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Nuggets of Wisdom, Inspiration or Whatever

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Last night I had an interesting chat with a reader. Actually he became a reader over the course of the chat as he downloaded Fried Windows. He intended to purchase it but discovered, to his delight, that it was on a special one-day free promotion. It was a win. He began reading it between our chat posts. It was kind of surreal experience for both of us. He had immediate access to the author of a book he was reading and I was receiving immediate feedback on something I had written. Again, it was winning situation.

Although I don’t expect other writers to attempt such a thing it was uplifting. You see, whenever I’m revising something as I have been doing with The Wolfcat Chronicles, I become hypercritical of my writing. At times I wonder why I’m write at all. I’ve been at this game long enough to know that happens and I shouldn’t read too much into the feelings of inadequacy. But until I’m is happy with a book revising it can be a depressing experience. In the course of chatting I was reminding of some of the dramatic moments during the revisions and multiple edits of Fried Windows. Looking back, it’s probably a minor miracle the book was ever published at all.

Specifically I recall one day in the summer of 2013. I was in the midst of preparing the book for substantive edits. From 3AM to 3PM, except for bathroom breaks and trips to refill a water bottle from the filtered tap in the kitchen, I worked on three chapters with which I was not particularly happy. I didn’t finish the effort at that time, though.

My great niece invited me to a dinner party along with my sister, brother-in-law, my nephew and his girlfriend. Although I was present in body and the evening might have been a welcome departure from being obsessed with book revisions my mind was not all there. My overriding concern was getting the book to a point that the publisher and editors could begin working on it so that it could be published in about eight or nine months. Let’s say it put a damper on any potential for fun that evening.

My family is use to my idiosyncrasies. So no one thought I was being weird – any more so than what was usual. I’m not always the most talkative sort, anyway. And since I quit drinking I’ve not been the life of any party – if in fact I ever was except in my own inebriated brain. Somewhere along the way that evening, in the background I mentally assembled a fix for the three chapters in question. Upon returning home, I spend another hour or so laboring over the revision and hammered out what pretty-much became the final version of those chapters. That’s not to say i was finished with the book. Following the publishers substantive review I had eleven pages of notes to go through and a month or so to respond. I actually finished the substantive edits in about a week, which included adding three chapters and rereading the entire book for continuity because of the additions.

I’m telling you all of this because, other than hearing generalized praise from fiends and family and reading posted reviews for my work, last night was the first time since the book was published that anyone gave me direct feedback on the work. That it happened in real time over the Internet from six time ones away was pretty amazing.

Some nuggets of wisdom, inspiration or whatever were brought to my attention. There are a lot of those in the book. Usually they come from Strawb (Mrs. Fields) or Lucy and not the main character, Brent. In fact I might pitch the book as an inspirational piece because of all those elements. Consider them a bonus. As it says on the back cover of the book (provided you have the paperback version) the characters’ perspectives on their world will change the way you think about yours – forever.

Fried Windows is an urban fantasy with elements of science fiction blend with neorealism. That might seem ambitious but it never started off to be anything more than a cute story about a middle-aged man in a mid-age crisis.

Brent Woods is a computer technician working for a technology retailer. While helping out on the sales floor on a busy Sunday he helps an elderly lady named Mrs. Fields who insists he deliver and set up her new computer system. Days later, while trying to decipher her convoluted directions the adventure begins. In the course Mrs. Fields offers Brent a chance to reconnect with his childhood fantasy world and his best ‘imaginary’ friend. The question from the outset is which the one of these characters is really crazy? By the end of the story answering that no longer matters.

The book contains some personal philosophies, I suppose. The resilience of character and believing in one’s dreams enough to continue to pursue them against all odds are also themes. Brent is a good father and loving husband who experiences something extraordinary that changes him forever but is also reconnects him with a past that he either wanted to forgot or was forced to do so.

Mainly the book is intended to be as much fun as thought provoking. When I wrote it I was not in a good situation. So some of that inspired me and  writing provided an escape. For the first time in a very long time I was seriously contemplating being a full-time writer. The only problem was being able to afford the adventure. I had no savings, was out of work and really was burned out on working in my career field.

One day I wrote a poem (yeah, I’m not much of a poet but I have been known to knock out a few). It was about being a kid and going to a carnival. I posted it on a website where other writers could read and comment on it. The feedback on it was positive. That became the catalyst to writing a story that now comprises the first two chapters of Fried Windows. After posting it on the same site and receiving feedback, what I originally intended to be a short story evolved into a series of short stories with the same same characters and overall theme. After writing and posting fifteen installments over the course of a month I had the nucleus of the book. In fact several of the other writers who were commenting on my postings suggested such.

Afterwards, my life got worse for a while, about a far from where I hoped to be as imaginable. Yet I continued to write. Fried Windows was on the back burner, though, as I continued working on other projects. It wasn’t until a month before I actually submitted Fried Windows to my present publisher that I assembled the separated short stories into a novel format adding a few chapters and an ending.

The main difference between Fried Windows and other manuscripts I’ve written is that from the outset I never intended for it to be a novel. In itself that is not all that odd, though. Every writer I know experiences a story that refuses to go away. He or she may start out to write one thing but winds up writing something entirely different. That’s the magic of creativity. Sometimes the best things kind of write themselves. Every writers experience is different in the same ways – if that makes sense.

Fried Windows is one of the few books a publisher accepted – and likely one of the few books I’ve submitted to a publisher that anyone bothered to read. Having said that I submitted the first two chapters of the book as a short story to a magazine. Shortly before submitting it to Pandamoon Publishing the magazine rejected it. So, in a lot of ways, it is a story that wouldn’t quit and I never gave up on it. If there is a secret to success in writing it is to keep writing until you know something is as finished as it will ever be.

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#FriedWindows #Writing #Revising #Readers #Feedback #Inspiration #Publishing

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Do You Believe You’re An Author?

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Publishing a book has never been easier. For would be authors that is good news. With the means to upload your manuscript and self-publishing it literally anyone can become an author. But there are some other, intangible factors making two questions key in the process. 1) Do you believe you’re an author? 2) Does the public believe you’re an author?

The ease with which books can be published has created degrees of authorship. Technically, the act of making a book available for the public to read makes one an author. A professional author makes at least a portion of his or her living form selling the books he or she writes. A successful author makes the majority of his or her living from writing. A best selling author is someone whose book reaches and maintains high ranking on a list of best selling books, whether by genre, class, time period or other consideration. So clearly just becoming published, whether it is self fulfilled or executed through a publisher, is only the initial step. The reader’s buy-in literally makes a difference in whether a writer is effectively an author.

There is a question about the legitimacy of self-published books. Some of that carries over from the past when vanity presses would publish any book for a fee. Critics refused to read such offerings and largely the process existed for writers to print personal memoirs to be shared with friends, family members and colleagues. However, in some cases, certain authors used vanity presses to print their manuscripts that major publishers rejected for whatever reason and  sold them personally  in much the same way as books were produced and marketed in the 19th Century. A few authors have gained the attention of literary agents and major publishers from bonafide sales of self-publoished works. This process continues even today.

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Major publishers may see themselves as gate keepers charged with filtering the variety and  volume of books to find those fit to print. But there are countless examples of books major publishers rejected that have gone on to be insanely popular, just because the publisher worried about the controversial nature or the material or failed to see its marketability. The single fact is that the five major publishers do not know what the reading public will like. They guess, same as anyone else.

What major publishers traditionally offer are editing, cover design, promotion and distribution services. Also they lend the company’s brand name, image and prestige as a badge of quality for the produced work – whether perceived or real. In many cases the quality component of their offerings comes from the simple process of professional editing.

Other services major publishers offer can be obtained in other ways… for a fee. Anyone can contract professional cover designer and arrange for appropriate channel distribution to have a book listed for bookstores and libraries. Promotional services can be purchased through contract with established marketing firms specializing in specific media that offer publicity and advertising in trade publication as well as general print and broadcast channels. Tech savvy authors may develop a personal following through social media and use that to leverage an initial pop for sales for a new release. As major publishing houses control over the industry has continuously eroded more and more authors weigh the value of their services and decide whether to do more of the work themselves and reap the rewards of higher royalties.

From a reader’s perspective the rise of self publishing has provided millions of new titles that might never otherwise exist. But with the plethora of material out there the reader may be at a loss for which books to choose. The book cover and description become all the more important in the decision process. Reviews, recommendations and other factors such as previous purchase experience matters as well. If a reader has an overall positive experience the author may gain a new fan. Also the reader may effectively recruit other readers for an author through word of mouth recommendations and a fan base may begin to grow. But if the reader’s experience is bad it will be difficult for an author to regain lost trust. Also the negative word of mouth may spread and quickly destroy the author’s chances in the market place. The recent addition of try before you buy programs offering samples of books or allowing the actual borrowing of a book help counter the hesitation in the buying process. But still, it is the quality of the book that will close the sale.

From a consumer perspective the cover and description may be critically important in making a purchase decision, but the quality of the reading experience always determines the success of the book. If there are numerous errors, whether lapses in editing, misspelled words or critical flaws in the plot, the reader may forego reading the balance of a book and move on to something more appealing. This is why every author, whether self published or working with a publisher, needs to have a professional editor. Any author who believes that he or she can edit his or her own book is foolish. Regardless of editing or basic proofreading skills when dealing with other peoples’ works it is a proven fact that when working with one’s own writing an author tends to see what should be there as opposed to what is actually there. For the reader, coming across a glaring mistake interrupts the flow of reading and breaks the suspension of disbelief necessary for complete immersion into the contrived reality of a book.

If you are to become a successful, best selling, professional author, you must have a supportive fan base that loves your books. Your readers validate you as an author, not how the book was processed and made available for purchase. Without loyal readers your status as an author is questionable.

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#readers #authors #writing #publishing #self-publishing

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The Importance Of Readers

Every author knows that without readers he or she isn’t really an author. Usually the distinction between an author and a writer is that the author sells what he or she writes. I suppose intention also needs to be considered because a writer may write something without any intention of publishing it while an author writes with the a potential reader is mind. The distinction is important these days when anyone with a computer and enough spare time to write a manuscript can eventually upload it and press the publish button. Technology has forever blurred the demarcation between author and writer. Although it creates a plethora of material from which a reader may choose it has also overwhelmed the public with choices.

A possible criterion for a new definition of author might be a writer who has been published (whether through a publisher or self-published) and has sold a piece of writing for the purpose of having it widely distributed to a base of fan established solely from publication of his or her writing. With this definition, personal friends and family members who purchase books based on a relationship apart from the usual reader/author connection would be excluded from the determination.

My point is that with million of books now being published each year, the vast majority of which are offered through self-publishing, the term author needs to be qualified for the sake of a reader’s understanding. With upwards of 70% of all books published fail to recover production costs – and that figure is probably going up as more and more people self-publish – the simple ability to publish a book should not make someone an author. This is not intended to dismiss the work of self-published authors. Some are highly successful. But they are successful because they do something well that has nothing to do with whether he or she has self-published. They have established a credential as an author with their readers.

It is no surprise to authors and writers alike that what we do is not an lucrative enterprise. Even for successful authors, by the time one composes, revises, edits, revises again, edits again and then submits a manuscript for publication the author has earned far less than minimum wage. But successful authors, those who have an enduring kind of brand – don’t write for the money. The readers is the focus and perhaps that is what truly makes someone an author instead of just a writer.

Authors are professional writers who create works with the intention of sharing them with their readers. That may be the best definition of what an author is. It removes the crass necessity of selling books from the equation at the point of inception for a written work and delivers something for the reader to determine its success or failure . You see, if given the choice, most true authors would prefer being read and appreciated to making any money on the transaction. These days, so few authors make a living solely from writing that it is clearly not money that com els us to write. So, that brings me to the real point of this blog post – the importance of readers.

Without a reader an author is a failure. There is a relationship created when an author convinces someone to read his or her book. In some ways it is similar to asking for a first date. If the date goes well there may be another date and another and son on until it is a serious relationship based on trust – that the author will provide for the reader’s need for a certain sort of diversion.

Readers need to escape for whatever time from whatever they are dealing with in real life. A well-conceived story offers that. You see, at some point a writer must evolve into an entertainer in order to attain the next level, authorship. Whether he or she writes fiction or non-fiction the ability to tell a story is paramount to the development. I’ve often heard other authors tell me that the highest praise they can receive from a reader is being called a storyteller.

It is the quality of the story that compels a reader to read on to the conclusion, write reviews praising a particular work and recommend the read to friends. That part of the process of building a fan base is sorely lacking in modern publishing where almost anyone can become an author without much more effort than merely writing something. Why so many authors fail to sell  is that a book to succeed it doesn’t need huge launch events, blog tours or full page ads in major market newspapers – although those things may contribute to a enticing new readers to try a book. What must happen at some point in the process of building an authors reputation is for a reader to like a book enough that he or she convinces three or more people to read the book and, subsequently, those three or more people convince three or more people each to also read the book – an so on. That and only that supersedes all the hype. That creates a viral effect of popularity necessary for a book to become a best seller and its author to earn a living doing what he or she loves most, writing.

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#writing #readers #books, #publishing, #authors, #writers

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An Author’s Friends and Family

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I’ve decided not to overanalyze anything to do with the response to my recent book release. As there is nothing really controversial in Fried Windows I don’t expect a lot of fallout from anything I have written. Maybe I stretched my imagination a little more than usual, at least as much as I bent the truth, but it’s intention was mainly harmless fun. I’m not sure why my friends aren’t flocking to read it, but that’s okay. Mostly my friends never paid that much attention to anything I said before I started writing. So why should it be different now?

Anyway, part of becoming an authors is seeking new friends. They’re called readers. The reason is not to discard and replace old friends but to acquire followers as a supplement to those who have known the author since before… Unlike old friends, the new friends find it easy to become fans. Why shouldn’t they?  They know an intimate part of the author, what he or she writes. I’m not sure every old friend can become an avid follower and reader of an author. It may have something to do with being there in high school and knowing the real story. Old friends saw the stupid crap we did. They were the ones carrying our drunken asses to dorm rooms in college. They were the ones we confessed any number of things to here and there along the way.

Family isn’t much better as as source of readers. There are exceptions, but most buy an authors book out of familial obligation. Few ever read the book all the way through. Those who do probably deserve a medal for perseverance. I get that.

You see, like friends, family knows us for our flaws and secrets. They know some things abut us better than friends because they share a genetic identity. They understand our special level of crazy because they were not only there with us while growing up together but also they have some of the same traits.

Like fiends, relatives hear a real voice when they read our words in print. Sometimes that is at least unsettling. I suppose it can be unnerving, especially when reading a fictional account that seems kind of familiar. Moreover, family is used to giving us advice, not necessarily hearing concoct long, convoluted stories that may actually make some sense – especially when those stories come pretty darned close to revealing things that really happened to this or that other family member.

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In Fried Windows I have tried not to borrow too much from reality. But there are some situations that some might recall. The book is a fantasy, though. There are always pieces of an author’s life that find their ways into a book. That why names are changed to protect the author as much as anyone else. The parts that borrow from real life distort the facts enough to be mostly idle fabrication.

On balance, I think I’ll gain friends from having written the book. I doubt I’ll lose any friends along the way – I hope not. I wrote the book to be a fun read and I think it accomplishes that. I wanted it to change the way every reader looks at the world around them. Maybe it does that. For those who will read it, please let me know what you think. And yes, there is much more of Brent’s story left to be told.

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Three Weeks Out

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I know what you’re thinking…well, maybe not – not exactly, but I can probably guess. What in the world is a guy like me doing writing a book? Yeah, seriously, right? A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’ve been writing for a while now. Then next question is always, do you have anything published?

How is it that someone I know fairly well doesn’t know that essential nugget about me? Guess it never came up in conversation before. You see, I do a lot of other things besides writing books. What I do for fun, mostly, in my spare time is write. Family aside, that has been a fairly well kept secret, though. Some of my past co-workers and classmates know about ‘the books’, and a few have heard pieces of the plots or read some of the material I have written. But, for the most part, the people who read my books tend to be total strangers. And that’s okay. I mean, I get it – why people who know me don’t read my books. Really, I do.

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It’s sort of freaky knowing someone personally and then reading his or her book. You hear the voice, you know some of the background, so it is a little bit distracting when you’re reading because you’re almost always second guessing things, trying to piece together the connections between the person you know and the author you are reading. I don’t know, maybe that’s why writers have this sort of aloof, hermit reputation, like you can’t get to know anyone so well that they won’t be able to read a book and become immersed in its fantasy world – or something like that. But I think my stories are engaging enough the draw anyone into them, even those who know me well. Give it a shot.

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Some writers might tell you that it doesn’t matter whether anyone reads their books as long as they buy them, but that has never made sense to me. If that is truly the case then why write them at all? If the objective were to make money there are many easier ways to do that than writing books. I think a real, honest writer would tell you its the other way around. As long as someone reads the book it doesn’t matter as much if anyone actually buys it. The only problem with that is that a writer needs to make a living. And making a living is why aspiring writers have side jobs.

Everyone I know should at least sample Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), my next book that is due out three weeks from today. If you do, I’m sure you’ll end up reading it the entire book. It’s that kind of story. Also, you’ll tell everyone you know to read it because that’s what people do when they enjoy a story. And I’ll continue writing; you’ll continue reading and things will work out as i planned when I set out on this adventure several years ago.

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