Tuesday Writing Tip: Every Generation Has Something to Say

I’m a child of the late 1960s, which – if you do the math of generational pigeonholing – puts me squarely among what has historically been referred to as Generation X. Because we can with some clarity recall live in the final 30 years of the 1900s, we are the last of the true 20th century boys and girls.

The Generation X moniker comes in large part from the novel/short story collection Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland, and has since been used as both a term of derision/proud banner by those who view this demographic from the outside and those who belong to it. Continue reading → Tuesday Writing Tip: Every Generation Has Something to Say

It’s My Birthday, So You Get the Presents (Spoiler – It’s FREE EBOOKS!)

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Hi, yes … that fateful day has arrived. Today I turn 45.

Given the new realities of the lifespan of healthy humans (and the fact that genetics are working in my favor here), unless I do something (else) monumentally stupid, I fully intend to live at least until the age of 90.

That puts me squarely at the doorstep of midlife. Half my life down, half yet to go.

MV5BMzE1MzMzMTExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTk0ODkyMw@@._V1._SX640_SY923_For lots of folks (particularly men), this is a time of re-evaluation. To paraphrase Edna Mode in The Incredibles, men this age are often … unstable.

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Me at 45 – A TSFW (Totally Safe for Work) Selfie in Brown

Well, hopefully no more unstable than on any other day. I won’t be going out shopping for a red Porsche Boxter convertible in which I’ll install a significantly younger woman. I married a significantly younger woman, and if there’s any toodling around in exotic sports cars to be done, it will most certainly be done with her.

And any instability anyone might notice was, honestly, probably there already. Folks working with a full deck rarely go into writing for a living, and they certainly don’t become newspaper reporters or novelists.

So, there’s that.

What I do have, however, is a pretty decent sense of accomplishment. I noted in this space not long ago that Stan Lee, dean of Marvel Comics and the creator of most of its characters, didn’t create cornerstone superhero Spider Man until he after he turned 40. Stan is now 90 years old, which means he’s spent the last 50 years not as Stan Lee, but as STAN-friggin’-LEE!!!, who still runs a media empire, hosts a TV show or two and maintains a busy schedule of sci-fi and comic book convention appearances.

colt_45That carries a lot of weight with me because I admire late bloomers. I never aspired to be one of those pain-in-the-ass writers who busts out of the gate at 25 with a Pulitzer Prize-winner (mainly because what those sort of writers produce is usually self-absorbed, whiny crap, but that’s another blog posting).

As someone who got carded for booze up until his 32nd birthday and took 20 years to write his first book, I realized it might take me a while to grow into this whole novelist thing. But once I managed to give birth to that 300+ page baby at the (entirely appropriate, given my genre) age of 42, there’s been no looking back. If I never write anything again, I can rest assured knowing that I have added my own little piece of original creativity to the universe.

And there are other, perhaps more significant, accomplishments, too. I have amazing friends, cultivated over decades, who remain the sort of people I can talk now exactly the way we did when we were in high school or our early jobs. They provide me with a constant source of encouragement and inspiration and I am in awe of a great many of them every day. I can only hope I send back to them just a fraction of the love, support and laughter they send my way.

And most importantly, I have an amazing family – a beautiful wife who supports me with warmth, patience and love through all the ups and downs of this writing life and frequently jumps in to help with a needed dose of reality, and two spectacularly smart, funny and kindhearted children who are always proud to tell their friends and teachers that their daddy is a writer.

But wait a minute. Let’s put the brakes on the sentimentality. Weren’t you promised presents?

Indeed you were.

Without you, the readers, my family and friends would still be with me, my work would still get done and my book – and those I still hope to write – would still be out there. But without readers, a book is only words on a page.

Once you – a stranger – pick it up and begin that first chapter, you become a willing participant in a reality that another has created. It’s like telepathy in a way. I’m putting my thoughts into your head, and in the midst of the trance-state we call “reading,” those thoughts are manifested in your own mind as an alternate reality. Other than unconditional love, I believe it’s the closest thing to magic any of us will ever really experience.

So as my gift to you, starting today I’m offering the Kindle version of Immaculate Deception free for three days through Amazon, in the hope that if you enjoyed it, you’ll be inclined to let others know that they can, as well – and with minimum risk. Other than individually shaking your hands or giving you big, wet kisses, it’s the best I can do.

Really, thank you ever so much. And here’s to another 45 years.

One Amazon/Goodreads Combo, Comin’ Up

goodreads-and-amazonSo, Amazon – great, lumbering consumer juggernaut that it is – gobbled up literary social networking site Goodreads in (an impeccably timed) Good Friday announcement.

If you’re interested in catching up, check out the New York Timesoriginal story and this interesting bit of analysis on Amazon’s motivation from the Washington Post.

I saw the news but, consumed with pre-Easter prep and the celebrations of the weekend, put off posting until today. Not very New Media of me, but what the hell. Not much thoughtful analysis takes place by the bozos who insist on posting first.

But what struck me right off the bat when I heard of this move was, “Huh … Amazon, which already owns Shelfari, now feels it should own Goodreads, which was run by Barnes & Noble. Amazon makes Kindles, the most popular e-readers around, but couldn’t build itself a workable, popular literary networking site, while B&N, which produces the floundering Nook, had what was the most popular literary networking site around. Interesting how each could make one part of the puzzle work, but not the other.”

As I said, lots of other better informed folks have already chimed in on this, but I would like to point out that while ownership of the formerly pseudo-independent Goodreads by Amazon will likely put the recommendations portion of Goodreads under tighter control, it also puts two of the biggest arrows of the independent author/publisher arsenal into the same quiver.

Whether this will be good or bad for me and other indie authors remains to be seen. As both an author and a member of Codorus Press, I think my biggest concern is the danger of reader reviews somehow being deleted or diluted. As any author will tell you, one of the best ways to sell books – whether hard copies or e-books – is through word of mouth. And typically, that word of mouth these days comes thanks to online reviews from readers.

To take that major selling point from us kicks a leg out from beneath authors and small publishers who, shunned by big-box booksellers – of which B&N is the last – were standing on just one leg to begin with.

What Amazon should remember is that for many indies, Kindle Direct and the Amazon-owned print-on-demand service CreateSpace are the only places where some titles are available. For the company to keep Goodreads as intact and independent as possible would better serve Amazon by continuing to drive sales in what I would suspect are its two biggest growth sectors.

The Cranky Reader Redux

Back in October I wrote here about the Blessings of the Cranky Reader, in which I ruminated on the emotional and creative repercussions of receiving my first 1-star, boy-this-book-really-sucks review for my novel Immaculate Deception.

Strangely, in the last couple of days that review has disappeared from Amazon. I was aware that Amazon had started paring down the reviews of some authors’ works when they might have been written by those who could profit from the book doing well, but this certainly didn’t fall into that category. Amazon has also targeted “competing” authors who write poor reviews of their peers’ books, but this guy seemed more of a literary wannabe who took pleasure in eviscerating the work of others than someone who would be able to create on his own.

So now I’m trying to decide if the author of that review had a change of heart, or realized that because I had blogged about it his review might have gotten a lot more attention than he originally intended.

I’m not sure either way, but I’m going on record here to say that while I did direct people specifically to that review for purposes of illustrating the points in my earlier blog entry, at no point did I solicit any flaming, complaints or commentary from anyone who might have taken issue with what he review said. I don’t work that way, and was fully prepared to let that review stand as a testament to someone having read my book and just not liking it.

In fact (and this does sound a little weird), I kind of miss that brutal review. It was a nice little link to the real – a reminder that I should never start believing my own hype and that we’re never as good as we think we are, but we should still always strive to be better.

So adieu, Mr. Cranky Reader. I’m sure you’ll find other folks’ books to bash. But I just want you to know that I still appreciate you reading mine and taking the time out to bash it yourself.

Gargantuan Book Giveaway Week!

One of the greatest ways to get books into the hands of readers – you know, other than sneaking them into their messenger bags on the subway – is to offer them for free.

I’ve done this a couple of times with some degree of success, especially in the e-book market, where offers of free books are welcomed heartily by all those Kindle readers out there who think 99 cents is just TOO DAMN MUCH to pay for books.

Really, though – everyone loves a bargain, and if handing out books like they were bank teller lollypops is what it takes to get back in there with Uncle Kurt V. at the top of the Satire cart on Amazon, it’s what I’m willing to do. As I often tell people who are considering getting into any kind of publishing – indie or mainstream – giving away a certain amount of free product is a great way not only to get your work in front of more sets of eyeballs, but also to start building a rapport with readers who appreciate the fact that you’re willing to occasionally share your art with them for nothing.

Naturally, as an author I hope for a couple of things in doing this. One, that readers who take advantage of offers like this will return the favor with reviews of the novel. Notice I didn’t say “favorable” reviews – that would just be asking too much. I really want to know what a wide variety of readers thought, and I’m understanding of the fact that my novel isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good time. But the more people at the party the better, and I like to hear from everyone, even those who are honestly sharing what they didn’t think was fantastic.

So, if you’re a Kindle reader and have yet to download your copy of Immaculate Deception at the normal low, low price of $2.99, take the opportunity to get it through Aug. 22 for everyone’s favorite price, FREE! Just click the Kindle photo or here to go straight to the e-book site and enjoy.

The other giveaway running simultaneously with that for the Kindle is a hard-copy giveaway through Goodreads, a fantastic social networking site for people who love reading and love interacting with other people who love to read.

In this one, also running Aug. 20-22, five signed copies of the paperback edition of Immaculate Deception will be up for grabs, with the winners chosen by Goodreads’ mystical oracle of all knowing bookdom, then reported to me for final delivery of the books.

While I’d love to give out as many paperback editions as e-books, the economies of scale don’t really permit it (and the resulting marital discord it would cause wouldn’t be worth the hefty legal fees it would take to resolve things). Still, though, I like the Goodreads option because it again gets more eyeballs on the cover and synopsis, luring more potential readers to add the novel to their “want to read” lists, in the hope that someday they will in fact read.

So come join the party either way. Download or enter to win your free copy, have a beverage on me (in a virtual sort of way) and have a scuppernong grape from the table of cyber muchies. You’ll be glad you did.