, because I have to assume I’m past it before I’m sure I’m past it, and restarting is part of the process of getting past it. What I mean is that it takes a huge amount of psychic energy to restart, sort of like the difference between static and dynamic friction (starting to move a piece of furniture across carpeting is much harder than keeping it going once you start (so don’t stop!)).
Apply that pressure too early, and all it does is extend the downtime.
Wait too long, and situational depression sets in.
And there is always something else that need my limited attention ability – and seems more important just this minute.
I live with this, write with this, and have been at it for a very long time.
There are rumors on the horizon of research for long-covid that might explain another post-viral syndrome, ME/CFS’s problems, and it is possible that even after 31 years it might be helpful. Rumors – but this one has some interesting science behind it. We’ll see.
But, as the husband reminds me, even if it works it will be years before it is available, and I can’t let any of that time go to waste.
So I face the fact that there’s been a break, and get back to work.
Yesterday I took the first step:
I re-read what I have put together, in these brain-fogged days, by following process and trusting it will work as it has every time before – eventually.
And even though there’s one tiny part in the middle of the scene where a decision has to be made about an order of events, the rest is written.
And the end made me cry (actual written steps in said process: “DIG DEEPER – CRY” and “BECOME THE CHARACTER – WRITE WITH THE EMOTIONS RAW.”)
The character needs it, but I am the one with the whip, forcing change. It hurts.
Being present in the writing – mining my own experience: “HERE AND NOW; BEING PRESENT!”
I may work in imaginary situations, but if they don’t get treated as real, with me there, documenting as it happens, it never converts into something good.
From my Journal: “… is nice – but she needs extraordinary, and open to a degree she won’t be able to demand from him.” It is either there in someone, or it isn’t.
Voltaire said ‘the best is the enemy of the great.’
Many people think perfectionism keeps you from getting something finished and out the door and good enough.
But in writing something unique, it matters. Not that you become a perfectionist, and never get anything done, but that you not let ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ or even ‘good enough for government work’ keep you from achieving your own standards.
Because I hope my readers are the people who have those same standards.
If you are, you will know that about yourself.
THAT’s where the wins come from.
So back to the drawing board, salt mines, design board
While I still can.
Because if it’s meh, it costs me way too much to be worth it.
Chapter 36 is well started, and I am imbuing it with the frustration of writing in the middle of the challenging circumstances that are a pandemic which no one expected would last this long.
And a lot of the pain.
If you look for it, something will pull you back to the task.
What it’s like to insert a fictional character into a historical event for the purpose of telling a story.
The basic question is unanswered: how to take over a historical event and change it.
Such as how to write a thriller with someone else as President!
So, it’s fiction, identified exactly as so in the beginning of the books, and mine to do with as I will.
I doubt someone has to get permission from the White House to change the President – or we wouldn’t have President Bartlett and The West Wing.
So I’m worried about nothing.
The general rule to changing a name has to be avoiding harm
If you are going to say something negative, it might bring a lawsuit if the named person or organization feels it affects their reputation in some way. And even if a court decides they are wrong, and you get an amazing amount of viral publicity out of this (google the Streisand Effect if you don’t remember it), it is going to take a lot of your time, effort, and money to fight such a suit – and there is no guarantee you will win.
Organizations can have in-house lawyers who eat problems like this for lunch. They will bury you easily – nothing personal – and have no mercy.
Please read books on writing and copyright, and know the legal definitions of Libel (Letter – ie, written – mnemonics mine, probably not original) and Slander (Spoken) and ask yourself, as a start, whether YOU would feel libeled or slandered if you were the subject.
If even you are uneasy, it may be easier to change the name that might get offended.
And you might have to change that to something that is significantly different in enough ways that no reasonable person would be offended (unpredictable).
Where’s this coming from?
For the purpose of NETHERWORLD, I sort of have to insult a famous movie or two, and some actors – in a minor way.
The insult consists in taking away an earned award – and awarding it to someone else, another movie.
The problem stems from everyone’s ‘knowledge’ of how Hollywood works, and what the major awards are from which organizations.
In the same way that President Bartlett is less interesting if he is Superintendent Bartlett of an unnamed or fictitious school district, an actor getting a life-changing nomination for, say, an Academy Award is more interesting than if I make up an organization called FCBM and award my character their Best Actor award.
Along with ‘The White House’ you get an amazing amount of the reader’s foreknowledge of how things work there – which saves a lot of words and explanations.
Along with ‘an Oscar’ you get the same kind of response – red carpet, photographers, exotic borrowed clothing for beautiful women… And the whole suspense thing dragged out as long as possible, followed by one winner and a lot of gracious losers who were honored to be nominated. It’s in your head already, and a writer just needs to mention a few points to trigger a full-blown award ceremony in your mind.
Why do I even bother worrying about this kind of stuff?
Well, first because I’m a worrier.
Second, because I want that identification and value from the awards. I agree with the organizations and the individuals that they are worth a great deal in a career.
Third, because the last thing I need in my state of energy and illness and retirement is some organization getting its panties in a twist because I, well, lied.
Fourth, because I hope to be famous and well-read (not synonymous) some day, I want to do it right, and not leave a mess for my heirs.
Fifth, because, as a writer, it’s my job.
Have you had to face this choice? If so, how did you handle it? Have there been repercussions?
As a reader, have you ever wondered if the author has stepped over the line? Care to share?