This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
The BIG PICTURE
A Young Woman, A Camera, An Uncompromising Ethic
TWO DAYS ONLY - February 22 and 23
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Young, talented, ambitious, Freyja Brynjarrson’s a photographer struggling to crash the art establishment, the challenges presented by her family, and still keep true to her uncompromising ethic.
Fate places her on the front line of a political demonstration where soldiers open fire on civilians. She photographs death for the first time and likes it. Because of the sensitive nature of her pictures the current government, facing an imminent election, tries to suppress them. But someone far more unscrupulous than government spin-doctors also wants those images destroyed.
Gunnar Brynjarrson, Freyja’s eldest brother is the head of an illegal narcotics empire. He’s concerned about the opposition party’s platform to decriminalize drugs. His sister’s photographs could influence the outcome of a close election and put his business in jeopardy.
As events unfold, Freyja slowly becomes aware of the far-reaching impact the billions of narco dollars have on the government, the economy, friends, family and even herself. Something insidious has infected society and like a super bug it’s resilient, opportunistic and appears as a mutation in the most unexpected places.
Freyja refuses to compromise and is intolerant and unforgiving of those who succumb to this evil or are complicit in their acceptance of it. If she stays at home she’s afraid she’ll be infected and never attain success on her own terms. She takes an assignment with an international agency photographing the chaos and casualties of Mexico’s drug war. Freyja soon discovers she’s shot only one frame of ‘the big picture’.
The Big Picture focuses on dramatic action, zooms in on political intrigue, and takes a candid snapshot of modern romance. The plot also reveals how narco dollars, overtly and covertly, influence every level of our lives; the wars we fight, the governments we elect, the impact on healthcare, and most importantly and tragically, our personal relationships.
FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend
Lost gold, lost love and lost hope compels Matt to return home to Pitt Landing, a dying town on the edge of a rainforest on the west coast of Canada. The forest is waiting.
TWO DAYS ONLY - February 15 and 16
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Can dreams be resurrected?
Can a life you’ve abandoned be taken up again?
Is it worth it?
Will they let you?
TWO DAYS ONLY - February 8 and 9
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I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron, is a collection of twenty-three personal reflections that address the many aspects of aging with insight and wit.
The challenges of new technology, a failing memory and the passing of family members are poignant and relatable.
While the piece, Journalism – A Love Story, is a pocket history of the demise of the industry, it’s also a glory-days story, the kind we all love to tell about when we were in our prime and things were different–meaning better.
Other topics discussed include humorous personal peccadilloes and relationships; the temporary, the enduring, how some flourish with time, whiles others become unsustainable.
If you’re honest, and of a certain age, you’ll agree there’s not one good thing to be said about getting old, including admitting to it. In this short book, Nora Ephron faces it head-on and her courage and honesty are an inspiration to this aging reader/writer.
- News to Die For
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LOVING THE TERRORIST
- Risking it All
Eco-Warrior Series Book 3.
TWO DAYS ONLY - January 19th and 12th
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MAD MAGGIE and the Mystery of the Ancients
Throughout the coming year, you'll be receiving
FREE BACKLIST BARGAINS
An opportunity to download one of my ten novels,
two plays or collection of short stories free
TWO DAYS ONLY - January 19th and 12th
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Thanks for your continuing support
Surrendered Stories with photographs is a slim volume of four well-written and clever short stories embracing comedy, drama, tragedy, and suspense.
Cocteau’s Ransom is a humorous tale about an ill-conceived dognapping.
Nights at the Vestige is a poignant story about loneliness underscored by the protagonist's predilection for 1930s jazz and silent movies.
A tragic death and how a family deals with the aftermath is the theme in Return to Camp Bon Temps.
Fouchet leaves the best for last. Margaux’s Understudy is a suspenseful story about love lost and how it cannot be reenacted.
Author Kirstin Fouquet uses a crisp, sparse style with minimal description leaving much to the readers' imagination. Characters are developed through action and dialogue never impeding the well-paced plot.
Though the stories are expertly crafted beginning in the middle of the action, building to the climax and each culminating with a satisfying ending, they lacked impact. The intensity of life and death, real or as a metaphor is absent.
Fouquet’s knowledge of the music of the Jazz Age, the silent movie era and classic stage productions is prodigious and enhances the narrative of Nights at the Vestige and Margaux’s Understudy respectively.
Embedded with the stories are nine black and white photographs. It’s apparent a good deal of care and creativity went into the production of this book including layout and design, reproduction and placement of the photographs, typography and even the choice of fonts.
Though I felt the images enhanced the book, it was a stretch to see how some of the photographs related to the text. Despite these few shortcomings, the approach shows courageous creativity.
- Reviewed by Rod Raglin for Readers’ Favorite,
Jenny and Tricia Carter are sisters, but all they have in common are their parents.
At twenty-seven, Jenny has a deadbeat boyfriend and barely gets by with poorly paid part-time jobs. For Tricia, older by two years and a successful realtor, money comes above everything else.
Jenny has been renting the extra bedroom in Tricia’s Venice, California condo since she got evicted from her low-rent studio a couple of years ago. Tricia never misses an opportunity to criticize her sister for the poor choices she makes. Jenny pretty much deserves it.
One of Jenny’s part-time jobs is caring for the indoor plants of a mega-wealthy hedge fund manager, Todd Granger. When Felicia, his housekeeper, tells Jenny she’s concerned Susan, Todd’s live-in girlfriend has gone missing, Jenny says she’ll look into it.
Jenny has no luck tracing Susan, but Felicia has discovered Todd’s house is bugged and gives her a secure digital card she found. The SD card is from Total Surveillance, a company Jenny has another part-time job with reviewing surveillance tapes.
Jenny does some digging at Total Surveillance and comes up with more tapes from Todd’s house that suggest he’s laundering cartel drug money through his hedge fund as well as using some of it to finance his brother’s anti-immigrant focused campaign for governor.
This has the elements of an interesting novel and might have been in the hands of an author better versed in the craft.
This is Brian Finney’s first work of fiction and its apparent right from the start when he begins the narrative with backstory rather than the inciting incident.
It’s not that the writing is bad; there are no grammatical errors; it’s just painfully amateurish.
The author is infatuated with adverbs and attaches them to almost every bit of dialogue, presumably to make sure the reader understands the delivery. With good writing, the reader knows how the dialogue is delivered because of previous action, characterization and setting.
The story is filled with redundancies, a common mistake of beginners who want to make sure the reader “gets it.” The text is also riddled with redundant modifiers like “shouts angrily”, “shouts back in a temper”, “shoves Miguel roughly,” “lacks firm definition”.
Characters in Money Matters are one dimensional with good and evil delineated almost exclusively by wealth and ethnic origin. Everyone white is at best indifferent and at worst a bigot. If you’re successful, you’re self-centered, materialistic, greedy and just plain nasty—like Tricia. If you’re powerful, you’re corrupt like Todd and his politician brother.
For all the antagonists in Money Matters, the end justifies the means.
On the other hand, if you’re poor or struggling it’s because you’re kind, liberal and caring and in the case of this story, likely an illegal, undocumented Mexican.
With the introduction of every new character, the author gives you a detailed physical description including their wardrobe complete with designer names. This not only stalls the narrative but feels unnatural. Minimal physical description introduced through action allows the reader to fill in the blanks and further invests them in the story.
The plot stretches the suspension of disbelieve in a number of areas. The first is when Felicia, after trying unsuccessfully to contact Susan, visits her apartment.
“I went to her apartment in Palos Verdes, and it was no right. I could see through the window. All the plants were muertas. Plates broken on the kitchen floor.” … “No! No! The landlord told me she pays the rent. Is not right. Something is malo. It smell bad in there.”
Why doesn't Felicia call the 9-1-1 and tell police what she’s seen and what she suspects? She could do it anonymously.
The second instance is when Miguel, an undocumented immigrant, obstructs Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers while they’re making an arrest and subsequently gets arrested himself. Does it make sense that he would intervene knowing how personally at risk he is?
Another is a telephone conversation where Todd arranges to launder cartel money through his hedge fund if the cartel makes a $100,000 donation to his brother’s political campaign. Then, Dan Granger, Todd’s brother and candidate for governor, instructs a campaign worker to open a bank account in a fictitious name and deposit the illegal contribution.
With so much at stake, you’d think they’d take at least a few precautions like not discussing the transaction over the telephone and not instructing an anonymous campaign worker to do something illegal.
The story only feels authentic when the author introduces subplots with secondary characters, Miguel’s detainment and deportation and the scenes with Jenny and Tricia’s parents including the announcement their mother has vascular dementia.
Developing the aforementioned scene could add a much-needed dimension to the characters of Jenny and Tricia and balance to the story as well. If Tricia were to step up and to pay for her mother’s long-term care, it would depict her as something other than avaricious and demonstrate that having a healthy bank account can be used for a worthwhile purpose.
Finney either is not up to this opportunity or misses it altogether. Instead, he has Tricia cut a cheque for a measly thousand dollars and writes the following tepid response for Jenney,
“I had never faced the obvious fact that my parents wouldn’t be around for the rest of my life. They were a fixture in my mind. I feel sort of uprooted.”
Considering the upbeat ending, I wonder if the author is aware of the insidious conflict of interest that has facilitated it.
Jenny has extorted a million-dollar donation from the drug cartel for the Coalition of Immigrant Rights run by her boyfriend, Eduardo. Some of this money will go to pay her salary in a new job he’s created for her, described as “…exposing the false information… to change the treatment of immigrants until we have enough votes to compel the government to change the present laws.”
Ironically, the cartel’s funds come in part from human smuggling which would mean her salary is being paid by the very thing she'll be employed to expose–human suffering and the exploitation of immigrants.
If only I could believe Finney was aware of this, it would make the novel almost worthwhile.
I received this book free from Reedsy Discovery in return for an honest review and a $5 Amazon Gift Card.
If you like clever, well-written murder mysteries you’ll enjoy The Word is Murder.
An author is recruited by a discredited detective who in turn has been hired as a consultant by his former employer to solve a puzzling murder.
The sleuth wants the writer to tell the story about how he solves the murder and in turn share the rewards of what he’s sure will a bestseller. The author is not so sure–about the detective or the project.
Author Anthony Horowitz mixes fact with fiction and real people with imaginary characters to weave a story that has plenty of twists and turns.
The plot becomes a bit convoluted near the end but not so much as to dismiss it as contrived.
The first third of Keeper ‘n Me details the life of Garnet Raven who was taken from his Objibway parents when he was three years old and raised in non-native foster homes.
He grows up never knowing who or where his real family is and his search for identity and belonging are authentic and poignant.
Like so many First Nations people from similar backgrounds, his dysfunctional life inevitably finds him in prison where he is contacted by someone who says he’s his brother. Indeed, he has an entire family living on a reserve in northern Ontario.
Upon his release and with nowhere else to go he decides to check it out.
The balance of Keeper ‘n Me is the story of his reunion with his family on the remote White Dog reserve and his introduction to the culture and spirituality of his ancestors by an old man referred to as Keeper.
Life on the White Dog reserve is mostly boring and so is reading about it. The anecdotes about events are quaint but mostly uninspiring. The importance of the connection Indigenous people have with nature is reinforced again and again and ...
The climax of the story comes when Garnet spends four days in the wilderness by himself – a vision quest of sorts, which, of course manifests in meaningful dreams about his ancestors.
If this book wasn’t written by an Indigenous person it would be dismissed as a clichéd misrepresentation of the contemporary First Nations people.
Last year I blew my book marketing budget on entering writing contests, a total of $305 including entry fees, books and postage.
Two good things came out of that experience. One was a positive and insightful review by Judge Number 54 of my novel Abandoned Dreams that I entered in The 26th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. The other was the understanding the entire contest thing was a waste of money, or, to put it another way, it was a lot of money to spend for one review.
Though I have no evidence to prove it, I am convinced most, if not all contests are nothing more than revenue generating opportunities for writing platforms, groups and publications.
Aside from the monthly stipend I receive for facilitating creative writing circles, I am determined this year to make more on my writing than I spend. That brings us to my latest novel, The Bird Whisperer, the Mattie Saunders Series Book 3, launched on May 6 of this year.
After five weeks that included giveaways on BookLikes and LibraryThing, an email campaign with a free coupon code sent to 276 people on my email list, and numerous tweets and Facebook postings of a similar nature all I had to show was nineteen free downloads and one four-star review.
I changed my strategy, What did I have to lose?
I decided to promote The Rocker and the Bird Girl, the first book in the Mattie Saunders series in hopes it might create sales for The Bird Whisperer. I decided to enroll The Rocker and the Bird Girl in KDP Select and coordinate two of the five free days this exclusive listing affords you, and free email blasts with Awesome Gang, PrettyHot and MyBookPlace.
June 22 was the day and I assume the free email blasts went out, but nothing happened on Amazon.
Since research indicates fiction sales almost always peak within the first two to six weeks of the release the window for The Bird Whisperer was running out. I decided to take a chance and spend some money. I booked The Rocker and the Bird Girl on Freebooksy and coordinated it with the three free days I had left on Kindle Select.
The genre I chose was literary, the email would be sent to 123,660 Freebooksy subscribers, and the cost was $60 USD.
I held my breath.
The day the Freebooksy promotion broke 1,033 free books were downloaded and my author ranking went from 715,187 to 85,209 for All Books; 41,906 for Kindle eBooks; 56,679 for Kindle eBooks Romance; and, 24,882 for Kindle eBooks Romance Contemporary. The following day there were 131 downloads, and 31 on the third day.
Giving away books is one thing, but my benchmark for success is, and always will be, sales. As of July 20, 2019, twenty days after the Freebooksy promotion, two copies of The Bird Whisperer had been sold. However, The Rocker and the Bird Girl had picked up one text review and seven ratings with a 4-star average. There may be a few more sales and reviews trickle in over the course of this month but beyond that I wouldn’t attribute them to Freebooksy.
With the Freebooksy promotion and expenses such as proof books, books for beta readers and postage I’m in the red $152.15 so far this year. So much for my 2019 goal to make more on my writing than I spend.
But then there are still five months to go.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
Author’s Amazon Book Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t receive promotional material regarding some writing related program, service, publishing platform or marketing gimmick.
There seems to be no end to people who, for a price, will support my career as an author. Where do they all come from and considering how many there are how do any of them make a living?
You wouldn’t think there were that many suckers out there.
Here are three more sure fire suggestions to polish your manuscript, generate reviews and enhance your sales that don’t work.
Reedsy Discovery. Reedsy took umbrage when I described their new Discovery site as a “Another paid review, bogus up-voting book marketing site”, so I’ll let them describe it for you (how fair is that?). Visit https://blog.reedsy.com/announcing-reedsy-discovery/
Let’s assume you send your manuscript plus $50 and the Reedsy team smiles upon you. Your book gets a high quality review and your promoted on their Discovery Feed. Reedsy doesn’t appear to have any shortage authors ready to anti up $50. I receive at least two emails a week from them with a list of newly launched titles.
But does it work?
I’ve been tracking a few titles and here are the results to this date, July 10, 2019. The dates indicated are the Reedsy Discover launch date. Many of these books were actually published months before.
In Verse by Tex DeJésus was launched May 15th. It has no reviews on Amazon and one review on Goodreads posted by the author.
Nobody Drowned by Peter Kingsmill was launched on May 22 and has three reviews on Amazon (two are prior to the Reedsy release date) and two on Goodreads - one duplicated from Amazon and one from the author.
Martyrs al Sabra by Dan Kalin has no reviews on Amazon and three reviews and two ratings on Goodreads, the majority of which were posted prior to the Reedsy launch.
In Case You Forgot by Aubrey Stack was launched on May 23 and has no reviews anywhere.
The Alchemy of Noise by Lorraine Devon Wilke had its Reedsy launch on July 3 and has 32 reviews on Amazon and 40 on Goodreads, all posted prior to the launch.
One thing for sure, this site isn’t going to launch your literary career.
Following the Reedsy release most of the titles I tracked showed no increase in reviews on Goodreads or Amazon and no bump in Amazon book ratings.
BetaReader.io invites you to “share your unpublished manuscript to selected readers. Collect feedback and reading data to understand what works and what needs polishing. Private, secure, and easy to use.” I took advantage of their Basic Forever Free Plan which allowed me to upload one active manuscript, and get response from three readers for up 30 days. I got zilch response. Let’s face it, good beta readers are hard to find, why should they be more successful at it than anyone else?
Free email blasts. http://awesomegang.com http://pretty-hot.com https://mybookplace.net/ An incestuous cluster using “free” as a come-on to get you to buy up. Don’t know what you get when you pay, but it’s not even worth your time to fill in the meta data for the free option.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
Author Amazon Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
The blurb that accompanies Lorraine Devon Wilke's novel, The Alchemy of Noise, describes it as “a suspenseful drama driven by issues of privilege, prejudice, police profiling and legal entanglements, and the disparities in how those provocative themes impact the various and diverse characters involved.”
I received this book to review free from Reedsy Discovery, a pay for review site (my opinion regarding this service (?) was published in a previous blog which you can read at https://rodraglin.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/reedsy-discovery-another-paid-review-bogus-up-voting-book-marketing-site/)
I stated in my review that “The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.”
My opinion hasn’t changed. I gave The Alchemy of Noise five stars.
I like to research the path new authors take on the road to publication. I’m always looking for something I haven’t tried that might offer a modicum of success.
Wilke has self-published two previous novels with Create Space Independent Publishing platform, that’s Amazon's publishing division for paperbacks. I know, because all my books have been published on that platform as well.
The first was After the Sucker Punch in 2014 followed by Hysterical Love a year later. Both garnered a number of positive reviews though some are from paid for review sites which, at least in my opinion, makes them suspect because of the inherent conflict of interest. Neither books achieved much acclaim though they appear to have done significantly better than any of mine.
This time, Wilke decided to go another route and chose a hybrid publisher, She Writes Publishing (SWP).
Hybrids take your manuscript and make it publish-ready. In the case of SWP that includes cover design, proofreading, conversion to e-book and a bunch of other stuff that you can easily do yourself or isn’t necessary. They quote one price of $7,500 which doesn't include any copyediting.
I think one can assume Wilke paid at least that much as well as $425 for a Kirkus Review, $499 for a Foreword Review and, of course, the $50 for my review on Reedsy.
That’s a minimum of $8,424 before one sale. I hope she recoups her costs, but there are no guarantees.
Reviewers on Wilke’s Amazon site herald The Alchemy of Noise as an a “powerful look at racial tensions in modern America” and “strikes at the heart of contemporary race issues”.
I tend to agree, but what do I know, a white guy from Canada. It's interesting though, to consider how this story would have been portrayed if written by a black person, but how likely is that to happen given today’s circumstances?
While there are many high-profile examples of African-Americans receiving widespread acclaim in most areas of American society, the success of those individuals isn’t representative of the economic status of African-Americans as a whole.
Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increased by 14%. During the same period, black household wealth declined 75%.
By 2013, the wealth of the median black family in the US had fallen to a mere 10% of its white counterpart. Whereas, in 1953, four-fifths of white families made more than the typical black household, 60 years later about to nine-tenths did.
In 2014, the median net worth* of white households had reached $130,800. The median net worth of black households was $9,590.
While wage growth has improved in all racial groups in the past two years, so has the disparity between white and black wage earners.
Last year a survey1 found that in America whites severely underestimate the racial wealth gap. They think that black wealth is about 80% that of whites, while data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that black wealth is about 7% that of whites.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then that a book considered by one reviewer as an “exploration of race and privilege” is written by a white person.
What new black author could afford to risk $8,424?
1Americans misperceive racial economic equality. An article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, by Michael W. Kraus, Julian M. Rucker, and Jennifer A. Richeson, Sept. 18, 2017
State of Working America Wages 2018, Wage inequality marches on.
By Elise Gould, published by The Economic Policy Institute, Feb. 20, 2019
A median household income refers to the income level earned by a given household where half of the homes in the area earn more and half earn less. It's used instead of the average or mean household income because it can give a more accurate picture of an area's actual economic status.
*Net worth is the total of what you own minus what you owe. It’s a mathematical reckoning of assets accumulated (including cars, homes, Roth IRAs and that dish of loose change on the dresser) and debts accrued (such as mortgages, auto loans, student loan debt and credit card IOUs).
Sidonie Frame is the manager one of Chicago’s buzziest small concert and event venues. When her sound manager goes AWOL along with essential equipment she has her assistant bring in another company to fill in temporarily.
Chris Hawkins is owner of Sound Alchemy and immediately he and Sidonie have a connection.
Author Lorraine Devon Wilke tells the story from two points of view and establishes her protagonists as equals in regards to education, income and aspirations. The only difference, other than gender, is Chris is black and Sidonie’s white.
Temporary work becomes permanent and friendship turns to love for Chris and Sid. The last thing they think about is the colour of each other’s skin, but that’s not the case for some friends and family members.
This is upsetting for Sidonie, but not surprising and she’s prepared to deal with it. What she isn’t prepared for or incapable of handling is the reality of a black man living in America.
Here’s how Wilke has her character, Sidonie, express it.
“What I didn’t know then is that by falling in love with you I would be stepping from my world into yours. Or maybe, more accurately, straddling both. I didn’t know that because I didn’t fully realize there were two worlds, two really distinct worlds with different sets of rules ...”
The Alchemy of Noise is an entertaining love story while at the same time a scathing commentary on race relations in America. The author’s take on inherent and systemic racism, something her characters are challenged with daily, sounds authentic and credible. In that regard, it is an important book that deserves a larger audience.
The book itself is a pleasure to read with believable dialogue, fully developed characters and exceptionally good diction, something that’s becoming increasingly rare. The plot is well-crafted and try as I might I couldn’t find one scene that didn’t develop character or advance the plot or both.
Creating Legends - How to craft characters readers adore ... or despise! is a comprehensive and detailed graphic eBook that includes tips and tricks for creating compelling, engaging, relatable characters.
In forty-five concise pages, Kathy Edens and Lisa Lepki, writers at ProWritingAid, an online writing editor and personal writing coach, have summarized almost everything important I’ve learned about developing characters including:
- Belief, Emotional Involvement, Clarity: what every character needs,
- Why you should throw your main character under a bus - to raise the stakes,
- Digging beyond life to create realistic characters.
There’s also a nifty graphic detailing The Psychology of Characters, links to character traits and character analysis worksheets, and even a therapist’s quiz you can take you yourself (I’m highly conceited, snobby and vain).
Its graphic style uses larger fonts for headlines and blocks of color that make it easy and fun to read.
This little, unpretentious book is big on practical tips and ideas that can be easily incorporated by authors with immediate and positive results.