Originally posted on Goodreads, Dusty Shelves!
Most people who know me know I'm part of an indie-only bookstote in LA called Pipe & Thimble Bookstore (www.pipeandthimble.com). As the co-propriator, the PA, and the salesperson who sits behind the counter, I know one of the biggest struggles, especially in getting out there and drawing in the community, is that most, if not all,the names are unknown. While it is a selling point for most (No one else will bring that book as a gift to the babyshower), others don't always grasp how special and essential these relatively unknown voices can be. As an indie author myself, I've also experienced this in regards to my own books at events or trying to promote books online.
Here's the thing. If you were to walk into some big name retailer, like say Barnes & Nobles, and you were to browse their shelves, how many names would you recognize? Sure, you might know some of the classics. Bronte, Austin, Dickens, Twain... You might recognize most recent big names. Green, Roberts, Sparks, King... But how many times do you glance at a Best Seller List and know every single author on there? One of the biggest challenges of this industry for many is how inundated it is, how many books are out there, and not only through self publishing and the rise of the small presses, but traditionally published books, too.
Marketing wise, it can feel like you're shouting into the void. Indies don't have the corner stone on being unknown. The difference is, we have to work a bit harder to be seen. Reader wise, though, what's the difference?
Okay, yes, theoretically the endorsement of a big press or a well known name gives the reader certain assurances. Indies are on their own for things like formatting, cover design, editing, and content. However, recent years have proven the stigma and stereotype in regards to quality or lack thereof false. There's a reason Pipe & Thimble Bookstore not only sees repeat customers, but customers coming back for more copies of the same book to give out to friends or even more titles by the same author. And, while there can be drawback from someone who does not rely on big name companies, there's also many, many benefits. The only censorship for an indie is self-censorship. They can cover topics and issues that seek to make a difference in readers lives, regardless of if it's "in" or "sellable." The passion and quality can remain the same through out a series without the restrictions of pre-set deadlines. The list can go on.
There's another part of this as well. I've been to a Barnes & Noble where the salesperson didn't know Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice, didn't realize she has been dead for a while, or that the book is not part of a series. People know Ray Bradbury wrote Farenheit 451 or that Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, but can they name other titles they wrote? Can they list off all their titles? Did you know George Orwell didn't just write 1984 or Animal Farm, but also wrote Keep the Apridistra Flying? Or that the author who wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the same author who wrote Treasure Island and he wrote another book called Kidnapped. If an author themselves is not unknown, chances are there's a book of theirs that is, if not to you, than to someone.
And, let's be honest, no author was a success overnight. No author started off with even 10 reviews. At some point, they all were just some unknown name writing some unknown book and shouting into the void of an inundated industry. J.K. Rowling got where she was because someone took a chance on her. Any of the greats, any of the well-known who have been adopted as a pop-culture reference got somewhere because someone happened to hear them out.
It's no different walking into Pipe & Thimble Bookstore or when you walk by an author's signing table. You could be that first spark to ignite recognition, or at least for that author to know someone took the time to hear them, that they aren't shouting into the void. With you, they can be more than just an unknown, they can someone to somebody. Chances are something they say will resonate. Take a chance on them, and take a chance on me.
And, authors, yes it feels like shouting into the void. Yes, we are inundated with books. But, don't stop. There's an endless amount of stories to be told and there's an endless amount of people to tell them, including you. And, just as endless as those stories may be and despite whatever the media is feeding you, there are endless readers to enjoy those stories. You will hear people say reading is a dying art. The truth is, it never went away. We will not, and will never, run out of readers. And, books, much like basset hounds, chocolate, fried rice, and potato chips, are an addiction. Readers don't just have one book. So, never stop shouting into the void. You never know who might hear.
Society’s Foundlings has been called “A modern day Outsiders” by a few reviewers. There are parallels that could be drawn, whether it is the financial situation the characters live in and their relationships to each other, as well as their relationship to others from a different socioeconomic status, especially Sampson and Nicole Brennerman. In a recent blog post on Pipe & Thimble, I even mentioned my book would probably be banned for the same reasons The Outsiders was banned.
The title itself, Society’s Foundlings, holds a similar meaning and can often evoke a similar feeling or reaction to “The Outsiders.” When searching for a title, I wracked my brain for a good one that emphasized the meaning behind the story. I played around with titles like “The Lost Boys,” and eventually wound up looking up synonyms to “orphans.” Orphans, of course, did not sit well because the issue was not that they were without an influence of the society around them or orphaned from their families.
What it boiled down to was abandonment. They felt abandoned by the society around them and each other. That’s when I remembered the term from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. A foundling is someone who has been abandoned by their parents and is discovered and cared for by others. Though, not necessarily in the everyday vernacular, the obscure term seemed a perfect fit for my four boys.
They feel very much, as Gina Capobianco puts it in one of her poems from her new book, Conscious Connection,
“I am an outsider in a world that surrounds me.
Watching, but never truly a part,
Fading in and out of the scenery,
I long for permanence.
Long to belong somewhere, anywhere.”
And, we see this in many ways. Between the invisibility felt by Math, Sampson’s views of teachers/his father and his father’s apartment/bosses, and, more subtly, the lack of anyone outside his core group of friends, except Amy Bishop, mentioned by Clem.
One of the main differences, though between S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and my Society’s Foundlings, though, comes from not only feeling outside of “a world that surrounds me,” but also feeling as though that world has completely abandoned them. It’s not just the outside looking in, but the idea of loss, whether it’s something they once had like Carver and Sampson’s relationship or it’s something they never had but know was or should be possible like Math and his relationship to his father, or is something they’d like to have like Carver and Ophelia or Sampson and Nicole, or even is something they don’t feel like they have, like Clem’s insecurity about where he stands with his group of friends.
A title is an essential aspect to a book. It can be just as important to hook the readers and the blurb on the back, the cover, and the opening lines. And, where S.E. Hinton’s book and mine share some similarities, as the titles suggest, they are very much a different read.
Going to try something new. They say to write, one needs to read. Despite any debate you might hear on the topic, I know it helps me greatly. For some reason, when I'm reading a really good book, it somehow always spark something for my own writing. My advice when it comes to this is to each their own. Go with What works for you.
In any case, since opening Pipe and Thimble with my best friend and partner, Barbara Lieberman, I haven't been writing or reading as much as I like. Currently, we are working on a few phenomenal manuscripts for which we are very excited. To be part of the process of bringing someone's story into being is beyond words. We have a very full calendar that is constantly becoming even fuller with events for the store. There is the everyday maintenance of running a business. And, of course there is illustrating and PAing. It's a pretty full plate. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love every minute of it, but it's easy to see how certain hobbies and pastimes have fallen by the wayside.
Here's the thing about it, though. I have about three bookshelves of my own personal library, most of which I haven't read. I have an entire store worth of books that I'm working my way through. And, I have people recommending even more books.
Ultimately, I miss that escape, that zone, where you see the story playing out in your head and you're in the book right there with characters and everything. I miss that worn vanilla smell, that crack of the spine for the first time, the feel of the page against my finger tips.
So, here's the plan. I'm going to start sharing the books I'm reading here. At least one will be from the store, one will be from my personal library, and one will be a recommendation.
What's on my menu this time:
-Descendant by Toni Kerr
Toni Kerr is an amazing person! We've worked with her on book swag such as the mini book charms and our pendants. If you're looking for swag, I recommend her. We carry her entire Secrets of the Makai series. I was in an anthology, The Playlist, where she wrote a prequel to that series. It was amazing and I wanted greatly to read more about her character, Tristan. So, I'm diving into the first in that series. Those that follow me on Goodreads probably will notice I'm more than 100 pages in, but I'm a slow reader, and my time to read in the shop is limited.
-One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
This has been on my TBR list for a very long time. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I loved banned and challenged books. With Banned Book week coming up, I figured this would be a good book to celebrate with.
-The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My boyfriend has recently gotten into Disc World. I recently finished The Color of Magic and really want to get to Equal Rites. I'm borrowing his copies and he will only lend them to me in order. 😛 I am eager, however, to find out what happens to Rincewind. I want to learn the spell he knows. And, I want to read more about the luggage!
What are you currently reading?
Originally posted on The Dust Jacket!
Back in July we interviewed Conor Walsh about his book Little Glass Men. We are excited to be working with him in our upcoming bookstore!
What do you want reader to take away from Little Glass Men?
The hope is that the story would spawn more interest in, if not World War I itself, then at least the stories that spawned from it. I find the era fascinating, but feel it's been highly neglected by most forms of media, for the most part. World War I doesn't have the "allure" that the second World War does - that of a distinct good-and-evil struggle, though of course it was more complex than that. The first World War was a meaningless war, for the most part, and one that everyone lost. So the men who fought and died in it can't even say "Well, at least I beat the bad guys." It's always had a sort of poetic merit to me - a war with no point, but one that men still fought and died in. History doesn't really give them a fair shake.
In Little Glass Men you explore a diverse group of characters. Was there a particular perspective that was most difficult to explore? What made you choose these particular characters to explore?
Garrett's perspective was the most difficult to tackle, I'd say, mainly because I had a vision behind his character that got somewhat "lost in the shuffle". The idea behind his character is that he'd never really had a childhood or adolescence; that adulthood was forced on him, so to speak. I find him the most interesting, for what that's worth, as he's even more alone than the other people in the hospital. Racism was rampant in the era Little Glass Men takes place; he's half-black. He has no family. His only "friends" are years above his age, and all with their own score of problems.
As for the cast of characters, I felt each personified a certain outlook in reference to the war and what it took. Lombardi's angry and bitter, O'Brien is secretly wistful and longs for his life before the war, Garrett is a victim of circumstance more than anyone else, Norman's unable to handle the horrors that he's seen. They've been trodden on by life and by the people close to them, and I feel that makes the way they get through each day all the more intriguing. How do they keep going? A fragment of hope on the edge of the horizon, or a deep-seeded will to survive?
Do you have a favorite quote or character from your book?
If I were any good at talking about myself I'd say something like "There are just so many great ones, I can't pick!" In reality I'd just like to skirt around them a bit. Avery has a few good lines when she's berating Lombardi - as she should - and I like the end of chapter six in general, though I don't know if I can go into more detail than that for fear of spoiling.
As for favorite characters, there I will say it's a bit tougher to pick a favorite. I feel like the struggles of Emerson, O'Brien, and Norman are the most poignant, but I don't know that that necessarily makes them my favorite. I do like Avery, though, she's a firebrand.
The sanitarium is called Saint Foresters. Is there a meaning behind it's name?
To be perfectly honest I don't believe there is. I'm afraid it's just a name I liked.
On Goodreads you listed Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, and Edward Carey as influences. How have they influenced you? Why do you find them so influential? And what are some of your favorite works that they've written?
Ray Bradbury is the first hard sci-fi I read, I think. Though sci-fi's one of my favorite genres, the main reason I like him is because of his style. You can read something by Bradbury and recognize it as his by the style alone, which is a skill I hope to one day come close to.
Asimov has remarkable - stamina, I guess you could call it. In my head I could see him being very methodical in the way he planned his stories out. He's an excellent storyteller - rarely do his works get caught up on unnecessary details or overly philosophical points. Moreover, I first read his stuff without actually expecting to like it, but the more I read the more I wanted to read. His stories sink their teeth into you, rather than the other way around, and putting down one of his works becomes difficult, to say the least.
I'm sorry to say I've only read one book by Edward Carey - Observatory Mansions - but conversely I'm pleased to say that it's one of my favorite novels, if not my favorite hands-down. The way he writes is stylistically interesting, the characters are bizarre in a score of ways but remain interesting and sympathetic, and seemingly-strange or otherwise random points brought up always have a reason attached. A lot of writers seem to enjoy being weird to be weird, without any particular reason - it just lends itself to the style. But Carey's characters are something else.
You mentioned that you could see Asimov being very methodical in the way he planned his stories out. When you write, do you tend to plan out your story or fly by the seat of your pants?
It's almost always the latter. Little Glass Men wasn't planned at all when I began it, though I did start to separate and organize more as it went on. Recently I've been trying the more methodical approach, but I have yet to tell exactly how effective that's been. I definitely prefer to make it up as I go along, but I've written myself into a corner more times than I'd care to admit. So I suppose it's still a bit of a touch-and-go thing.
You said scifi is one of your favorite genres. Have you written anything scifi or are you planning to? What do you enjoy about scifi?
I've written some sci-fi short stories, but none recently. I've had some ideas for sci-fi books, but they've all fallen through. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that even though I am a big fan of the genre, writing it has proved a bit of a challenge. The excuse that springs to mind is that the projects I'm currently working on just happen to not be sci-fi, but in truth I think I'd need to settle for a smaller scope than a swashbuckling, galaxy-spanning space quest. Though dystopian wastelands have eluded me too. I'll write something of substance with a sci-fi genre someday, but right now my brain doesn't want to, for some reason.
I'm not sure why I like the genre as much as I do. Maybe because it's so all-encompassing. Most think sci-fi and get images of spaceships and laser fights and aliens, but that's only a small snippet of the genre. Dystopian fiction is typically sci-fi, and the sub-genres (steampunk, cyberpunk) can turn already-interesting concepts on their heads. I've always felt like the genre allows a greater creative scope, not limiting writers to what has been discovered so far - or what even might actually work according to the laws of nature. I remember reading an essay by Asimov - the robots in his stories worked because of "Positrons". If I remember correctly, he said in the essay that he never explained them because he didn't need to - doing so would be long, possibly boring (though Asimov could have kept it interesting), and would prevent the reader from using his or her imagination. By never going into detail and working off suspension of disbelief, he was able to tell excellent stories about fantastic things without being bogged down by details.
Is that part of the experimenting you've been doing with your writing on Deviant Art?
The works I put up on Deviant Art are typically more experimental, yes. I'm mainly working there to hone my short-story writing ability. Currently I don't believe they're up to the level of quality I want, and that particular site gives me an opportunity to get feedback on what worked and what didn't from those I don't personally know. The only reason I don't use a more literature-focused site to post my stories is because I find Deviant Art's posting process a lot easier to use than that of any other site, despite its reputation for having no strong literature-focused community.
Did you always want to write? What drove you to first put words on a page?
I started writing when I was in eighth grade - prior to that point I'd enjoyed making things, but hadn't quite pinned it down to creative writing. I fiddled with some narrative-related stuff, but when I was super-young I was more interested in building things than making stories. Exactly how I got it into my head I couldn't quite tell you, but that year I decided I wanted to write something substantial. I brought it up to my English teacher at the time - his name was Mr. Muelmester. Everybody liked him, including me, and I wanted to see if he had any advice. And he did. "Try short stories first," was the gist of it. Smart man - if I hadn't heeded what he said I probably wouldn't have thought of writing short stories, would have tried and failed miserably to write a novel, and would have chalked it up as something I couldn't do. Possibly. Whatever the possible alternative cases, I'm glad things worked out the way they did.
Speaking of advice, on Goodreads one piece of advice you offered to aspiring writers was to pay attention and that the strangest things can spawn ideas. Has anything like this happened to you? Can you give an example?
Off the top of my head, it's a little tough to come up with a more recent example. Not because it doesn't happen, but because a single story can be sort-of coalesced from a very wide variety of different bits of media. You might decide you like a certain character type from a movie, book, or game - or you might decide that you'd like a character who acts exactly the opposite.
To more adequately answer your question, I believe I've had a few dreams that have been clear and normal enough (rare occurrences, both of them) to be worked into stories. To give yet another example, when I was early in my writing career I saw a woman dressed in army fatigues walking through an airport by herself. Peeking out of the top of her army satchel was a stuffed teddy bear. I recall writing a story inspired by that singular interaction. Now, that was when I was very young, and I'm sure the story isn't exactly a literary masterpiece. But, even though that's probably the case, that's the kind of thing I mean. Surprise ideas popping up in unexpected places.
On Deviant Art, you mentioned in a forum the troubles that come with self-marketing, especially for self-published authors. Have you found any techniques to help since May or do you have any advice to give in this area?
I don't think I do at all, I'm afraid. It's a bit of a stumbling block for me. I can repeat some of what I've been told, though. Do your best to work it tactfully into conversations, get a social media presence, find a way to get people interested and keep them interested. But I'm afraid that much as I might try to give advice, it's a facet of the writing process (if you can qualify it as such) that just doesn't come naturally to me, and I have yet to find a unique strategy that works.
One of the things young authors run into is the questioning of supposed lack of experience to write content that could have any real impact on or wisdom for readers. What is your response?
Having the discipline to write at an early age, I believe, displays some maturity. Someone with discipline to sit down and write some five-thousand words with characters interacting and a cohesive plot must have something going for them, even if their work isn't interesting or powerful. So there's that. There's also the fact that there's a wealth of information out there, on the internet, in television and movies, and of course in other books. I actually believe that a perspective on certain scenarios that one hasn't taken part in - even ones as mundane as filing taxes or living in a city - can paint a drastically different picture than might be immediately apparent for someone regularly experiencing such tasks. Give them a fresh, non-jaded outlook.
Furthermore, I'd motion to suggest that that criticism is illogical if applied automatically. To explain: I don't see a scenario where a reader could finish an entire work by anyone, and only after finishing it question how invested they were in the book. It's either interesting or it isn't. If it is engrossing or insightful in some way, and the author is young, then despite his or her lack of experience the reader has been impacted or given a new outlook. Now, I could understand part of the effect being lost because of a lack of intimate knowledge with certain subjects, but I feel there isn't much out there - in regards to writing, at least - that can't be learned through practice, research, and consumption of other media.
You had such an amazing debut novel. Where are you planning to go from here?
I suppose I'm still trying to get the word out there with the first book - self-marketing's a bit of a doozy, as I mentioned. I'm glad to hear the first book was decent, though. (As a side note from the interviewer's perspective, decent does not begin to describe how amazing this book is.)
Currently I'm working on another novel, which should be finished at some point before the heat death of the universe. In all seriousness, I hope to have it done before the end of this year (though I have no idea how long the editing and other processes will take).
The next novel's actually a bit of a departure from what I've tried thus far - the genre is dark fantasy. The plot centers around the stereotypical "hero" of a fantasy story, one whose parents were murdered by a "mustache-twirling" villain when he was too young to defend them or himself. He then goes on to train to fight said villain - the cliche this time is your corrupt king with an iron-fist - and defeats him in the last part of the story. Or, at least, he would. But my novel intends to pick up at exactly the last point - moments after the protagonist has already defeated his foe. As the novel goes on, the protagonist will come to terms with the fact that he's essentially never had a chance to grow, or experience the world around him, and that the King who he once thought to be evil incarnate might have had a reason - a real, constructive reason - for all of his "evil" measures.
You cover a lot of history in Little Glass Men. You have the struggle of the Irish against the British, when Heroin was discovered to be dangerously addictive, the KKK, Prohibition, the Russo-Japanese War, just to name a few. How much research went into the making of Little Glass Men?
You know, it sounds funny, but I always paid a lot of attention in history classes, and I think more than a good deal of that fed into the information I was able to put on the page. Most of what I wrote about I wouldn't be aware of if I hadn't paid attention to what I was taught. That said, there are exceptions - mainly about specific dates. The internet was very helpful at aiding me in making sure that everything fit together, so that certain events could transpire without upsetting the continuity of the story or the actual events of the period. I think the hardest part was researching how hospitals functioned in the 1920s, because I didn't learn anything specific about that in high school and needed to know as much as I could while writing the book.
Do you have any resources you could recommend to people who are interested in learning more about some of the history you mention?
My first response to your question is, of course, the internet. My second response would be books - other historical fiction novels, accounts of the first World War, and so on and so forth. Donald Kagan's On the Origins of War was one I read - it compared the ancient wars between the Athens and Sparta and Rome and Carthage (respectively) to the first and second world wars. The discourse is detail-heavy, but more in macro-details, so to speak - that is to say, it tells more of the reasons as to why war broke out, as well as the actions taken in each war by the respective armies.
In regards to the portion my book tackles - namely, society immediately after the first World War came to a close - I don't have any specific books to recommend, I'm afraid. Steinbeck's Cannery Row, perhaps, but that's more Depression-era than my book. I recommend it anyway, though, as it's an excellent book.
What advice do you have for writers who are writing historical fiction?
Research, foremost, but don't destroy yourself. You need to be as accurate to the period as you can be, but if you feel like bending the truth a little, do it. For me I largely ignored the country-to-country hatred - the chances of as many nationalities as are in Little Glass Men getting along without copious amounts of violence is almost a certain impossibility. I played that aspect of history down quite a bit. I also found the vernacular of the period a bit difficult to emulate, and believed that if I tried it would come off sounding wooden and unnatural. So I did a bit, but not for the most part.
So try to pay attention to what the people of the period looked like, and what had been invented, lest you mention something that didn't exist. Try to be aware of the societal views at the time, and the way people should act in the situations that come up throughout the book that they might not in the present day. But don't let it constrict you - move with the confines granted by the time period, and write freely.
What are you currently reading?
Currently am working on Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li. It's a quasi-drama-thriller what-have-you about three childhood friends who drifted apart after a friend of theirs was poisoned, and the struggles they're having with coping with their adult lives because of the incident.
So far I haven't made much headway, but I've noticed that the author is excellent at streamlining her prose. There is not much in the way of unnecessary words, and the writing's much better for it. More than that I can't quite say, because more than that I haven't quite read, but I'm optimistic.
Is there anything else you would like to add about Little Glass Men, your writing, or being a writer?
There are a lot of hurdles standing between me and success, enough to be intimidating. But I think I picked the right passion - or maybe it picked me. If you're a writer and aren't getting a lot of notice, and are feeling discouraged, try to take a step back and ask yourself if you enjoy what you're doing. Success isn't an easy thing to acquire - some, maybe many, never will. But if writing makes you happy, then you should do it as long as you can. And hey! Maybe if you do it long enough without expecting success, it'll be a pleasant surprise when it falls into your lap. Don't let the world discourage you, because it's sure going to try.
Follow Conor Walsh on:
I am a writer. I know what it’s like to create characters and a world around them. Trying to capture the exact moment your own creations go through; the sun beating down on the back of Garrett and Erik’s necks as they hunt through wilderness, the smell of Carver’s cigarette as the smoke dances in the midnight breeze, the curiosity of the outside world and frustration of living behind the electrified gates, the hopelessness and fear of a future that feels inevitable. I know what it’s like to try to paint pictures with the very limited pallet of language, words, punctuation, and formatting. And sometimes, I find myself inspired to create the images I write using a different type of pallet, as I first started doing with my short story in my most recent release, A Dragon’s Treasure in A Horde of Dragons Multi-Author Anthology. It was my first venture in toying with the idea of illustrating.
When my fairy godmother, a very good friend of mine, Evangeline Duran Fuentes, was looking for an illustrator for her second illustrated children’s book, Waggles, I approached her with the idea that maybe, if she couldn’t find anybody else, I could try it. And, gee, jumping fleas, as Waggles would say! What an experience! Working with her was amazing! She was supportive and excited. “You took the images that were in my head and you made them real,” she told me. I couldn’t imagine a better compliment. It meant the world to me that the illustrations meant so much to her, that I could bring her story to life!
Inspired by the experience, I thought I’d try my hand at Barb Lieberman’s sweet lullaby in a book, Why Does the Moon Follow Me? Captivated by the story, I tried drawing for some different pages, blowing her away with the final product and wound up co-illustrating with the talented, Jessie J Inspirations, who agreed to include my illustrations. This time, I also had the unique experience of having an audience as I worked. Painting with someone looking over your shoulder is very different than writing. I highly recommend it, especially when the audience is as supportive and amazed by your work as mine was. “It has soul,” Barb described my pictures.
From these two amazing experiences, new opportunities have bloomed. The co-writers of Tales From Mema’s Garden each have individual children’s books coming out about their pets. Elaine McInnes No Kitty Adventures is one of the many stories that are beginning to occupy my sketchpad. The other is Robin Nieto’s The Adventures of Duke and Daisy, expected out in December. The first sketch of Daisy brought Robin to tears. Again, there is no greater compliment. Along with their individual endeavors, their continued series, Tales from Mema’s Garden, I now have the honor of illustrating as well.
Outside of my immediate writing circle, another author contacted me and now her creations, too, are finding a place among my drawings. As are the illustrations for my own upcoming children’s book, The Butter Thief!
My schedule is busy, my paint is at the ready, my sketch book awaits, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is nothing I love more than bringing an author’s vision to life.
Originally posted on Goodreads!
It has happened. As my friend has called it, "A rite of passage" for any author. If you are an author, I'm sure it is inevitable. The one-star review. My very first and on my most recent story.
There has been a great debate over one-star reviews. For me, I fall on the side that a reader has every right to be completely honest. If that means a one-star review, it means a one-star review. Not everyone is going to love or enjoy a book. Therefore, not everyone is going to love a book I've written. After all, even the classics and most popular books receive one-star reviews.
I fully recognize that this is easy to say when you've never had a one-star review. Except, now I've received one. And, yeah, it hurts. I don't think anybody really enjoys getting them. But, it doesn't make the review any less valid.
As my grandfather always said, "practice what you preach." You have to walk your talk. If I truly believe in reader's being able to be honest in their reviews, I have to believe in it when I'm the one receiving that one-star review. And, I do.
Maybe it's a bit easier since I have the protection of the computer screen, but this one-star review also benefits me. 1) It gives me another review on my book. It kind of follows the idea of "any publicity is good publicity." 2) It adds some appeal to my book. If all I have are five-stars and beta readers or friends, the views and opinions of the book appeared skewed. If I have one five-star review and one one-star review, it makes it seem more balanced and genuine. 3) Because it was through K.U. I still got royalties.
One-star reviews are going to happen. They are going to hurt, but it's part of being an author. It helps you grow. So, this book wasn't for one reader, but it might be a great read to another. And, if I believe in the reader's right to post an honest review, I believe in the reader's right to post an honest review on my books as well.
Originally posted on Goodreads!
As a side job to support my writing career, I work as a yard supervisor at an elementary school. Part of this job includes assisting children in the lunchroom. That was what I was doing when some students noticed a cloud of smoke in the distance beyond the fence on the other side of the playground.
A group of the students began speculating as to what might be the cause of the smoke. A fire seemed to be the most likely culprit, according to them. A house fire.
Another little boy raised his hand to get my attention and informed me that he not only did not appreciate the type of conversation but that it was putting him off his lunch. I suggested to the group of students that they needed to respect the fact this other kid asked them to please stop and maybe speak quieter so the other student did not have to hear and could finish his food. Understandably, a conversation of that nature is rather frightening and even unsettling to think about. And, all in all, it is lunch time and the boy needed to be able to eat his food.
As I walked away from the table, something about how I handled the situation did not sit right. What happened kept replaying in my head and upon a minute or so of more thought led me to another way of looking at it.
Why shouldn't that group of students still be allowed to talk and speculate? Yes, it was an unsettling conversation, but what did it teach to them and that boy about when unsettling conversations are brought up? Just as that boy has a right to eat his lunch in peace, that group of students had a right to talk it out.
Talking is a way of coping. And smoke, like a car accident, is hard to ignore. Human nature lends itself to curiosity and often talking it out is a way to reach an understanding.
I went back to the table and told that boy, "You know what? Just as they need to respect that you don't like this conversation, you need to respect that they might need this conversation. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don't like what is being talked about, you don't like what show just came on television, you don't like a certain book, you can remove yourself from the conversation. I understand that it is frightening or unsettling, but if they keep talking about it and you can still hear it, you can take your lunch and move to a different seat."
Big concept in a seemingly little moment, self censorship. It reminded me of banning books. Amazing books that bring up some incredible conversation, but because one person objects, suddenly they try to silence it, ban it. More often than not, these are conversations we need to have, too. That people do more harm than good in trying to censor others, rather than simply censoring for themselves.
Originally posted on Goodreads!
Recently at Wondercon, someone asked what the hardest part of being an author was for me. It made me pause for a moment, because while there are some challenges, none really stuck out. As an indie author, the things I would find most challenging such as a deadlines are not a problem for me. As I have the ability to set my own and I detest the things because they tend to stunt my creativity, I simply fly by the seat of my pants. Books come when they come. Time is a constraint I only permit for my side job.
And, of course, as often happens with things such as wit and comeback, the answer hit me the moment they walked away. The hardest part of being an author is the promotion. I don’t require motivation to write, because if I didn’t write I’d cease to be and, quite frankly, that’s motivation enough. But, once you have the physical book in hand, once it’s up on Amazon, how does one start the process of getting it seen.
Someone once compared the world of publishing, being traditional and big houses or indie self and small presses, to a sea of books. Every day countless books are being published and it’s hard to break through the waves. Here’s what I’ve found thus far:
- Local events and craft shows:
Events give you the opportunity to speak to readers face to face and one-on-one. The benefits are the ability to become more personable in a way that modern day technology just can’t achieve. Who hasn’t heard the debate over ebook versus physical copies? There are many people who still appreciate, love, and prefer paperbacks. Plus, there is the excitement for them to meet an author and get it signed.
If you do craft shows, you also have the corner market on all those book-lovers. Recently, I helped out Barbara Lieberman at her Torrance Craftsman’s Guild and all the customers were shocked to discover her treasure trove of books. Another author, Evangeline Duran Fuentes, had the same experience. Even with other authors there is no competition because book lovers have the wonderful addiction. They’ll buy more than one. And with no two books being the same, it minimizes the competition even more.
Other benefits include minimum booth fees, great experiences, practice discussing your books, building a following, just to name a few.
- Book swag:
Book swag provides benefits in introducing people to your books and building interest. They may not pick up the book first, but be drawn to a necklace with a quote that speaks to them or a button because they like the image. Always include the information of the book, so they can find it and you for when they’re realize they can continue their love of that quote or find out more about that image.
It also allows the readers of the books to continue the story. If they loved your book, and your book swag relates back, it gives them the opportunity to bring the story to life. Barbara Lieberman has scented fabric “Mouse’s Apples” that are tied back to her The Treasure of Ravenwood. She sells seed packets of Arrowleaf Balsamwood that relates to her Message on the Wind and To Reap a Whirlwind.
I have recently joined not one, but two, anthologies. The beauty of the anthology is that it can feature a variety of authors from all different places. That means that while I’m promoting a work that includes their stories, they’re doing the same for me. I will be introduced to their following and their fan based.
The same goes for if you have an illustrator or cover artist or if you work with a local handmade business to help make some book swag. The same can be said for holding your own signings, release parties, or other events in local bookstore for instance. Collaborations are a great source of cross-promotions.
- Joining the 21st Century:
Just as in-person events are important and hold many benefits, so does the world of technology. With social media and other forms of technology, you are able to reach wider audiences, both out of state and out of country. It is a great place to build communities, such as Indie Authors and Book Blogs on Facebook. This will allow you to build necessary connections that could get you more seen or more help, whether you’re looking for an editor, illustrator, formator, PA, etc. With a wide variety of social media sites to choose from, you also have the opportunity to pick one or more that fit you or are more geared toward what you’re trying to promote.
That being said, they have to be updated. Yes, it can be time consuming, but with certain sites there’s the instant updates, such as Instagram, or posts that can be scheduled, such as Facebook or twitter. There are ways around that such as hiring a PA to assist in scheduling posts or programs like hootsuit that can schedule posts across Social Media.
Online Author events, such as Virtual FantasyCon on Facebook, is always a fun and wonderful way to meet other authors, see what they’re doing, and get your book in front of the eyes of readers.
Whether or not you are going to route of big publishing houses or you’re a self-published indie author, promotion is on you. It is a big challenge and it can be daunting as well as discouraging at time, but when you stick with it, it makes all the difference. What are some ways you would like to see book promoted or what are the methods you use as an author?
Originally posted on Goodreads!
Using the questions asked in Inside the Actor's Studio, I will be interviewing characters from my books. I'm starting with Carver from Society's Foundlings.
1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
Can’t. I don’t like limitations.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
A well written book and any conversation about books in general.
4. What turns you off?
Little princess-bitches in platform five-inch heels who shrills in a voice equivalent to nails on a chalkboard and a dying cat and whose favorite book is about sparkly vampires, whose favorite show is a tie between some soap and a reality, and who owns more shoes than books. My friend, Ophelia, tells me I’m a stuck up bastard and a snob. It’s mostly the righteous attitude, like a parent who gets pissed off that I’m cursing when they’re at a sleazy fast food joint at midnight and buying their kid caffeine. If a few curse words is the worst thing a kid experiences, than I’d call it good.
5. What is your favorite curse word?
Pardon the French, but Fuck.
6. What sound or noise do you love?
A page being turned.
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
Gunshots. Police sirens.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Travel writer. As Jack Kerouac said, “The road is life.” Anything to find whatever “more” I can.To go places and meet people, with “nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever on the road.”
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Any of the jobs I am currently doing. Laundromat, stocking shelves, cashier, etc.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I’m surprised to see you here.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...