Happy Birthday to Indies Unlimited

“Seven years ago, the Evil Mastermind launched Indies Unlimited. Since then, we’ve had over 2.5 MILLION page views, been named as one of Six Great Blogs for Indie Authors in Publishers Weekly, and ranked as one of the top writing-related sites by Alexa.”

Source: Indies Unlimited – Celebrating Independent Authors

Indies Unlimited is the go-to blog for writers learning their craft and then learning how to market their work in competition with the one million self-published books released each year. Since the blog is run by volunteers, it’s obviously a labor of love, though I hate using that hackneyed old phrase to describe their work.

Even if you don’t have time to check the blog every week, a scan through their archive of posts will usually materialize what you’re looking for whenever you have a question or the need for a little inspiration.

I hope Indies Unlimited is going strong seven years from now.

Malcolm

 

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Can an author quote from a review?

“I heard a rumor that some authors were wondering about the rules regarding quoting reviews of their books. Whether you’re doing this in a tweet, a post on Facebook or your blog, or using the quote as a blurb in an advertisement or on the back cover of a paper book, the same basic rules apply. The considerations fall into two groups: those that are legal issues and those that are more a matter of etiquette.”

Source: Book Reviews: Can You Quote Me on That? – Indies Unlimited

I liked seeing this article because it helps clarify points about quoting and copying that have gotten rather fuzzy with our online world. Most people, including authors, don’t seem to grasp the fact that there are rules and those rules really don’t allow somebody on Facebook (for example) to copy an entire article or poem and then say “infringement not intended.”

That makes about a much sense as busting into a store and claiming “breaking an entering not intended.”

A good review is a godsend, so as authors we really don’t need to step over the line when deciding how to use them or cite them. This article will help keep us out of trouble.

–Malcolm

Breaking up is hard to do

Some say that a writer begins a book and a reader finishes it. That is after the book has been written and published, readers either like it or they don’t and see in it one thing or another because it’s time for the writer to move on.

For the writer, it’s like breaking up with a lover.

S/he has to begin writing the next book. Not too quickly, though, or the next book will turn into a rebound kind of thing, ill-conceived and overly filled with everything the newly released book didn’t have.

Some writers have book projects stacked up in notebooks, each waiting to capture the writer’s time and heart. I don’t. Not that I go to bars looking for them or sign up with online dating outfits: “meet beautiful Russian ideas just waiting to please” or “sexy singles in your town hoping for marriage.”

No writer wants people to say s/he’s on the make. That seems, somehow trashy as though s/he’s going to turn to a beach read or the kinds of books you find in airports or worse yet a book on a street corner that might really be a vice cop waiting to grab the writer in a hurry.

It’s sad when a writer gets so desperate to move on from the break-up from his most recent book, that s/he picks up a bereaved idea from an accident scene or a funeral like a cheap lawyer chasing a client, any client. And then, too, there some writers apparently get drunk or go nuts and pick up an idea that’s young enough to be their son or daughter or, at best, arm candy that will lead nowhere good.

Then there are the matchmakers. They have an idea or know somebody at their church with an idea or play duplicate bridge in a group with a lot of sweet young ideas all of whom are God’s gift to the right writer. Some are desperate, while others are bitter and resigned to never making it into marriage, much less into print. Others are a little rough, but I’m told they’ll “clean up nice.”

If all this is drifting into the kind of post that sounds sexist, I should tell you that an author’s relationship with a book idea is in many ways like a love affair and has similar hopes and jealousies and wrong things said (or written) at the worst possible moments. If one rushes into the right book idea too quickly, it will burst into flames and later when you chance to meet in some gin joint at a fated moment, you can say, “we always had Paris” and think sadly about the book that might have been if you hadn’t acted to crass with the delicate possibilities before the idea was fully formed in your heart and soul.

Sure, if my writer’s life was a movie, some well-meaning colleague who’s already going steady with a book idea would tell me to shave, put on a clean set of clothes and go with him or her to a nearby barn dance or USO canteen where the camera shots, dialogue, and music would clue in the audience before I knew what hit me that “this is the one.” I wish it were that easy.

Lord knows I can’t go looking for ideas at Walmart because we all know what kinds of ideas hang out there.

So, with the release of Lena, I’m sitting here alone at a silent keyboard, ashtray full of cigarette butts, a wastebasket overflowing with empty Scotch bottles, vicariously reading other people’s books.

Whatever you do, please don’t try to “help.”

Malcolm

 

Book Bits: Amazon algorithm, ‘We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,’ Sam Hawke, Anne Tyler, Indies Unlimited

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we’ll be seeing the fourth Comoran Strike novel from J. k. Rowling this fall. I like the series and will be looking forward to the release.

Here’s some more news for your Monday.

  1. Viewpoint: The Amazon Algorithm Myth – “A problematic feature of the world in 2018 is that the social networks we have built seem to spread misinformation faster and wider than its more accurate counterpart, and this can lead authors to make decisions counter to their interests. One of the enduring myths surrounds “’The Amazon Algorithm.’” David Gaughran
  2. Review: We Don’t Eat our Classmates, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins, ages 3-7 – “When a young T. Rex named Penelope starts school, she learns some lessons about her classmates; most importantly, they are not for eating…Fans of macabre, tongue-in-cheek humor (and twist endings!) will enjoy time spent with Penelope.” Kirkus Reviews
  3. NewsCooking and Sci-Fi Are the Hot Print Segments This Year So Far, by Jim Milliot – “The cooking/entertaining and science fiction categories had the strongest print unit sales gains among the adult categories in the first half of 2018 compared to the first six months of 2017, according to NPD BookScan. On the downside, religion had the largest decline among the adult fiction categories, with units dropping 50%.” Publishers Weekly
  4. Interview: A Particularly Potent Brew, Sam Hawke with Noah Fram – “I love a good assassin story but I wanted to write the kind of inverse to that: the tale of the spoiled and pampered officials being targeted, rather than the tale of the assassins themselves. What I particularly love about Robin’s books, and what makes them stand out from other assassin romps, is that the poisonings and manipulations performed are never presented in a glorified or glamorous way.” BookPage
  5. EssayReading Raymond Chandler in the age of #MeToo, by Megan Abbott – “And yet, even reading Chandler’s harsher passages, I find myself not turning away but moving closer. Trying to understand something. Am I still entranced? Even as I resist the faintly gendered connotations of the term, its suggestion of female helplessness in the face of male potency, I still feel the pull. What fascinates and compels me most about Chandler in this #MeToo moment are the ways his novels speak to our current climate. Because if you want to understand toxic white masculinity, you could learn a lot by looking at noir.” Slate
  6. Review: Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler  reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum – “”CLOCK DANCE is a riveting and wholesome story of family, relationships, humanity and self-discovery…. [Anne Tyler] is at the top of her writing game in this outstanding novel.” Book Reporter
  7. News Source: Indie Author Newsbreak, This news feature will offer author, publishing news, and tips every Friday. I found the Amazon Algorithm (item 1) story link here. Should be a good information source from the popular authors’ website. Indies Unlimited
  8. Quotation: “Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things–childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves–that go on slipping , like sand, through our fingers.” – Salman Rushdie
  9. Interview: Don’t Make Me Pull Over by Richard Ratay, with by Randy Dotinga – “I came up with the idea while on a family vacation. I found myself on a beach chair, looking at my young sons, who were then aged 6 and 8, and I thought about traveling 1970s America at that age with my own parents and siblings. It hit me how profound those experiences really were. They gave me some of my fondest childhood memories, they broadened my horizons in so many ways, and they profoundly shaped my relationships with my parents and my siblings for a lifetime. But I knew little about how the great American road trip experience developed.” Christian Science Monitor

Book Bits is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the upcoming novel “Lena” from Thomas-Jacob Publishing. Click on the book title to see the trailer.

–Malcolm

 

 

Some of my favorite ending lines from novels.

Some novels end with a bone-crushing final line that drives the story home. Other novels’ final lines seem to be a simple slice of life, reminding me of Woody Allen movies where the screen goes black and he rolls the credits. Huh? Did we lose a reel? How is the show over? While I don’t think novels need to end with anything akin to the punch line of a joke that–were it missing–the rest of the thing would fall away, I do like something memorable.

When I did first lines several posts ago, I made it a quiz. Well, heck, it’s the weekend, so I’ll just tell you straight out where these gems came from. I think that’s more than fair.

  • So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • He loved Big Brother. –George Orwell, 1984
  • Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. –Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years
    of Solitude
  • Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four
    hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as,
    in all good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will
    not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until
    a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand
    and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s
    children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be
    sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or
    die in peace. –Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
  • The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from
    pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. –George
    Orwell, Animal Farm
  • But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that
    enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be
    playing. –A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
  • Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is.” –Russell Banks, Continental Drift
  • But that is another tale, and as I said in the beginning, this is just a story meant to be read in bed in an old house on a rainy night. –John Cheever, Oh What a Paradise It Seems
  • Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day. –Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
  • . . . and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. –James Joyce, Ulysses

I’m ending with the last line of Ulysses because Joyce is my favorite author and I especially like the way this line brings the story to a very suitable conclusion. We all know the last line of Gone With the Wind. And, even if we don’t remember reading Animal Farm, that ending will make us cringe. Márquez and Rushdie are a bit long-winded, but in both cases, by the time you get to the ends of their stories, you see that these lines are fitting.

If you were writing this post, what last lines would you have included?

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman.

 

How many of these famous first lines do you know?

This is a pop quiz. Sure, you can copy and paste these lines into a Google search or look at the answers at the bottom of the page. But you won’t will you?

  1. In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.
  2. A screaming comes across the sky.
  3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  4. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
  5. Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.
  6. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
  7. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
  8. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
  9. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  10. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.
  11. The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we understood the gravity of our situation.
  12. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
  13. I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too.
  14. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.

–Malcolm

Writing is like living in a fixer-upper house

“You know those people who buy fixer-upper homes, move into them, and live there while they renovate them? That’s what a story is like. You move into the story, you occupy it like a house, and you live there until it’s completely done.” –Thrity Umrigar

In an earlier post called About Waiting for Inspiration, I noted that serious professional writers work every day rather than sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. That post suggested things writers can do to make inspired story ideas more likely.

Likewise, there are things writers can do once they have a story idea that will make it more likely the plot will unfold. Better to let the plot and characters come to mind naturally rather that sitting down, staring at a blank screen, and waiting for something to happen.

I like author Thrity Umrigar’s fixer-upper house analogy. First, it paints a very accurate picture about what goes on during an author’s waking hours while s/he is actively working on a short story or novel. Second, it suggests one reason why authors often stare off in space or seem not to be listening while they’re around others. They’re physically in the room, but mentally they’re conversing with their characters or chasing bad guys through a bad section of town.

Unrigar adds that when you’re committed to a story, “That means you’re thinking about your story all the time, living with it, never letting it wander too far away from you. A story is like a newborn–you have to tend to it, feed it, be aware of it all the time.”

When you’re living in a house white renovating it, you’re on the scene 24/7. You not only notice what needs to be done, but think of new ideas that didn’t occur to you when you first walked in the front door. A story is like that. Authors don’t see every detail of every character, scene, description, and plot twist when they first think of an idea.

When you’re living in a fixer-upper house, it’s easier to see potential traffic flows, floor plan changes, and value-added features than it was while the house was something you might buy. When you see what your fictional characters see–or might see–it becomes more apparent whether they’re moving in the right direction or not, wearing the clothes that suit them, or adding to the prospective reader’s excitement by doing this or that or something else.

Seriously, when you’re committed to a story, it never goes away until you finish it–and maybe, not even then. Like the fixer-upper house that’s ready to sell, you have to resist the urge to tinker after it’s time to send your story or novel off to an agent, magazine, or publisher. It takes self-confidence to know when the story is truly finished and when the fixer-upper house is ready to list with a realtor.

Either way, living in the story and the fixer-upper house is a necessity.

–Malcolm

How’s your book’s description working for you?

The number one problem we run into during the vetting process here at Indies Unlimited is a book’s description, also sometimes known as the book sales pitch or the book blurb. Too long, too short, too detailed, too vague, too too too, blah blah blah. What it comes down to is: many authors cannot write a book description on their own.

via Book Description Basics – Indies Unlimited

K.S. Brooks thinks it might be okay if a writer doesn’t automatically know how to write a pithy, industrial strength description for his/her book. We’ve lived with the manuscript for months, possibly years. We “know too much” about it to create the best 250 or 500 words of description the book needs to sell.

Her article on Indies Unlimited includes links to related how-to articles along with a list of considerations. If you’re publishing your books yourself or going through a small press that relies on you to write the description for Amazon and the back cover, this article will give you a running start.

–Malcolm

A bestselling author’s book piracy story

“A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’”

via Contents of Maggie Stiefvater’s Brain

A lot of authors dismiss book piracy with blasé misconceptions like those Maggie Stiefvater quoted above. They’re wrong. Maggie Stefvater almost lost traction her Raven King series (a series I like, btw) because pirated copies were diluting sales to the extent that her publisher thought the public was losing interest.

As she says, authors generally expect the first book in a series to sell the best and for sales to go down in the follow-up books. But she tried a nifty way of proving that there was more to it than expected reader attrition.

This is a cautionary tale for authors, especially those who think piracy either doesn’t hurt you or that it might actually help you. Click on the link to see how she saved her series.

–Malcolm

 

a few of my favorite Kazuo Ishiguro quotes

According to the Nobel Prizes website, the selection committee commended Ishiguro as an author “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”

Wikipedia photo

In his Nobel interview, Ishiguro said, “No, I don’t think it will sink in for a long time. I mean, it’s a ridiculously prestigious honour, in as far as these kinds of things go. I don’t think you would have a more prestigious prize than the Nobel Prize. And comments I would make, I mean, one is, a lot of that prestige must come from the fact that the Swedish Academy has successfully, I think, kept above the fray of partisan politics and so on. And I think it’s remained one of the few things that’s respected, whose integrity is respected by many people around the world, and so I think a lot of the sense of honour of receiving the Prize comes from the actual status of the Swedish Academy. And I think that’s a great achievement unto itself, over all these years the Swedish Academy has managed to retain that high ground, in all the different walks of life that it honours. And then the other reason it’s a terrific honour for me is because … you know I come in a line of lots of my greatest heroes, absolutely great authors. The greatest authors in history have received this Prize, and I have to say, you know, it’s great to come one year after Bob Dylan who was my hero since the age of 13. He’s probably my biggest hero.”

Some of my favorite quotes from Ishiguro’s work

“I have this feeling that all it will take will be one moment, even a tiny moment, provided it’s the correct one. Like a cord suddenly snapping and a thick curtain dropping to the floor to reveal a whole new world, a world full of sunlight and warmth.” – The Unconsoled

Wikipedia photo

“What is the point of worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.” – The Remains of the Day

“That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I’d lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that –I didn’t let it– and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.” – Never Let Me Go

“The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it.” – The Remains of the Day

“If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.” – The Remains of the Day

Wikipedia photo

“Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents. There is nothing for it but to try and see through our missions to the end, as best we can, for until we do so, we will be permitted no calm.” – When We Were Orphans

“When you are young, there are many things which appear dull and lifeless. But as you get older, you will find these are the very things that are most important to you.” – An Artist of the Floating World

“But God will know the slow tread of an old couple’s love for each other, and understand how black shadows make part of its whole.” – The Buried Giant

“If I’m alone at home, I get increasingly restless, bothered by the idea that I’m missing some crucial encounter out there somewhere. But if I’m left by myself in someone else’s place, I often find myself a nice sense of peace engulfing me. I love sinking into an unfamiliar sofa with whatever book happens to be lying nearby.” – Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Malcolm