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Posts from the ‘writing’ Category

Rain, Wimbledon, and other sorrows.

When I was a kid, I hated rainy Friday nights because they usually ended up lasting throughout the weekend and then ending just in time for school Monday morning.

Sure, the yard needs to be mowed, but the rain is more than welcome. The smaller trees have had a bad summer. And, there’s something about rain that shields us from the world’s slings and arrows. That is, it’s cozy staying in the house when the rain has taken over the fields on all sides. The horse and bull across the road are seemingly oblivious to the rain and the cattle I can see out past the back yard don’t seem to notice it either.

While rain usually improves my mood, I’m still not ready to talk about the Williams/Halep Wimbledon final. Serena’s game was lackluster, especially her serve, and Halep had enough speed to return a lot of shots that many other opponents could never have gotten to. But, I’ll admit that Halep played a fine game.

Coming Soon

My publisher and I are still getting rid of the formatting errors that occurred when the PDF manuscript for Special Investigative Reporter was converted into a DOCX file. This is delaying the release date. Meanwhile, I’m happy to see that Conjure Woman’s Cat and Lena are getting a lot of positive reviews on Audible.  Oddly enough, there are more reviews of Audible than Amazon.

I do plan to return to the Florida Panhandle world of my Florida Folk Magic Series once Special Investigative Reporter is released. I needed a change of pace. And I needed something completely different.  There’s definitely more to say about North Florida and the KKK in the 1950s. My Pollyanna character has a very different approach to the Klan than the main characters in the folk magic series. So, I look forward to exploring that.

My wife is still fighting off those twenty-three bee stings that happened when she mowed through a hidden nest in high grass. The ER helped a lot. But now, there’s a lot of itching to contend with. And, it’s odd that “new stings” keep appearing on her arms and hands that didn’t initially show up.  We keep thinking that some of the bees did a half-assed job of stinging her at the time and now are just showing up.

My radiation treatment for cancer begins on August 1, just in time for my birthday. It will be a daily thing, excluding weekends. and will last about forty days. That seems really tedious and is supposed to make me tired. I’ll be glad to get all that out of the way and emerge cancer free. If all goes as planned, this will be my second time as a cancer survivor.  At my age, I guess one has to expect all kinds of problems like this.

I hope you’re having a great weekend, rain or shine.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your 100 Fan Club 

“Simply your writing. Write the stories that you think your top 100 will love. Don’t have 100? If you keep making an appearance in person, on social media, in writing guest posts on blogs, that 100 will materialize. If you keep writing and quit banking on one book. If you keep reminding the few you have in a newsletter who you are (avoiding saying BUY MY BOOK), that 100 will happen.”

Source: Your 100 Fan Club | | FundsforWriters

All sorts of people ask writers about their target audiences. I suppose if you write in a genre, that helps define your prospective audience. Or, if you write folk tales set in a defined region of the country, then you might hope the people who live there are part of your target audience. But if you look at demographics, checking to see how many readers like your genre and how many people live where your stories are set, the numbers are quite large.

When we invite people over to dinner, whether a barbecue or a sit-down affair in the dining room, we often struggle trying to make sure we have a compatible group. You might like the Smiths and the Johnsons, but they don’t like each other. So, you decide you won’t try to please them both and avoid inviting them over on the same night.

I see Hope Clark’s top 100 readers as a solution to the struggles we go through trying to please everyone who might read our genre or live in the states where we set our stories. Since those 100 people interact with us in the social media, read and talk about our books, and sometimes post a review to Amazon or GoodReads, when we please them, we are doing the best we can do.

By that I mean, if a group of people waits for your stories, that’s the audience you know and trust. If they think you’re doing a good job, then chances are you’re at the top of your game whether you outsell James Patterson or Jo Rowling. It’s hard to figure out what a million readers might want. But a hundred? Now we have a goal that’s less stressful and more manageable.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Lena,” a magical realism novel set in Florida that’s published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in paperback, e-book, audiobook, and hardback editions. The well-reviewed audiobook is narrated by Holly Palance, Jack Palance’s daughter.

Let’s ban how-to webinars for writers

No, I don’t really want to ban anything.

However, I think many webinars crafted for aspiring and emerging writers are taking a lot of our money for very little information.

  • How much does the webinar cost? $150. $250. $500? That seems to me to be a rip off from the outset inasmuch as those producing the webinar could sell the same number of tips in a paperback book or even a downloadable PDF for a lot less.
  • When you look at the number of facts in a webinar, you’ll quickly see that the number of words is very low when contrasted to, say, a pamphlet about the same material. Writers don’t earn a lot of money, so I wonder why we are being gouged with high prices.
  • Most webinars are not closed-captioned. So, if you’re hard of hearing–and if no transcript is offered–you’re paying for a presentation you cannot hear. That is to say, it’s worthless.
  • Webinars are linear. That is, they’re like a tape recording. You have to listen from beginning to end. That means you’re forced to hear the information you already know. Unlike feature films on CD, webinars usually don’t include a table of contents or any other way to access specific parts for the information you want.
  • When webinars include guests or panels, a lot of the introductory minutes are used up with that we used to call happy news chatter. That is, the participants introduce themselves, talk about each other’s work, and spend a lot of time (and your money) saying how nice it is to see each other.
  • If the information in a webinar we produced in print (or PDF) in a magazine format with subheads, you could quickly go to the information you don’t already know. That is, your eyes could see the entire presentation’s format in a fraction of the time it takes to laboriously listen/view the whole thing from beginning to end.
  • One thing many webinars don’t acknowledge is that some promotion techniques lend themselves more to nonfiction than fiction. So, they present promotion as an outgrowth of one’s business. This doesn’t work for fiction writers. Don’t get rooked into spending on a webinar focused on business owners who write books about their businesses when you’re looking for help with a novel.
  • Like many written presentations, webinars often spend a lot of time rehashing what aspiring writers already know. If the production included a table of contents, you could see how much of it was new and how much was old before you spent your money.

Frankly, I don’t understand the popularity of webinars. Other than the fact they cost a lot more money than the same facts in printed form, most of us can read faster than we can listen. We can scan a page of type in seconds, but a webinar moves along (relatively speaking) at a snail’s pace.

The advertising for webinars typically suggests that when you pay to listen/view, you’re going to see and hear secrets that are only known to those who created the webinar. Seriously, what a joke. Do you really want to believe some author you’ve never heard of when s/he says his/her webinar will turn your book into a bestseller? Let’s not be naive.

Malcolm

How honest should a writer be?

A relatively well-known writer on my Facebook friends list shares a daily journal-style entry about her writing life. It includes new books accepted, poems written, meetings with publishers, and rejections received.

When I first noticed her mention of rejections, I wondered how somebody so widely known ever received rejections. The fact that she acknowledges this, gives hope for the rest of us. On the other hand, the gurus of writing and promotion tell us to always be positive. That is, we’re told not to mention projects that fail, manuscripts that are rejected, or problems with publishers or publicity plans. Negatives in any of these areas are said to turn off prospective readers.

The author I’m referring to has more books than I can count in print and a very wide following. So, she can break the guru’s rule. Plus, she’s never nasty about things that don’t work out. That’s a plus, I think.

I wonder how often famous writers send off a manuscript via their agents and get a “sorry, not our cup of tea” response. If they do, we never hear about it. I suppose the gurus would say that if we did hear about it, it would sound more like a failure than an honest look at how the writing business works.

Authors have work-day problems like everybody else, but if we mention them, we’re accused of having a sour grapes attitude. Professionals are expected to move on to the next project and not worry (much less rant) about the projects that don’t come together. I guess I can see that. Yet, I still respect my widely known Facebook friend who reports both rejections and acceptances.

I hoped to get a short story into the last issue of Glimmer Train, a well-respected fiction magazine that is ceasing publication at the end of this year. No dice. They didn’t like it. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Perhaps I should have spent more time with the story or placed a different focus on it. One never knows. Author’s usually don’t get a critique when a magazine doesn’t like a submission.

Those rejections are practice, though. I dislike sites that provide writing prompts because I see no reason to write a story that is simply practice. If I write it, I want to spend enough time on it to make it worth submitting. Sometimes these stories don’t sell. But, I’ve been told not to speak about it because (supposedly) it chips away at my platform as a writer. Is this good or bad? I really don’t know. When I think of bestselling authors, I know that most of them don’t have blogs that discuss the books they submitted that the publisher rejected. So, maybe the rest of us shouldn’t dwell on that either.

How often do you see a headline such as LATEST JAMES PATTERSON NOVEL REJECTED BY GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING? You never see those kinds of headlines. Does this mean everything Patterson submits is accepted? I don’t have a clue.

So, as aspiring, emerging, and small-press authors, we’re told to be positive every step of the way. If we’re not, we’re told we’ll look like amateurs or writers not worthy of a second look by prospective readers. Do you see authors this way? Must we be perfect or ignored? There’s so much competition out there, most of us feel a lot of pressure to appear perfect even though we know we’re far from it.

The gurus tell us we don’t have the luxury of telling the truth about the business of writing. Well, I don’t care. Who you know is more important than how well you write. That’s where it’s at because publishing is seldom fair.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

About ready to re-release an out-of-print book

When I left my previous publisher to become part of Thomas-Jacob Publishing (T-J) in Florida, many of my titles went out of print. I have self-published some of them because I didn’t want to dump a box of titles on T-J. Some of those I have self-published have come out under new names. Some, like The Sun Singer (self-published) and Sarabande (T-J) kept their original titles.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been converting a PDF copy of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire into a DOCX copy of the newly titled Special Investigative Reporter.  The formatting has been tedious since the conversion, using Acrobat, produced a Word file with weird spaces and strange formatting in it.

I think the 2009 novel is still valid inasmuch as it hits on the growing tendency for news sites to mix opinion with facts or, in some cases, to present opinion instead of facts. So, I hope the novel will still be considered relevant by today’s readers.

As a journalism school graduate and former college journalism instructor, I become somewhat irate when an interviewer asks a guest a question and then proceeds to interrupt him/her by doing most of the talking. I can cite examples, but it’s probably safer not to do that. I don’t see that as journalism or even fairly presented opinion.

I grew up in a journalism environment. My father was a journalism textbook author, the dean of a college school of journalism, and active in a variety of press institutes. What I liked best in those days was hearing the stories of veteran journalists either at our house or the journalism school. They captured my imagination. So, I went to journalism school at the University of Colorado and Syracuse University as well as a summer journalism institute at Indiana University.

That means, there’s a lot of info available for a satirical newspaper reporter novel. I’m not sure my late father would approve because Special Investigative Reporter is a bit risque and presumes that many old-style reporters rank too much. My uncle, who was a reporter, might have liked booze a little too much–to my father’s chagrin. So do I, actually.

So, in spite of the tedious process of fixing the PDF-to-DOCX conversion of the novel’s file, I’ve had fun re-visiting a book that originally came out in 2009. I’ll let you know when the new edition come out. I hope you like it.

Malcolm

 

 

I spend more time tinkering with stuff than writing stuff

Some time ago, I read a post in the late Pat Conroy’s blog in which he thanked his publicity team from his publisher. No wonder he sells so many copies. His team was bigger than my neighborhood.

Most of us don’t have a publicity team, so we try to do it ourselves. Frankly, we like to think that our strong points as authors are the books we produce. Our weak points are creating ads, blog posts, and scintillating website copy. But we try.

I just finished reading an author’s book that came out several years ago from a sizeable publisher. When I checked her website, I was surprised to see that it had been more or less dormant for three years. Maybe she can afford to let it go until her next book comes out. But most of us can’t. So, if we have blogs, we try to post often. If we have websites, we keep tinkering with them in hopes that visitors will be lured back with fresh stuff to read.

Sometimes we have real news. I recently announced the new hardcover editions of Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, and a collection of short stories called Widely Scattered Ghosts.

A few days ago, AudioFile Magazine posted a favorable review of the Audiobook edition of Lena.  Sometimes we have to rely on back-up materials, in my case, I often post pictures of the Florida Panhandle where my books are set and recently posted an opinion about the bankruptcy of white supremacy. Frankly, once we were out of the Jim Crow era, I didn’t expect to see it again.

Lately, tinkering hasn’t been enough. Book sales have been down for a while for many self-published and small-press authors. I’m glad it’s not just me, but knowing that doesn’t tell me what to do to fix it.  Some changes have hurt us. One is the fact that Amazon has changed its giveaways so that they work less well for small-press and self-published authors. GoodReads giveaways used to be free; now they cost over $100. Sure, both sites need to make money for what they offer, but they are doing so at small-press authors’ expense. That means, I can no longer afford to run giveaways on either site, and that’s a great loss of exposure.

Fewer people seem to be posting reviews of small-press authors’ books these days. Needless to say, this looks bad when prospective readers come to a book’s listing page on Amazon and see almost no reader comments. On the plus side, people are leaving more reviews on Audible than before, and that helps generate interest in our audiobook editions.

Some authors ask for reviews on their blogs, websites, Facebook, and Twitter. I don’t like doing that. For one thing, it seems amateurish. Well-known authors certainly don’t try to shame readers into posting reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Frankly, I don’t think readers should feel an obligation to post a reader review. While I wish they would, I don’t fault them for not doing it.

In the last year or so, many book newsletters that promote books on sale have been charging more, expecting a larger number of Amazon reviews, and–in spite of that–have brought lower sales. I won’t say this sales method has dried up, but it seems that way. Yet, telling readers I can’t get into newsletters because they aren’t reviewing my books seems wrong.

I do fault many media sites who talk about the best books of the year, post lists of upcoming books to consider, and in late summer start creating their top books of the year lists. Most, if not all of them, ignore small-press books. So what you have is the best books from publishers like HarperCollins, Penguin, and Hachette. Most publishers and their books are off the radar. These lists offer a lot of exposure throughout the year, though I have to say, they are promoting books that don’t need any help. Those books that could benefit the most from, say, a list of the best beach reads or best books of the year (so far), aren’t even considered.

To some extent, I think many small-press and self-published authors are in a hurry: the books are printed as soon as they’re finished and edited. Instead, they should have advance copies ready for review sites that expect to see prospective books four months prior to publication. Mainstream sites require this. Then, the hardbacks need to be issued first–which is standard–followed by Kindle editions and then many months later by paperbacks. Why? Because this is the way big publishers work and when we don’t do things this way, we lose exposure and look like also-rans.

What this all means for small-press and self-published writers is finding ways to cut back. Cutting back, of course, reduces their books’ exposure. One of the first things to go will probably be the website. If it costs more than an author makes from royalties in a year, it’s not pulling its weight. And of course, none of us wants to run in the red. In other cases, small publishers may close their doors because the time and expense of reading, editing, formatting, and publishing new titles are no longer viable. I think this is a sad thing for many reasons, among them, being allowing the conglomerates to publish/control the books we read rather than having a strong grassroots competition from indies of all kinds.

I read a larger number of books every year, most from BIG PUBLISHERS. Why? Those are the books I hear about and those are the books with a lot of Amazon and GoodReads reviews. Perhaps most of you find your books the same way. What I hope, though, is that when readers find a small-press or self-published book they like, they will tell their friends about it, mention on Facebook that they enjoyed it, say something in their blogs about it, and consider posting a review on Amazon, GoodReads, and Barnes & Noble. This support helps authors stay in business and write more books that will also catch your attention. And, it keeps the conglomerate publishers from controlling everything we read!

As those old two guys on the old Bartles & Jaymes TV wine cooler commercials used to say, “thank you for your support.”

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from agents (yes, agents still exist)

If you want to learn about the business of books, it helps to be hungry. Not only hungry to learn, as the expression goes, but also just plain hungry, literally—it helps to have an appetite. Or an expense account. Ideally both. Because no matter how much the world of publishing has changed over the past hundred years—and, boy, has it changed since the days of Blanche Knopf, Horace Liveright, and Bennett Cerf—some things remain the same. It is still a business of relationships; it still relies on the professional connections among authors and agents and editors and the mighty web of alliances that help bring a work of literature out of the mind of the writer and onto readers’ screens and shelves. And those relationships are often sparked, deepened, and sustained during that still-sacred rite: the publishing lunch.

Four Lunches and a Breakfast: What I Learned About the Book Business While Breaking Bread With Five Hungry Agents

This is an interesting article by Kevin Larimer on the Poets & Writers website. It’s worth reading, I think, in spite of its length because many aspiring writers who want their books considered by mainstream publishers and reviewers forget that agents still exist. They are your route to big publishing. Yes, I know, in an era of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, nobody thinks about agents or the standard methods for approaching major publishers.

Yes, publishing is changing, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that if a writer publishes his/her book, s/he will never find it on the New York Times bestseller list or reviewed by Kirkus or in the local Barnes & Noble store. Take that to the bank. So, from time to time, a reality check can be a good thing just to see how you would approach publishing if you seriously wanted a six-figure book deal and more movie options than you could shake a stick at.

Malcolm

Do free books devalue an author’s worth in the public eye?

There must be a thousand gimmicks on the Internet showing emerging writers how to become better-known writers. Some “gurus” advocate “street teams” who read and talk-up an author’s books. Some suggest various methods for gaming Amazon’s algorithms so that an out-of-nowhere book suddenly becomes a bestseller. Others say each of us needs a giveaway book that shows readers our style that includes links to the primary books we’re trying to sell.

I’ve had dinner at Antoine’s numerous times and I like their food. One has to earn the kind of reputation they have. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is chopped liver.

There are stories–some probably true–that tell of unknown writers who followed a guru’s publicity program and suddenly sold $100,000 worth of books. These often sound like the claims I used to see in chain letters. And, notably, while I read a lot, I’ve never heard of any of the authors who became rich according to these claims.

If you look at a lot of prospective books on Amazon and elsewhere, you’ll see that the Kindle edition of a well-known author’s fiction costs more than the hardback edition of an unknown author’s novels. Well, obviously people are going to pay more for a dinner at Antoine’s Restaurant than a quarter pounder and fries at McDonald’s.

Yet, sometimes I think emerging authors are setting their prices too low. This reminds me of the old phrase “I can get it for you wholesale.” Sure, but how good is it?

I don’t expect to compete–on price–with John Grisham or J. K. Rowling. Yet, if I set the price of my books too low, this gives prospective readers the idea that I’m not charging more because my work isn’t worth more.  Nor would I expect a mom and pop diner in Peoria to charge as much as Antoine’s. However, when a new restaurant or an emerging author sets prices too low, I think they are devaluing their work.

As C. Hope Clark (Funds for Writers) has said on multiple occasions, writers are often expected to jump at the chance to attend a conference or serve on a panel “for the exposure.” Why do those in charge of writers’ retreats expect us to jump at the chance when everyone else supplying something to the venture–from publicity to catered meals–is being paid?

In a recent blog post, Clark said, “A few people will get their feathers ruffled. ‘Not me’ or ‘I know a lot of exceptions to that’ but the grand majority of people see free as something of lesser value; otherwise, it wouldn’t be cheap. And if something costs more, there usually has to be a reason.”

I agree. Yes, FREE might have its place, but generally, it’s not a good place. It makes us look cheap and unworthy. As Hope says, “In the long run, you deem what you are worth, and the more you give it away, the lower your stock value.”

I don’t think this is the impression we want readers to have. Experience has taught me that giving away books seldom leads to anything positive: the people who get them don’t flood Amazon with positive reviews or trip over themselves to get to my other books. The same can be said for pricing everything at 99₵. Do mainstream authors to this? No, of course not, so when we do it, the price just screams AMATEUR.

Frankly, I don’t trust cheap or free. When I download cheap or free, I’m usually disappointed. I definitely don’t go looking for more of these authors’ works because my time is worth more than the books’ low prices. Sad, but true.

We have a duty, perhaps a right, to price our books reasonably, neither free nor what James Patterson expects. I don’t think it helps us as authors to devalue our work with too much CHEAP and too much FREE.

Malcolm

 

Too much logic might kill your best work

“The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.” – Ray Bradbury

If there’s a place for logic, perhaps it’s in your research. Facts matter, even in fiction, so it’s a bad sign getting those wrong, worse yet finding out from other people that you got them wrong. A long-time journalism professor and author of textbooks, my father often said that one of the worst things a journalist could do was misspell a person’s name. For one thing, it made him or her look sloppy. For another, it called into question everything else in the new story. If your research is flawed, small inaccuracies may kill your best work.

Otherwise–logic, as Bradbury suggests–gets in the way of our stories and even ourselves. Logic often leads to doubt, even self-doubt, and the frame of mind that arises out of that can easily become a barrier to the story you wish to tell. If you don’t think you can write it, you won’t. If you think you’re not the person to tell the story, you won’t be able to tell it. Our stories lead us down strange roads where it’s best to just keep going rather than thinking, “Holy crap, I’m lost.”

In some cases, being lost is a good thing because how you find your way out makes a good story, or at least provides the confidence you need to continue. Goodness knows, there’s not a lot of validation for aspiring writings and emerging authors, so allowing yourself the time and excitement of being lost from time to time is much better than fighting being lost. And besides, it’s easy to become prey for the doubters in your life who think you’ll never write anything, much less anything that gets published and sells a few copies, maybe a lot of copies.

Plus, it seems that when we use logic to try and puzzle our stories out of one misstep or another or one troublesome scene or another, we’re not likely to tell a story that’s true within itself and resonates with readers. I know one writing expert who says the stories we write are already “out there” in some kind of limbo area waiting for us to find them and tell them. I’m not sure I want to go that far. I do see, though, that stories appear to have an innate intelligence that wants to go in a particular direction for one reason or another. So, as we said years ago, the author has to go with the flow rather than thinking up logical rationale for swimming against the story’s current. If you’re swimming against the story’s current, you’re thinking. Stop it!

Down the road, you can do your thinking during the editing process. Then you’ll find inconsistencies, holes in the plot, and possibly other things that don’t add up. Or, maybe you won’t.

This is going to sound strange, but when I find a bunch of prospective characters who are doing one thing or another, I find it best not to judge them or find some logical yardstick that proves they’re messed up. Better to write down what they’re doing and discover the story in it. Just don’t think too much about what you’re doing.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series, “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena.”

 

 

 

Humor keeps us sane (sort of) during bad times, especially in fiction

Wikipedia Photo

“It hadn’t occurred to me until I read them that antiwar novels could be funny as well as serious. “Catch-22” is crazy funny, slapstick funny. It sees war as insane and the desire to escape combat as the only sane position. Its tone of voice is deadpan farce. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is different. There is much comedy in it, as there was in everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote, but it does not see war as farcical. It sees war as a tragedy so great that perhaps only the mask of comedy allows one to look it in the eye. Vonnegut is a sad-faced comedian. If Heller was Charlie Chaplin, then Vonnegut was Buster Keaton. His predominant tone of voice is melancholy, the tone of voice of a man who has been present for a great horror and lived to tell the tale. The two books do, however, have this in common: they are both portraits of a world that has lost its mind, in which children are sent out to do men’s work and die.” – Salman Rushdie in What Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” Tells Us Now

Wikipedia Photo

I’ve been a fan, not only of Salman Rushdie, but of both Heller and Vonnegut, so I agree about the “funny” when it’s part of an otherwise grim work. Those of us who watched M*A*S*H as a movie or a TV series know the sharp knife humor can have in an otherwise serious work. One reader review of one of my Florida Folk Magic novels said that since I was writing about a grim subject, she saw no place for the humor I included. Needless to say, I didn’t respond, though I didn’t agree. Humor, I believe, not only helps keep us seen during insane times, but it introduces within a novel a strong and necessary counterpoint to the primary flow of horror and dread.

Perhaps, like the booze and jokes at a wake, humor–while it may contain a dash of denial–helps us cope with the worst of life. Perhaps it shows us that in the worst of times, we are still human. Or, perhaps it’s such a wild card that it shocks some sense and sensibility back into us when our lives and/or our world seem to have hit rock bottom. Heaven doesn’t need humor as much as hell needs humor.

Humor, it seems, can also show us the senseless reality of horrible things in a way that melodramatic prose cannot. In a way, satire and humor bring out the idiocy of events and views in a clearer way than a straight recitation of facts.  Long ago, I learned that as a psychic/empath, I could most easily “read” a person by saying something humorous or otherwise unexpected during a conversation. Suddenly, as they try to figure out the comment, they become open and transparent. Yes, I know this isn’t a nice thing to do, but I never promised you I was a choir boy. Likewise, the unexpected humor (or farcical statement) can blast open a reader’s mind to the real truths in a grim novel.  S/he sees, then, what s/he might otherwise miss.

Of all the novels I’ve read about war, I was probably more devastated by Johnny Got His Gun and All Quiet On The Western Front than any other fiction. Yet, they do no remain in my memory with the same power as Slaughter House Five and Catch 22. Why? Because they were a one-note samba of horror, unrelenting, and without a moment’s rest.

While the characters in war are likely to tell the worst possible jokes about their situation, the author isn’t there to poke fun at them but of the idiocy of their situation. So, authors risk the truth whenever they have an urge to turn the novel into an ongoing joke. The humor, like the devil, is in the details, the unexplainable moments, the orders from a bureaucracy far away, and the system itself.

Make the readers laugh. They may not thank you for it, but they will be stronger for it, long term.

Malcolm