Rod Raglin

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.

Four short stories and a novella depict coming of age in East Vancouver during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

East Van Saturday Night - Rod Raglin

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.

Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

- Oscar Wilde

 

 

East Vancouver has become gentrified and at the same time romanticized. It was neither when I was growing up on East 4th Avenue in ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Indeed, it was the neighbourhood you hoped to get out of rather than move in to.

 

A low-income, blue-collar neighbourhood, adults spent their evenings and weekends in the Legion while their kids were raised on the street. They left home in the morning, showed up for dinner, and were gone again until “the gun” sounded at 9 p.m. I was one of them.

During the time away adventures were undertaken, friendships were forged, and character was created. East Van Rules was not only meant as a challenge, but also a code to live by.


East Van Saturday Night - Four short stories and novella, highlight coming of age events during that era; a ten-year-old playing for the elementary school softball championship, a teenage tough strutting his stuff at the local dance, a hippie youth hitchhiking across Canada during the Summer of Love.

 

Watershed moments told from a perspective that explains why you can take the boy out of East Van, but you'll never take East Van out of the boy.

 

Now available in E-book or Paperback at

 

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Enhanced Bublish delivers the same results - none

Three months ago, I responded to a free offer from Bublish to use their “e-book Author and Discovery Platform” for two weeks.
 
Bublish claims they can help you “promote your work and build your brand” with, among other things, “book bubbles,” excerpts of your work shared across social networks. These bubbles also allow you to share “the story behind the story,” similar to a director’s rough cut which Bublish claims “is a powerful way to build social proof with readers.”
 
I already had a Bublish experience shortly after it was launched a few years ago. I quit using the platform then because despite encouraging numbers regarding bubble views, profile views and conversions there were no sales.
 
When I logged in I was surprised to see previous bubbles for my novels Forest, and The Big Picture still on the site.
 
Since I was launching Cold-Blooded, Book 2 of the Mattie Saunders Series, that’s what I began promoting, but after a month, and still having free access to the site, I decided to repost the bubbles from The Big Picture.
 
Bublish provides a daily update of social metrics for the past 90 days on a member’s dashboard. I’ve just completed my current 90 day run posting almost every day and here are the results:
 
Bubble Views - 4891; Profile Views - 47; Conversions (which retailers users are visiting from your bubbles) - 161
 
Sorry to pop their bubble but again my use of Bublish did not result in a single sale, and neither did it generate any additional activity such as page views on Smashwords or visits to my author website over the three month period.
 
Today’s enhanced Bublish costs $99.00 a year or $9.99 a month. For a paid subscription you receive the opportunity to upload unlimited books, an author profile, social metrics, e-pub creator, exclusive programs (deals from their corporate partners) premium resources (tutorials, videos, etc.). You can also sign up as an Emerging Author and upload one book and post unlimited book bubbles free.
 
With the exception of posting unlimited books on Bublish, you can get everything else Bublish offers from other sites free.
 
The only benefit I gleaned from Bublish then and now, was condensing scenes into author insights (bubbles). It really hones your focus.
 
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
 
https://www.bublish.com/
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Harsh judgment for Full Disclosure

Full Disclosure: A Novel - Beverley McLachlin

Jilly Truitt is a young, ambitious criminal lawyer making a name for herself.

 

When a wealthy businessman, Vincent Trussardi is accused of murdering his young wife, he reaches out to Truitt to defend him. This will be a high profile case with a significant retainer and Jilly is eager to take it on even though the evidence overwhelmingly suggests her client is guilty.

 

Full Disclosure is Beverley McLachlin’s first novel after retiring as the longest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada for seventeen years, the first women to hold that position and the longest-serving Chief Justice in Canadian history.

 

As a jurist, McLachlin is formidable, as an author she’s just a beginner, and it shows.

 

There are a number of plot points in the book that stretched this reader’s suspension of disbelief nearly to the breaking point, but I hung in there expecting some insights regarding the Canadian legal system, the professionals involved and those they prosecute or defend.

 

There weren’t any. In fact, the lack of originality had me wondering if I hadn’t read this before. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. The story takes place in Vancouver, Canada, my hometown and hers, and it was fun recognizing the restaurants, landmarks and neighbourhoods where the scenes unfold.

 

Unfortunately, as the novel draws to an end, and with many questions still unanswered, the author (out of desperation?) resorts to the old, tired technique of having her protagonist goad a suspect, Perry Mason style, into confessing. Of course, this confession is taped on a recorder hidden in her pocket and is used to exonerate her client. See what I mean about lack of originality.

 

Though it didn't have any real bearing on the novel, I was surprised and disappointed at the author’s treatment of a First Nation person in her story. Though a very minor character, when this young woman is challenged by isolation and unhappiness her choice is to become a drug addict and support her habit by prostitution.

 

With so many other positive possibilities out there, why did someone of the McLachlin’s stature and presumed sensibilities choose this clichéd depiction of our Indigenous people?

 

Despite the efforts of the best editors Simon and Schuster employ, I doubt Full Disclosure would have been published had it not been for the author’s significant profile which, like all books written by celebrities, assures at least some sales.

 

The real test will be McLachlin’s next novel.

 

 

 

 

Author as a salesperson

The only way I have been able to sell my books is in person, directly to a potential reader.

 

When I did the math, I realized that I could order my books, mark them up and sell them cheaper than someone could buy them from Amazon, when you factored in the cost of shipping.

 

Here’s an example: For me to order a copy of Local Rag costs $4.40 CA, plus $2.43 shipping = $6.83 For anyone else to buy a copy of Local Rag from Amazon Canada costs $13.29, plus $4.98 shipping, plus GST 91¢ = $18.95 The difference is $12.12 (I don’t have to collect the GST because my sales are under $30,000 annually).

 

If I deduct the $2.86 royalty from my Amazon sale, I'm  still ahead $9.26.  I can offer a $2.00 discount to the purchaser and make more than $4.00 more than I get from a sale on Amazon.

 

About a year ago, I started researching venues where I could sell my books in person. I rejected flea markets and other events unrelated to literature and soon found opportunities to participate in public readings and talks. You speak briefly about your book or a related topic and sell your work after the event while mingling with the audience.

 

I took it a step further and developed mini-seminars in self-publishing and memoir writing which I conducted free. The audience was very sales friendly. This system worked at book fairs as well, but since the table rental had to be taken into consideration, I had to be a little more aggressive.

 

In sales, it’s essential to engage the customer, so you have to get out from behind the table and chat up the passers-by. I printed up cheap bookmarks to give away, had them fill out an entry form (don’t forget their email address) for a free draw of some of my books, and talked about the event, even the other authors.

 

I’ve made a living at direct sales so this is second nature to me, but even so it was exhausting and not a lot of fun.

 

After six months I had a decision to make. I now had lots of opportunities to speak, teach and sell my books, but I needed to invest in more stock. If I ordered more books, I’d have to get out there and flog them.

 

I decided I’d had enough.

 

So what have I learned?

 

Selling a book is a lot like writing one. There’s no easy way,

 

and nobody can do it for you.

 

Too bad.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

 

Amazon Author Page (still the easiest way to sell books)

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Promoting your books on discount book sites

The internet has a plethora of sites that offer free or deeply discounted e-books to members.


They get their product from authors who are enticed by the opportunity to have a promo template of their book sent free to the site’s membership in hopes that some members will download it, read and review it.


The free offer is a teaser to encourage you to pay for their enhanced list - more members and prolonged exposure.


They also offer a free author interview template. Answer the questions, add your picture and they’ll post it for free.


I discounted Local Rag to 99¢ and submitted it to the four sites listed below, taking advantage of free option only. I work hard to write and produce a decent book and I won't pay to give it away for free.

 

Like so many things that are free, and I suppose that goes for most free e-books, you get what you pay for. I didn’t see a whiff of interest.


I’ve researched a few authors who have documented how much they spent versus how much they made in sales using this approach. They claim to have broke even, but I have my doubts. I’m reminded of my friend who makes frequent trips to Las Vegas. When he wins, I hear about it. When he loses, well, he’s back talking about the time he won.


The other thing I noticed is that their book sales were not sustained. There may have been a blip, but there was not enough reviews, word of mouth, or buzz, in general, to elevate their book from self-publishing oblivion.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

 

Discount book sites

http://discountbookman.com

http://pretty-hot.com

http://mybookplace.net

Awesomegang.com

 

My Amazon Book Page in case you want to purchase Local Rag for 99¢ until the end of August

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

Profound insights on writing presented with grace, charm and wit.

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story - Ursula  K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin describes Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, as “A handbook for storytellers - writers of narrative prose and not for beginners.”

 

Indeed, it is not a book for beginners as much of what she addresses would be beyond the comprehension of novices. What it does concentrate on are those problems that challenge writers and impede the tone an flow of the narrative.

 

For example, she asks you to listen to the sound of your writing which involves diction and syntax.

 

Sophisticated consideration is given to verbs: person and tense, as well as point of view and changing point of view.

 

Indirection narration or what tells including avoiding expository lumps is discussed in depth.

 

There’s an excellent chapter entitled Crowding and Leaping which involves the necessity of focusing on some areas while leaping ahead in other parts while still following a fixed trajectory.

 

Steering the Craft is primarily a workbook with “exercise consciousness-raisers that aim to clarify and intensify your awareness of certain elements of prose writing and certain techniques and modes of storytelling."

 

These exercises are challenging but illuminating. I particularly benefitted from one called A Terrible Thing to Do that involved writing a narrative of about 500 words and then cutting it by half still keeping the narrative clear and not replacing specifics by generalities.

 

The book also includes the best advice I’ve read on running peer group writing workshops.

 

This slim volume has profound insights on writing and presents them with grace, charm an wit. The goal, according to the author, is to help you develop skills that free you to write want you to write.

 

Or as Le Guin puts it so that you’re “ready to let the story tell itself; having the skills, knowing the craft so that when the magic boat comes by, you can step into it and guide it where it wants to go, where it ought to go.”

 

Book editing - the rise of the machine (and the reduction in cost)

As an independent, self-published author you could spend thousands of dollars to have your book professionally edited, produced and marketed. Despite what you’ve been told it would not guarantee success, in fact, you’d be lucky if you sold enough books to offset the costs.

 

Knowing this has made me reluctant to pay for these additional services.

 

Some would argue that’s the reason I’ve had no success. I’m too cheap to pay for the services of professionals to design my covers and edit my manuscripts.

 

That’s at least partially true, but I maintain the real reason is I’m still not a good enough writer.

 

I’ve done a lot of stuff to become a better writer, and it's worked, up to a point. What I need now is someone educated and experienced who knows more about the fundamentals of the craft than I do to make constructive suggestions on how I can move forward. 

 

I need a skilled and credible editor.

 

With my last three novels, I’ve been fortunate to have three dedicated beta readers who have volunteered to read my manuscripts and found hundreds of typos, spelling mistakes and dropped words. They’ve improved the final product immeasurably and yet even after I incorporate all the corrections I still come across embarrassing errors.

 

But what’s worse, when preparing The Local Rag, my last full length novel, to submit to a competition, I noticed passages that were awkward and poorly written. They were examples of lazy writing, not digging deep enough, or, not having someone to push me to dig deeper. Someone credible who I trust.

 

There is a plethora of editing services on the internet from freelancers to large companies that tie in editing with other self-publishing services. For example BookBaby https://www.bookbaby.com/book-editing-services/

 

Copy editing as defined by BookBaby’s Editing Services site includes “a basic word-by-word edit that addresses grammar, usage, and consistency.”

 

Line editing according to BB is, “A more intensive structural edit that focuses on the finer aspects of language—the flow of ideas, transition elements, tone, and style,” as well as all the services performed in Copy Editing.

 

At BookBaby the cost of Copy Editing is $7.00 per page; line editing $10 per page. At 255 pages, it would cost $2250 to have The Local Rag line edited.

 

To recover that cost, I would have to sell 1,020 copies of the paperback edition or 1607 ebooks.

 

Well, that isn’t going to happen.

 

What about a computer program that is inexpensive (preferably free) and would at least eliminate most of the errors that were being missed by my beta readers and repeatedly by me?

 

ProWritingAid claims to be “your personal writing coach, grammar guru, style editor and writing mentor in one software package.” It also has a free version that allows you to upload articles to a maximum of 500 words.

 

I tried it and was impressed. I checked out a few others and liked Grammarly as well because it focuses on grammar and punctuation and ease of use.

 

I experimented by uploading chapters of The Local Rag first into ProWritingAid for style suggestions and mentoring(?) and then taking that version with the changes I made and putting it through Grammarly for one final check for grammar and punctuation.

 

Not only have these two programs eliminated errors, but ProWritingAid has also prompted me to improve things like passive writing, sticky sentences and shows me where opportunities to show rather than tell.

 

A year’s subscription to Grammarly cost me USD 139.00. I found  25% off coupon for ProWritingAid to bring my annual fee down to USD 37.50.

 

I plan to ask my beta readers to comment more on the story, now that they don’t have to worry about what amounts to proofreading. Addressing issues like was the opening compelling, did you find the main character sympathetic, was the dialogue authentic, what parts were boring (bogged down in back-story), what parts were exciting (if any), plot glitches, and overall, how could the story be improved would be illuminating.

 

Frequently, traditional publishers will release a work of fiction by a famous person. Because of author's fame in other endeavours and the curiosity factor of the public, it’s a guarantee that the books by these first-time authors will make money. I make a point of reading these books to remind myself that even the best editors, the most creative cover designers, and a full-press marketing campaign complete with a book tour can’t make a bad book good.

 

The most recent example of a "celebrity book" that all the professional services in the world couldn’t save was Crying for the Moon by Mary Walsh, a comic icon in Canada.

The next one likely one will be Full Disclosure, the first novel, a thriller, by the former Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin.

 

You’d think these authors, who have risen to the top of their profession, might have some insights into areas you and I don’t. Maybe they do. But most are long on hubris and short on writing craft and whatever inside information they have isn't worth the effort of reading their book.

 

I’ll find out if this is the case with McLachlin by and by; I’m number 134 on the list to borrow her book from my local library.

 

This is the long way of saying editing services, online or provided by a real person, without a doubt will improve your writing. But no matter how much you pay them they can’t make a silk purse out of sow's ear.

 

I take some consolation in that.

 

Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

 

Website links associated with this blog:

BookBaby Editing Services https://www.bookbaby.com/book-editing-services/

Grammarly: https://www.grammarly.com/

ProWritingAid: https://prowritingaid.com/

 

Author's Amazon Page  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Do targeted email blasts generate sustained book sales?

Do targeted email blasts generate sustained book sales?
 
In the ongoing quest to find effective marketing tools for my nine novels and two plays, I've compiled a list of over two hundred email addresses of those who have expressed some interest in my books. Sending them an email has become part of every book launch.
 
My email blasts consist of three themed emails space two weeks apart. Each one offers the coupon code for a free e-book edition of the novel.
 
The response of my last blast was: opened 20%; clicked 6%; reviews 2
 
Many sites provide a similar service for a fee. For $25.00, Free Kindle Books http://fkbt.com/for-authors/ will include your book in a daily post to 750,000 addresses of which they claim 100,000 take action or about 13%. Take action does not mean buy, read or review your book.
 
Is this a good way to market a new release? Will it enhance sales of my backlist? How to tell?
 
Why not take a look at the results another author, Matt Manochio http://www.mattmanochio.com got from email blasts.
 
In his 2015 blog entitled Lessons in Advertising my Ebook, Manochio meticulously documented his experience http://www.mattmanochio.com
 
 
I have no idea how I came upon this information, but it is a caution that once you post on the internet, it never goes away.
 
To summarize, he used fourteen sites, spent $500 and sold approximately 1100 books @ 99¢. After the publisher's cut (he wasn't self-published), he concluded he broke even.
 
He also got some amazing short-term results with his book hitting #411 on the paid Kindle list and single-digit ranking in its respective genre. These numbers, however, were not sustained and currently, the book he was promoting is on the Amazon Best Sellers ranking at #2,012,826
 
If you deeply discount your book and send it to hundreds of thousands of people, some are going to open it, some even read it.
 
It's what happens after that's important. Does this investment enhance sales of your backlist at the regular price?
 
In Manochio's case did this happen?
 
Looking at the author's website and considering what he's written since, and where his books currently rank I'd say no, though it does sound like he had a hell of an exciting ride for a couple of weeks.
 
Will I consider email blasts in the future for my books keeping in mind that some of my novels may not be eligible on some sites since they don't have the required number of reviews or may not be considered to have a professional cover?
 
Maybe. In some cases, it's less expensive than sending a paperback edition of your book to a reviewer. The real payoff, however, won't be a blip in ranking, but rather if the book they got cheap was good enough to encourage them to buy one of my other titles at full price.
 
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
 
Some Email blast sites:
 
 
 
 
Free Kindle Books and Tips http://fkbt.com/for-authors/
 
Digital Books Today https://digitalbooktoday.com/
 
 
 
 
 
 
Facebook
 

Great editing tips, well presented

 

Okay, so 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers is promo material for ProWritingAid, an "editing tool that highlights style issues and compares your writing to the best writers in your genre". It's even written by the founder Chris Banks and editor of the ProWritingAid blog, Lisa Lepki.

 

Does that mean it's all about flogging their site?

 

Yes, with almost every editing tip there's an explanation on how ProWritingAid identifies the issue so you can make the appropriate edits.

 

But what about those twenty editing tips?

 

Surprisingly, at least for me, they are all excellent advice and well worth the not-so-subtle sales pitch for their product. And as a bonus, each tip is presented in an easy to read info-graphic style and comes with examples.

 

I downloaded this e-book free using a link provided by BookBaby. https://cdn.prowritingaid.com/ebook/ProWritingAid_EBook.pdf,

 

If you prefer you can pay for it - it's worth it and less expensive than a subscription to their site.

 

 

 

Free and Easy Book Launch Basics

Cold-Blooded - Rod Raglin

 What's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews?

 

Paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for someone to launch your new book for you and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Cold-Blooded, Book 2 in the Mattie Saunders series was launched with a pre-order on Smashwords on January 15, 2018.

 

The Mattie Saunders Series is what I now go back to when I'm between, or need a break from, the major novel I'm working on. Mattie is a modern young woman dealing with new adult issues of relationships, career and family as well as addressing the contemporary challenges confronting society.

 

I'm actually taking subjects right from the nightly newscast and examining them from a fictional perspective. Because my overriding concern is wild places, plants and animals there's also a subplot that examines this problem as well.

 

In Cold-Blooded Mattie deals with the opioid crisis, a crumbling relationship and the exploitation of reptiles by the exotic pet trade.

 

This series of novella's are fast paced, somewhat irreverent and short - about one hundred pages.

 

The book was published on February 23, 2018, as an e-book on Smashwords and Draft2Digital and as an e-book and paperback on Amazon.

 

At that time I sent out approximately two hundred and thirty-four emails to members of my Advanced Reading Team with a coupon code for a free download of Cold-Blooded from Smashwords. Follow up emails went out March 4th and 13th.

 

The launch continued with giveaways on BookLikes and LibraryThing beginning March 18. I use these two sites because they don't charge you to offer your book for free like Goodreads that now charges $119.

 

If I ever thought I'd have to pay to give my books away I may have reconsidered becoming an author.

 

I used Goodreads prior to them charging to list giveaways and despite having a far greater audience than these other two sites I never found it generated more reviews.

 

After a month, BookLikes had two people requesting Cold-Blooded and LibraryThing had twenty-six.

 

I use free coupon codes on Smashwords with both my ARCs and giveaways so I can see how many actually redeem the coupon. Totally coupons offered, 271. Totally coupons redeemed, 27.

 

To date, marketing for Cold-Blooded has generated two tepid reviews and no sales.

 

It is now May 13th and I've just generated a free coupon for The Rocker and the Bird Girl, Book 1 in the Mattie Saunders Series, on Smashwords. The strategy is by offering the first book in the series free, readers will purchase the second book. Here's the link if you're interested. It expires June 3, 2018.

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

 

I'm likely going to enroll The Rocker and the Bird Girl on KDP Select so I can take advantage of offering it free for five days over the course of the three month exclusive commitment to see it that will generate any interest in Cold-Blooded.

 

What's the take-away?

 

This is classic book launch marketing, something you can easily pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for and I did it all free.

 

Okay, I got zero results, but if you're and Indie Author and considering investing in marketing your self-published book ask yourself, why should you expect a different outcome? Unless you've got a real good reason, consider going the free route as outlined here or you'll likely learn the hard way what's more disappointing than launching a new book and getting no sales and no reviews.

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

Links associate with this blog:

Author Amazon site https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Link for free copy of The Rocker and the Bird Girl https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727720

BookLikes http://booklikes.com/giveaways

LibraryThing https://www.librarything.com/more/freebooks

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

Draft2Digiatl https://www.draft2digital.com/

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/

KindleDirect Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/

Createspace https://www.createspace.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burdened with excessive detail, Orfeo drifts to a predictable, melodramatic conclusion

Orfeo - Richard Powers

Orfeo

By Richard Powers

 

Peter Els is a composer of new music, an old man, a adjunct professor who has been put out to pasture. When his dog, Orfeo, his only companion, dies suddenly he's so distraught he mistakenly calls 9-1-1. He abruptly ends the call which brings the police to his home only to find he's been passing his time cooking up variant biological strains in his kitchen laboratory.

 

Is this crackpot a bioterrorist? When the authorities come to investigate, Els goes on the lam.

 

Author Richard Powers has the narrative go back and forth between Els' past and the present until they converge. Gradually a picture emerges of the a man obsessed with music, music that sounds like noise to most people.

 

I was never sure if Els was a genius, delusional, lazy or just stubborn, but his obsession manages to wreck every career opportunity and relationship he comes in contact with.

 

As a protagonist Els is not sympathetic, he's frustrating.

 

Powers burdens the story with extensive passages about experimental music and minute details on musical composition. It's excessive and redundant as are his passages of transcendence the composer feels when in the thrall of his muse. The plot seems to drift as if the author wasn't sure where to take it and the conclusion is as predictable as it is melodramatic.

 

Throughout the book the author has inserted intrusive sentences presented in a different font and separated from the text by bold lines. I had no idea what the quotes were referring to, who they were by or what part they played in the story other than pulling me out of the reading experience.

 

 

...and those who can't, teach.

Nickel Mountain - John Gardner

I began reading Nickel Mountain by John Gardner because I wanted to see if one of the most renown teachers of fiction could actually write as well as he expected others to.

 

Gardner felt that aspiring to be an author was almost akin to a "higher calling" and required rigorous study and practice. As well as hard work and sacrifice such a career choice came with duties and responsibilities.

 

The most important of which is telling the truth, and not just getting facts right, but making sure your fiction is believable and not perceived by the reader as a lie. Foremost it must "affirm moral truths about human existence".

 

Well, okay. That's quite a tall order so I was curious to see if his fiction reflected all that high-minded stuff.

 

Henry Soames is middle-aged but acts and thinks like an old man. He runs a truck stop restaurant by himself on a lonely highway. Everything about him is depressing; he's morbidly overweight, he's got a bad heart, he's filled with self-pity and shows it, he blames his overbearing mother and failure father for his station in life. This guy is your classic victim and one of the most unsympathetic protagonists I've ever encountered.

 

When an acquaintance suggests Soames hire his teenage daughter to help run the place he agrees. Why does he agree when there's no indication he needs help and is about as misanthropic as a person can be? Gardner doesn't tell the reader.

 

Which is interesting because the relationship between Henry Soames and Callie, his sixteen year-old employee is at the crux of the story.

 

Technically, Gardner starts with promise - his opening sentence is brilliant. However, he delays the inciting incident until it's almost too late, and when it is revealed it's tepid.

 

Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader, but his writing is difficult and complicated, not at all vivid and continuous.

 

Since I abandoned Nickel Mountain at page 33, I can't say whether moral truths about human existence were ever affirmed, but for the pages I did read I can affirm the story was depressing and monotonous, filled with insignificant details I imagine the reader was supposed to infuse with meaning, meaning which bordered on creepy.

 

My conclusion is that rigorous study and endless practice is indeed necessary for an author, but it's obviously not a guarantee he'll write a good book.

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Fi: Writing as a moral act

"True art is moral. We recognize true art by its' careful, thoroughly honest search for an analysis of values. It is not didactic because, instead of teaching by authority and force, it explores, open-mindedly, to learn what it should teach. It clarifies like an experiment in a chemistry lab, and confirms."

- John Gardner, On Moral Fiction, 1978

 

Okay, so this is a bit high-minded, but still it's something I aspire to in my writing.

 

I've tried to write strictly commercial fiction, but my characters and plots won't let me. At some point they tell me, "Hey, I'm not that shallow, superficial person and I won't let you portray me as such." At this point the vapid story I've been writing takes an unexpected direction and everything gets out of control and I'm back dealing with three dimensional characters in complicated situations that test their integrity.

 

Or at least I'm trying to.

 

How then does a writer, if so inclined, build their fiction on strong, ethical ground?

 

I subscribe to the method suggested by Carol Bly, Author of The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart’s Truth into Literature. She suggests that even before beginning to write a story, consider composing a “Values Listing,” a written record of the things that are most important to you.

 

Then, throughout the writing process ensure these values continue to be identified in your work. That means these values are present in the issues and conflicts your characters confront and that they themselves are grounded in or address these same principles.

 

Here's the Value's Listing Questions. My answers are in capitals

 

VALUE’S LISTING:

 

1. Two goals or values which make life good or bearable or would if they were in operation. PRESERVING ENVIRONMENT/ ENCOURAGING THE HUMAN SPIRIT

 

2. Two goals or values which cause injustice and suffering or lessening of joy. WEALTH/MATERIALISM and the NEED TO CONTROL

 

3. Two missing goals or behaviors. As a child, you thought grown-up life would have these. Now that you are an adult you don’t see them around. HONESTY/INTEGRITY and RESPONSIBILITY/CREDIBILITY

 

4. Two injustices you see about you and should keep an eye on, even on your wedding day. RACISM/DISCRIMINATION and DESTRUCTION OF WILDERNESS

 

Considering my the list of my values, it's not surprising four of my novels could be categorized as Environmental Fiction, interpreted as a story of any genre; romance, mystery, literary, etc., with a subplot that addresses an important environmental issue.

 

In writing ECO-FI my hope is readers will be entertained by all the elements of a good story and will also come away a little more wiser about the environmental issues important to me and that effect us all.

 

ECO-FI TITLES:

SAVING SPIRIT BEAR - What Price Success?

LOVING THE TERRORIST - Risking it All

MAD MAGGIE - And the Wisdom of the Ancients

FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend

 

This stand-alone series will be part of my back-list promotion throughout 2018 and 2019 that will include upcoming FREE book days on Amazon. To be included in free offers of my existing books or the opportunity to receive Advance Reading Copies on new work, consider joining my ADVANCE READING TEAM at http://eepurl.com/cj5wjj

 

Buy links for these books include:

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Smashwords - http://www.smashwords.com

Draft2Digital - https://www.draft2digital.com

 

Book Awards - To compete or not to compete?

To compete or not to compete?

 

Does entering writing competitions achieve anything other than deplete your bank account and inflate others?

 

Maybe - for the few who win, place or show.

 

Last year I researched contests, this year I'm entering them.

 

Why?

 

My writing career is going nowhere and doing the same things and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, right? So to delay that diagnosis last year I sent East Van Saturday Night - five short stories and a novella to maybe a dozen traditional Canadian publishers hoping they could take some of that grant money they get from the federal government and publish my book. Indie authors get no respect, and in most cases don't deserve any, but traditionally published authors get it whether they deserve it or not.

 

Most didn't even bother to reply, a few sent generic rejections and one, Thistledown Press, actually wrote a letter saying "while your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van, we do not have an audience presently to support such work."

 

Nice, but no cigar.

 

This year I'm thinking some recognition from a notable contest might generate some interest among readers and publishers. At the very least I could use the phrase "award winning" or "shortlisted" to stimulate my webpage and social media sites.

 

I began by submitting The Death You Choose, a story about a senior who realizes he has dementia and decides to take his own life rather than be relegated to the living dead, to Writer's Digests' Short Short Story contest in January.

 

The fee was $30 and the submission was an online so no additional costs were incurred.

I can't find out who won, but obviously it wasn't me, however, the fee might have been worth the exercise in editing a story about four times too long down to the required 1500 words.

 

Next I entered The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Prism, a literary publication put out by The Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia.

 

I was ambivalent about this submission because I feel there's an inherent bias in favour of submissions from fellow academics, and that's not me. I mean how would it look if someone without a degree in Creative Writing won a contest sponsored by a Creative Writing Department?

 

However, they kept extending the deadline which I interpreted as they were light on submissions, which means my work might have a better chance. Publication in literary magazines can fast track a career. I know it's hard to believe, but in Canada it's true.

So I sent in East Van Saturday Night and the Paper Shack, two short stories from the anthology that traditional publishers have all but given up on.

 

Why two? The entry fee for one was $35, and only an additional five bucks for a second one. Again, an online submission so no additional costs.

 

Results are pending.

 

I chose my novel Abandoned Dreams to submit to the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards in the category of literary fiction. Here's where it starts to get expensive and that question about sanity begins to arise again.

 

Submission fee is $99.00 CA plus you have to send a paperback so add $20 for the cost of the book and shipping.

 

The submission process was the same for The National Indie Excellence Awards to which I submitted a paperback edition of Mad Maggie.

 

By the middle of April I plan to submit Forest to The Book Pipeline Competition which seeks material for film or television adaptation. They want approximately the first 5,000 words and full synopsis (1-3 pages). I think a good movie about Sasquatches is long overdue, don't you?

 

And once I finish this blog I'm going to submit The Big Picture to the 2018 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest to get their early bird discount of $89 USD. I'm entering this competition primarily because I like that "all entrants receive a mini-critique which will provide ratings on five key literary areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability."

 

If you lose, at least they tell you why?

 

As the year progresses I might even enter more contests - until I run out of money, or go back on my meds.

 

Want to preview the books I've entered? Go to my Amazon Author Page at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Readers' Favorite Annual Book Award Contest

https://readersfavorite.com/annual-book-award-contest.htm

 

The 5th Annual Book Pipeline Competition

https://bookpipeline.com/

 

 

Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

 

30

Win one of 100 copies of Cold-Blooded - The Mattie Saunders Series Book 2

Cold-Blooded - Rod Raglin

The second book in The Mattie Saunders Series, Cold-Blooded, has just been released and you can enter to win one of 100  free E-Book editions on BookLikes until April 15, 2018.

 

In Book 1, The Rocker and the Bird Girl, you'll meet the heroine, Mattie Saunders, a twenty-something, slightly eccentric loner who loves birds and so far has devoted her relatively short life to the rescue, care and re-homing of exotic ones people keep as pets, like parrots.

 

The sanctuary her grandfather left her is out of funds and in an effort to raise some money so her birds won't be homeless yet again, she reaches out the Bodine, the lead guitarist of the bad-boy rock band Seditious. She's learned Bodine has a pet Macaw and since she assumes he's fabulously wealthy hopes he'll by sympathetic and use some of that wealth to help these precious creatures.

 

Telling you more would be like shooting myself in the foot since I want you to buy the book.

 

In Book 2, Cold Blooded, Mattie receives a call from Liz, an old friend from high school, asking if it's possible to temporarily board some reptiles at Saunders Bird Sanctuary. The Reptile Refuge where Liz volunteers has been closed be police while they investigate a suspicious death that took place on the premises.

 

Mattie's not concerned with the circumstances and sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with Liz as well as help some animals in distress, but she soon discovers it's not just the displaced inhabitants of The Reptile Refuge that are cold blooded.

Cold-Blooded also addresses contemporary issues including love, friendship, family, the rescue and rehabilitation of exotic pets including birds and reptiles, and the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic.

 

Links associated with this post;

Link to BookLikes Giveaway http://booklikes.com/giveaways

 

To purchase The Rocker and the Bird Girl, Book 1 in The Mattie Saunders Series as either an E-Book or Paperback go to my Amazon Author Page at

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

30

 

An entertaining story about a disturbing problem - growing up First Nations in Canada

 

Jared is a fifteen year-old First Nations youth living with his mother, Maggie and her boyfriend in a small town in northern British Columbia.

 

To say Jared's family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. His mother has a homicidal temper and has been jailed for assault and mandated to take anger management programs. His home is a party house from which his mother and her boyfriend sell drugs and partake in other criminal activity.

 

Jared's a smart kid with a smarter mouth and struggles to maintain some normalcy in his life despite his role models. This becomes increasingly difficult since it's not only his family but all his peers who indulge in similar destructive lifestyles.

 

Indeed, author Eden Robinson has included almost every type of self-destructive and anti-social behavior you can imagine including domestic violence, bullying, promiscuity, self-mutilation, S&M and, of course drugs, more drugs all topped off with binge drinking.

 

As Jared's life lurches from crisis to crisis he copes by staying stoned or inebriated or both. Soon he can't tell what is real and what isn't. When he reaches out to some elders for help, including his paternal grandmother, he discovers they have an entirely different agenda for him.

 

Yet despite the magical power of the cultural mythic creatures that align themselves with Jared in his time of need his salvation comes in a very conventional form, which unfortunately makes for an anti-climatic ending.

 

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson is a page turner for sure. The author does a remarkable job of defining her characters through authentic dialogue and dramatic action. The story in some places is laugh out loud funny and in others almost too painful to read. Her portrayal of Jared's young life as a First Nations youth is brutal and honest though never didactic.

 

In this era of "Idle No More", mainstream media has come under criticism for it's coverage of First Nations people and their issues suggesting they are always depicted by the three "Ds" - drumming, drunk or dead.

 

As a journalist and an author I agree with the criticism and am attempting to understand more about the issues and the people so it can be reflected with honest and empathy in my writing.

 

Though an entertaining book, Son of a Trickster is an extremely negative representation of First Nations people. It's a good thing Robinson is a First Nations person herself, otherwise it's unlikely her book would have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Canada.