I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Monday, July 17, 2017

If You Want to Reach the Bestseller List...

...I don't recommend reading this blog.

Seriously.

My goal is to create a large catalog that will provide consistent income well into my old age. Unlike a lot of other writers, I'm not looking to hit the NYT, the USAT, or any Amazon bestseller list.

Why not?

1) In a best case scenario, the lists are nothing more than a popularity contest. And they consist of what's popular at that specific moment in time. Despite marketing claims, the lists cannot and do not predict the longevity or endurance of a particular literary work.

2) Manipulation of lists make the popularity of the listed books questionable at best. The NYT is constantly changing what criteria it uses to calculate their top books, everything from banning children's books after a certain boy wizard became popular among the adult set to disregarding e-book sales because the Big 5 gave them more money in advertising and wanted to kill the fledgling market.

3) Making a list doesn't guarantee longevity of career or sales. Just in the last ten years, I've seen writers hit the lists with their first book, then quietly disappear when successive books don't make the splash that the first book did. Some writers will change their pen names and try again, but I pruned my social media contact lists/follow lists by roughly a third of writers who quietly sank beneath the waters of anonymity with nary another word.

4) I know many writers, especially indies, who are quietly making a living without hitting the lists. Hell, without any fanfare whatsoever. They get by with a small, dedicated fandom in a subgenre they love that is underserved. These are the writers with a solid sense of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.

5) Which brings me to my own goals. There's quite a few writers who kept me going through a lot of dark times in my life. These writers crafted delightful tales that let me forget about my problems for a moment or two. They gave me a break when I desperately needed one. My goal from the beginning was to be that type of entertainer, to give someone somewhere the respite to catch their breath before they tackle the next hurdle in their lives.

So if you've been reading this blog in hopes of learning the secrets of a successful writing career, please take a step back. Figure out for yourself what you want as success. If attaining a bestseller spot (AKA getting your letters) is your ultimate goal, then more power to you. But it's not what I want, and I definitely won't be covering the how-to's for that particular goal here.

Now, let's all get back to writing...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weird How the World Works

I don't think I've said anything here yet, but my first book signing is next week. After the whole MIL dying/getting sick hoopla, I had to scramble a little to get my ducks in a row for the event.

The last thing I was waiting on were the bookmarks I ordered. The package arrived yesterday. I gleefully ripped it open and...

...they were definitely NOT my bookmarks. Mine were black with the cover of Blood Magick on the front and a list of the Bloodlines series on the back.

The ones in my hand were beautiful pink swirls with a prayer and the name of a pastor on them.

Definitely NOT mine.

So I call the printing company. At first, the young lady who took my call thought I was complaining about my bookmarks because apparently I'd messed up the upload, and the bleed was really screwed up.

Me: "No,  no, no. That's not the problem. I didn't even get my BLACK ones. These are PINK!"

Print Company Lady: "Oh. OHHHH! First, I'm going to fix yours so they print correctly."

Me: "Wait! Will you be able to get them to me before my book signing on the 20th?"

Print Company Lady: "I'm going to send it expedited shipping. You'll have them by Tuesday, the 18th."

It took the poor gal nearly a half-hour and a fresh upload from me to get the file to where she was satisfied. While she was working, she put me on hold for a moment. When she came back on, she was giggling.

PCL: "My co-worker saw your book cover. She says it looks like something she would read. Is it on Kindle?"

Me (totally flabbergasted): "Uhhhh, yes."

After another few minutes, she had me look at the new version to make sure it was acceptable. (She did a fabulous job!) After she confirmed my order would be reprinted at no cost and sent via expedited shipping, she asked again whether my books were on Kindle. I affirmed that they were indeed.

Then I thanked her profusely for her help, and we ended the call.

Very bizarre end to the situation. I don't know if the co-worker will download Blood Magick, but hopefully I made a good impression by not acting like a shrieking harpy over the mistake.


P.S.

I will be at the Author Fair at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library on Thursday, July 20th, from 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TSA and Book Searches

I try very hard not to get political online, but the latest in Security Theater has me shaking my head.

TSA is now searching passengers' books and magazines in their carry-on bags.

I've had a problem with some of their policies over the last sixteen years. I have a rather large, ahem, bosom. I wear underwire bras for the extra support. Coming home from my grandfather's funeral in 2002, a TSA agent became a little too interested in checking my boobs.

I finally said, "Would you like me to take off my bra so you can check the underwires?"

She turned pink and shook her head.

"No, really. We all watched Flashdance growing up. It's not a problem." I deliberately gave her an evil grin and reach for my t-shirt sleeve.

Her skin goes from pink to beet-red. "That won't be necessary, ma'am." But she stopped feeling me up.

Then there's the over-the-top abuses like dumping a urine bag on a passenger with catheter. My heart goes out to anyone with real medical devices.

But since the last presidential election, TSA has gotten a lot more invasive. It's not just a matter of turning on your electronic devices to prove they aren't bombs. They insist on passengers turning over their social media accounts and passwords so they can examine the apps.

People have been reported for suspected terrorist activity for simply speaking their native language for wearing their native dress.

And now, the TSA (aka the government) wants to know what you read.

Here's my problem--there's no context.

I could have a copy of the Quran because I'm taking a comparative religion class. I could have one of Alter Ego's erotica books because I'm proofing it on my trip. Or maybe I have a copy of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and some official gets a bug up their ass because both authors have been outspoken in their criticism of the current administration.

This coupled with some of the administration's other actions scare me. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to read what you want. What happens when the TSA starts banning certain books?

Oh, when the ban comes, they'll claim it's a safety measure, but where does it stop?

I say this as someone who worked in a bookstore a couple of decades ago. Invariably once a week or so, some customer berated me or one of my co-workers for carrying X. My favorite incident was when I was ringing up a young man who was buying Mein Kampf.

The only other customer in the store besides him marched up to the cash/wrap and started chewing me out for selling the book to the young man. My response? "I'd rather have him read it and discover for himself that Hitler is crazy."

Her eyes got huge, and she sputtered a few unintelligible words before she threw down her romance books on the counter and marched out of the store.

I then had an interesting conversation with the young gentleman. He was working on his master's thesis in marketing. The subject was how modern advertising firms use the same techniques that the Nazis did in the '30's.

So how does this tie in with the TSA situation?

Fear.

Yeah, I know that seems to be the theme this week. But instead allowing your own fear to control you, this is letting other people's fear to control you. You need to educate yourself about real risks and dangers, and not let others' paranoia affect you.

Because if someone is trying to influence you through fear, it's rarely for your benefit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How Can You Have a Lack of Ideas?

I've had a vague sci-fi idea in the back of my mind for some time now. So I asked my friend Jo, who designs both computer games and board games as well as writes superhero novels, for some recommendations on books for game theory. And he gave me a ton of reference links and material.

That led to him asking about the idea, which I really couldn't explain because I'm not sure at this point. And who knows? It might fizzle before it becomes fully formed. But if it does congeal, I'll add it to my idea folder.

But this is how my brain works. I'm wrapping up the Bloodlines series. I've started the Justice series. The first book of the 1-888-555-HERO series is almost done. I'm two-thirds of the way into another book that will become another series. Then there's the Four Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse which I was writing while sitting in the student pick-up line last year (which won't be happening this year now that GK is driving himself to high school).

And that all led to our conversation of how can a writer NOT have ideas. I mean, the list above will keep me busy for at least two years. That doesn't even begin to count my ideas under Alter Ego. Nor doesn't it count the ideas sitting in my idea folders. And what about the sci-fi ideas I already have outlined that I may publish under a different name for marketing reasons?

Jo's pretty much in the same boat. In fact, most writers I know have a mega-ton list of ideas sitting in a paper file, a computer file, or both.

So what's happening when someone says they're blocked and can't come up with ideas?

Generally, it goes back to the single biggest stopper of a writing career--FEAR! Fear of not having the big idea. Fear of readers hating the story after you've put so much work into it. Fear of wasting time and not making any money.

If it's not fear, maybe you have to face the fact you're a one-book-idea person. If you don't believe that's the case, then guess what? We're back to the FEAR issue.

Yep, FEAR is that freaking insidious. And you have to find a way to drive back the forces of darkness.

"How?" you ask. All I can tell you is what works for me. Take a break. Take a shower. Take a walk. But my number one cure for coming up with an idea?

Clean my teenage son's toilet. Trust me. You'll want to do just about anything besides that!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

Are You Writing for Fame and Fortune Only?

My friend Jo sent this interesting tidbit to me during our conversation about how-to books on writing. As he said, if nothing else, watch the first five minutes. Robert McKee talks about what he sees as the two types of writers.

And say what you will about Mr. McKee, he definitely understands the mindsets of the two types.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit I make money from my stories and I'm not ashamed of that fact. But on the other hand, I don't write whatever the latest trend is either. Something to ponder over the weekend.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Orgy of Death

When I was a kid, I read an Englishman's scholarly tome on Ancient Egyptian customs. One of his comments has stuck in my head. He regarded the ancient civilization as being obsessed with death.

The more I've studied over the years, the more I realize that statement isn't true. Talk about laying you own hang-ups at someone else's feet.

A lot of people think I'm obsessed with the subject of death as well. I do write about it, but am I obsessed? Not really. I acknowledge death, the inevitability of it, which is more than white American culture can do.

So why is this on my mind? My mother-in-law passed away on Friday, June 16, 2017, at 2:06 a.m.

We Americans are so very precise about our time, aren't we? In reality, that is simply the time on the paramedics' watches when they arrived at her apartment, and they pronounced her dead.

Because you see the process had started some time before that. Some would say it was five minutes before when the aides at the assisted living apartment stopped CPR because my mother-in-law had a Do Not Resuscitate order on file. Some would say it happened when she stopped breathing about ten minutes before the CPR ended.

Maybe it really started earlier on Thursday when she was at rehab and her blood oxygen level dropped even though she was on O2 at the time. Maybe it started with that last trip to the hospital this spring. Maybe it really started when she fell at their old Victorian back on December 6, 2015.

Or maybe it all started years ago when she tried to raise my son as she had her other five grandchildren, and I told her that being a grandma was a much cooler job than being the parent. However, the grandma job was one she never truly relished.

But when she was actually gone, and I looked at the corpse on the floor of her bedroom in the wee hours of Friday, it was done for me.

The first thing anyone will say as they read this is that everyone grieves in their own way.

And that's very true. However, what truly bothers me are two things:

1) that we no longer respect death, and to die shows a failure on someone's part, and

2)  that we, as a culture, now lavish that same excess to funerals as we do births, weddings, and quinceaneras.

Around 2:15 a.m. that same morning, I had to console the RN and the two aides. Reassure them that they had done the right thing by following the DNR and ceasing CPR. Even DH, in a moment of black humor that usually only I display, he said that his mother probably heard them call the ambulance, said, "Screw that!" and took off for heaven. Because she had been adamant after the spring stint that she was not going back to the hospital.

The medical team at the apartment didn't fail. The doctors and nurses at the hospital during her various admissions over the last two years didn't fail. This is about a woman at the end of her natural lifespan, not failure or success.

Since she passed over Father's Day weekend, that put a crimp in vacation plans since some family had already left town, so all scheduling had to be shoved back an extra couple of days. Add to that, selecting a casket, flowers, planning the ceremony, etc., etc., etc. Then there was the private family viewing and two sessions of visitation before the actual funeral on Tuesday. All of the added stress of putting together a major ceremony while dealing with grief? Why do we do this to ourselves?

It's traditional.

Gah! I hate that term. It's an excuse. Traditions can be and are changed all the time.

I've already put together my funeral directives. I die? Cremate me, take the ashes to Hawaii, scatter them, and go get drunk on the leftover money in my estate. In fact, DH has already picked out the bar in Lahaina on Maui.

Celebrate my life. Tell stories. Read stupid passages from my books. Save enough money for the cab ride back to the hotel.

But whatever y'all do, please don't turn my passing into a fucking five-day orgy of death. My ghost will not be pleased.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thanks, Preacher!

I love the show Preacher on AMC, but the earworms for the new season's ads harken back to my youth.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What IS "Writing to Market"?

I got pretty sick after my mother-in-law's funeral last week. So sick, I ended up in the ER. I'll spare you the disgusting details. Unfortunately, I lay my recliner for three days with my meds and a fuzzy brain.

Which meant all I accomplished was talking about writing, not getting much writing, or editing, actually done.

Being limited to e-mail, my friend Jo and I had an interesting discussion last week about what most indies call "writing to market". The term is used as an umbrella device to cover a couple of different concepts.

1) Following Trends

This is one where a writer produces a work to capitalize on the latest hot selling genre/type of book. Fifty Shades of Grey is perfect example. When it hit the bestseller lists in 2012, writers and publishers flooded the market with billionaire/virgin/BDSM books.

Since FSoG itself started life as Twilight fanfic, there's the requisite romantic triangle. In fact, you can't sell a YA book to a big publisher unless it has a romantic triangle.

A few weeks ago, I re-read one of my favorites, Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Rising. The primary protagonist is Kelson, a fourteen-year-old who's about to be crowned king, assuming he survives various assassination attempts and challenges for the throne.

As I pointed out to Jo, Ms. Kurtz would never be able to sell that book as-is today. Kelson would have to be older with two girls after him at court. And that's assuming the editor didn't insist on his father's closest advisors, Duke Alaric and Father Duncan, having an illicit affair.

If you need another example, how many of you put out an adult coloring book last year after sales took off during the Christmas 2015 shopping season? Come on, don't be shy. This is exactly what I mean about following a trend.

The point is writing/publishing to whatever flash in the pan is hot at the moment is not always a sustainable career move. I've met too many writers who are burning out because they're bored producing stuff they have no passion for.

2) Hitting the Tropes

Jo advocates the "writing to reader expectations" point-of-view when it comes to writing to market. In other words, hit the tropes or at least, your version of the trope.

As in, a romance should the Happily Ever After regardless if you're writing a heterosexual, homosexual, or even an alien relationship. A mystery needs to introduce all the suspects during the course of the story and reveal who the culprit is very close to the last page. Your science fiction doesn't have to have spaceships and/or little green men, but it needs the effect of some type technological/biological/etc. advancement's on the human race.

In other words, if you're writing in a genre you consume and love, you're more likely to understand the rhythms and tropes expected of that type of story. And you're more likely to continue as a career fiction writer.


I can hear y'all out there asking, "What about trends that become tropes?"

Hey, I admit it does happen, but I strongly suggest that you should aim to be the trendsetter, not the trend follower. Or even better, aim to have fun with your writing!

(P.S. If you want to check out Jo's books, here's his website.)