Monthly Archives: February 2016

Brain Silence

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“The brain never sleeps.” That’s what one neurologist said to me during a break at an event I attended several years ago. I listened, nodding and smiling when appropriate, but, all the while, I was thinking, “This is news?”

It’s too obvious to me that my brain never sleeps. But it does go silent on occasion. I’m having one of those ‘occasions’, right now–brain silence.

It may be because I finally am going to get a verdict on something that’s been hanging over my head since December, something that could completely change my life. It could be that it’s just a ‘time-out’ after months upon months of often frenetically-paced ‘doing’.

It could be that I’m fed up, too–fed up with fellow-citizens, national and global, who seem bent on self-destruction, a self-destruction that was completely foreseeable as a consequence since I was in high school.

I’m not sure why my brain has gone silent, but it’s an interesting experience. I’ve had this happen a few times, mostly just before I’ve had huge perception shifts, not when some life-changing event occurred. During those times in the past, I was more robot than human, I think…just doing by rote the day-to-day ‘have-to’s, not-thinking. And I’m good–very good–at not-thinking. But this feels different. Not ominous. Rather, it feels like what is to follow is inevitable…immutable.

It’s strange.

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Forrest’s Night Out

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Someone screaming in anguish, their guts being ripped from their body. Someone laughing, the sound maniacal. The audience members munch popcorn and sip their favored beverages, unmoved, almost bored. I leave my seat, climbing the spilled-pop-sticky carpet to the entrance/exit. I don’t want to see those kinds of “Coming Attractions,” thanks.  We’re here for a newly released blockbuster Forrest wants to see on the ‘big screen’, not to see unmitigated gore and celebrated cruelty.

My husband catches up with me out in the lobby. “Are you going out to the car?”

I turn. Smile. “No. I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back. No worries,” I assure him.

His eyes plead.

I smile, again.  “Be right back.”

He nods and, relaxing, turns to head back down the dark entry to Theater #3. He knows why I left. I don’t like graphic violence. I see no need for it, except in the rarest of circumstances, and, even then, it can be done in a way that has astonishing impact without resorting to real-to-life depictions. I know. Because I write it, have written it, have made voice actors audio recording my stories choke up, unable to get a clean take time after time–professional voice artists.

In the bathroom, a little girl is waving her hands underneath the faucet, but she’s too short to get it to come on. I wonder where her mother is. I wonder at the architects and engineers who didn’t think about the needs of children and others of small stature. I wave my hand over her faucet, and it turns on. She smiles, mumbles ‘thanks’, and puts her hands under the running water, then manages the electronic eye on the paper towel dispenser by herself, though it’s a stretch.

I check my make-up–rarely wear it. My clothes–black–lay impeccably. My five-inch heels give me an illusion of elegance and grace, despite my petite frame and calloused hands.  My hair, freshly styled, is suitably mussed and tousled. I look like I just stepped out of a magazine instead of rural North Idaho. On purpose. I’ve dressed up especially for my husband. I want his evening to be the best, because these chances happen so rarely for us with his job.

I wash my hands. Think. Head back out to stand near the dark opening that leads down to where Forrest is saving my seat. The “Coming Attractions” are still playing. Sound says that they’re still cruel, mean, and gory. Oddly, the movie we’ve come all the way to the big city to see isn’t that kind of movie, so why are they showing horror and violence trailers is my wonder.

Some tall, teen girls walk by, heading for Theater #4. They sneer, make some comment I don’t understand in some alien-sounding jargon, then spit in my direction. Their efforts fall short. I don’t ‘see’ them, don’t react. The cop standing near the concession stand starts walking over, and the girls vanish down the dark hole that’s Theater #4. He asks if I’m okay. I assure him, “Yes.”

Finally, I hear the opening theme for the movie we came to see. I head back to my seat, Forrest grasping my hand as I settle in…offering me his popcorn.

It’s a rare treat–a night out in the big city a hundred-plus miles from home. The special effects alone will make worthwhile suffering the soles of my shoes sticking to the carpet, the crude “Coming Attractions”, the teens with their hatred. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to be with my best friend and soulmate. It’s Forrest’s night out.

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Surprise! The One-Liner Five.

ToInheritAMurderer_AmazonCrunchI blinked. Double blinked. Sipped coffee. Blinked again.  Decided to check….  Really?!  REALLY?!

“Yep,” said Amazon.com.

Blinked.

My sleeper…well, one of my sleepers, but I don’t much count the SF…actually garnered interest … and a five-star, one-liner review that says a LOT, coming from a pleased reader. YESTERDAY.

I’m still blinking.  And I haven’t even released this lengthy ‘thing’ I’m doing on the novel–a thing that takes a lot of work and a lot of painstaking attention to ‘where was my intent’.

To Inherit a Murderer, (Book 1: The Ward) actually garnered a five-star review. And it’s been selling copies.  Wow!  Totally WOW.

Makes me happy.  Because the book’s been sleeping for a good long time with only the most occasional of reader. The last review before yesterday’s was in the summer of 2015.

Now, I don’t get a lot of reviews from my readers. Not for OHL (Old HIckory Lane) and not for my C. J. “Country” James novels. They sell well, but their readers don’t review. To have To Inherit a Murderer garner a review, though, well, that’s like a MAJOR DEAL.  To me.

Wow.  Made my day yesterday. Unfortunately, I was so busy patching databases due to a plugin update fault that I couldn’t spend the time to gloat.  So I’m gloating today.

HAPPY!!!!

Popular Misconconceptions Purposely Contrived and Cultivated

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I can be a controversial irritant. I know this. Still, I have a lot of people who, while afraid to admit it out loud, totally agree with me. And, privately, they applaud me for saying what they feel they can’t. That they won’t publicly support my saying it isn’t necessarily a sign of cowardice. It is a sign of fear–fear of crowd scorning, of cyber bullying, and of ruining their smiling, online, positive images purposely designed to try to gain market traction.

Yes, I do get groans from some of them, too, even the ones who agree with me. I get outright disfriending and snarling responses, private and public, from those who don’t. But you know what? The groaners and the muck slingers don’t bother me and don’t deter me. That I irritate them tells me that I cracked the plastic veneer.

Occasionally, I get a response that bears attending. One such came from my old publicist, who still, it seems, keeps tabs on me. Lately, he sent me applause with one hand while lecturing me about inadvisability with the other hand, admittedly typing with his thumb from his Smartphone, “so I’ll make this brief.”  Since I’m “in business” to sell my books, he suggests, “Wouldn’t it be prudent to rein in posting [my] opinions,” opinions that are, as he puts it, “often counter to popular misconceptions purposefully contrived and cultivated?”

That one made me blink. I immediately noticed the lack of qualifiers and quantifiers–normal. But for him to outright say what he did was astounding to me. This is a man who is, at all times, cautious in his every action, deed, and word.

‘Popular misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated’–yes, exactly.

And why are misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated in the public at large? Profit and power.

Sad, isn’t it? The public, the people, are being purposely fed artfully contrived misconceptions, and they swallow them whole. It’s ‘whole cloth’, completely fabricated and false, completely contrary to their best interests, proliferated by the blind who have been sold on the process. And I ain’t talking about U.S. or world politics, here, though the same applies. I’m talking self-promotion, the selling-my-book business, the World Wide Web, social media. and effective marketing strategies.

The sighted blinding the credulous.

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On Dolts Offering Writing Advice

DigMarkQUOTETH: “50-75% of blog posts with ‘Tips’ for writing are really marketing posts. They have nothing to do with writing at all.”

I have a friend, who shall remain anonymous, who shared this with me. It’s totally right on. And, yet, this friend refuses to say this publicly…because of all the flack that comes back to bombard him/her/it.

Yet, it’s completely true, and one of the HUGE irritants that I find with authors, indie and trad pubbed, alike.

Most of these posers–yes, I said posers–ain’t gotta clue what makes good writing and good novels, and have absolutely NO business trying to share their under-educated, all but illiterate advisements with anyone. And the only reason they do is to try to game up their own books and ‘brand’.

There. I said it right out loud, because it’s true.

Want to know what’s sad? The real experts who DO have valid and valuable insights on writing now mostly stay mum. That’s because what they have to say isn’t going to be swallowed well by the striving ‘wanna-be’s–that writing well means years of learning how to do it right by reading, by doing, by being harshly critiqued by in-the-know, usually caustic-as-hell editors.

In the Span of a Rat’s Whisker Twitch

I can dream up plots and stories in the span of a rat’s whisker twitch. I can map that story out in a few hours. Writing up the draft, if I’m selfish and tell the world to take a hike, takes a few weeks. Then comes the rewrite, which can take another few weeks. I rarely get that far. I usually just park the concept in a folder on some storage media, put a printout in a groaning filing cabinet, and move on. Why? Because, honestly, most stories bore me. The ones that I may pursue, I pursue because their characters have depth and purpose, because they have intrinsic worth as individuals. I love to see them thrive.

 

Inevitability

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They float on surface tides, siphoning whatever they can harvest for free, never sharing, never giving back, never caring of those who they, in their lustful greed, are starving.  I watch them, safely protected from their undying appetites, and I marvel at their ignorance of the vortex soon to swallow them into extinction.

 

Canyon Forbes watched his streams, aware that, at any moment, he’d be told to shut them off, his duty station shifted to security.  Glad that he was ‘inside’, glad he wouldn’t be among those stranded, he wondered at the ignorance that had, decades past, permitted this kind of exploitation, and decided that he wasn’t smart enough to figure out that answer.

It didn’t really bother him that millions, even billions, would perish.  It was inevitable.  Leadership had known the consequences for a century…longer, if one believed interpretations of the organization’s founders’ writings.  And, logically, there could be no other outcome.

(To be continued…or not. I think this one is too dystopian for my liking.)

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That Pesky Infinity Symbol with My Morning Coffee

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Every morning…save mornings where I haven’t slept (which happens), I face this:   This is the start of my online day. (Offline starts way before, but that’s another topic.) Dutifully, I sift and sort through all the postings of my followers, opening in new tabs on those posts which bear full attention, dismissing those which don’t, plussing and sharing the ‘quickies’ that warrant it. Then starts the reading.  Today, I have over thirty tabs open and I’m not even close to done with my initial sort. There are a lot of noteworthy articles to read. There are a lot of people to respond to. Morning coffee.

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Top Ten Novels get Nine ‘No’s from Me

No

There was a shared around link in varied posts on G+ about readers’ habits that got some comments–some snide, some honest, some haphazard. In other words, normal levels and types of replies.  As the conversation moved forward on several of the iterations of the link share, I said this in response to one gentleman who said that he reads any book he buys all the way through, regardless, because he paid for it.  He also said that he’s very forgiving of editing errors.  This was my reply:

Hey, I’ll read books that have atrocious editing…and do, because the story is good.  Very good.  But I won’t sit through, even a well-edited, well-presented book that bores me.  Once my eyeballs roll up in my head three times, through boredom or disgust, I’m done.

And, now, because I think it’s pertinent, I’m going to take the top 10 best sellers from over on Amazon, and I’ll tell you why I either won’t even crack the cover or, having read all or part of the excerpt, why I would or would not read on.

Let’s start: (Numerical order of the top ten best sellers on Amazon was stable throughout the day and a lot of these books have been on the first page for awhile, now…but, by the time you check they could have since changed.)  RED and strike-through means NO WAY! White (normal text color to this interface) means, not interested, but I could recommend it to readers in search of that type of story. Green means “yes.”

1. The Next Always: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy (The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy Book 1) by Nora Roberts — Nora Roberts is a good writer, always has been. I don’t read her, though I did manage two of her books during my time belonging to a book club. I cracked the excerpt on Amazon on this one and the novel starts out very well.  Then we get to the boring stuff — leading man and leading lady, with all the modern day trappings that so do not intrigue me.  So, nope.  But, were someone looking for a nice contemporary romance, yes, I might suggest it.  Nora Roberts can be counted on to deliver a good read for those who enjoy that kind and style of story.

2. Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella — “The sky cartwheeled overhead.” <– first strike.  “Black spaghetti” <– second strike.  Read on…and, by the end of the second page in the Kindle version, my eyes dried up, which is my way of saying ‘my eyes glazed over because I was completely bored’.

3. The Last Girl by Joe Hart — Read the description. That sent off warning bells. So, I checked the reviews. First up on the page was the one star review by F. carillo, posted on February 2, 2016. Then came the 4 star review by Bill Anderson (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) on February 1, 2016. (That was a four star review? Read more like another one star review to me. And it went on that way. So I didn’t even crack the cover to read the excerpt. Auto-nope, mostly because it’s yet another dystopian-horror book that features the completely unrealistic.

4. Roomhate by Penelope Ward — NOPE. Won’t even look at the excerpt.  Here’s why: ” Due to …sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.” I’m over 18, but, sorry, not into explicit sexual content, and the reviews suggest that this book is more about heating up readers’ crotches than about delivering an actual story.

5. Some Sort of Love: A Happy Crazy Love Novel by Melanie Harlow — An excuse to deliver explicit, graphic sex. The whole focus seems to be the guy’s large penis. Nope.

6. A Shade of Vampire (New & Lengthened 2015 Edition) by Bella Forrest — I’m not a fan of teen fantasies or vampires, neither one. For this exercise, I did check out a bit of the excerpt and the story delivery seems smooth and well-written through the first few pages of the prologue and chapter one. But, no. Not into vampires and teenage love fantasies.

7. Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold — No, no, and no for several reasons — sex, historical fallacy about the SS and culpability, and dwelling in the horror of an era that makes me shudder, similar reasons of which you can find from readers in the one-star reviews.

8. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman — It’s Neil Gaiman. Of course it’s a ‘yes’.

9. Guarding His Obsession by Alexa Riley — Blatant erotica. Nope.

10. The Lie by Karina Halle — Nope. More erotica, this one with a warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes…. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

What is most disturbing to me is the number of sexually explicit or erotic books that are top ten. And then there’s the dystopian, teen vampire romance, and Nazis-as-victims books, some also with graphic sex. Does NOT say good things about American tastes in novels. Not good things, at all.

No

Sorry, Charlie. People Want Tuna That Flips Their Switch.

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Had a discussion tonight that wound up with an author I support and admire pulling his post. I blinked, and it was gone, just that fast. So, I private messaged the gentleman, asking where our discussion had gone. He told me he’d deleted it…because, he said, his opening statement needed to be edited…and he didn’t want to make other writers mad.

Really? You don’t want to make…other writers mad.  I’m another writer, and I wasn’t mad.   I actually THOUGHT we were pursuing a lively, intellectual discourse.

Wrong. His post wasn’t meant for discussion. It was a ‘call-out’, a change-order.

But it was a good discussion. And I made good counter arguments to his points. (Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of my replies, so I can’t replicate them when he replicates his…if he does.)

In the private messaging, I came to understand his underlying motive.  it’s the basis for a common misery I recognize exhibited by a LOT of writers/authors–depression and a sense of overwhelming futility, coupled with dogged determination to continue, despite all odds stacked against one.  Namely: there are so many books being published (now that independent publishing is coming of age), that getting any book noticed by masses of people is nigh on impossible.

Well, yep. That’s too true.

  1. It requires a LOT of lucky breaks (also called serendipity);
  2. it requires one to be an extrovert, when writers–good writers–are, by overwhelming numbers, introverts; and
  3. it requires an army of “connector” friends and fans who are willing and capable of effectively spreading the word about your book being the greatest thing since [enter your favorite title] to other readers of whichever genre you write.

But here’s the problem, even if you have all those things. People who read books, especially those who read novels, are a less than overwhelming percentage of the population. About a quarter of Americans don’t even read one book a year.1 Instead, they:

  1. play video games,
  2. hang out online,
  3. watch sports,
  4. watch the news cycle/talking heads, high drama, vitriol-driven world of politics,
  5. watch movies, TV series, game shows, reality shows, and,
  6. generally, do everything and anything exCEPT read…books.

Reading for them is Twitter or Facebook, not cracking open some made-of-paper or made-of-bytes tome filled with tens of thousands of alpha-numeric characters. I mean, really. 144 characters is about their upper limit. Of those who do read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), the numbers are even less. …And, of course, of those who read a specific genre of fiction, you guessed it, even less than that–a lot less.

Interestingly, young people are reading MORE.2 Which is good. But I’m afraid the kind of reading that holds the Millennials are books they can personally connect with…which doesn’t include what a lot of writers shopping their books are writing. That limits certain genre novelists to an even smaller pool of potential readers, and that pool of potential readers tends to avoid spending money on books, so if it isn’t found at their library, isn’t free, isn’t available and at hand for cheap–very cheap–somewhere, you’ve got a hefty job convincing them to spare their dollars for your book. They’d rather spend their money on their grandkids. Or on their next vacation. And, yes, in fact, unless they’re an avid reader of more than eleven books a year, up into the book a week category, chances are the books they buy won’t be those you’ve written. And, in fact, even those who read a book a week won’t be buying your book. Why should they? They can sift through the thousands upon thousands of free books out there to find their next read and not spend one thin dime.

So, how do you get your book to the point that a whole bunch of somebodies crave to read it so much that, yes, they’ll shell out their cash to actually buy a copy? Well, you either write what sells–gore, sex, perversion–or write what sells–romance–or write what sells–your book promoted well and appropriately, marketed at just the right moment to just the right people when those people happen to be looking for just that kind of book.

And an aside (something mentioned in the above-noted ‘disappeared’ post): Does your book have to be well-written and well-edited?

Let’s look at the stats on that: Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nope. Does NOT need to be well-written or well-edited. Nope. Not, at all.

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