Progress: Copyright, Discussion Guide, Permissions, ARC

That I do myself

BUT IT IS A FINITE LIST

To keep you posted:

Registering the NETHERWORLD copyright at the Library of Congress

That was an interesting couple of hours!

After a very long and frustrating process, I regained access to my Library of Congress electronic copyright account, and have REGISTERED the copyright, including uploading the 3.2MB PC NETHERWORLD pdf I just created yesterday, and we are paid – so will just have to wait for the certificate, and am DONE.

I tidied up a number of small things – such as minor formatting on chapter titles – before uploading to LoC.

This is the backup – it contains the full text except for a table of contents, and is not in the final formatting ebook and print readers will experience, and it has some running heads about the pdf itself, but it is an important step because I’ve already had Amazon demand proof I wrote PURGATORY, at which point I was very happy to already have the registration certificate (they gave me a short time period to prove I wrote it OR they would take the book down, and, IIRC, we may have been in the middle of the big move).

These requests are never convenient, and always feel scary, and you wonder why, and whether someone is trying to publish your work under their name… Best to be prepared.

Discussion Guide for Book Clubs for Purgatory

When invited to a book club, I created the earlier version of a set of questions that a book club leader can use to help readers talk about Purgatory.

Those have been reorganized and expanded – feel free to copy/paste into any convenient word processor, and to send them out ahead of time.

Discussion questions help spark thinking about different topics covered by a book, and have no predetermined answers.

Permission to use the KJV quotes for Netherworld

The Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible is copyrighted, and vested in the Crown.

Cambridge University Press manages the copyright for the Crown, and should be consulted when using extensive quotes or commercial uses.

For Purgatory, I requested and received permission by sending them the list of quotes I was using for chapter titles, epigraphs at the beginnings of chapters, and Ethan’s epitaph.

I just did the same for Netherworld – and expect to receive the same permission, as the quotes are unaltered, attributed, and labeled, and used with respect. There are MANY wonderful verses covering almost any topic you can think of. Not everyone has a Christian biblical background, but the KJV is my personal favorite for many of the verses (which modern scholars sometimes translate ‘more accurately’ but less poetically, and language has changed). These are the quotations you remember if you’ve read them.

Since the whole of Pride’s Children is, in many senses, a modern retelling of The Book of Job in the Old Testament, many of those verses are appropriate as epigraphs in the beginnings of chapters, and I enjoy finding the perfect ones.

ARC now needs to be created for reviewers

A big job is to created the interior for the books for uploading to Amazon. But a similar job is to create the electronic Advance Reader Copies that can be sent to reviewers for their reading and comments, and it is good to have those before publication, so that the book launches with some reviews already on its Amazon page.

The eARC will be the same content as the ebook, except that it is not the exact copy of the Kindle Unlimited version, so I’m allowed to send them out and not violate the KU terms and conditions of exclusivity.

They, of course, go out free of cost in exchange for the reviewer considering the writing of an impartial and honest review.

I usually have to go back and forth a bit with the pdf that provides the ebook and print book interior, so I use one of the early versions for my ARCs.

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The next big job – because I have to refamiliarize myself with Pixelmator, my graphics program, and update to the current version – is producing all the covers, back covers, and other bits of graphic information for reviewers to use.

And that’s the progress up to May 3, 2022. It’s going much faster than the first time. More when I have it.

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The hard part of NETHERWORLD is finished

NETHERWORLD NOW EXISTS

It’s a funny thing about books.

They start out not existing – an idea, notes, thoughts, bits of characterization are not a book (ask anyone who writes).

And then, for me, such a long time goes by before all the organization and notes start to take on form, even though I tell people that Pride’s Children was vouchsafed to me as a unit, with basically all of the major plot points, and the three main characters, and some of the setting coming as a finished story, one I would have read if it had been available.

But that day in 2000 is over twenty years in the past, and, though I’ve worked on the tangible form continuously, it’s been slow going.

PURGATORY was proof

of principle, of the ability to create something that wasn’t there, of the ability to learn how to write, somehow, to the standards of the vast reading background of writers good and bad and in between.

I did that – in late 2015.

I learned every single step in the process between idea and having an ebook and print book available for sale on Amazon. Every speck of that is me.

I had support. And mentoring when I asked for it. The internet is wonderfully supportive for writers who ask questions nicely and have done the work.

I found my cover mentor – J.M. Ney-Grimm – and my beta reader – Rachel Roy Gavris – online, on writer’s sites. I am eternally grateful for their advice and help.

The second book is another kind of proof

The world is full of people who had a very hard time creating the second book. It’s a cliche in traditional publishing: writer debuts to acclaim (the book was written over many years, or in school) – and cannot seem to write another (time pressures, deadlines, expectations). It even has a name: ‘the sophomore slump.’

And now NETHERWORLD exists

The complete story, from a continuation of the faux New Yorker article that begins it, through epigraphs and chapter titles, to ‘TO BE CONCLUDED’ at the very end of Chapter 40, promising the end of the story, the third book of the trilogy, as soon as I can write it (you don’t want to see the very rough draft).

Its cover is in my head. I have a title and cover for the third book, but am not sure I’m ready to commit, so I’ll call ‘LIMBO (& PARADISE?)’ or just ‘LIMBO’ a working title, and see how it goes.

I have a very long list of steps to take for NETHERWORLD, and it’s a little daunting how little I remember from last time, and how the publishing parts may have changed in the interim so I will have to start from scratch on some things.

The good part? Since I work only in finished scenes, and my beta reader processes each chapter as I finish it, the text is final. The editing and proofing is done as I go, and is not a long task ahead of me fraught with potential pitfalls, but a finished chore.

The years of writing, moving cross-country and fitting into a new community, getting back to writing – are finished, too. This is it – our forever home. I may even eventually get plants on the balcony (the writing has been more important up until now).

There is a lot of work to do

This post is part of girding my writing loins to do all those missing steps, from registering a final copy with the Library of Congress, through learning the new Pixelmator version to turn the cover in my head into one on the page, to figuring out again how to run the text from Scrivener through Word to Amazon, this time adding a hard cover version for both books because it is available, and exploring Large Print.

I did the obvious: I’ve contacted various companies for help with formatting and covers – which I would rather pay for than do – but I haven’t found one yet that will do it my way. After several months of looking, I give up. I’m too persnickety, too opinionated, and not the least interested in them putting my second book through one of their templates. And have been told that the covers proposed wouldn’t be similar and they can’t use my fonts.

I should have expected that – but I did have hopes I might be able to get someone else to do the hard work part, and now I don’t. It will, again, take me less time, and cause me less stress, not to try to get other people to do what I want.

It’s entirely MY fault.

So be it.

At least I can say that, when you get one of my books, it’s all me. For whatever it’s worth.

ARCs out into the world

I don’t know when I will have NETHERWORLD available as an ARC for those who are willing to CONSIDER writing reviews, but it’s high on the list.

I have signed up for BookSprout to manage the review copies and reviews – if interested, check it out; it’s set up for a campaign for PURGATORY right now, and I hope some people will read and review it in preparation for reading and reviewing NETHERWORLD. Accounts are free, of course, for readers.

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I just thought you’d like to know.

Should mention here that the time between final text and publication is typically 18-24 MONTHS for traditionally-published novels; I doubt it will take me more than 3.

Updates will be here.

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Can historical fiction be about 2005?

WHO DECIDES?

‘HISTORICAL NOVEL’ IS A DEFINITION WHICH NEEDS EXAMINING

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to argue that fiction from the early part of the 21st Century can, in some important ways, be considered historical – and I’m only partly tongue-in-cheek.

You decide for yourself.

I have ulterior motives which will be revealed at the end.

The usual, most conservative definition is: fiction from before you reached consciousness, or 60 years ago, whichever is further back in time (Historia Magazine), which quotes

The Historical Writers Association as choosing 50 years in the past, and

The Historical Novel Society as having selected 30 years ago, and

The Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction at an even more conservative 60 years ago.

Readers of ‘historical fiction’ have their own favorite definitions – which I won’t list, as they’re almost as varied as the readers themselves, and include everything from Neanderthals to Diana Gabaldon to, well, however recently your own definition sets the limit.

The 21st Century has been extraordinarily, uh, busy

A short (edited) list of events in a century of unceasing and exponential change, leaving a big bunch out, includes:

  • 2000- USS Cole Attacked
  • 2000-Hilary Clinton Elected to Senate
  • 2000-George W Bush Elected President
  • 2001-9/11Attack on New York and Washington
  • 2001-U.S. and Great Britain Attack Afghanistan
  • 2001- Anthrax Attacks U.S.
  • 2001-Enron Bankruptcy
  • 2002-Congress Authorizes Force Against Iraq
  • 2002- United Airlines Files For Bankruptcy
  • 2003- Shuttle Explodes on Reentry
  • 2003- U.S. Invades Iraq
  • 2003- Blackout in Northeast
  • 2004-Abu Gharib Prison Abuse
  • 2004- 9/11 Commission
  • 2004- President Bush Reelected
  • 2005 Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles2005
  • 2005- Hurricane Katrina Devastates Gulf Coast
  • 2006- Tesla Roadstar Introduced
  • 2007- iPhone Introduced
  • 2007- Virginia Tech Shooting
  • 2008 Barak Obama to be Democratic Candidate
  • 2008 Lehman Brothers Declares Bankruptcy
  • 2009- Barak Obama Inaugurated President
  • 2009- General Motors Declares Bankruptcy
  • 2010 Affordable Care Act Passed
  • 2010 Elena Kagan Fourth Female Justice
  • 2010 US Combat Mission Ends in Iraq
  • 2011 Osama Bin Laden Killed by US Forces
  • 2012 Hurricane Sandy
  • 2012 Obama Reelected
  • 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing
  • 2014 Janet Yellen to Head Federal Reserve
  • 2015 Supreme Court – Same Sex Marriage
  • 2016-Donald Trump Elected
  • 2017- FBI Director Fired
  • 2017- Equifax Data Breach
  • 2018- Trump Leaves Iran Nuclear Accord
  • 2018-Contentious G7 Meeting
  • 2018-US North Korean Summit
  • 2018-12 Russian GRU Officers Indicted
  • 2018-Trump Putin Meet in Helesinki
  • 2018-Trump Addresses UN
  • 2018-Brett Kavanaugh Confirmed to the Supreme Court
  • 2018-Massacre at Synagogue in Pittsburgh
  • 2018-Mattis Resigns After Trump Announcement on Syria
  • 2019-Nancy Pelosi Speaker
  • 2019-Government Shut Down Ends after 35 Days
  • 2019-Mueller Report Released on Trump and Russia
  • 2019-House Votes to Impeach President Trump
  • 2020-COVID-19 Spreads Around the World
  • 2020-Vice President Biden Becomes Presumptive Democratic Nominee
  • 2020-Space-X Launches Astronauts to Space Station
  • 2020-Former Vice President Biden Elected President
  • 2021-Insurrection in Washington- The Capitol is Attacked
  • 2021-Second Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump
  • 2021- Taliban Victorious in Afghanistan US Evacuates 122,000
  • 2022- Supreme Court Rules on Vaccine Mandates

So, if you want to be picky, there has been an awful lot of ‘history’ happening since the turn of this century, compared to many previous centuries, and the pace of innovation and change has been accelerated enormously.

Has it really only been FIFTEEN YEARS since the introduction of the iPhone?

Yup.

And the events I’m writing about in Pride’s Children (the original planned date for the whole story was 2001/2002, but was moved to 2005/2006 when it became obvious I wasn’t going to write it very quickly, and those years worked better for many reasons) are from BEFORE 9/11.

Think about it: there were mobile phones and flip phones, but no iPhones.

For the younger readers (only some of the more widely-read of whom are in my ‘target demographic’) our there, Pride’s Children is ‘before consciousness.’

But I’d like to argue that so much has happened – AND everyone knows about instantly if they so choose – that the actual events of 2005/2006, background to the story – are almost quaint and old-fashioned BY COMPARISON.

Why am I poking at this?

Mostly because ‘historical fiction’ almost means ‘before it affected me’, even for many well-read adults.

It is almost safe to read about events as long ago as 2005 – interesting, a setting for a good story, but not likely oscillate wildly in meaning itself. As, say, WWII events and novels.

And it’s a nice category to list a book in on Amazon – because it’s a huge category with a lot of readers. And, of course, my main bugaboo: mainstream has disappeared as a category.

Read that again: what used to be the LARGEST category of ‘good fiction,’ mainstream fiction or simply ‘novels,’ is not a searchable category on the largest online bookstore in, well, history.

The categories have been sliced and diced and chopped very fine – you can pick a psychological Amish thriller with a strong female lead set in Western Montana. But you can’t browse through mainstream fiction as you used to be able to walk through the fiction section in bookstores, and browse by author.

If you don’t already know what you want, you’re not going to find it on Amazon.

But, if I can recategorize Pride’s Children as 21st Century Historical Fiction – a whole bunch of potential readers might be able to find it – and be intrigued into trying PURGATORY. And then NETHERWORLD, which is about to come out – and stay in a nice safe category of novels set in a reasonable past.

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What do you think?

Do I have the ghost of an argument here? Feel free to make your own definition of ‘historical.’

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What can I do for you?

A STORY WHICH WILL MAKE YOU THINK AND FEEL.

Entertainment which will fill a large number of hours.

My best writing.

Not to stop until the story is exactly what I want it to be.

Because there won’t be that many from me – I am too slow.

What do other authors promise you?

Aside from their books, other authors seem to be promising more and more these days:

Their presence in person at a conference on a panel.

Their Instagrams.

Their Tik Tok or Book Tok videos.

Their FaceBook pages.

Their bookmarks and book plates and tote bags and the ability to purchase artwork of your favorite characters and cosplay costumes and…

Even their voice on your answering machine (go to Cameo and search).

I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t.

Self-published AND traditionally published authors are having to do more marketing and merchandising and promotion – to stand out in a world where everything flashes and glitters and moves.

Each new thing I can’t do bemuses me more.

I see the rationale – and I’m now farther behind in ‘doing what I should’ than I was when I started writing.

But what do you really need from your books?

To be dragged away to a same/different universe where you can live another life/lives and come back having been someone else for a long while.

You need something that will stick with you long after you close the book.

You need a story.

You need characters you care about living something that makes you want to go with them.

You want surprises, and implausibles turned into possibles, and to know that sometimes the good guys win.

You want something that will drag you back down into its depths if you are foolish enough to open it and start reading (I’ve tried to ‘study’ GWTW a number of times, to see how Margaret Mitchell does it, only to find myself immersed in the story and reading for hours again).

You want something that is uniquely your experience crafted out of the author’s half on the page, because care was given to making sure you are a participant and not an observer.

You want to find YOUR authors, the ones who do this to you.

If you’re my kind of reader – and I hope you are.

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Five scenes to finish NETHERWORLD.

But they have to be perfect.

Hang in there – I’m working on it.

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Chapter 38 – Be careful what you ask for

The more common quote is ‘Be careful what you wish for – you might get it.’

I have used ‘ask’ for a very specific reason, and this is one of those quotations that are attributed to many in its different varieties, but are not attributable in a particular form to a written source.

A bit of meaningless numerology that amused me: Chapter 38 came in at 8,819 words, but when I went to add that to my running total, I got 177,777 words, and it made me think of a car’s odometer rolling over.

As I said, easily amused.

Each of the novels is twenty chapters, and, as I have numbered them consecutively from Book 1, Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, you can see I’m two chapters – six scenes – short of the end of NETHERWORLD, and even I’m getting excited to write the final form of these scenes.

The end is both a satisfying conclusion to this part of the story, and the beginning of the final part, and has its own theme.

PURGATORY’s theme was friendship, especially the rarer kind of friendship between a man and a woman.

Booksprout.co will be managing my Advanced Reader Copies

I’m trying something new for this year: letting Booksprout get involved in the process of obtaining more reviews for the novels, and, I hope, providing me access to some reviewers I wouldn’t otherwise have any way of contacting.

It’s a trial basis, and may not be the best way to get new reviewers, since that depends on their database including readers for mainstream fiction, but it also will make it a bit more convenient for me in getting the ARCs to reviewers and in listing the results. I’ve been doing that all by hand, one lovely reviewer at a time, and it takes time, time I don’t mind, but time I could use doing the only job no one can take on for me – writing.

Up until now my approach has been to find readers whose reviews indicate they like similar books, and to craft individual letters. I love the results, and have met many people I now consider friends online (not the wrong kind of friends, Amazon!).

But word of mouth is slow because I’m slow, and only adds reviews when I have a bit of extra time that I can’t use for the writing directly.

We’ll see how it goes, and I’m still here and will handle any requests or problems personally, so that won’t change.

The reason I have non-writing time

these last two days is that, as one of the throng of the immunocompromised, I got my 4th shot, and second booster, of the Moderna vaccine – and yesterday was flu-like, but today I have a sore upper arm (not bad) and a general feeling of not being at the top of my usual game, so I’ve been doing a few other tasks.

Can’t wait to get back to 39.1.

All I’ve been contending with is reviewers who don’t accept self-published work but phrase it differently. I told one such – who may or may not change their mind – that self-published books hold up half the sky (probably a bigger proportion of TOTAL books).

I will update NETHERWORLD’s Table of Contents.

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New editorial review for PURGATORY from Indies Today

“A FLAWLESS LITERARY GEM…”

Woke this morning to a new review on Indies Today.

There is so much to love about this elegant and refined masterpiece, an intimate character study of three dynamic individuals who travel in the same circle for a short time, but whose stories and personalities couldn’t be more different. Mature and deliberate, Pride’s Children: Purgatory is a flawless literary gem that takes readers on a lengthy but worthwhile journey.

Indies Today, Dec. 1, 2021 Jennifer Jackson

It is full of generous words (many thanks to Ms. Jackson).

It’s a little startling, and a little daunting, and, okay, makes you feel very appreciated, when you find your work referred to as flawless and literary and a gem simultaneously by a professional reviewer who doesn’t know you from Eve.

It’s enough to make you print out the review and show it to your friends at the monthly ladies’ luncheon for December 2021. A few of them actually read it. One husband suggested I might have written it myself (but it’s not my style – Ms. Jackson has her own lovely way of phrasing things).

I have then spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to make WordPress let me display the badge in the sidebar – after thirty minutes of fiddling with the widgets section I opted for the clumsy but functional version you see now (I have writing – finishing NETHERWORLD – to do) to your right; I’ll figure it out soon – promise.

It gives me a nice incentive to keep working hard at the end of NETHERWORLD, much appreciated because I’ve had to take a short pause and make sure the plans for the charged end of this volume include everything necessary, don’t burden the reader with anything UNnecessary, end what needs to be ended neatly and satisfactorily, and set up continuing threads and characters efficiently.

Because I will go straight into writing Book 3, and I hope readers will be waiting expectantly, and that the move to California now being over, Book 3 will be a lot faster to write than the previous volumes took (15 and 7 years, respectively).

Pride’s Children: Purgatory is like a colorful van Gogh painting broken into a 10,000 piece puzzle, waiting to be assembled by eager readers looking for a captivating, contemporary story about love, regret, ambition and obsession.

J. Jackson, op cit.

I love that image – and I think it fits what I’m trying to do, including that “Kary struggles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and her limitations take a back seat to nothing.”

REMEMBER Pride’s Children is a TRILOGY – a single story from beginning to end.

I’m writing as fast as I can. But it is non-standard, and every detail has to be right.

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UPDATE: It turned out to be extremely simple – and clear – in the WordPress help section to post the Indies Today 5* Recommended badge properly. I just hadn’t realized that if you scroll down far enough through the available block types in the Widgets section of Appearance, there is a ‘Custom HTML’ block – and the review site (and others) had provided the html to copy and paste. I am grateful to WordPress for both – and that they are available on the free blogs like mine!

I still find it funny that ‘WordPress’ is not in the WordPress dictionary – it always shows up as a misspelled word with the red line underneath. Apparently, I am easily amused.

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Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD coming early 2022

Almost there!

PIECES ARE COMING TOGETHER

The good news is that NETHERWORLD is taking a lot less time than PURGATORY (7 years and a bit vs. 15 years).

This is in spite of having lost almost a whole year to finding a forever home in California – we moved from New Jersey after selling The house where Pride’s Children was written.

And a lot of time to the pandemic when so many things slowed down as we watched the statistics, waited for the vaccines, entered lockdown, and lived in a much restricted retirement community.

The original years included the heavy-duty extreme plotting, and learning to write to my own standards; the years since the 2015 publication of PURGATORY have included more of my careful inching through the plot, and somewhat less learning the techniques of writing fiction (except when a new kind of scene had to be scoped out – there is always something new that you need to learn how to write).

If you know me or have visited my Writing and everything blog, liebjabberings, you know that whenever I figure out some new tool for the writing toolkit, I sum it up in a blog post, on the off chance it will help some other writer who writes as I do or because I can go back and read my own posts when I need to reload something into my brain. I’m benefiting from that now, as I go back to posts on formatting and covers and language and…

Meanwhile, in the real world

I’m in the Virology Blog!

We writers will take whatever mentions we get, and be grateful for them, so my thanks to Dr. David Tuller, our Public Health PhD from Berkeley, who keeps the room uncomfortably hot for bad scientists and their recommendations for treatment of the great mystery disease ME/CFS (and other post-viral syndromes, now being joined by masses of long-covid victims).

ALL human concerns are suitable for novels, and many times those who have something are best placed to see the implications for the field of fiction – in having a character live through the details real sufferers can’t escape.

Done badly, you have what disabled people call ‘inspiration porn,’ observing life through the lens of “I am SO glad that will never happen to me!” Not particularly inspiring.

Done right, with a light hand and no preaching, the reader will find a richness in the characterization, and, by living along and identifying with the character, can live a life that reveals some of the nuances without having to get the disease. My intent is to make the stakes in this story very very real.

Reviews are always welcome.

I persist in trying to find reviewers who are ‘one of us.’

As one of my favorite reviewers has said (I use his words with his permission):

“I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.”

D. B. Rose

He has lovely other words I go read when I need a boost – fulsome praise is occasionally necessary when new fiction words are proving slippery (or my brain is fogged – unfortunate speedbump in the production of those new words).

The point is that I don’t expect everyone to like what I write – dense complex novels take time and effort to read AND to write – but, in a world with over 7 BILLION souls, some of whom speak English, I hope to find a lot of readers who want more of what I write. Gotta love math!

Best use of time going forward

Fiction has to come first. You are not following my deathless prose per se. Not here, anyway.

You are here because I’m taking a long time to produce the next book in a trilogy you’d like to keep reading.

So these missives will be relatively rare unless the writing is happening faster than I expect – or I find myself unable to produce acceptable (to me) quality because the brain is fogged again.

Just wanted you to know there is no giving up this task, not while I have any say in the matter.

I know WHAT happens (that’s my job), but I’m having a splendid time discovering what none of us know yet, HOW.

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Please recommend Pride’s Children PURGATORY to your like-minded friends. It is a huge gift to like something well enough to know who else might enjoy it. Word of mouth is the BEST possible advertising!

And, for anyone looking for paper, Amazon is running a sale. I suspect they may have a bit of inventory.

My Patreon is closed for now – not enough subscribers to support the considerable amount of time taken away from writing new fiction – but if PC takes off, it can be revived (I save everything, and there was a lovely start). Getting me to talk about what I’m doing, and pull out some of those interesting cutting room floor edits, is easy. Finding the time and energy, not so much. But I like the idea of having the author be able to provide more to the smaller contingent of readers who can’t get enough – and there is a MASS of stuff already written to pull from. Watch this space.

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A new marketing book to practice

Secrets to Effective Author Marketing: It's More Than

AUTHORS HAVE TO LEARN MARKETING

I’m reading a new book, Secrets to Effective Author Marketing, Maggie McVay Lynch, from Windtree Press.

It’s subtitled:

It’s More Than “Buy My Book”

I do not know the author, but it came in a bundle from a marketing author (among MANY other things) I DO know (not personally – from her website and a few replies she’s made to the odd comment I’ve made after one of her blog posts), Kris Rusch.

Kris has been extremely generous with her advice on her blog, so I figured the books in the bundle (including her new one, Creating Your Author Brand) would definitely be worth the investment.

I’m not selling you these books

Just telling you where I got the idea that is stuck in my head: how to follow the ideas in Secrets, and not just let them remain ideas in an ebook I’ve read and finished with.

Because the very first chapter struck up a resonance, and my first thought was, “How do I implement this?”

Two quick quotes should suffice:

If you can make a list of the experiences (emotions) your reader feels when reading your book( s) then you are most of the way to understanding what VALUE you have to sell.

If you can sell the value of your book as an experience then you have set a good foundation for marketing.

I am a writer. I create an experience for a reader, deliberately and with malice aforethought… I mean, on purpose.

I have that experience very much in mind (it’s one of my writing prompts for each and every scene) when I write a scene, but it had never occurred to me that I need to do the same thing when marketing.

Because marketing and writing have always been separate jobs, and the marketing has only become a big job for the writer this century, with the explosion of indie writing. Used to be your publisher did the marketing stuff, sent you (if you were so lucky) on a book tour you hoped would open in each bookstore with them having received a big box filled with your brand-new hardcovers.

People in the publishers marketing department wrote the ads, dealt with the media, found reviewers, marketed you and your book.

And I picked that up in my reading.

You can still see it in author bios that use the third person to speak of the author. It’s a lot awkward to do when you’re your own marketing department and copywriter.

It does put the writer into the nitty gritty commerce side of things (Ben Franklin printed and hawked his books), in effect, singing your own praise. More awkwardness.

It occurred to me, though, that I don’t have to – because I have a bunch of, ahem, perceptive reviews, and I can point to them as an external measure of how I possibly hit someone in the gut.

Without too much further ado: What did you feel?

Let me quote (and attribute) some of the reviews that address the question in Maggie’s book as to what emotions readers felt while reading Pride’s Children: PURGATORY – in their own words.

“This novel moved me to anger, compassion, exasperation, understanding and tears. All of these and more. The ending, for example, is something I will never forget. ” Colm Herron

“The author examines what makes us human–our generosity and pettiness, our passions and rationality, our sin and integrity. It’s a journey into heart and soul.” William J. Cook

“You are taken behind the scenes, literally, of the making of a Hollywood movie, and introduced to …wait for it…Penny the dessert girl. It’s the interaction of the big stars with HER that spoke to me the most about the incredibly fine line ALL of them have to walk to retain their privacy, and yet be courteous persons of integrity.

Oh, I loved this book. I did not expect to, and I’m a little bit afraid that I need to check and see if my estrogen/testosterone balance has been maintained.” Pat Patterson

“I found it too short. I am used to reading BIG books. Alicia has written a book that is spellbinding and you don’t want the story to end. The characters feel like real people that you meet everyday. A character who has lost her career, living with a chronic illness and still finding love and understanding. I will be reading it again and again.” Sam Umek

“Sometimes – rarely – I have no earthly idea why one of Ehrhardt’s characters has a particular reaction or says a particular thing. Sometimes I catch on later, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I read on. Because I don’t have to “get” everything every time. Because I’m trespassing and eavesdropping on another psyche, and it feels natural that I wouldn’t invariably understand.” Marian Allen

“My only complaint is that the ending I’m looking for will have to wait for the next book in the series because this ending is heart wrenching without the continuation.” Cris Goodwin

“And finally it’s a novel about taking risks when your body suffers from a chronic illness. In other words, this is a novel about being human.” A.C. Flory

“I feel Kary’s exhaustion as she copes with the day to day of her chronic illness.” Sue Gately

“Pride’s Children is a contemporary novel, brilliantly written and filled with the raw emotion of characters who smile when necessary, love when necessary, drink far too excessively, and are quite willing to betray anyone who stands in their way. Hearts bleed. Hearts break. Tears flow. Greed runs deep. And pride always goes before the fall.” Caleb Pirtle, III

I’d love to know if you had the same reaction.

Now, how to make potential readers want that experience

I like my cover, and it speaks to me of the yearning that is so much a part of Pride’s Children: wanting what everyone wants, allowing oneself to want.

In this excerpt from Chapter 9, which to me says it all (see underlined section), Kary speaks to her much loved Aunt Ruth:


She dialed Aunt Ruth’s number by heart.

“Kary! What a wonderful surprise! I thought of you this weekend.”

“You can call me, too, you know.”

“I don’t like disturbing you while you write.”

“If I answer the phone, I’m not writing.”

“That’s what you always say when I disturb you.”

“People first. Especially you.” Capturing words next, above everything else.

“How is the writing going, my dear?”

“Very well. The new story is coming almost faster than I can capture it.” Their formal jousting, as ritualized as a quadrille. She exhaled. I haven’t committed—yet.

“What is it, dear?”

“You know me too well, Aunt Ruth. More of the same, I’m afraid.”

“I knew there was a reason to worry. Are you ready to talk?”

Am I ready to talk? Anyone else would push, demand. “No, but I need to.” I should have thought this out, decided where to start— She ran her fingers through her hair, tugged, impatient with herself. “Remember the last time we talked?”

“Stop me if I’m crazy. I’m getting senile in my old age.” She hesitated. “Is it the same man?”

Kary visualized Ruth in her favorite armchair, taking a moment to think before speaking: losing marbles was not a family trait. “Here I thought I was keeping you from worrying. Yes. The same man.”

“Ah. The actor, then. Andrew Connor, or something?”

Am I this horribly transparent to everyone? “It’s complicated.” So, uncomplicate it. “You always get it. O’Connell. He’s a house guest. Part of the time. They’re filming his next movie in town.” See? Was that so hard? “I’ve been invited to watch them film Wednesday afternoon.”

“He’s disturbing your peace.”

Aunt Ruth radar. “Not intentionally. He’s been the perfect guest. But…” Get it all out at once, like an afterbirth. “But yes. Just by existing. The reality is overwhelming…”

“It always is, dear. Good and bad. He is young, for a man. And healthy, isn’t he? They take up so much more space than you think, all that vitality.” Ruth hesitated again. “You are sure…?”

Bless her. “Nothing. Don’t worry.” Lord, the temptation. Enough fascination to pull her hand into his fire. But no, nothing there. “If I were younger.” And beautiful. Beauty deserves beauty. If I weren’t sick.

“A cat is allowed to look at the Queen, Kary.”

“A cat is not allowed to want to be Queen.”

“Better not to want?”

“Better not to want.” It hurt. In the background she heard sounds of people approaching Ruth, asking if she was ready to go in to dinner. Salvation. Kary let out all the air she had been holding in.

“I can eat later—”

“No. Don’t. I just wanted—” needed “—someone to talk to. You’re my someone.”

“I love you, Kary.”

“I know.” It was done. “Now go get your dinner. I’ll call you when it’s over. Promise.”

“Promise accepted.”

The very last part. He certainly needed no more publicity. “You won’t tell anyone.”

“You have to ask?”

And that’s why I love you.


So how do I use this?

The answer seems to me to be to use the book description, somehow, to speak directly to a new reader. To include the combination of wanting someone very badly, but having the sense and the integrity not to reach for him, because it is not in his best interest.

This is not an original idea – it was buried in my subconscious when I read Jane Eyre as a child. I’ve transmogrified it – to suit my story. But I aim for the same quality – and for the reader to see that the decision (it’s not in his best interest) has enough arbitrariness to it that there just might be room for another ending than the one Kary is – with the omnipresence of a censorious society which declares the imperfect not human (or not human enough) – sure she must choose.

My next job is to figure out how the heck to get that into the first paragraph of the book description, above the fold (i.e., what’s visible without scrolling on the book’s Amazon page).

And be cocky enough to reach out for the reader’s viscera from the first words.

Maybe Maggie’s book will help me figure it out.

What was your emotional experience? Every reader creates a unique universe in his or her head.


If you like your writers to consider your emotional experience – which takes a lot more work than just telling you a story – consider purchasing or borrowing Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (if you haven’t) or becoming a patron to support Book 2, NETHERWORLD.

Progress report on Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD

With a long novel, and me not being one of the people who count their drafts in words written (so I can’t put up a progress bar), it is easy to wonder if the writer is on permanent vacation (certain fans of GRRM – to whom I’m certainly not comparing myself – will know what I mean).

Complexity takes more time to set up, and more time to write.

NETHERWORLD has turned out to be significantly harder to get started than I expected, and I’m barely nearing the end of Chapter 1, but a lot of the time since I started writing it in early 2016 has been spent on setting up timelines and plotlines in great detail so that I hope not to have to find out about plot holes the hard way (when Rachel, my lovely beta reader, asks one of her incisive questions).

I’m pretty sure it’s going to go a lot faster from here on (though I may have to slow down a bit at the end to make sure the ending is just right: finishing off a part of the story and setting up the remaining book of the trilogy).

Now that the election is over, writing (which I’m doing instead of following it) has become a refuge, and an easy place to spend my time.

You may be interested in a post on my writing blog about the process, There is always a new writing fear.

And, be assured, I am hard at work. I know where it goes and how it ends, but not the words. And the words, built on a solid structure, are the best part for the writer.

So much to do, so little time, so little brain!

Please talk back.

You like a writer’s style and voice – or you don’t

let fiction bloomEDITING? REALLY?

Way back in the dark ages, I submitted the manuscript (digiscript?) of Pride’s Children to an organization dedicated to vetting indie novelists, and giving them a ‘Seal of Approval’ which could be used on the cover of their novel to indicate ‘quality’ or ‘goodness’ or ‘lack of indie crap content.’ I will call them XXX.

And then I forgot all about it.

I just received their reply, a reply to which I take a great deal of umbrage.

Here is their email:

Dear Alicia,

I regret to inform you that your book Pride’s Children did not gain XXX approval. Our assessor said that though the book had an interesting premise, it would need a thorough line edit before it could be considered for approval.

In particular, she found the following issues:

Extreme overuse of incomplete sentences to the point where it becomes a repetitive sentence structure.

Too many short choppy sentences and heavily divided sentences make the reading scattered.

Subjects of focus erratic and hard to follow both in paragraph and some sentences:
“True, Thomas Pentell had insisted on an early dinner at Les Cles, almost too early for this Dior- she lengthened her neck, lifted her chin- cleavage only worked if you showed it.”

Breaking the fourth wall (see above sentence – not the only one)

Switching of perspective between first and third person

Too much description – telling not showing

Should you wish to re-submit after having the book line edited, you will need to use the form on the Submission page and pay a fee of $50.

If you are unsure of the difference between a line and a copy edit, please read this article [link removed] on the four kinds of editing

We also recommend you read The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine

Regards from,

C.J
XXX Submissions

Please note: we do not enter into any discussion on the results of submissions.
Do not reply to this email. No one checks the account, so no one will see it.

—————————

There are many things wrong with this ‘assessment,’ but I summed them up in a short email:

Dear CJ:

I regret to inform you that it is doing fine as it is; any ‘line edit’ would absolutely destroy the style and voice.

The ‘flaws’ you point out are deliberate choices.

Those who like it, love it. It is gathering a nice bunch of reviews on Amazon.

Thanks for your consideration.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, PhD

I sent the email – and then realized there was a donotreply on the email address, so I decided to put it up here instead (though I doubt anyone from XXX will see it).

I have detailed some of those deliberate choices in my post Rules for punctuating consistently: a writer’s unique style.

For example, and to confirm I know the difference between first and third person pov, I use First person and italics to indicate direct internal monologue (ie, an actual thought the character has in exactly those words); there are one or two of those in places where we have access to the character’s thoughts. For indirect internal monologue (general musing), I use Third person and no italics, and that is how we see the story, from the three characters’ points of view. Orson Scott Card taught me how to vary the Third person distance; once you get the hang of it, you can do everything from describing the landscape to being in the character’s head at his/her most intense moments.

I NEVER break the fourth wall.

ALL description is done from the point of view of the characters, a SINGLE character per scene.

And if XXX had bothered to look carefully, the dialogue in that little exchange where Bianca is reviewing in her mind the meeting she just had with Pentell, as she is being driven home, is very carefully marked with single quotes – memories – to distinguish it from the conversation she is simultaneously having with Michael in the car.

It takes a long time for a writer to develop a voice.

You either like what I’m doing – or you don’t get it, and don’t like it, because it isn’t the way you’re used to getting stories fed to you. There isn’t much I can do about that.

But the thought of what a ‘line edit’ from someone like their ‘assessor’ – who has no idea what I’m doing consistently and on purpose – would do to Pride’s Children made my stomach hurt.

Thanks for letting me rant – if you got this far.

Have you had a similar experience with an ‘editor’ – either as a writer or in school? Business English and fiction have no commonalities!

Complete sentences? Really?

Please share your pain.

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*Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make 10 free image/quotes per month, more with a paid account.