WHAT NETHERWORLD’S PAGE 99 SAYS ABOUT THE BOOK AS A WHOLE
This is temporarily page 99, as the final formatting hasn’t been done, but it works well enough to prove (test) the hypothesis: is this page a satisfactory example of the book as a whole, from the author’s (me) point of view?
Minor but recurring characters are a consistent way of looking at a main character, and this is a very good example, so I’m glad it ended up in the Page 99 position.
Kary has no choice but to go see her lawyer, Joseph Farentz, Esq., whom she originally met at a CFS support group meeting when she moved to New Hampshire – when what she needs isn’t something she can get quickly, and she knows that he can. He is very proud he is still working – even though they share a major illness – as a small-town lawyer. She knows how reduced his abilities are and how limited the time he can keep it up, but accepts him at his own valuation, as she does most people. He has indicated interest in her several times, but she is interested only in keeping him as a friend, and has consistently found a gentle way to turn his attentions down without affecting his ego.
Based on the earlier part of the story, we are about to see what it might take to safely get Kary out of her rural retreat and off to any kind of an adventure: the signature on the papers is that of a famous director who heard about her involvement with Bianca’s screenplay, will be directing Andrew’s next movie, and wants her to come advise on it because his Indian costar’s wife is a big fan of Kary’s novels.
Kary knows it makes no sense – and she couldn’t possibly – but… the hook is baited just right, and she’s very tempted.
Because one of her problems is that everyone seems to have an opinion on what she can do. And she’d rather make those decisions herself, though usually in the negative (first line on page).
I like the Page 99 test.
Except for posting an updated Page 69 and Page 99 test pages when the formatting finalizes what these would be for NETHERWORLD, I won’t be doing any more of these until LIMBO is written, but it was fun, and allowed me to look at the concept of making sure ALL pages are in some way representative of the novel, the story, and my writing.
If you’re a writer, have you ever tried these on your own work?
If you’re a reader, what will you think the effect on you will be as you get to these pages? I’d love the feedback.
Yes, I’m working on it.
No, this isn’t really a distraction. Think of it instead as ‘freshening.’ And if you don’t know what that is on a farm, go look it up. Another interesting word that says a lot.
And now I’m all interested in getting the final text to the formatter – to see where page 99 ends up – my ‘reason’ for playing with the new toy.
This test comes from Ford Maddox Ford, again via the Campaign for the American Reader blog, but is a different way of assessing a book, and may well be apocryphal, as mentioned in his Page 99 Test post on Aug. 6, 2014, by R. John Williams, Yale professor and author of The Buddha in the Machine.
In THIS test, Marshal Zeringue asks authors, ‘whether Page 99 reveals “the quality of the whole” about their books.’
That’s a little harder, and the authors who speak about their P. 99 implications have wide and varying opinions about it.
Why is it harder?
Because authors have somehow picked up the notion that they are supposed to let other people – interviewers, reviewers, readers – comment about their work, not themselves, or at least not themselves praising the book.
It means putting my opinions of my own work on record.
Specifically, whether this one page – 99 – is a good way to display the ‘quality’ of the whole.
Funny how that makes my stomach unhappy.
I much prefer the nice comments from reviewers (and usually have no trouble ignoring the less-nice ones).
I’m going to do it anyway
Never waste a good prompt is my motto.
Parental rules to my generation from our parents were meant to keep us from turning into the loud-mouthed, self-centered kid we could have become, because it would mean our parents hadn’t reared us correctly. ‘Children are meant to be seen, not heard,‘ is part and parcel of the same.
I don’t think these rules are followed quite as much any more, but, for example, I never knew my mother thought I had turned out okay until, as a grownup with three children back on a visit to Mexico, I happened to tell her I never felt I had met her exacting standards, and she replied something like, “That’s ridiculous! I brag about you to my friends all the time.”
That was the key. She never told us. And the eldest child does have the tendency to try to please, especially if she’s a girl. I think my four younger sisters figured it out, but they didn’t really leave home (Mexico City) and not come back, as I did.
We had no brothers; I suspect it would have been different, possibly worse, if we had.
I don’t think they meant anything bad by rearing us to enter polite society modestly, when it was our turn, but I was already the odd daughter, the one who wanted to be a scientist, and the nerve endings were exaggeratedly exposed.
Self-promotion is an absolute requirement for indie authors
Many of us aren’t so happy with that part of self-publishing, or maybe it’s only those of use who were older when we started writing.
Or even possibly I missed a lot of changes because, as a Person with ME/CFS, there was little energy left for me and my own concerns after the family got what I wanted them to have from me.
So, do I think that page 99 of PURGATORY reveals the quality of the whole book?
It reveals a lot of the main relationship: Andrew has come to visit for the first time, taking Kary up on a casual offer to drop in if he was in her neighborhood (rural New Hampshire vs. where they met in New York City on Night Talk). The only reason she got a bit of advance warning – less than a minute – was that, due to an overly-aggressive fan, she has had a gate installed at the bottom of her drive, and he had to speak into the CCTV and ask permission to ride his motorcycle up her mountain retreat; otherwise, he would have knocked at her door!
This scene is in Andrew’s point of view (pov), and we haven’t heard from him until this chapter after they said goodbye in NY at the end of Chapter 3.
In the intervening time, Kary was moved to take in the movie Roland, based on the medieval epic poem The Song of Roland, which was the reason he was on the talk show, and was blown away, whereas, being basically a recluse, she’d had no idea who he was when she met him. So their entire relationship is being torn down and replaced though neither of them know it.
The novel has many such accidentally-fraught encounters, each one showing the characters’ behavior under unexpected stressors. And how each character’s inner and outer lives complement each other.
Does this page 99 show off the whole?
It shows Kary’s self-control under extraordinary circumstances – a result of her medical training as a former physician: ‘Never let them see you uncertain.’
I know what is going to happen in scenes – I’m an extreme plotter – but not how, and it’s been fun to essentially listen to the characters to see what they do with my stage directions.
I love that this page has a good example of working characters – so many novel characters don’t seem to do much, but work takes a huge portion of most real people’s lives. They discuss their work – but expectations and reality are at odds.
And it lets a changing inanimate object, the fire in her fireplace, take one of its many mood-setting opportunities. I didn’t grow up with a working fireplace, but after I left home, my parents moved, and the new house’s massive fireplace was used in so many warm gatherings they were almost not complete without a fire (houses in Mexico City usually have neither heating nor air-conditioning, and can be chilly, especially in winter months).
It gives a nod to the relationship between writers and actors which is fundamental to the novels: each asks about the other’s work. She’s been writing earlier, he (and his feet) came from a morning of filming locally. Each is cagey, neither takes the bait to speak at length about themself.
In the whole, I think it does
represent the whole: two of the three main characters, a developing relationship, the settled homestead of the rooted character, the peripatetic nature of a working actor, and something of me as the author.
Not bad for one page!
If I am allowed to say so myself.
If you’ve read Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, was there enough memorable about Andrew’s first visit that you remembered it?
Had you noticed the recurring fires?
Does this scene make you smile?
What do you think of books where no one seems to be employed?
Did you ever think anyone could make a movie out of The Song of Roland? Did it remind you at all of El Cantar del Mío Cid?
Due to the extra challenges I seem to be facing lately, and because I’m getting very antsy about launching Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, whose text has been finished for longer than I expected, I have explored various publishing assistance options – to uniformly fail in finding people who would do it MY WAY.
I have a book out, PURGATORY, for which I had plenty of time, learned graphics (Pixelmator), acquired a cover mentor (thanks, J.M. Ney-Grimm), learned how to format from Scrivener through Word to the final pdf files to upload, etc., etc., in 2015.
It seems quite reasonable to ask someone whom I’m paying to produce the same thing – so they look like a set. Right?
Well, even though the concept seems simple, and I don’t blame them, many ‘professional’ publishing services (all the ones I’ve approached ~ ten of them so far) must make their money by using their preferred software quickly and efficiently, because I had no takers once I explained I’d already made my own design decisions, and wished to keep them.
I don’t have the bandwidth to work with someone learning, or to spend a lot of time going back and forth explaining things, unfortunately, so that avenue didn’t pan out either.
The solution is probably at hand
as I had the inspiration and the sense to ask a friend who has published plenty of his and his wife’s books whether that was something he could see doing – and, if so, what his rates might be.
And got a ‘Yes – let’s try’ back.
I’m still in shock, because I sent him a few emails, and all the images I had accumulated, and a few questions – and the next thing I see (which you won’t, yet – that would be a proper cover reveal) was a cover (he modestly said it was his fourth attempt) that I could have used exactly as it was if I had needed it that fast.
Either they get you, or they don’t
seems to be my fate, and I admit, not to being difficult (every author is picky about their baby), but to being niche (indies don’t often write mainstream – mainstream authors usually want traditional publishers).
He understood everything I said – just as I was starting to think it was me (no, of course not, Alicia).
‘Niche’ means no precedents, no cover tropes to announce the content, and a wide variety of possibilities.
‘Mainstream’ means – for a traditional publisher – giving the cover designer a lot of freedom and latitude and little input from the author. There are some amazing (and probably quite expensive) covers out there that win design prizes. Okay, almost NO input from the author.
And we indies are stubborn.
When do we see it?
Very soon – he is working blazing fast, from what he sent me in a day.
I have a few more things to send him to do a bit of tweaking because we can.
Plus a thing or two about the fonts I should also have sent (but that brain fog has been heavy and dark) from the beginning, and which I will dig out and send today – quibbles.
So what on Earth did he start from?
I put it up there for you as the header image, probably against all reason.
But I thought you’d enjoy the improvement when it comes – though I’m not ready to reveal even that first example he sent yet.
Just see that I actually know what I want, but couldn’t make my brain do the work.
But I’ll get it anyway.
And that makes me happy.
From what he’s already said about formatting, that will be making me happy, too, as soon as I send him the raw materials.
As I’ve always believed – you just need the right person.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
What do you think?
Do I have the ghost of an argument here? Feel free to make your own definition of ‘historical.’
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 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.
Chapter 37 is finished, at 9,274 words for the chapter, 168,958 words total.
NETHERWORLD covers Chapters 21 through 40 in this story.
Since I work only in finished scenes, this means there are only ten scenes left in Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, and I’m getting excited – the last nine are scenes I’ve been looking forward to writing since 2000.
The title of this post is the title of the chapter.
Remember what happened when Icarus did it? Thought so.
I’ve updated the Table of Contents.
I have the cover worked out in my head after some serious thinking about how the three volumes will work together, and, as a bonus, have the idea of the third volume’s cover also percolating but basically decided. The covers will be posted as I get them close to finished.
And the minute all this is published, I will go to the following morning in the story and plunge right into Book #3 of the trilogy – the one that will end the whole story. I hope it will go faster than the 15 and 7 years of the first two.
Advance Reader Copies for reviewers
If you reviewed PURGATORY, I will write to you to see if you would like an electronic ARC of NETHERWORLD to read and review.
If you would like to review NETHERWORLD, but haven’t reviewed PURGATORY, feel free to contact me. I think it’s best to read PURGATORY before reading NETHERWORLD, as the latter starts just a few days after the first one, but they do stand alone even though they share the same main characters, and many secondary ones.
ARCs are extremely close to the finished product; I prefer not to send out unfinished work!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 borrowingPride’s Children: PURGATORY (if you haven’t) or becoming a patron to support Book 2, 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.