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Posts from the ‘authors’ Category

Now that we’ve moved past the author’s newsletter idea. . .

. . .we’re back to being content to write a blog, maintain a website, and keep up with an author’s page on Facebook.

I read an interview this morning with an author whose focus is memoirs and essays. The interviewer said he thought she tended to use an extraordinary amount of personal material in her nonfiction. And she said, when she cared enough to write about an issue, it was usually because she had personal experience with that issue and so all her fears, battles, and second-guessing of herself flowed into the essay making it very personal.

I’m afraid that would happen if I wrote a newsletter. The thing is, a newsletter–like most of an author’s promotional efforts–is supposed to be all about you (the prospective reader) and not all about me (the author).

So, a newsletter filled with all my personal demons really isn’t going to cut it. When I see interviews with emerging authors, I really want to see more about the work they’re focussing on rather than memories about their experiences in English classes when they first wrote fiction or poetry. I want to know about their work, not their demons.

I’ve written elsewhere about the mistakes nonprofit organizations make when they advertise events and focus their news releases on how worthy their causes are rather than on what the public will get out of paying to attend the events. While it sounds crass to put it this way, when most of us see a news story about a book or a concert or even about a product, our primary consideration usually includes asking what’s in it for me? Will I enjoy the event? Is this my kind of book? Do I really have a use for the product?

So, like other small-press authors who don’t have a heavy schedule of events to publicize, a newsletter could quickly degenerate into an all about me kind of thing. That seems presumptuous. And, if those receiving the newsletter make book selections like I do, they buy a book because it looks entertaining, not because the author had to take three Xanax a day to get the thing written.

Most small-press authors don’t have enough news to put in a newsletter, so considering starting one requires a lot of thought. If you send out a newsletter too often, people start thinking they’re getting SPAM. If you don’t send out a newsletter often enough, then they probably won’t remember signing up to get the thing. So, if an author isn’t prolific and/or doesn’t have a heavy schedule of appearances, it’s doing to be difficult thinking up enough news to justify mailing anything out.

Better to leave people alone, I think, and hope they find my blog or website or Facebook page.

Malcolm

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Those gurus, bless their hearts, say I need a newsletter

When I went away to college, my parents expected me to write home every couple of days. I said I wasn’t going to do that because I had nothing to say. That was true enough because every day was just like they day before it: I sat in a classroom, ate meals, studied, watched TV, went to bed, got up the next morning and sat in a classroom.

Some writers’ newsletters sound about like that. When they do, they’re so boring we can’t bring ourselves to write them, much less expect you to suffer through reading them. It’s hard enough thinking of something reasonably interesting to put in this blog. Heaven help me if I had to turn out a newsletter three or four times a month.

I’ve toyed with the idea of a fake newsletter. I could name it Trigger Warnings and fill it full of stuff that will push a lot of buttons that shouldn’t be pushed. Some folks used to argue that if a person put something nasty in quotes, they couldn’t be blamed for saying it. Trigger Warnings would be like that. I warn you with some introductory boilerplate, say stuff you don’t want to hear, and then hit the send button.

That kind of thing strikes my fancy because I have a trickster approach to life. If one just doesn’t say a thing, I want to say it.

Since quotation marks absolve me of misspeaking–as politicians often say–I could begin my newsletter with “Dear Bastards” and it would be okay. So then I could say, using an old-fashioned grin symbol <g> that while I appreciate your “congrats,” “great story,” and other fine comments on Facebook about my novels, I want to point out that if you don’t leave an Amazon reader review, my book is toast.

My wife–who has known me since 1979–is often surprised at what I say while we’re talking to “normal people.” Those “normal people” tend to get drunk after talking to me because I love saying what shouldn’t be said.

Trigger Warning: This might make you sick

Presumably, “normal people” would sign up for my newsletter and then immediately unsubscribe the first time I wrote about roadkill salad. On the plus side, roadkill salad is free unless you add mayo. And chopped pecans.

But I would want to be honest. That means if I was thinking about writing a poem about “roadkill salad,” I would have to tell you that and see what you thought. Sure, you might need a couple of Xanax to get through the newsletter, but it would still be liberating. See, that’s what tricksters do. We liberate you from everything that makes you sick, embarrassed, crazy, and politically inept.

Or, I might suggest that every subscriber had to buy 1,000 copies of my books and give them to relatives, prisoners, and random people on the street.

You can see, can’t you, why I don’t really think this newsletter is a great idea?

Malcolm

 

 

 

National Poetry Month: Harjo Wins Jackson Poetry Prize

“New York, NY – April 25, 2019 – Joy Harjo has won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize. The prize, endowed by John and Susan Jackson, is awarded annually by Poets & Writers to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It carries a significant monetary award, increased this year to $65,000, and aims to provide what poets need: time and encouragement to write.”

Source: JOY HARJO WINS JACKSON POETRY PRIZE | Poets & Writers

Best of news. Of course, I’m biased. She’s one of my favorite current poets, mentioned here earlier this month

–Malcolm

Kylie Chan is creating Fiction | Patreon

Hi there! I’m Kylie Chan, an Australian writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction based on the Gold Coast.

My books are successful in my home country of Australia, and I’ve been shortlisted many times for awards in my country. Not so much overseas. This means that although I’m popular and well-known here, I don’t have the same sort of profile (and success) elsewhere. Australia has a small population (and book-buying market) so this dramatically affects my earnings.

I’m making enough to live on as a full-time writer: I’m not rich but I’m getting by. (I make much less than most people think I do. If I worked nine-to-five I’d be bringing in minimum wage. This isn’t really relevant, though, because 1. It’s a fourteen-hour-day and 2. I don’t really consider it work.)

Source: Kylie Chan is creating Fiction | Patreon

Students of literature and other arts know that in years gone by, many writers, composers, and artists had patrons. From time to time, I read of modern-day authors setting up subscription services and crowdfunding plans to help them raise money for their work. In addition to that, grants and awards help many authors complete work they’d otherwise be unable to do.

So, I support the concept and hope that Kylie Chan’s multi-tiered benefits for various levels of monthly subscriptions will help her travel for research and go to conventions for her promotional efforts.

I am currently on my second reading through her nine-volume Xuan Wu epic fantasy series (three linked trilogies) set in Hong Kong and its traditional celestial realms. It’s an enjoyable and ambitious work.

Many authors are not widely enough known to apply for grants and/or set up patron-style crowdfunding plans. Chan’s readers will note, of course, that she is published by Harper (not an easy thing to accomplish) so she is starting from a higher platform than small-press authors who find it next to impossible to even get their work reviewed by mainstream media outlets, much less have it considered by major competitions or best-of-the-year lists. Whether one goes Chan’s route with a major publisher or goes the self-published or small-press route, the odds of success for authors are more discouraging than going to Vegas and making a profit at the casinos.

I wish Chan well and I wish the media would expand its book coverage and actively consider saying something about authors who don’t have huge conglomerate publishers behind their work.

Malcolm

Bestselling Fantasy Writer Christopher Paolini Kicks of New B&N Residency Program

Book Bits Special

from Barnes and Noble

New York, NY – February 4, 2019 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest retail bookseller, today announced that it will host fantasy writer Christopher Paolini for a 10-month author residency to celebrate his internationally bestselling Inheritance Cycle series, as well as his new collection of three stories set in the world of Alagaësia: The Fork, the Witch and the Worm. As part of this national tour, Paolini will appear at 11 Barnes & Noble locations from March through December 2019 with an enhanced customer experience that includes a presentation by Paolini, a booksigning, exclusive trivia, social media photo opportunities with an exclusive backdrop, and an exclusive giveaway, while supplies last.

“We are so excited to be working with Random House Children’s Books to host author Christopher Paolini on this exciting author residency tour,” said Stephanie Fryling, Vice President of Merchandising, Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble. “Fans will have the chance to have an exclusive experience with Paolini and enter the world of Eragon in a way like never before at Barnes & Noble stores across the country.”

Wikipedia Photo

Christopher Paolini is best known as the author of the Inheritance Cycle, a bestselling series comprised of four books including Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance. Paolini wrote Eragon shortly after graduating high school at age 15. The Fork, the Witch and the Worm is Paolini’s newest book in the fantasy series, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list.

“It has been such a blast meeting so many Eragon fans while on tour for The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. I look forward to meeting even more of them on my national Barnes & Noble 2019 Residency Tour,” Paolini said.

The tour will kick off in Paolini’s hometown of Bozeman, MT, on March 4. The full list of tour dates are below.

Barnes & Noble Christopher Paolini 2019 Residency Tour Dates:

Bozeman, MT, Monday, March 4, 5 PM
Boise, ID, Saturday, April 13, 6 PM
Albuquerque, NM, Friday, May 10, 7 PM
Edina, MN, Sunday, June 9, 1 PM
Briargate, Colorado Springs, CO, Friday, June 14, 2 PM
Exton, PA, Saturday, July 13, 1 PM
Akron, OH, Friday, August 9, 7 PM
Springfield, MO, Saturday, September 14, 3 PM
Grand Rapids, MI, Friday, October 11, 6:30 PM
Orem, UT, Saturday, November 9, 2 PM
Stonebriar Mall, Frisco, TX, Sunday, December 8, 2 PM

Poll – why do you like self-publishing (if you do)

I’m curious why so many writers go directly into self-publishing rather than trying to find a traditional publisher or an agent first. How do you feel about it?

Note, with a mainstream publisher, you don’t pay for editing or cover design and you may have a shot at major review sites and interviews that are difficult for self-published authors to get.

We’ve been lucky with our audiobook narrators

Actually, it’s not all luck. Since my hearing is terrible, the publishers’ skills in selecting prospective readers, listening to reading samples taken from the text of the books, and negotiating costs and schedules are more important than the luck. My audiobooks are available on Audible and Amazon. Those are good places to check out if you’re looking for your first audiobook. Or, you can go to the primary publication covering the market, AudioFile. In addition to industry information and profiles of narrators, they also publish reviews. What you want to look for there are reviews in the books have been designated as Earphones Award Winners. Those not only have a great story but a great narrator (also called a reader).

The audio edition of my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat has a wonderful narrator with lots of presence in her voice and style, that I wasn’t surprised when “AudioFile” liked her work and awarded her with a pair of red earphones in the review. Wanda J. Dixon turned in what, in the movies, would have been an Oscar-winning performance.

She went past the call of duty. . .

“AudioFile” Review

Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the “sleeping” sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and “Colored Only” signs were routine. Dixon’s Lena is fully believable when she spies around town and reports to Eulalie that rednecks have raped and murdered a young woman. They almost escape until Eulalie persuades a witness to come forward. Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2016]

And then, there’s Emily. . .

The first book of mine to come out in an audio edition was Emily’s Stories. (The e-book and paperback editions are out of print, but I’m happy to say that the audio edition narrated by actress Kelley Hazen is still available). It was strangely wonderful to hear (to the extent that I can) the voice of an actress I’d seen in movies and television reading my lines. “AudioFile” liked the book but didn’t award it with a pair of red earphones. That surprised me because the narration is spot on with multiple tones of voice for the different characters, including a bird and a ghost.

 

“AudioFile” Review

Kelley Hazen’s spirited delivery enhances Campbell’s descriptive writing in these three stories about 14-year-old Emily Walters. “High Country Painter” present a talkative Emily and a realistic-sounding bird that directs Emily to magically draw obstacles to divert a grizzly bear. In “Map Maker,” Emily meets an eerie-sounding ghost who helps her save a sacred forest from developers. In “Sweetbay Magnolia,” Hazen captures Grandma Walters’s elderly voice as well as her persistence and wit to perfection. Young listeners will enjoy hearing Emily explain about TMI–too much information. Hazen’s skill at creating believable bird and ghost voices adds to the listening pleasure. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2017]

And that’s not all. . .

The second book in my Florida Folk Magic Trilogy, Eulalie and Washerwoman, was wonderfully narrated Tracie T Elice Christian. We’re currently in audiobook production for Lena, the final novel in the trilogy. An early satire of mine, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire is, sad to say, out of print. However, the audiobook, with R. Scott Adams providing the realistic narration is alive and well on Amazon.

If you’re heading out on a long trip, maybe you should grab up several of these to relieve you of the boredom of hours and hours of clouds outside your aircraft or the trash trees and sagebrush outside your car window. Of course, it’s still legal to listen to audiobooks in your hot tub or recliner.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean

“A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’t need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen. It was that affirmation that always amazed me. Even the oddest, most peculiar book was written with that kind of crazy courage–the writer’s belief that someone would find his or her book important to read. I was struck by how precious and foolish and brave that belief is, and how necessary, and how full of hope it is to collect these books and manuscripts and preserve them. It declares that all these stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past and to what is still to come.” – Susan Orlean

Publisher’s Description

“On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, ‘Once that first stack got going, it was Goodbye, Charlie.’ The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?”

Assessment

If you Google this fire, you will find many pictures that are sad to see because they show the mess fire, smoke, and water make of books. The images I saw are copyrighted, so I can’t show them here. Frankly, in reading Orlean’s book, I was surprised at the number of damaged books that were saved, many by a long process of removing the moisture from the sodden pages. In many of the older books that escaped the fire and water, the smell of smoke still lingers.

Main Los Angeles Library – Wikipedia Photo

You can also learn on the Internet that even though there was an arson suspect who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) keep his own alibi straight, there was never enough evidence for an indictment. While the book delves into the stories of that suspect, it’s difficult to read The Library Book with this lingering lack of closure about an unsolved crime. If this book were fiction, let’s say a whodunnit, the author would be criticized for the failure of the characters to solve the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice. The lack of closure creates within this book a lack of focus. That is, the book wanders a bit.

Nonetheless, the book is well written and demonstrates Orlean’s long-time and well-known talents for interviewing people and finding out what makes them tick. I worked in the college libraries at the universities I attended, so I share Orlean’s love of the library and, as such, see this book as not only the history of an important U.S. library but as a love letter to libraries and those who manage them.

Oddly, the fire–and the public’s support of the library after the fire, and seven years later when the main library reopened–might have saved the historic building. The building had for years been discussed as out of date and too small, along with having inadequate fire repression methods. So, a new wing was built and the old building remains, more vibrant and busy than before. If you love libraries, and especially if you have worked in libraries, you will probably enjoy this book. I did.

A Personal Note

I cannot bring myself to feel that, as an author, I am brave in any way for writing novels I hope people will read. More likely, I am foolish, for such a small percentage of books, including those from major publishers ever succeed in finding enough readers to support the publisher’s and author’s investment. Nonetheless, writing is typical of me, just one more example of my impractical life’s focus.

I never expect Hollywood or the New York Times to call and request either a film option or an interview. I have always expected more of my personal friends and online friends to read the books, but to the extent, they read novels at all, they choose the bestsellers from major publishers as a sure thing. Novels are different than other businesses in which community support often favors the local store rather than the chain. Buy local! But that seldom applies to books. The nursery, pharmacy, tire store, restaurant, and the grocery store expect my support, but they don’t buy my books. That’s a sad thing, I think, but when I read a book like this one, I have faith and hope that somebody, somewhere will ultimately find the stories I have to tell.

Susan Orlean has given us all a very memorable story and I appreciate it.

Malcolm

 

 

Reminding Readers About Your Previous Books on Facebook

When a small-press or self-published author announces a new book on Facebook, s/he has a reason for posting information about it. When early reviews come in, there’s an opportunity for more posts. So, too, later on if the book is a finalist or a winner in a competition. Giveaways and book sales also help get the word out.

But once a book is several novels or poetry collections into the past, it becomes more difficult to think of relevant things to say that don’t sound like SPAM.

My publisher, Thomas-Jacob Publishing, has helped fix that problem by creating Facebook cover pictures that display all of an author’s titles. Sometimes the book covers are arranged with an interesting background; sometimes they appear on shelves. These covers can sit at the top of an author’s profile or page for weeks or months, keeping previous titles in the public eye during times when there’s no legitimate news to post about the older titles. Or, as in Melinda Clayton’s cover photo, you can use a quotation from an earlier book.

Here’s the batch for the holidays for Malcolm R. Campbell, Smoky Zeidel, Robert Hays, Sharon Heath, and Melinda Clayton:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Advice from Isabel Allende

“So how do writers make sense of it all? Observe. Take notes. Question your own assumptions. Recognize the struggles of people around you, acknowledge your struggles, and be generous to both. In Allende’s words, “If we listen to another person’s story, if we tell our own story … we realize that the similarities that bring us together are many more than the differences that separate us.”

Source: Isabel Allende’s National Book Awards Speech: Writing Advice – The Atlantic

Isabel Allende has become the first Spanish-language writer to receive an honorary National Book Award medal. In her acceptance speech, which you’ll find covered in “The Atlantic” at the link above, she talks about how being constantly uprooted has not only impacted the themes in much of her fiction but her approach to writing itself.

“As a stranger … I observe and listen carefully. I ask questions, and I question everything. For my writing, I don’t need to invent much; I look around and take notes. I’m a collector of experiences,” she said.

That’s how writers–and perhaps almost everyone–make sense of moving to new towns, travel experiences, and the political and cultural upheavals of the times in which they live.  As the author of “The Atlantic” article, Rosa Inocencio Smith puts it, Allende’s speech “functions almost as a step-by-step guide for responding to such existential uncertainties. Surrounded by people with infinitely varied lives, writers, she advised, need not feel the pressure of making up stories from scratch. Confronted with problems in their plots or psyches, they can use their skills of observation to gain understanding.”

I like the advice, the article, and the speech itself (which you’ll find linked to the article).

Malcolm