Suddenly the blog is like chopped liver.

There are weeks when a hundred or so people show up. And there are weeks when almost nobody shows up. One is tempted to ask, “What am I, chopped liver?”

If you love chopped liver, no offense is intended even though I might wonder if you were brainwashed.

Mother tried to sneak liver into our menu about once a month. Nobody liked it. Maybe she learned about it in Home Ec. Maybe her parents forced her to eat it and she was carrying on the tradition. Even ketchup couldn’t save it.

Chopped Liver with Egg – Wikipedia photo

If you know how search engines work, I have a question for you. When the subject of a post, often one written several years ago, isn’t part of the national debate, what causes people to suddenly click on it, seemingly in groups? It would make more sense if they left comments or posted links to those posts on Twitter or Facebook. But, they aren’t doing that (I don’t think).

This week it’s my Seminole Pumpkin Fry Bread post from March 2015. I grew up in Florida and often made fry bread. So, when I included fry bread in one of my novels, I wrote a post about it. Now, the post is getting more hits. What’s that about? Do clubs have meetings, pick a post, and then go out and look at it in droves to confuse the blogger? If so, those people are eating too much chopped liver. (By the way, if your mother is serving you liver, a half teaspoon of Tabasco sauce will kill the taste.)

Every week, my post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale gets hundreds of hits. I wrote that post in 2013. The number of hits surprises me. Perhaps more people are reading, writing, and studying fairy tales than I suspected. So many people have stopped by that post, that I’ve updated it with more information and links. Maybe I should add a subliminal spell to that post that draws fairies into every reader’s house. All in good fun, of course. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer, of course, is that those fairies bring you steaming plates of chopped liver.  (By the way, Sriracha sauce makes liver even worse. It makes everything worse. I know, I know, I’m in the minority of people who didn’t jump on the big Sriracha sauce bandwagon, opting to stay with Tabasco.)

Okay, let’s agree to disagree if you like chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, don’t send me any recipes, pamphlets, white papers, or how-to books featuring those things. In fact, if you’re a fan of chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, my advice is to become a contestant on the cooking show called Chopped. That show features mystery baskets of hideous ingredients that regular people have never heard of, much less would even eat.

According to The Weirdest Ingredients Ever Used on ‘Chopped’, here are a few of the show’s strange offerings: Dried fermented scallops, Eyeballs, Scrapple, and Caul fat. If you want to know what any of these things are, click on the link. I’ll warn you now that the article includes pictures. The chef contestants on each show must include all of the mandatory ingredients in each appetizer, entree, and dessert. And, as the show’s host Ted Allen tells them something like, “If your food doesn’t cut it, you’ll be chopped.” (Eliminated in that round of the show.)

In general, Mother made good meals. So, I probably would not have voted to chop her from the family kitchen for serving liver. I came close to saying I was going to start having meals on campus (you have to be crazy to do that) when mother–and apparently everyone else in the neighborhood–went on a weird food fad: baby bees, chocolate-covered ants. My brothers and I were told we had to taste everything on our plates. We forced down the liver with Hunt’s Ketchup (we never ate that swill called “catsup”), but we drew the line at the bees and the ants.

So, now I’m curious: Will people who tend to follow this blog see this post as just more chopped liver?

Malcolm

I do most of the cooking in our house. I have never served liver, chopped or otherwise. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t try to “elevate” the meal, as chef contestants would say, with something hideous like dried tarantula powder.

 

 

The tale of two literary forums (updated 02/07/19)

If you were out on the Internet in the 1980s, you probably remember that CompuServe was a major ISP, providing e-mail and forums for millions of users. In those days, almost every hi-tech company, whether hardware or software, had a forum staffed in part by representatives of the company to help people with bugs, usage issues, and other information. In addition to these forums, CompuServe also maintained forums for pets, religion, political discussions, hobbies, and literature.

Jupiter Images art

The forums all provided discussions in threads–originally in a DOS/non-graphic mode–that looked sort of like the outline-style comments on many blogs as well as on Facebook posts. As CompuServe (which became part of AOL) lost market share over time, these forums dwindled in number so that on December 14th when the remaining forums were shut down by CompuServe’s parent (a Verizon subsidiary), there were relatively few forums left compared to the old lineup.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was a regular participant on CompuServe’s Literary Forum. That name was later changed to Books and Writers. Those who participated in the forum in those days had a rare treat, seeing the birth of now-bestselling author Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. In those days, she was a very active participant and helped many of us get our start in the writing business. She answered questions from everything from craft issues to publication and promotion issues. While her active participation seemed reduced to me due to her busier schedule, she was still on the forum when CompuServe pulled the plug this month.

Like many early participants, I was lured away from the forum by the more cutting-edge software at MySpace and then Facebook. Also, the software at CompuServe’s forums changed so that when you replied to a comment, your reply was no longer posted beneath the message you were responding to, but at the end of the thread. For me, that made navigation a punishing task. Plus, many of the people I knew there when I was a regular had drifted away, and so I had less incentive to go there as fewer and fewer people knew me. My personal opinion was that the staff had become a bit heavy handed, though others didn’t see it that way.

Now, there are two forums to choose from

  1. The management of the former CompuServe forum, that is to say, the forum’s contract holder and the staff members (called Sysops and Section Leaders) changed the name back to Literary Forum. You can find it here: http://www.thelitforum.com/
  2. Meanwhile, a group of former-participants at the CompuServe forum who disagreed with various of the forum’s policies, started its own Literary Forum. You can find it here: https://forumania.com/      This screen is a landing page for multiple forums, one of which is Literary Forum with a button to click on to go to the forum. UPDATE: This forum has closed.

Both forums are new. So there are probably software issues still to be worked out. The first forum listed here has more posts because they apparently were able to bring over posts from CompuServe. The Forumania Literary Forum doesn’t have a fan base and has fewer discussions to involve yourself with. I am a participant in both forums, but have a strong preference for the new Literary forum on Forumania.

Both forums require you to create an account if you want to respond to posts or start your own threads. Both are free. Both forums offer sections (groupings of threads) that will appeal to many readers and writers. There are discussions of current books, genres, the writing craft, and promotional matters.

I invite you to look at each of them, learn how they are organized, and see if you can find a niche there that fits your preferences for talking about the books you’re reading and/or the books you’re writing and promoting. Unfortunately, neither forum has been able for afford software that places responses to threads in the order they’re posted. I figure that if Facebook and WordPress can display responses in an outline form, everyone ought to be able to do it–and CompuServe knew how to do it decades ago. So navigation isn’t as user friendly at either place as it is at other websites.

However, I received a lot of writing help and inspiration at the original Literary Forum when I was starting out. Perhaps you’ll find this kind of help at one of these literary forums as well. They are worth the time and effort and a good place to make some new online friends.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, paranormal, and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories, many from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

 

How do you contend with the hubris of thinking anyone has or should have any interest in what you have to say about anything?

In his Salon interview with five authors (“Figuring out that page-turning quality is tougher than it looks”), Teddy Wayne asked, “How do you contend with the hubris of thinking anyone has or should have any interest in what you have to say about anything?”

I especially liked Sara Flannery Murphy’s (“The Possessions”) answer: “I always remind myself that I’m not entitled to anybody’s attention. That way, I feel a lot of gratitude for the people who do listen, knowing that they’re giving their attention to me freely and generously.”

Authors have been asked this question for years. Some are considered arrogant, egotistical, and vain, filled with self-importance as though they are kings and queens who must be served by millions of little readers. Some write that they write and hope the readers who like their plots and characters find their books.

Some authors are very commercial: they have a knack for knowing what sells well and how to keep writing it so that over time they develop a reputation for delivering stories in their genres of choice that are guaranteed to keep their fans forever turning pages and waiting for the next book.

Some authors are more comfortable in niches and (perhaps) believe they’re lucky if anyone finds their books.

Today, a lot of authors think the way to success is to sell stuff cheaply. Maybe that works. But really, the thing all authors are asking their readers to give them is their time. Whether those readers pay 99¢ or $29.95 for the book, the time it takes for them to read the novel, short story collection, or nonfiction is more valuable to them than the cash. Whether they read the book in an afternoon, a long weekend, or a few pages every night for weeks before going to bed, they had unlimited options for spending that time. But they chose the book.

That’s why I like Murphy’s answer. And frankly, there’s no way to truly thank a reader who has spent many hours “freely and generously” reading something we’ve written other than doing our best to tell the story well.

Malcolm