These are the posts where you can find little snack sized bites of my writing.
Around 500 words or so.
They may stack together to form a linear narrative. Or maybe they won’t.
Feel free to review or ridicule.
It’s a dirty job…
…but someone’s got to do it. If you’re in Indie author, and the job is promoting your work, then unfortunately that someone is probably you.
In fact, I understand that even if you’re a traditionally published author, then the ball, however distasteful it may be, is still likely to splat into your court, although if the publishers think that it’s likely to be a real money-spinner, then I assume that some help is at hand.
In many ways, asking a writer to leap into the tangled world of spin is as much an anathema to them as it is asking a conservationist to work as a lumberjack. To make a terrible generalisation, writers tend to be introverted people. People who willingly choose to lock themselves away working alone at a manuscript which may take years to complete, let alone edit, are rarely desperate party animals. Many authors I’ve read chatting about this subject admit that the anonymity of most social media is the only thing which makes it possible for them to put themselves into the public eye.
Personally, I would love it if my work was strong enough to be stumbled upon by a few, and crowed about to the extent that I never need tweet about its merits again. There is a certainly a perception out there that the best work will be discovered in this way, and no doubt it occasionally is. After all, Naomi Campbell was window shopping when she was stumbled upon by an agent and became one of the most famous supermodels ever. However, there are not only a great many beautiful women who could sashay around the mall for all their days with hardly a second glance, but also examples like Shades of Grey. Now I must confess that I’ve never read it, but I’ve read a good many reviews which, rightly or wrongly, completely can this novel as poorly written. No-one can deny though the amazing popularity of the work, which has somehow, and fortunately for the author, been caught in that whimsical publicity whirlwind and flown off into the Wonderful World of Oz, also known as The Public Eye.
Part of the issue of course is that there are so many people who have written books which they are trying to promote, especially in these days when you can (although personally I couldn’t) bang out a novel in a month and have it up on Amazon the next day. My blog is subtitled ‘Shouting into the Darkness’ for a good reason, in that this is often how it feels, especially at first. It seems like there are a mass of faceless people in a room, all bellowing out about the merits of their particular book. Someone of them descend to spamming in a desperate attempt to be heard. Personally, I could no more start spamming than eat my cat, the distaste at inflicting myself on people is so great, but I can see why the temptation is there.
Evidence of this is the recent furore about R.J. Ellroy, who has apparently been giving himself great reviews on Amazon, and casting aspersions on his competitor’s work, all anonymously. It is undeniably difficult for an author to get reviews, and so again, I can see why he was tempted to take this step, morally and ethically damnable though it may be. Ellory is of course a well known author already, so perhaps the temptation for all us unknowns is even greater.
The other factor which I think we come up against is time, that vicious mistress. There are many suggestions out there on how to promote your book. Just taking some of the options available on-line, there are many opportunities, such as building a Twitter following, blogging, having author profiles and interviews everywhere you can, having a promotional clip up on You-Tube, being a member of Goodreads, Facebook and Google+ and participating in as many on-line discussions and panels as possible. The rub is that most authors really prefer to write than become salespeople, and finding time to do both, as well as trivial matters like holding down a job so that you can eat occasionally, and spending time with your family, can be tricky. I’ve been reading a little bit recently from some brave writers who are confessing to promotion fatigue.
What it all comes down to in the end I think is a belief in your work, and the desire to have some people read it and get pleasure from it. I have no illusions that I’m going to become the next Asimov, but equally I know that most of the people who have read my work have (at least to my face), told me that they really enjoyed it. After all the years of work, it would be a shame if I was lazy enough to let it moulder away at the bottom of the drawer unread. Perhaps it will inspire someone else to write, and they will become the next Asimov.
On a brighter note, although I have only just started the promotion journey, there have already been some great things to come out of it. I’ve learnt new skills, and discovered new areas of expertise, which I’m now able to apply in my job.
I’ve also been exposed to a great many more opportunities, in the form of competitions, publications and participation in anthologies than I never would have seen while locked up in my room bashing away at my novel, and this has lead to greater productivity on my part. For example, before I started this journey, I hadn’t written a poem since I was about eleven. Now, while I’m no doubt a very amateur poet, I both get great enjoyment from it, and find that it helps my writing in condensing ideas into few words.
Best of all, I’ve met some terrific people while blogging, some of whom I would venture to call friends. Rather a rich haul for a confirmed introvert.
Kasia James just published her first novel The Artemis Effect which is now available on Amazon.
About the Book:
Three comfortable lives are shattered when a wave of inexplicable events exposes the fragility of human society. With an unprecedented celestial phenomenon, devastating high tides, a breakdown in global communication networks, and the sudden appearance of violent ring-gangs swarming through cities and towns, Kimberley, Scott and Bryn struggle to understand the vast events unfolding around them. Will they survive the Artemis Effect? Will they discover the truth behind the collapse of society before it’s too late?
I haven’t read it yet, but I bet it is awesome.
You can also read more of her writing on her blog.
I used to write nonfiction.
I wrote pretty good nonfiction. Memoir mostly. That shtick can work if you’re eighteen. Everything’s new, so it’s no great challenge to describe mundane epiphanies with pure, sparkling language.
Shortly after 9/11, I started writing about politics. Those pieces weren’t good. I would classify them as rants. Course, I was young.
I stopped writing for a while. I realized I was only ranting – about my job, the president, the vice-president, war, the upcoming election. Nothing I had to say twinkled. The endeavor had devolved into an exercise, and I was bored.
I didn’t intend to quit. I just stopped.
Four or five years later, I picked it up again. I still don’t know why. I guess I was bored again.
I still wrote nonfiction. I thought I couldn’t write anything else, despite the unknown known that I fantasized compulsively and had imagined, lived, and discarded a thousand stories without giving a single breath of them permanence.
We had a subscription to Playboy back then. I really did read the articles. In fact, I read every issue cover to cover, including the fiction. I was sitting on the john one day, reading a James Ellroy memoir. He described the moment he knew he wanted to write fiction and how he went about it, by making up stories habitually and simply writing them down. I thought, “I can do that.”
A month later, once the project had taken over my life and given it new meaning, I realized just how desperate I’d felt without it.
One quote from that article still echoes through my head. “That first book was the blueprint for the rest of my life, but I didn’t know it then.” It’s been a while, so I’m probably paraphrasing. Sincerest apologies, Mr. Ellroy.
I don’t know if that statement is true for everyone. I don’t know if it’s true for me. I do know this: making shit up is just as cathartic as spilling the honest to Bob truth.
The first draft of Bleeding Gut Blues is novella-length at best. I still have the terrible habit of writing sentences in sequence when I’m excited, most of the book read like this, I used a million commas and forgot about periods or the word “and.”
The book and I endured at least two dozen drafts, and I forced myself to relive the story with every edit, adding new details and life until the final pass. I knew it needed it, and I wanted it to be perfect.
Endless revising yielded perpetual reflection – on the city bus, before sleep, while my hands played old songs they could handle on their own. I began to spot themes relevant to my own life that I never intended to include.
Of all the revelations, only one was helpful in the long-term. I can’t survive without a project, something that’s mine to shape. Bands are fun as hell, but playing music with others is about creating something as a group, a sound that builds organically as a result of three to five sets of inclinations and personal taste. I love participating in that process, but it isn’t enough.
The release found through performance is physical and emotional. The musician screams, jumps, sings, all the while listening, waiting for cues, and surfing the rest of the sound. After it’s over, he’s spent and exhilarated at the same time. Adrenaline rules the remainder of the night.
In almost a decade, I’ve never played a set that caused me to reevaluate jack. Make out with girls, get drunk, fall asleep in the back of a pickup, sure, but examine humanity’s pitfalls? Never.
Both arts relieve tension and provide intangible rewards. If you practice playing music, your fingers will become more dexterous, your ear will evolve, and you will become a better musician. If you practice writing, you’ll forget how to speak, but you’ll become a better writer, and in the process, you will change.
Fiction can be a foil or a mirror. In either case, it’s an intimate escape for the reader and the writer, and the desired destination is telling.
These days, I don’t have a lot of passion for writing memoir. It feels like setting up a camera at a traffic light versus building a collage. A traffic camera details all and maybe, once in a while, will stumble across an automated “Golden Moment.” Collage, unrelated realities combined to form an alternate, is limitless.
Whether reading or writing, I stare at fiction like a collage. I tear apart the details comprising the whole and examine the mold growing underneath. None of us humans are truly unique, so if the work isn’t atrocious, I’m bound to catch sight of myself in whatever fungus the author is substituting for Elmer’s. Invariably, my mind is altered, and epiphanies pop as easily as when the world was a brand new picture book in tiny hands.
As much as I need and love to escape into fantasy, the beautiful drug that it is, fiction also supplies the distance necessary to evaluate without bias. Even if my addiction wanes, that is the reason I should write it.
Since the Atria Books paperback version of this novel was released today it seemed timely to review Beautiful Disaster (even though it has been out for a while).
All I can say is Beautiful Disaster left me feeling rather perplexed and baffled as to why good writing often has little (if any) actual correlation to a book’s sales/popularity.
You are at a secret college fight that is like some sort of UFC douche fest with a bunch of muscle bound dudes spraying blood and sweat all over the place.
And you are there and you get blood on your cashmere sweater, and you are a little afraid and a little disgusted and suddenly you find yourself face to face with the fight’s victor. The hottest. The dreamiest. The muscleiest. The tribal tattooiest. Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox.
You share a charged moment together and inexplicably Travis nicknames you “Pigeon” and melts into the crowd.
Swoon, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be nicknamed after a bird most people consider to be vermin?
And so begins the most absurd, pointless, needlessly dramatic, unromantic romance of all time. It goes something like this:
Abby is a virginal college girl with a MYSTERIOUS PAST who wants to leave all her baggage behind and have a fresh start at college. Travis is the sexy campus manwhore who seems to do little but fight, drink, smoke cigarettes, and fuck random college girls (on his couch—never on his bed because well, those girls aren’t worthy of his bed). And somehow Travis and Abby end up JUST FRIENDS and due to the outcome of some completely implausible bet Abby is forced to live in Travis’ apartment for a month.
The rest of the novel can be summed up as Abby flirts, speaks to, is insulted by, dances with, dates, or kisses other boys and then Travis beats the crap out of aforementioned boys (always without intervention or repercussion). Next, Abby gets mad at Travis. They fight. Abby leaves. Travis flips out and either breaks something or spends an inordinate amount of time banging on her dorm room door. They make up. They have sex.
And the book goes around like this with little variation. Weird plot twists like a run in with the mob and a deadly fire that inspire them to run off to Vegas and get married (because life is fleeting ya’ll) did little to add depth to the characters or the plot.
These characters are crazy.
Much like 50 Shades, this seems to be a love it or hate it kind of novel and readers are divided on whether Abby and Travis have one of the most Epic. Romances. Ever. or if both characters should be secured on some sort of locked ward.
I vote locked ward.
I think this novel’s mass appeal is due in part to the perennially popular theme of a good girl changing a bad boy by simply loving him. Who doesn’t want to be the girl who makes the hot, bad boy be good? The problem with Beautiful Disaster is that there isn’t any redemption here. Abby doesn’t really change Travis; mostly she enables/tacitly approves his bad behavior.
Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Publisher: Atria Books
Price: 7.99 (for the Kindle version)
Source: Publisher provided ARC via Net Galley
Alice is glad to see the “Welcome to Murphysboro” sign has not changed in the six years since she has been home. The creepy apple which serves as the town’s mascot leers off the sign at her and offers a hand in greeting as she drives up the hill, past the Hardees’s and into the sad strip of dusty thrift stores, hippie coffee shops, and beauty parlors that serve as the “downtown” and main street. It looks exactly as she remembers it except for the emergence of what looks like a bar and grill in the old Parker drugstore building.
She drives away from the downtown and past her old high school, the library and the post office. Her family home is near here, a sharp left and then a right on Twin Lake Drive. She never could understand the name, since there wasn’t a drop of water in sight, only an endless subdivision of seventies era split level houses. Alice bypasses the turn, and instead heads down the road to the Kroger.
She isn’t ready yet.
Inside the grocery store Alice roams the aisles without purpose or plan. Her main goal of the trip—to fortify her return home with as many alcoholic beverages as possible has already been fulfilled. She has spent the last ten minutes wheeling a cart around the store filled with vodka, limes, a six pack of New Castle, several bottles of tonic, the assorted ingredients for a pitcher of spicy Bloody Mary’s, and a box of Benadryl. She plans to spend several days getting drunk and sleeping. What else is there to do?
Idly, Alice roams the cookie and cracker aisle. She maneuvers her cart around an elderly couple squabbling over the price of Triscuits, the wife waving a fistful of coupons in the air as proof of the cracker’s affordability. She pushes her cart with one hand and trails her other hand over packages of Oreos, Fudge Stripes, and some generic sandwich cookie. She can’t remember the last time she has been in a grocery store; they make her feel kind of panicky and strange, like something has gone very, very wrong. Alice has never had the kind of life that require grocery lists, shopping carts full of food, or coupons. The lists, coupons, and carts seemed to imply a life of deliberateness, and a fullness of the sort that Alice can’t quite seem to master.
Alice hears someone call her name, but doesn’t look up. She is sure she is about to be duped into one of those awkward moments when she thinks someone is speaking to her but really they are talking to the person behind her. Her tentative “Hello” squished under the booming greeting of the true recipient. Surely a six year absence was long enough to have changed, to look different? She had always been mostly invisible in this town—who could know her now?
The voice screeches again, louder and more aggressive. “Alice Higgins? Alice? Stop pretending like you don’t know me, it’s Caroline Morris, well—Jacoby, now.” Alice finally looks up and notices on the name Jacoby that the woman waves a monstrous (and ugly, in Alice’s estimation) platinum wedding ring in her direction. Alice glances down at her own bare and bony ring finger and wonders when women will get tired of brandishing their rings like they are some kind of irrefutable proof of their worth.
Alice had her own engagement ring once. Lucas Smith bought it for her three years ago. This was before they started fighting about the tiny things which were really passive aggressive placeholders for the big things they wanted to fight about: her commitment issues, his addiction to porn, her need for space, his hurry to get married. The ring was bulky and heavy. It kept getting caught on her pants pockets, in her hair, and it snagged several pairs of tights. She set it on the edge of the bathroom sink one day and never saw it again. Four months later, Lucas moved in with some girl he met on Craigslist.
Alice missed Lucas and the ring like she missed everything else; she poked and prodded the emptiness like a tongue searching for a recently pulled molar. She missed Lucas, but she was sure she wouldn’t miss deleting porn off of her computer. And yet, several weeks after Lucas left, she found herself looking at porn on the internet, wondering if she was missing something. Maybe she could learn to be the kind of girl a man would leave his fiancée for. Was it something she needed to do with her tongue? Was it really all about the anal sex?
Engagement Ring: Lost Thing # 313.
Lucas Smith: Lost Thing#314.
Innocence (after looking at all that porn): Lost Thing #315.
Can you believe that indie authors of yore had to publish actual books? On paper? And they didn’t have Twitter or blogs to help promote their work. Instead, they:
-sold books from the trunk of their car (James Redfield)
-bugged bookstore owners to sell their books (Ezra Pound)
– used inheritance money to pay a publisher of religious tracts and medical tomes to print their book (Stephen Crane)
-illustrated and printed the book themselves (William Blake)
-Started their own publishing company (Virginia Woolf)
-Advertised their book as a “literary curiosity” to attract readers (Walt Whitman)
Check out this list of famous authors who self-published. It looks like indie authors are in (mostly) good company.
1. Virginia Woolf- To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, and more (1920’s +). Most of her books were published by Hogarth Press, the publishing company she started with her husband. Incidentally, they published other famous writers like TS Eliot, and EM Forster.
2. Marcel Proust-Remembrance of Things Past, Vol.1 (1914). After shopping the novel around to several publishers, Proust was forced to pay to publish Swann’s Way. Later, the owner of one of the publishing companies who rejected Proust’s manuscript said, “The rejection of this book will remain…one of the most stinging and remorseful regrets of my life.”
3. Zane Grey- Betty Grey (1903). Not his most famous novel (which was Riders of the Purple Sage, in case you care) but everyone has to start somewhere, right? Many critics consider Grey as the author that shaped the western genre.
4. Beatrix Potter- The Adventures of Peter Rabbit (1901)
5. Stephen Crane- Maggie, Girl of the Streets (1893). These days, we all seem to love a good hooker with a heart of gold story but I guess they weren’t so popular in 1893 since Crane had to give copies of his self-published book away. He would later remember “how I looked forward to publication and pictured the sensation I thought it would make. It fell flat. Nobody seemed to notice it or care for it.”
1. Richard Paul Evans- The Christmas Box (1993)
2. James Redfield- The Celestine Prophecy (1992). James Redfield sold 100,000 copies out of the trunk of his Honda before a major publisher accepted his work.
1. Richard Nelson Bolles- What Color is Your Parachute? (1970). This self- published book for job seekers was picked up by traditional publishers and has sold over ten million copies.
2. Irma Rombauer- The Joy of Cooking (1931). After her husband’s suicide, this St. Louis housewife used her insurance payout to print the first 3,000 copies of the Joy of Cooking. The book was intended for post-depression era women who needed simple and easy recipes. The book was so popular it was picked up by a traditional publisher in 1936.
3. Strunk & White- The Elements of Style (1918). Somehow a book created for use within Cornell University turned into one of the most influential books of the 20th century (says Time) and one of the best books on writing, ever (says me).
4. Benjamin Franklin- Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-1738). Many of our favorite Franklin aphorisms and pithy proverbs originate from this popular self-published almanac.
1. Louise Hay- You Can Heal Your Life (1976). In 1976, Hay wrote her first book Heal Your Body, which began as a pamphlet, containing a list of different bodily ailments and their “probable” metaphysical causes. This pamphlet later became her bestselling You Can Heal Your Life, published in 1984
2. Mary Baker Eddy- Science and Health (1875). Eddy self-published 1,000 copies of what she called the “textbook of Christian Science”. She went on to found the Christian Science Publishing Society in 1898 to publish work by her and her followers.
1. Ezra Pound-A Lume Spento (1908). Pound spent $8 dollars to print 100 copies of his first book and eventually convinced bookseller Elkin Matthews to sell it in his shop. Matthews went on to publish Pound’s next three books.
3. William Blake- Songs of Innocence(1789). Blake created some of the most famous and often quoted poems of all time and then published them himself. He did everything—including the engraved illustrations.
2. Walt Whitman- Leaves of Grass (1855). Whitman did most of the typesetting for the book himself. First editions of Leaves of Grass didn’t even include his name, only an engraving of Whitman done by the artist Samuel Hollyer.
I’m sure I missed a bunch. What other famous authors self-published?
The hurricane ripped the roof right off of Alice’s apartment building. She wasn’t there to see it (she was sitting in a 14 hour-long traffic jam outside Jackson, Mississippi by then), but she imagined it looked like something out of the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz, but instead of a cow, a bicycle, and hunks of a house whirling around in the vortex, it was her record player, her vintage hat collection, and endless photographs of ex-boyfriends being tossed about. Alice doesn’t much care about the photos, but she will really miss those hats—bowlers and cloches, and even a doeskin derby.
Alice feels the loss of the hats with a slight pang that other people might associate with the death of a small pet (turtles or hamsters)— a tiny gasp of loss, a brief and momentary sadness, pure and clean, the kind she likes best. Alice is accustomed to losing things: car keys, the words to her favorite songs, her mother. She puts the hats on her mental list of lost things somewhere above the bird cage she lost in Hot Springs, Arkansas and the car (a 1992 Dodge Stratus) that was stolen once in Baltimore and then for good in New Orleans. For Alice, the losing is never the hard part; it’s the missing she has trouble with. She misses everything and everyone like an amputated limb. All of that empty space hurts to touch.
Vintage Hats: Lost Thing # 417.
Her friend Opal has declared her a national disaster area, and each time she visits she tacks up a list of emergency numbers on Alice’s refrigerator. The numbers range from the practical (911), to the ridiculous (the 800 numbers for FEMA and The Red Cross), to the outright absurd (The National Guard). The numbers are a joke, but if anyone needs emergency assistance, it’s Alice. She has had her house catch on fire twice, been robbed three times, stood huddled in doorways during several earthquakes, and now finally, the roof has blown off of her life.
On the way back from New Orleans, where Opal and Alice spent a mournful four hours viewing the wreckage of Alice’s apartment, Opal is silent and fidgety. She drives slowly, and passes rarely. She keeps glancing at Alice as she drives, one hand on the wheel, the other fluttering nervously beside her, floating off the arm rest and up to the radio and back again. She reminds Alice of an anxious mother braced to throw her arm across the chest of a child to cushion the blow of a collision. Alice wants to tell her not to bother, but she is too tired. Disasters always make her sleepy.
“So what now?” Opal finally asks.
Opal’s voice, soft and whispery like Spanish moss, gives life to the question Alice has been asking herself for over a month. She asked herself everyday in the shower. She asked herself each night on Opal’s porch while she smacked at mosquitoes and wondered when she could go back to New Orleans. She asked herself while she watched Anderson Cooper slosh around in water on CNN.
“Duck and cover.” It’s a protection technique Alice knows well. Once, during a third grade tornado drill, she won a ribbon for executing the maneuver the fastest. Alice was an award-winning avoider, but now she is out of practice.
“Where?” Opal asks.
“There’s no place like home, right?”
Since people are actually requesting reviews I thought I would be a little more specific than “Send me your book, I’ll review it.”
My goal is to make people aware of the good books and warn them off the not so good books (even if they are free or cost .99 or whatever.) Reading a book takes time. It should be worth it,right?
Here’s what you need to know…
1. Reviews are free.
2. I think most book reviews are boring. I really don’t want to write the same old boring book review so I have two goals for the reviews I write– I want them to answer the question “Should I buy this book?” and I want to answer that question in an interesting way. This may make for some unconventional book reviews.
3. I will review anything but books that have some sort of religious tilt (Christian fiction would be a good example) and Westerns (because I think they are boring). Anything else is up for grabs– fiction, non-fiction, whatever. With that being said, my personal reading tastes run the spectrum from mysteries and thrillers, to horror, sci-fi, and literary fiction. On my own time I don’t choose to read romance novels, or much fantasy (I’m talking the wizards and trolls and characters with names full of consonants type fantasy, I do read some urban fantasy). I will review books in genres I don’t really care for and won’t give a bad review just because it is something I don’t typically read.
4. I will, however, give negative reviews to books that I think are ill conceived, poorly written or just plain boring.
5. I will post the review to Amazon and Smashwords and anywhere else you tell me that your book is for sale. Don’t get crazy– pick your top two.
If you want a guaranteed review (completed within two weeks) you can pay $25 for an expedited review. Keep in mind that this does not mean you will receive a favorable review, merely an honest (possibly snarky) review.