Writers always cheat
The photo challenge this week is Monument. All kinds of word pairings popped into my head – Monument to Stupidity, Monument to Arrogance, Monument to Self-Indulgence. Let me linger for a moment on that last one. (Leave aside the fact that I can’t link the word monument with anything positive.)
Lately, I sense my blog tipping towards the above title. Blogging is definitely supposed to be about more than me tooting the one note song – look, look, my new book is out, look, look, my new book is out . . . the whole thing does have a nice ring to it but, of course, that’s not the point.
When I first started blogging I followed someone who was on the verge of self-publishing a first novel. I valued this blog because the blogger wrote not only about the process of getting a book out, but also about writing related activities. A life was shared on that blog. Then the book came out. Bang – the whole tone of the blog changed. It was all about buy my book. Every single post – no relief in sight. I gave the benefit of the doubt and hung around for about three months but the blog never returned to the interesting pre-self-published status. So, I quietly unfollowed and drifted away.
I understand that blogger’s dilemma better now, for sure. With two books out, reviews coming in and a blog tour wending its way through cyberspace there are lots of things for me to go on about when it comes to my new book. But I’m getting bored of it myself so can only imagine how others might feel.
Last night I did my last scheduled public appearance to promote the launch of The Light Never Lies. A lively book reading, meet and greet at the Port Alice Library. It was wonderful and at the same time, I’m so relieved to put that part of promotion behind me for the upcoming future.
I can’t promise that I won’t still be shouting out links to great posts about my book or re-blogging posts from the tour. I owe it to my hosts to give something back and if that means generating more traffic for their blogs via this site, I’ll just have to toot away on the horn a few more times. The beauty of putting this tour together myself was being able to appear on blogs I really love. Of course, I want to share those stops.
While that vein is open – pop over and take a look at the great way Gaele Hince at I Am Indeed puts together a book review. A whole promotion package all tied up with a bow. She’s a pro and well deserves her status as a top Amazon reviewer.
On other fronts, watch out for more posts on the location, location, location series – I’ve got a few great ones lined up. I’ve also got a post on the go to promote a book review blog I’ve been following. You can expect more reflection on the self-publishing journey as the dust of launching and promotion settles. And of course, grandmother updates, garden talks and wine out on the cliff deck.
As Pete the Cat would say – Groovy Man. It’s all good. Credit to playrific.com for this image. If my granddaughter Emma were here she could have drawn Pete for me. We’re all crazy about Pete the Cat.
Following a lot of other bloggers is a wonderful thing. You get to open your WordPress reader and see so many interesting posts streaming down the page just waiting to be read. I follow writers, readers, travellers, photographers, cooks, grandparents, young people, middle aged people, older people – everyone with their own unique point of view and special location.
But at times this abundance, this potpourri of story is a double-edged sword. The times I watch all those great posts streaming down the page and I have no time to read and know I will never catch up – those times are hard to bear.
But we all need a change of pace at times and the stories will keep coming, fresh and new for when I finish up doing active Grandma duty and have a moment to sit back and relax. For now, it’s go, go, go. Swimming pool, park, go for a walk, play in my room, let’s build a fort, let’s play a game – LET’S PLAY ANYTHING AT ALL! And my all-time favourite – they wanted to play book store and they let me sell my books at their store. What could be more fun?
Patience all my favourite bloggers, I will be back to read and like very soon. Until then, well – the order of the day here is fun, fun, fun.
Over the past week, two posts – Chuck Wendig’s epic rant on the way stinker self-published books are pulling us all down and J.A. Konrath’s rip into literary agent Donald Maass for his arrogant gatekeeper ways – have made their way around and around the blog world. Many bloggers have reacted with posts of their own or lengthy comments.
These posts represent strong statements at either end of a spectrum. Wendig calls for gatekeepers of some variety – perhaps a vetting group of other authors and professionals. Konrath argues for the wild-west – an open frontier where readers decide what they want to read.
I have no idea how many self-published books busy guys like Wendig or Konrath read. I do know how many I read – probably one or two a week. Regardless of how I feel about a book, I almost always finish. My husband will often ask me, (as I sit, fume and spew out my own rants) why don’t you just stop reading it? I’m not sure of the answer to that question – maybe I’m stubborn, maybe it’s curiosity.
At the end of the day, I respect all the authors I read because I know first-hand the challenges they’ve faced. Writing, my dear friends, is not an easy pursuit. That being said, I certainly don’t recommend every self-published book that ends up on my Kindle.
As a reader, my needs are straightforward. Did I feel enriched in some way by reading this book? Did I learn something interesting about a geographical location or a particular aspect of the world – culture, work, or lifestyle? Was I challenged about a stereotype I didn’t even know I had? Did I grow through the emotional experiences of the characters? If I can answer yes to any of these questions, the story did its job.
When I read a self-published book that didn’t hit the mark, I delve into the question of why. Not a genre I enjoy? Not really my cup of tea? Those aren’t criteria upon which to judge because that’s about me, not the book. Did poor editing or formatting get me hung-up? That isn’t a deal breaker, though it can be awfully irritating. I want to see beyond that, to the story.
Was it too long? Was it author indulgent with information dumps and pet peeves rammed down my throat? Was the underlying structure of the book confusing or out of order? Were there plot holes you could drive a semi through? Were the characters real to me? Did I care?
What upsets me the most are the stories that could have been so much more. I long to have had the chance to read those books before the authors published them. I want to be a content or structural editor who says, cut it by at least a third, don’t leave me hanging, don’t start with this part – start with that part, stop repeating yourself, you’re using a chainsaw here when a butter knife is more appropriate, you’re not giving me a chance to bond with this character, you’re head-hopping, you need to pick up the pace. get your own crap out of the way so the story can be told etc. etc. etc.
Then of course, there are the books that are just plain poor in every way. The stories don’t work, I don’t care about the characters, the editing is non-existent and the formatting problems are off the wall. I call that a perfect storm of unfortunate writing.
Maybe I sound a bit arrogant and I don’t mean to. I have only written two of my own novels but I’ve been reading all my life. I claim expert status in the reader department. I know what works and what doesn’t.
Even in the case of the perfect storm books, I don’t believe those authors are dragging me or anyone else (but themselves) down. I don’t think self-publishing, as we know it, is about to implode and become a sucking black hole, drawing the entire universe into its inky darkness. I just feel sort of sad. I heave a sigh and get on with my own writing. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal – I look forward to the next book on my list.
I suppose this puts me in the Konrath camp. As a reader, I don’t need a gatekeeper to filter my choices. I’ve always been a bit of a renegade.
What’s your opinion on this contentious issue? Do you read self-published authors? Do you want someone to filter out the so-called unworthy books for you? Go ahead – weigh in. The topic is not one that is about to go away anytime soon.
Much like this beautiful eagle hopping onto a tree top, I’m the next link of a blog chain today and am happy to hop on the bandwagon. Deb Young tagged me in this chain last week and I want to shout out a big thanks to her for the invite. Deb and I met through social media. I bought and read her self-help book for self-published authors – Sell Your Books and from there we connected on Twitter. I was looking for a writer’s professional association to become part of and she directed me to the Alliance of Independent Authors – I haven’t been disappointed with any of Deb’s advice so far!
Okay – this is how the blog chain works. I answer the following four questions and then tag three other writers to do the same.
What am I working on?
I am currently formatting The Light Never Lies (sequel to my first novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight) for upload to CreateSpace – huge learning curve but I’m finding that I enjoy the devilishly picky nature of formatting and I love the control. I’m also storyboarding the next book in the Crater Lake series and working on tuning up ten short stories I would like to publish under the title, Echoes of Sorrow, Threads of Hope.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Choosing a genre is difficult. I write about family dynamics, personal growth, issues facing young people, rural living to name just a few themes. But there is romance, too. I have slotted my writing into a genre I call – contemporary fiction with a splash of romance. My books find their voice in third person narration through the eyes of a number of the characters in the story. This makes my writing somewhat unique. I also weave a good amount of setting details into my work – I want the reader to recognize this area or, if they’ve never been to Northern Vancouver Island, be intrigued about visiting.
Why do I write what I do?
I believe that all my experiences to date shape what I write – teaching, working as a trauma counsellor, my years of being a mature university student and researcher, living on the shores of a beautiful lake in a pristine wilderness setting, being plugged into the life of a rural community. When it comes to fiction writing, these are the things that allow scope for the ideas that pop into my head.
How does my writing process work?
I get a tiny idea about a character – maybe a tidbit of dialogue or an interesting situation that character might find him or herself in. I jot down notes and when the time is right, a story starts to form. Next comes a ton of back writing – detailed character sketches, research, timelines, drawings of various settings. After all of that, I might be ready to storyboard. This happens with post-it-notes and a large bulletin board. That will lead to a bare bones outline. After all of that, I start writing. Not necessarily at the beginning – wherever my interest is caught on a given day. The writing weaves back through the whole process as I update everything that has gone before. This is an important part of my writing process because I need that openness to letting the story take the lead.
When the first draft is finished, I move straight on to rewriting. Input from my first beta-reader comes after the second rewrite. She builds up my confidence and gives me valuable input on things like believability, length and structure. By about draft eleven or twelve, it’s time for editing. My first beta-reader is also my editor. She is already familiar with the story and she knows my style. This stage is amazing and exciting as we become real collaborators on tuning up each and every sentence. After this edit, my husband Bruce gets a read through. He often has a lot of technical suggestions. With any luck, I also have a few other beta-readers who might be brought in for specific sections of the story. Then the work moves into the final edits and proofreading. And voila – a finished manuscript.
Now for the fun part – here are my three tags.
Laekan Zea Kemp
Laekan is a writer and explorer extraordinaire who grew up in the flatlands of West Texas. She graduated from Texas Tech with a BA in Creative Writing and is the author of the multi-cultural New Adult novels, The Things They Didn’t Bury, Orphans of Paradise, and Breathing Ghosts. I got connected with Laekan when she issued an invite to her blog followers asking if anyone would like to host her on a tour to promote her new book. I thought she had the most brilliant idea for putting together a blog tour that I jumped on board. Some of my followers may remember when Laekan appeared on my blog.
Please check out Laekan’s blog where you will learn all kinds of other things about her and find links to her books.
P.C. began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable. Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. Her novels advance the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion. I got connected with P.C. when she featured Disappearing in Plain Sight on her Writing Whims blog.
Please check out P.C’s blog to learn about all the great things she’s up to.
From the time Vashti was a young kid, writing has been her passion. She’s always been a writer, she just didn’t know it until much later. It is easier for her to express her thoughts on paper than with the spoken word. She enjoys making people feel an array of emotions with her writing. She likes her audience to laugh one moment, cry the next and clench their jaws after that. A love of animals and nature are often incorporated in her stories. You’ll read intriguing things about various animals, nature and natural disasters commingled in her character driven novels. Vashti and I have been blog buddies for a while now.
Please visit Vashti’s upbeat and interesting blog to learn more about her.
Thanks again to Deb Young for inviting me to be part of this blog chain. I hope everyone will check out Deb’s blog and my tags to three great writers – Laekan Zea Kemp, P.C. Zick and Vashti Quiroz-Vega.
I’m leaving you today with a bit of the west coast beauty I appreciated last week on a trip out to Winter Harbour.
In my debut novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been bullied. As her character wove its way into my writing, I discovered that I was exploring two predominant themes – how a small incident could grow exponentially to become a degrading, daily reality and how the experience of ongoing bullying could lead a young person to desperate measures.
Lisa-Marie’s first day in a new high school became the setting event for years of bullying.
The first day of classes she was hopelessly lost in every way that a kid could possibly be lost. She was in the crowded, second-floor hallway trying to juggle books, binders, a time table and map. The bell rang and the hallway emptied rapidly with her no closer to finding her way.
She was standing in a small alcove by the water fountain when she heard voices just across the hall. It quickly became obvious to her that a girl, who looked about her age, was in the process of being dumped by an older guy and she was taking it hard – crying and clutching onto his sleeve. Lisa-Marie saw the guy jerk his arm away. As he walked down the hall she heard him tell the girl in a cold tone to grow up.
Lisa-Marie stood staring like she was watching a train wreck; she couldn’t drag her eyes away from the carnage.
She goes on to explain that this girl turned out to be one of the popular girls and that from that day forward her and her friends made Lisa-Marie’s life miserable.
The idea that ongoing bullying could be the result of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time came from a conversation I had with my daughter, years after she had graduated from high school. I asked her if she could explain to me why a certain girl had always been so unpopular. From my own memories of being in and out of my daughter’s classrooms, there didn’t seem to have been all that much to distinguish this girl from any of the others kids in the class. My daughter told me that all she could recall was that the girl had been a new kid from another province. When the teacher had told everyone where she was from, someone whispered a sly, little, sniggering joke that associated that city name with a sexual body part. And that was it. This girl struggled to fit in from that day forward and the joke followed her right through her school years.
In this Week of Anti-Bullying, I have been thinking back to that girl in my daughter’s class and what it would have taken for the other kids to just let her move beyond such a chance event.
I think we need to help young people develop the tools whereby they can step-out of group think, give their peers second and third chances, and move beyond personal comfort zones and small cliques to include others. Young people would need high levels of self confidence to do any of the above and that’s a tall order.
In Disappearing in Plain Sight, Lisa-Marie explains that she tried to get help but no one saw her, no one wanted to listen – no one wanted to be the one who tried to help the kid everyone hated.
For Anti-Bullying Week and beyond, let us strive to be the kind of parents who build confidence in our children, let us be adults who model inclusion, the type of people who take responsibility for the power of our words, let us be the teachers who don’t turn a blind eye to a student’s suffering.
(The photos in this post were taken at Taliesin West – architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, outside of Scottsdale, Arizona.)
I’m coming to the end of a beautiful fall month of having fun with family while my blog has ticked along in fine style. I have some big thanks to send out.
First off, to my wonderful guests – Patrick O’Scheen, author of Dreamer and Seer; Laekan Zea Kemp, author of Breathing Ghosts and Kevin Brennan, author of Yesterday Road. Having these three authors on my blog, discussing their work and the self-publishing industry, has been a real treat. I’ve had the chance to read three thought-provoking books, learn a few things and I’ve gained a number of new followers thanks to my guests. I’ve had a great experience opening up my blog to other voices. I highly recommend the practice.
Next, a huge thank you to Carolynn Arnold over at Celebrating Authors for the author interview she did for me and the great twitter traffic that has resulted from that post. (Which, by the way, is still going on!) Please pop over and check out her site and my interview.
I want to send out a big thank you to The Fussy Librarian. Yesterday, Disappearing in Plain Sight was one of the book selections featured on The Fussy Librarian’s daily email. This new site is connecting self-published authors with readers. Indie authors often go on about the difficulties we have getting our books out in front of readers. Our blogs, Facebook author pages, and Twitter feeds are jam-packed with other authors (and that’s great, don’t get me wrong) but we often wonder how to connect with readers. Well, this new site is solving that problem. Why not pop over and sign up for their daily email alerts. You let them know what you like to read and every day they pick a few books for you.
And thanks to all the bloggers I follow for your patience. I’ve had time here and there to check in with some of you but I haven’t seen all the great posts I wanted to.
Finally, thank you to my two beautiful granddaughters for making this month fly by in a whirl of fun and delight.
Brit checks out the corn maze at The Laity Pumpkin Patch
Emma stops for a well deserved rest during a wonderful walk checking out all the great fall sights – including this amazingly beautiful bee hive!