Thursday, June 30, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Ted Krever

Ted Krever watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, went to Woodstock (the good one), and graduated Sarah Lawrence College with a useless degree in creative writing.

He spent the next few decades in media journalism, at ABC News on the magazine show Day One with Forrest Sawyer and the Barbara Walters Interviews of a Lifetime series, as General Manager of BNNtv, a documentary production company, creating programs for CNN, A&E, Court TV, CBS, MTV News, Discovery People and CBS/48 Hours, and as VP/Production of a short-lived dotcom, followed swiftly by nine months of unemployment.

Ted now writes novels and sells mattresses in Staten Island NY,  a job which registers at a loathsome -98 on the Cosmopolitan Eligible Male Job-Status Guide. Ted is happily divorced, purports to be a good kisser and hopes for world peace. He was once accused of attempting to blow up Ethel Kennedy with a Super-8 projector.

Advice:
  • Write about what hurts. A novel is a long-term commitment; you’ve got to stare at the thing for months and years and just when you near the end, you’ve got to find a way to make it feel fresh. The only thing that keeps my attention that long is something I can’t get away from, even if I want to. I've got a couple of romantic comedies, a couple of dark novels and a thriller--but they're all about aches I can't ignore.
  • Trust yourself. The worst tendency of new insecure writers (and experienced insecure writers—we all have bouts) is to feel there is a ‘right’ way to tell a story. Rules are made to be broken. The right way is the way that works. Which leads to:
  • Start with character. This is the only controversial piece of advice I have but I believe in it whole-heartedly. I think if you’ve found a strong character you believe in (which is not necessarily the same as ‘agree with’ or ‘admire’), the story will appear organically, as an outgrowth of character. And then it’ll go places an outlined plot will never go.

Link:
My website: www.tedkrever.com

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mischievous Altar Boys and Stories 'Round the Campfire

My friend Ray has always been a great story-teller and over the years I've encouraged him to write. Recently he told me he has started writing about being an altar boy when he was a kid. He's told me some terrific stories about the mischief he and his fellow altar boys got in to and I'm very happy he is writing about that. I was telling him about the movie The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and how much I loved it. Two of my brothers were absolute Stan Lee fanatics and they collected every issue of his Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk comics. If you loved those comics and haven't seen the movie go rent it now. The movie is shot as regular movie except when the boys start day-dreaming and are transformed into Stan Lee-style superheroes. The kids are adorable, Jodie Foster is excellent as the cranky nun, and Vincent D'Onofrio, who I think is one of the most under-rated actors out there, is great as the poor beleaguered priest caught between some mischievous boys and a crabby nun.

I've loved Vincent D'Onofrio since he played that hunky fisherman in Mystic Pizza – but I digress.

So anyway, Ray is finally working on his collection of altar boys stories. A few weeks back I told his story about stealing watermelons from the convent garden and everybody loved that one. But this reminded me of a project I started a long time ago and forgot about. I called it “Campfire Stories” and I have a long list of stories I'd love to get written some day. All of them have to do with outdoor adventures – or misadventures – from the time three black bears devoured the dinner I was trying to get on the table in a Pennsylvania campground, to the moose that nearly walked over two oblivious lovers in a field in Maine, to being “spy-hopped” by a humpback whale out on Stellwagen Bank. All the stories in the book would be great for telling around a campfire – or reading on a Kindle. You never know.

Speaking of Kindle, this was a record month for my two novels, Each Angel Burns and The Old Mermaid's Tale. For the first time ever each of them way outsold my knitting books which are usually my best sellers. This was all on Kindle – it seems print is dying away, slowly but steadily. It has been very gratifying to read the nice things people say about my books in discussion forums. I recently came across these two lovely remarks:

I just finished The Old Mermaid's Tale and, omg, it's going to be really hard to find something to read next. It was a love story but so much more than that. It was also the story of the the opening of the St. Lawrence channel and shipping on the Great Lakes, but told through the eyes of old mariners, through legend and tales passed down from generations. It was by far the best book I've read in months and that's saying something as I go through 3-4 books a week. It was haunting and beautifully written and everything you could ask for in a book. If there was something more than five stars I would give it. It will stay with me for a long time and probably be read over and over.

I'm a fan of lit fic and I'd say that Kathleen Valentine's Each Angel Burns definitely qualifies. I'm only about halfway through (damn time constraints1) but as someone here mentioned, the author's style is literary. The characters are well drawn and the issues they are struggling with are put in context but compel the reader to consider those issues on a much grander scale. I wouldn't hesitate to read anything she wrote just for the beauty of the words and her sense of perspective.

Things like that encourage me to keep writing. My first horror novelette, The Crazy Old Lady In The Attic, is nearing completion and should be available soon, and I am back at work on Depraved Heart. And maybe I'll squeeze in a few campfire stories, too....

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Max Taylor Valentine Arrived Today!

All 9 lbs. 4 ozs. of him. Max is the second son of my nephew Mark and his wife Jennifer. Mark is my brother Jack's son. This is Jack's third grandson -- I just cannot imagine how proud he would be of these three wonderful little boys:

Welcome to the world, Baby Max.

For/From Indie Authors: Gayle Carline

Gayle Carline was a software engineer for thirty years, until she chewed her way out of the cubicle to become a writer. She began her career writing for an equine magazine, then landed a job as a weekly humor columnist for her very local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times. In 2009, she published her first novel, Freezer Burn, with a small press. In 2010 she decided to try life as an Indie author with a book of her columns. What Would Erma Do: Confessions of a First Time Humor Columnist debuted in December 2010, as both an ebook and a paperback. She had so much fun with that book, she released a short story, Clean Sweep, as an ebook, and will *soon publish Hit or Missus, the follow-up to Freezer Burn, in both paperback and ebook format. *Soon is to be determined by the delicate intersection between her schedule and her ability to make a decision about the cover art, jacket blurb, etc.

ADVICE:
  • Buy a supply of steel wool and scrub yourself with it daily. You need thick skin to be in this business.
  • If you get a negative review, DO NOT argue with the reviewer. It will make you look like a jackass. Do, however, submit the negative review to The Worst Review Ever (http://theworstreviewever.blogspot.com). You could win something. 
  • If you're in the middle of a scene and you get writer's block and can't think of what to do next, hit one of your characters in the head with a golf club. At least then you can describe the ambulance and flirt with the cute EMT.
 
LINKS:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mystery and Manners: The Key to Telling A Story

It seems there has been a lot of discussion lately about short stories and their value. Some people love them and some people hate them. The biggest complaint I have heard from those who don't like them is that short stories are just too short, that just about the time they start getting really in to the story, it's over. I can relate, I've felt that way too.

In Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, Flannery O'Connor makes the case that the essence of all story, but most especially short stories, are composed of two things: mystery and manners. That is not to say all short stories are mysteries but there has to be something to wonder about in order to get the reader interested. Will the old man land that bloody big fish? Will those two cowboys ever figure out that they are living a lie? Will something happen to rescue Cinderella from her horrid stepmother? Will that vain, foolish girl ever get over herself and admit to her friend she just lost the stupid necklace? Once a writer knows what the mystery is all s/he has to do is figure out the manner – the way these people will behave and how that relates to the story. A story based on a good mystery can be told a thousand times through different manners? Will those two young lovers ever free themselves from family expectations and be together? How many times has that one been told – in the courts of Tudor England or the streets of Spanish Harlem or the hills of Appalachia?

Some time back I had this idea that I thought was quite horrifying. I knew there was a story in it and I started telling it but the longer I worked on it the more I became aware that the only way this story would be properly horrifying was if manners of the characters were in stark contrast to the particulars of the story. I'd only ever written one horror story before (“Home-made Pie & Sausage” which is in love, murder, etc.) and it soon became apparent that the manners for the story in my head had to be very, very different than the ones in that story. Part of what makes horror horrible is the circumstances in which it occurs. At least for psychological horror that is true.

So for the past two weekends I have been pounding away on the story I'd been thinking about for close to a year and yesterday I finally got where I needed to be. I think non-writers may not realize that, no matter how good your basic premise for a story is getting from the beginning to the end is sometimes excruciating. It's not enough to just tell the story, you have to reveal things in a manner that is enough to keep the reader interested but leave out enough to – well – keep them interested.

The first draft of my story is now complete. I have to clean it up, tighten it up, run it by some readers and then I'll release it as an Amazon Single. At 15,000 words it qualifies as a novelette so that is how it will be listed. I am calling it The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic. I like that title and it seems appropriate. I'll let you all know when it is posted.

I was glad to read Flannery O'Connor's description because it gives me a different way to look at both story writing and story reading. Sometimes a story is short because what is contained in the story is the only thing worth talking about in the character's lives. A lot of people have told me that the think my short story “My Last Romance” in My Last Romance and other passions would make a good novel but, of course, I disagree. All the story that there is to be told about those three people's lives is right there in the story. I could probably expand it and go on and on about the nightclub scene in the 1950s and singers and musicians and add in some hot romance but it doesn't need it. There is a mystery, where on earth did this peculiar man find this record that once meant so much to Ruby and will she ever find out what happened to the man she once loved? All the rest is the manner in which these mysteries are resolved.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#SampleSunday: Lacy Dove's Revenge from "My Last Romance"

Ruby Velvet was a chanteuse with Silvio Santini and the Silver Saints back in the day. In this excerpt she reminisces about the way things used to be. From "My Last Romance" in My Last Romance and other passions.


I watch the kids today with their confused morality and their predictable sexuality and I feel sorry for them. Everything is accepted and nothing is fun. Look at them! Jogging along in the hot sun, sweat pouring off of them. Look at their faces! Do they look happy? Nobody in my day would dream of jogging. We danced. We mambo-ed and we cha-cha-ed and fox trotted all night long. We tangoed and tangled and drank and kissed and felt each other up and never wanted to stop. Look at these girls—thin as teenage boys! Like little pretend men.

Women in my time had chests—the bigger the better—straining against lace brassieres and bouncing under whisper thin silk blouses. We had hips a man could get ideas about and we knew how to use them, too. I could change the course of a man’s life just by turning around in my pink charmeuse evening dress—the one with the cute V dipping all the way down. And then there was that gold tissue faille that was so low in back and so artfully draped in front that men would stare at me and say, "Darlin’, what do you have on under that?"

I’d tilt my eyebrow the way I’d practiced in the mirror—maybe a thousand times—and say, all innocence, "Why, rose-scented talcum powder, sugar. What else?"

Oh, we were women alright. A man could have just about anything he wanted, he just had to figure out what it took to get it. He had to work a little bit. Talk sweet. Make you tingle. The other day I was listening to this relationship expert on the radio. Relationship expert? My lord. She said that she "advocates a mutually beneficial relationship with latitude for individual development." What the hell is that? No wonder these poor girls go running down the streets in this ridiculous heat! It’s a genuine wonder they aren’t screaming.

I say you are either going with a fellow or you aren’t. And God help him if he doesn’t treat you right. I remember this one girl—Lacy Dove Chaldefonte from Sweetwater, Georgia. Whew. She was five feet eight inches and one hundred and fifty pounds of creamy pink, orange-blossom scented female. She drove them crazy with her big doe eyes and mile long legs. There was this one fellow—a trumpet player from one of those Cuban rhumba bands everyone was so crazy about then. Let me tell you he got one look at Lacy Dove in a white sequined halter dress dancing the samba and thought he’d go blind or get seasick from all that glitter and motion. You could see the smoke rising from his bright pink satin trousers.

He and Lacy Dove took up together. That’s what we said back then—"took up together". We knew the same words the kids know today—we just had naughty imaginations and didn’t need to spell everything out. We didn’t have to fuck because we could make the earth move.

That’s another thing today. People just love to be honest, have you noticed? They say something that would get their mouths soaped good and then say, "I’m just being honest." I say honesty is for the unimaginative.

For awhile Lacy Dove and her trumpet player did just fine. They’d come staggering into the club in the middle of the afternoon still sleepy-eyed and love-weary, hands all over each other. She loved to show off all the little silky unmentionables he bought her. He liked her to do strip-teases for him in his hotel room between sets and he spent tons on the kinds of things he liked to watch her peel off. Then the rumors started about him and this red-headed waitress from another club. Lacy just marched right into that club, grabbed that girl by the hair and slapped her silly till the poor thing admitted they’d been carrying-on. That was all it took.

Lacy had it all planned that night. She waited until they got back to his room and she wasted no time getting him undressed and on the bed. Then she started her strip.... First she undid her Midnight Fantasy stockings, one at a time and rolled them down the length of those never-ending legs of hers. She knew what he wanted. She leaned over within a kiss’s distance of his face and tied first one wrist and then the other to the bedposts with those stockings. That guy thought he was in for a grand evening—so excited he was shaking like a wet dog. And she took her time wriggling out of her candy pink silk slip. She teased him with it—drawing it nice and slow across his thighs and belly. She had him squirming something awful. She let it puddle down on the part of his anatomy that was fixing to burst. She did the same with her ribbon-trimmed 36DD brassiere and her rosebud embellished garter belt letting the dumb bastard shiver in anticipation. Finally she turned her back to him and ran her hands over her backside as plump and luscious as a sun-ripened peach as she wiggled out of her spider-web thin panties. Turning to face him—letting him have one last gander at that heavenly body—she licked her lips with her pretty pink tongue. Then she leaned over and took his cigarettes and lighter from the night stand. She gave him her best come-hither gaze as she touched the blue flame to the tip of her cigarette. Then with a sweet smile she dropped the lighter into the silky pile in his lap, picked up her coat, turned and sauntered out closing the room door on his shrieks.

Oh, now don’t get all upset. The trumpet player thrashed around enough to put out the flames and escaped with only minor burns to the former Pride of Havana. Lacy Dove moved to San Antonio and married a roughneck who made it big in the oil-boom of the Seventies. The last I saw of her she was on the cover of Southern Living in front of the gazebo she had just had built in her garden for one of her daughters’ Coming Out parties.

Well, not every girl that got cheated on was as crazy as Lacy Dove. But we were bad and sex was dirty and it was all a lot of fun.



Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Low-Carb Pancakes: Are You Kidding Me?

It's berry season and I have been dying for blueberry pancakes but I'm still trying to keep the carbs down. What to do, what to do? But last night I got a bright idea and it also turned out to be a delicious idea. I made low-carb blueberry-strawberry-hazelnut-coconut pancakes that were out of this world good and pretty darn low in carbs.

Berries tend to be lower in carbs than most fruits anyway because they are high in fiber and fiber cancels out carbs. A cup of fresh raw strawberries has 49 calories and net 9 g. of carbs once the fiber is subtracted. Blueberries are a little higher with 84 calories per cup, and 17 net g. of carbs. But the truth is fresh berries are so delicious and loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants that they more than make up for the few extra carbs.

For the batter I used a low-carb baking mix that I buy from NutsOnline that contains whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, flaxseed meal and wheat bran among other yummy things. A serving has 5 net grams of carbs. I also used hazelnut flour (4 net g. of carbs per serving) and some toasted coconut (2 net g. per serving).

This is the recipe I came up with:

Blend together:
½ c. low carb baking mix
½ c. hazelnut flour
¼ c. toasted coconut

Add 1 egg and ½ c. milk. Stir together until well-blended, adding a little more milk as needed to make batter the consistency you prefer.

I did not add any sweetener but you could add stevia or Splenda if you like. I also did not add spices because I wanted the fruit and coconut to be the primary taste.

Fold in ½ c. blueberries and ½ c. sliced strawberries. More if you like.

In a non-stick skillet heat 2 tblsp. cooking oil until it sizzles. Drop in the batter, let it simmer until bubbles form on top, flip, cook through, serve.

You can top them however you like – I just sliced up more strawberries for mine but you could use yogurt, whipped cream cheese, or any syrup you fancy but, believe me, it didn't need syrup.

This was really a treat and I won't be making them every day but the flavor was so outstanding and the carb count so reasonable that I will remember the recipe for special treats.

I think it would be an excellent batter to use on apple pandowdy, too. Just slice your apples in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle well with cinnamon and nutmeg, then pour the batter over and bake.

Go get some strawberries – it's that time of year! Thanks for reading.   

Friday, June 24, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: K.P. Williams

Katrina Parker Williams is an English Instructor at a community college.  She spends a lot of her time teaching grammar and composition classes, communicating with students, and grading papers.  But when she’s not drilling the proper use of grammar and mechanics into her students’ minds, she writes fiction.  She describes herself as a story teller: “I like to create stories that are entertaining and interesting to read.  I like off-beat characters.  They make telling a story fun.”


Williams is a Barton College graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a Masters of Education in English from East Carolina University.   She is also the editor of the Wilson Literary Review, the campus’s literary magazine.  


Advice:


  • Revise your work before publishing it.  If you are not good at editing and revising, hire someone who is.  Excessive grammar and punctuation errors can detract from the story and may turn off readers.
  • Have someone read your work as you’re writing it.  Having someone read a chapter at a time to give feedback on character development, plot, etc., is invaluable and keeps you on track.  Make sure the person giving feedback gives honest feedback, even it is hurts your feelings.  It is all designed to help you become a better writer.
  • Market, market, market.  A good book is not going to sell itself.  Market your work to your friends, family, co-workers, local businesses you frequent, your doctors, your children’s school, everywhere you can think of.  Word of mouth is the best advertisement.

Links:
Amazon Book Page 
Blog 
Facebook 
Email



Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Fiesta! Viva San Pietro!!!

Just like everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Sicilian during Fiesta. Gloucester's annual bacchanalian revel honoring St. Peter, the patron saint of the local fishing families began last night. It is a combination -- as all proper bacchanalian revels are -- of religious devotion and wild celebration. I'm hard at work on my third novel, Depraved Heart, and one of the scenes is set during Fiesta. My two lovers will have their first romantic moment on board a boat while watching the Sunday Greasy Pole Champions Walk.


There is much to love about Fiesta and lots of people do. I used to attend most of the events but in the past few years I've mostly stuck close to home and kept quiet -- getting older I guess. But that doesn't mean Fiesta doesn't come to me. Last year young Joe who lives next door walked the Pole for the first time and the partying at his house was loud, colorful and delightful.


Of course there is more to Fiesta than the Greasy Pole. There are the Hat Ladies with their wonderful Fiesta Hats (below) and the seine boat races and other athletic competitions. There's the carnival and the Masses, concerts, speeches, dances. You can download the 2011 Schedule here.


This year there is a live web cam of the festivities in the Fort: 


image


And there are endless YouTube videos:



And, as always, our good buddy Joe at Good Morning Gloucester will be covering everything so check out GMG's Live Fiesta coverage.


Today is also the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the fisherman of Brittany. I wrote about their traditional festivals in The Old Mermaid's Tale. Here is a bit of it in the words of Baptiste, the mariner/musician who grew up there:

It was a great feast day, cher,” he said. “The women would rise early in the morning to bake loaves of sweet bread filled with raisins and cherries and apple brandy. They would use the salt that was blessed on Easter Sunday and they would shape them into three long rolls to represent the Holy Trinity and then they braided them together.
         “The young girls would gather flowers from the fields and weave them into necklaces. All the seamen—the fishermen, the young mousse, the captains and mates of ships, even those old corsairs who had not been to sea in many years, would dress in their best clothing but would wear no shoes. Jean-Baptiste was a humble man and so we would wear no shoes. We carried his statue covered with garlands of flowers on our shoulders as we walked in procession along the quay. And some men, to show their gratitude, would throw themselves into the sea and then walk dripping wet to the church for Mass. The girls would put flowers around our necks as we walked and there would be a great feast. Oh, cher,” he said. “I wish you could have seen how beautiful it was!”

So, Buona Fiesta everyone and Viva San Pietro!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Romance Novels & Rape: Stuff I Didn't Want to Know

Yesterday a strange thing happened. I was posting some comments on the Amazon Discussion Boards when I saw a discussion that someone had started in the romance forum about things found in novels that were so horrifying that they caused you to stop reading the book. I admit I was intrigued by this and started reading some of the posts. Several people brought up various novels in which rape, emotional degradation, physical and sexual abuse of the heroine were part of the story. I was aware that back in the 1970s when the “bodice-rippers” hit the book shelves that rape was a popular theme but I wasn't aware it was still going on. One person wrote that she was even more shocked by reviewers of these books who made comments about the rape scenes being “hot” and she, rightfully, asked what does rape have to do with romance?

I was interested in this and, after skimming some more comments in which people talked about a number of books that were filled with gratuitous (“gratuitous” being the operative word) rape and sexual humiliation. A couple of people brought up Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty books. I read half of one of those and was sick to my stomach – it is page after page after page of women being sexually degraded and humiliated.

So, I made a post asking what people thought was the reason for these books appealing to some people. I mentioned that I'd been told that these books were cathartic for women who had been sexually abused and raped but that I found that hard to believe and I wondered, in my post, why people were reluctant to talk about the appeal of books of this sort. Boy, did I ignite a firestorm! Apparently people who like “rape-romance” do NOT want anyone suggesting that there might be something kind of strange about that. I got hammered from all sides! I was told I was being judgmental that I was a snob, that I was trying to psycho-analyze, on and on and on. I was called a “troll” and told I was “elegantly baiting” (I was trying to reply politely and not insult anyone). Finally, I was accused of trying to covertly “shill” my own books by asking why these women were so defensive of romance books about rape.

It got so intense and some of the rhetoric got so inflammatory, that I bowed out of the discussion, and erased my previous posts before somebody had a nervous breakdown. Even after I was gone a few of them continued to discuss my motives and one person asked why I just couldn't leave “us” alone. “Us” presumably being people who liked reading about women being raped (romantically, of course.) I have to admit I was very shaken up by the venom that was being spewed.

After I'd left the discussion and gone outside for awhile to clear my head I had a thought – rape is a crime, no matter how the authors of these rape-romances justify it within the story. What if the same story was being told about the “hero” raping a teenage boy instead of a girl? Both are crimes, isn't reading about them as a form of entertainment equally questionable? Would these rabid defenders of rape-romance be as eager to defend the stories if they were about boys being raped? I doubt it.

One of the posters took the position that it wasn't the rape that the women loved reading about but rather that the heroines triumphed over the rape. But if that is true why would a reviewer say that a rape scene was “hot”? And why did some of my attackers say they enjoyed those books? (I'm not talking about stories in which a crime serves the story, I repeat that "gratuitous" is the operative word.)

I'm the first to acknowledge that there is a whole underworld of erotic “alternatives” out there that I just don't understand and I take no issue with the people who pursue them as long as they are conducted within the letter of the law. But rape isn't. Torture isn't. Sexual abuse and humiliation isn't. If these books glorified other crimes – dealing drugs, committing murder, pedophilia, as a “kink” that lead the hero and heroine to a HEA romance novel ending, would that be defensible? 

To be fair, the majority of the posters avoided the subject and talked about other things they found horrifying -- like torture and graphic scenes of gore. But there is one significant distinction -- in mysteries/thrillers/etc. where crimes are graphically described, there is an expectation that the crime will be solved and the criminal will be punished. But in rape-romance there is a huge difference -- the rapist winds up with the girl (who falls in love with him after he violates her). The crime is thus made acceptable.


I've learned my lesson. I'm not going to get into any more discussions like that. But it's left me shaken about there ever being an end to the sexual abuse and abasement of women if that many people are willing to regard rape-romances as something people like me are sick and twisted for questioning. This isn't good.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Jess C. Scott

Jess is an author/artist/non-conformist, and an English/Business graduate of Adams State College. Her literary work has appeared in a diverse range of publications, such as Word Riot, ITCH Magazine, and The Battered Suitcase.


Jess writes erotic fiction, not porn, and she writes about love/emotions, not fluffy romance. She is currently working on a "seven deadly sins" series, an incubus-themed anthology, and an urban fantasy project featuring cyberpunk elves.


Advice:

  • Do what you love. I personally stay focused on the story + characters. I don't want to focus on the money, and lose track of everything else.
  • Keep improving. "The best is yet to be."
  • Keep going. "Failure's not an option" (Lose Yourself, Eminem). 
Links:
http://www.jessINK.com
http://www.twitter.com/jesscscott
http://www.facebook.com/jesscscott
http://www.jessink.com/vampire_fad.htm
http://www.jesscscott.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/i-hate-commercialism


Monday, June 20, 2011

Vanity, Thy Name Is Author....

Books we have written tend to be a lot like children we have borne, or at least so I have been told. So when people start saying nice things about your books it's kind of difficult to resist the urge to puff up and think you are somewhat wonderful. The real truth is that stories come from somewhere beyond us, at least that is what I believe, and all we as authors do is run the pen (or keyboard these days). But just as parents can claim credit for raising their children well, authors are allowed to be happy when someone says they crafted their story well.

I'm a little puffed up today because I woke up to two awfully nice surprises. The first one concerns my novel The Old Mermaid's Tale. This morning I found this review had just been posted on Goodreads:
The Old Mermaid's Taleby Kathleen Valentine (Goodreads Author)read in June, 2011my rating: 4 stars
Beautiful writing! This story went more slowly for me than is my usual, but I really enjoyed it! I really felt the emotion of the characters, and believe me there was plenty to feel! I didn't agree with all of the choices Clair made... which is natural considering I personally identified most with her mother. I'm a small town "good girl" who is content to live a normal, simple life. I greatly admired Clair's courage and innate kindness. I also loved reading all the stories and legends scattered throughout. It was like listening to the tall tales in my own family, about the time when...
Thanks to Kathleen, from whom I won this book in an L&L contest. It was a pleasure reading it!
I especially loved her comment about identifying with Clair's mother because I think she is a lovely, charming character and, as Clair says in the story, “I know what it is to be loved and that makes loving so much easier.”


On an Amazon Discussion Board someone posted:
I finished Each Angel Burns and liked it so much I had to look up Kathleen Valentine for her other books. I am now reading The Old Mermaid's Tale and enjoying every bit as much.


And later added this:
Kathleen, I just love your books, the stories and your writing style. Since getting my iPad and the kindle app a year and a half ago I have found so many new authors that I wouldn't have found otherwise. You are my new favorite. I'm trying to stretch The Old Mermaid's Tale out to make it last, but unfortunately I can't put it down...they aren't compatible:(

Then I received a link from a reader to a discussion on one of the Amazon Discussion Boards in which someone posted this:
I finished Each Angel Burns, started it Tuesday and couldn't put it down. Liked it so much looked up the author, Kathleen Valentine, other books and just downloaded The Old Mermaid's Tale, which also sounds fabulous and all five star reviews. Can't wait to start this one. Both books were 2.99. A steal.

I was so touched and flattered that I immediately posted thanking her and within minutes two more people posted these remarks:
Kathleen - One of the many books I'm currently reading is your Each Angel Burns. So far, so good.
and
Hi Kathleen- I am reading Each Angel Burns...I am really enjoying it! I am about 60% in and had to tear myself away to come into work this morning!
Now, the thing is, I don't know any of these people. They are not friends or friends of friends or people who follow me on Twitter or my blog. They are just regular people who are reading my books. It sort of gives me chills to think the words I put down on the page are now a part of these people's lives.

And book sales have picked up lately which is also gratifying. I won't lie – it's very nice to have the added income they provide. But even more gratifying is having people read my “babies” and say nice things. Even if nobody ever read my work, I'd still write. But this makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. The drawing at the top of this post is called "Vanity" by Gilbert Allen. When i was a little kid our dentist had that hanging in his waiting room. I have to confess that when I saw it this morning I suddenly got a stab of nervousness -- all these years and I'm still scared of that man!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bruins Win! Fans Go Wild!

Wednesday night I was in bed reading when the world exploded – well, at least that's what it sounded like for a minute. It was a nice evening and I had the windows open – suddenly I hear screaming, horns honking, people yelling all up and down the street. Firecrackers started going off. The honking/screaming/engine revving increased and increased. What the heck!?! I thought we already did graduation. Then it dawned on me, the Bruins must have won the Stanley Cup. That's the only thing that would explain it. I put my book down, leaned back, and just listened to the cacophony of joy in the streets of Gloucester. Fan-dom is a beautiful thing.

Earlier in the day I was driving by Espresso's Restaurant in East Gloucester when I noticed huge bouquets of black and yellow balloons tied to the railings in front. Naturally, my first thought was “Wow, Steelers fans live here” but then I realized that they were gearing up for a Bruins party. Hey, I'm all in favor – blackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellow... Go Bruins! And they did.

There's something so charming to me about fan-dom. I've been a Steelers fan all my life so, of course, I know how fan-atical (pun intended) fans can be. This year, for the first time ever, I watched Dancing With The Stars just out of love for Hines Ward. He dazzled me with his dancing – I already knew about his charm – but what dazzled me even more was the fans. Every week I sat here watching the audience fill up with more and more Terrible Towels being twirled and thought, “What on earth do the people who have never seen a Steelers game think about all this?” But they are Steelers fans, see? Even the old pros, Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris and Lynn Swann and Mel Blount, showed up to support their guy, Terrible Towels in hand, twirling away.


What is it that makes us get so emotionally involved with sports teams, musical groups, performers of all sorts, television programs, etc.? I have friends who wouldn't walk across the street to meet the Queen of England but who will drive 500 miles to see Bruce Springsteen for the 163rd time. (Actually, I have a sister like that, though I bet she would actually go have a look at the Queen.) I think it has something to do with feeling a part of something bigger and more interesting than ourselves. And no small amount of love, too.

You can't really rule out that love factor. It's a healthy kind of love – affection, appreciation, warmth and joy in accomplishment. It would be nice if we could nurture those feelings and offer them to the rest of our lives. Life can be tough and filled with disappointments at times but when your team wins, or your guy sings, or your star dances, all of a sudden all those warm, sweet, joyful feelings come to the surface and something in us that is really, really good bubbles up and reminds us that we're okay and part of something nice.

I've been reading the comments posted by people on the YouTube videos of Hines Ward dancing and some of them are so touching to me. One person wrote, “I've watched this video a hundred times and I still cry every time.” What makes someone do that? I don't know except I do it too. There is something in me that hungers for that sweetness and emotion. It's a quick shot of feeling on a hectic day.

This morning Troy Polamalu posted this picture on his Facebook page. That's Troy, Brett Keisel and Hines Ward. Just looking at that picture warmed my heart – how can any Steelers fan not love those faces?

I'm just another hopeless fan. Blackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellow...

Congratulations, Bruins.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: MaryPat Hyland

MaryPat Hyland is a writer, editor, blogger, personal chef and singer/guitarist for a traditional Irish band in upstate New York. She writes humorous novels and short stories with Irish-American themes, often including phrases in Gaeilge, the Irish language. "3/17" is the first of her three published novels to be offered as an e-book. Her next novel, "The Terminal Diner," will be released in June.

Advice:
  • Write every day. It doesn't have to be your work in progress. It can be a blog post, a series of tweets, jotted down observations or a note to a friend. Just as an athlete trains constantly, you must engage and exercise your writing muscles to keep in literary shape.
  • Never, ever tell someone the plot of your work in progress as you hammer out the first draft. The first reason is that we write for an audience, and if you get the reaction you were expecting on your idea, why bother putting in the time to flesh out the story? The second reason is if you get a negative reaction to your idea—perhaps not fully formed—it will deter you from proceeding with the work, also.
  • Play close attention to the cadence of conversations you hear around you each day. Note that people rarely address one another by name after the initial hello. They often leave off the end of a sentence. Note what words are used when there's an angry or happy tone. The Irish have a saying: Éist le ceol na habhann agus gheobhaidh tú breac—Listen to the music of the river and you will catch a trout. Listen to the music of conversation, and you will catch readers.
 
Links:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How NOT to Promote Your Book (or Business)

Two years ago I bought a book called Marketing with Social Media for Nitwits or something similar. So did everybody else with a book, painting, CD, or any other business to promote. We all did everything we were told to do. We joined Twitter and followed a bazillion people who followed us back. We joined LinkedIn and created a network. We joined Facebook and set up fan pages and invited everybody in our address book to become our fan. We started a blog (well, I was way ahead on that one). We wrote press releases. We then proceeded to Tweet, Facebook, network, blog and otherwise pester everybody we knew to buy our stuff. It got ridiculous.

It is now two years later and many of us are suffering from accute marketing burn-out. Which is to say nothing of all the people who made the mistake of following/friending/liking/joining/etc. us. The spam flies so fast and furious it is impossible to keep up. If you are a writer with books – electronic or paper – to promote there are a gazillion and ten book promotion sites out there. It seems everybody has one and more pop up every day. “Get your book listed on my site!” has become a daily invitation from all the other indie authors trying to push their products. It's exhausting. I can't keep up.

For some people this has worked and there are a number of success stories of independently published authors who are selling thousands of books every month on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Some of these are former mid-list authors from traditional publishing companies who have gone out on their own. Some are authors who have found an appreciative niche, written a good book, and relentlessly marketed until their books took off and are now reaping the benefits. These are the minority but the inspiration for a lot of us.

But a lot of authors of indie books have made some bad decisions and stand as an example of what not to do. Their books are littering up book promotion sites with crappy, amateurish-looking covers and a bunch of 1 and 2 star reviews – or no reviews – which discourage potential readers from venturing into the murky swamp of indie book sites. A few things we, as writers, need to learn are:

NO MORE SPAMMING! Knock it off! Right now, today. Stop your daily reminders on Twitter and Facebook and everywhere else that you have a book for sale that you just know everybody would love. If you have news to report, that's different. By all means tell us about your great reviews when they come in or if your book is being featured on a book discussion site. That's news and it may intrigue some readers. But knock off the BuyMeBuyMeBuyMe spamming right now.

DON'T TALK BACK! Yes, it is discouraging to get a negative review and it seems so unfair that the person just didn't get the point of your story but let it go. If your book is good there will be plenty of good reviews to balance it. When it comes to reader reviews on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, just do not respond to reviews. If you must, just say “Thank you for reading my book” and leave it at that. Otherwise you may well get into a flame war and that never winds up looking good.

ALL TAKE AND NO GIVE MAKES JACK/JANE A DULL MARKETER. Bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, etc. all have the opportunity to help one another out with promotion but it has to be a fair exchange. If Jane blogs about how great Jack's book is, Jack can at least Tweet about how great Jane's book is. There are too many authors who take advantage of every opportunity to promote their books without giving a thought to promote for someone else. Be nice, if you want your fellow authors to promote you, promote them in return.

Recently Amazon cracked down on authors spamming their discussion forums with pleas to buy their books. This has made me happy and I have gone back to discussing books again. I am a writer because I LOVE books and I want to talk about them – mine and everybody else's. Join in conversations and have faith – if your book is a good one, it will find its way. If it's not good then maybe you're lucky that it quietly disappears into that great e-library in the sky.

Thanks for reading (both this blog and everything else!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Cheryl Shireman

Cheryl Shireman lives in Midwest on a beautiful lake with her husband, Bruce. "One of the things I like best about writing is that I can do it from home in my pajamas." She started writing as a teen, probably inspired after reading one of her favorite books, My Friend Flicka. Through the years, amid marriage, the birth of three children (Rocky, Lee Anne, and Scarlett), divorce, and a second marriage, the one thing that has remained constant is her love of writing. She has written many "practice novels" through the years ("the kind that get stuffed in a box and shoved under your bed or clutter your hard drive"). She has an undergraduate degree from Indiana University South Bend in Creative Writing and American Literature and a graduate degree from Huntington University in Christian Education. Her favorite writers are Elizabeth Berg and John Steinbeck. With her last child married, she is now ready to spread her own wings and fully devote her time to writing. Life is But a Dream is her first novel. She is currently hard at work (probably in her pajamas and staring out the window at the lake) on finishing her second novel.

Advice:
  • Believe in yourself. Whether you are going the traditional route in publishing or going it alone as an Independent Author, you must believe in your ability as a writer. When sales are up, when sales are down, when reviews are glowing, and reviews are bad; the one thing that must remain constant is your belief in yourself as a writer. If you let anyone shake that, then you probably should not have been writing in the first place. Because writing has nothing to do with accolades or approval. It is finding your voice and expressing that to the best of your ability. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less. And that should be your source of joy.
  • Don’t worry about sales. Upload your book and then move on to writing the next one. I am not saying that you shouldn’t work on promoting your book – you definitely should. But don’t get so lost in watching sales and promotion that you fail to spend time writing the next book. It is fun to watch sales rise, but don’t let it consume too much of your time.
  • You CAN judge a book by its cover. Spend time and money developing a great cover that represents your book. Study other popular books in your genre and see what other authors are doing. Look at font and colors and the use of graphics. There are many online services where you can buy photos for use on your cover. If you are not graphically inclined, hire someone who is. If you live near a college you might be able to work with a college student who would be willing to work for a minimal amount in order to get the exposure. Once you have a cover, ask others what they think of it. A great place to do this is in the Writers Café on the Kindleboards website. They don’t pull any punches and they offer sound advice. It is easy to get so excited about publishing your book that you overlook the importance of its cover. Don’t make that mistake.

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