Read my author interview on BookGoodies here:
Read my author interview on BookGoodies here:
Last weekend, I went to the Grand Opening of a little bookstore here in Southern California. After the ceremonial ribbon cutting, we all filed inside and were met with creative shelving and displays bearing indie author-only publications. My own book was there, tempting potential readers with a face-out display on one shelf and a spine view on another. Several other indie authors were on hand for the opening as were readers who benefitted from the ability to actually see, pick up and look through an independently published title.
I come from the era of book and record stores. The joy of discovery I would get by being able to browse shelves and racks for as long as I wanted, picking up books and records, reading their stories or taking in the artwork is something that many of us recall with great fondness. I worked at Tower Records for 14 years and saw many changes in the industry, culminating with the eventual demise of the brick and mortar stores altogether.
Record stores have definitely begun to make a comeback and there are many very good shops now where one can experience the excitement of finding a treasure that you never knew existed or picking up a long-lost favorite. I am hopeful that bookstores will have the same renaissance soon.
Pipe & Thimble Bookstore is at the cutting edge of this trend that I hope will spread across the country. Brave co-owners Barb and Ellie Lieberman, mother and daughter authors themselves, understand the challenges indie authors face with marketing and reaching potential readers. Supporting businesses like theirs will encourage others to strike out on their own and hopefully we will see more local businesses be open to independent authors and artists of all kinds.
In tandem with this, I am calling for all indie authors to embrace our unique situation and world with a new twitter, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, etc. call to arms-a new hashtag: #readrecommendreview. I call this the Three R’s and if we all attach this to our posts in some form or another, perhaps we can turn the tide a bit in our favor. Pipe & Thimble Bookstore is onto this as well by providing book buyers with a complimentary lollypop with an accompanying request to review the book that they have just purchased. While many people download our books and some even read them, few people take the time to post a review and they might not realize how much it means to us authors to have them do so.
So let’s get to work, comrades! Let’s start using the Three R’s in all of our social media and correspondence. Let’s start a new movement in the indie author world!
Spread the word about Pipe & Thimble if you feel so inclined and if you’re in Southern California, be sure and stop by (Pipe & Thimble Bookstore, 24830 Narbonne Avenue, Lomita, California 90717).
In mid-September, President Reagan actually mentions AIDS in a public speech where he vows to make the epidemic a priority. There is great hope in the gay community, as the issue has finally gone all the way to the “top”. Anticipation of change and financial aid is higher than ever.
Asher and James decide to put together a celebration of hope, something to direct people’s attention toward positivity and away from the death and fear that have been constant shadows in the city for far too long now. After all, there are things to celebrate despite all of the hopelessness and sorrow. The community has grown stronger than ever and due to safe sex education; transmission of the disease has decreased.
With a generous donation from Louise and Avery, the boys rent a large hotel lobby for the event and begin getting the word out via the community’s many channels. Some of their activist friends suggest making it a fundraiser, but Asher is adamant-he wants this to be simply a celebration, a fun evening of music, dancing, food, drink and camaraderie.
Plenty of people step up to donate their talents and time to help get the event off the ground. Despite all of the excitement, James’ priority is still making sure that the patients are getting what they need, including meals, help shopping, cooking, dog walking and transportation to doctor appointments. Toby is a great help with these things as he always has been and this leaves Asher free to promote the event as widely as he can.
The day before, a huge group of volunteers arrives at the hotel to decorate, blow up balloons and prepare any food that can be made ahead of time. Asher stops in to check on the progress and is overwhelmed with the number of people helping out. He immediately finds James to hear the details.
“Hi, honey,” James says, kissing him. “Isn’t this amazing?”
“Yes. Who are all of these people and where did you find them?”
James spreads his arms out. “Everywhere. More and more of them just kept showing up asking what they could do.”
Asher looks over the group. Most of them are friends, but there are some that he definitely doesn’t recognize. His face grows worried.
“What?” James asks.
“How many people are going to show up tomorrow? What if there isn’t enough food…”
“Don’t worry about it! Everything will be fine!”
Philly, who has grown light-headed from blowing up so many balloons, takes a seat nearby.
“What’s he worried about now?” he asks James.
“Too many people showing up.”
“That’s not a problem, honey! That’s a good thing!”
“See?” James says. “Now go on home. I’ll be there soon!”
Asher does as he is told. He has slowly been getting back to his studying and has plenty of reading to catch up on.
The following evening, everything runs like clockwork. The lobby is filled to capacity with mostly gay men, but their “sisters in arms”-the lesbians-have been showing support for them in growing numbers and many are here tonight.
A DJ is spinning records and music fills the air as volunteer waiters pass around trays of hors d’oeuvres. Maura, Dan and Toby, along with Louise and Avery are sitting down at a table together. Not being involved in the community and seeing so many men visibly suffering from the disease is sobering for Avery. There are many men here tonight who are rail thin and pale, the sores of Kaposi’s sarcoma mark their faces and bodies. He is still not comfortable being around them, not only because they are gay, but because he is afraid of AIDS. Dan, too, is unaccustomed to being around so many gay men, but he instantly admires their fun and happy enthusiasm while feeling incredibly sad for the sick ones.
“Hey, girl,” Philly says to Louise, dancing over to their table. He kisses her cheek. “You look beautiful! All of you do-even you Avery!”
Avery laughs and Louise takes his hand.
“Maybe you’ll dance with me later,” Philly teases him. “You might even like it!”
They watch as he dances away and joins the others who are moving to the sounds of the Bronski Beat’s seminal hit “Smalltown Boy”.
James is circulating the room, making sure everyone has food and a drink while Asher sits biting his thumbnail and worrying.
“Would you stop it?” James scolds him. “This is supposed to be fun, remember?”
“Dance with me. Come on!”
In the hotel kitchen, vats of spaghetti and meatballs are bubbling, garlic bread is toasting in the oven, salads are being dressed and cupcakes frosted. The all-volunteer cooks are having a blast dancing to their own boom box as they begin dishing up the food. Plates begin making their way out to the tables and Asher watches nervously. He doesn’t know why he is so concerned except that he wants this night to be perfect without any hitches or disappointments. He goes up to the DJ and asks him to stop the music, much to everyone’s dismay.
“Sorry,” Asher says into the microphone. “I won’t take long.”
James rushes to his side.
“First of all, let me say welcome! We have all been fighting so hard-first for our rights and now our very survival. So many of us are not here tonight, dead from a disease that no one wants to hear about. Why should they care about a disease that kills gay men?”
James puts his arm around Asher’s shoulders.
“But we pushed and will keep on pushing until there is a cure! We will fight to end discrimination against those with ARC, fight for new definitions and diagnoses so that treatment can be available to everyone that needs it. We will fight for funding for aggressive studies and new treatments. For answers! We will fight LaRouche and Jerry Falwell and everyone else that wants to tell us that we do not have a right to live.”
The crowd is cheering; James is getting misty-eyed.
“But tonight we stop fighting, just for one night. Tonight we enjoy ourselves, forget about sickness and death, panic, uncertainty and hate. I remember when Harvey was assassinated. I remember the pain, the anger, the candlelight march down to City Hall. Many of you were there, just as I was. Harvey fought for us and I know that he would have been very proud of you all. I look around this room and I see a group of people that refuse to give up, refuse to step back into the closet, just as he asked us not to. James and I have been so lucky to be a part of this community. So lucky to be with all of you here tonight. We love you all and thank you for your support!”
Asher waits for the applause and yelling to die down before ending his speech.
“One last thing: I want to acknowledge and thank Louise and Avery Booth for putting up the money to rent this place for the evening; Maura and Louise for the selfless support and kindness that they have shown our community from the very beginning and Toby, Maura’s son, who has sacrificed so much of his teenage years to help us get food to you, visit patients and help in any way he can. He’s going to make one hell of nurse!”
Asher begins clapping heartily and James, along with everyone else, joins him. As Asher steps away from the mike, James takes it.
“Everyone, please enjoy yourselves! Food is coming out of the kitchen thanks to our awesome volunteers. Please take a few minutes to eat and relax. And don’t forget to pick up the pamphlets and other info that we have by the door. There’s also free condoms, so please be safe! I know that safe sex seems like a step backwards, but it’s how we’re gonna save each other now. Thanks for coming out everyone and enjoy!” He then turns to Asher. “Come on, sweetie! Let’s eat!”
Finally, Asher begins to relax and enjoy himself. The sight of everyone dancing and laughing, hugging and kissing one another, especially the sick ones, is everything that he wanted this evening to be.
“This is really good,” James says, twirling spaghetti onto his fork.
Asher smiles. It is strange. James has been the one so distressed with genuine concern and worry over the community, but as soon as Asher expresses worry, James always changes his demeanor and becomes carefree. He probably doesn’t even know that he does it, but Asher is grateful. He takes James’ free hand and brings it to his mouth, kissing it.
“Thanks,” he says.
“For being you. For loving me.”
“Aww! How could I not?” James leans over and kisses Asher on the lips. “I do love you!”
“I love you, too.”
At close to midnight, Louise, Avery, Maura and Dan leave. Toby wants to stay behind to help clean up, so once again, Maura leaves him in the care of Asher and James.
“Everything turned out perfectly,” Toby tells them.
“It did, didn’t it?” Asher marvels.
Toby watches the thinning crowd on the dance floor. He doesn’t know why he likes being around these men so much. He knows that his mother wonders if he is gay and the truth is that he doesn’t know. He does think some of them are attractive. They’re certainly nice and fun and most have a great sense of humor and style. He cannot deny that he has fantasized about being with one or two of them, but he has also done the same about some of the girls that he knows at school.
At the end of the evening, many people stay to clean up and secure the leftover food which they will take out tomorrow to the patients that couldn’t make it to the party. Asher pulls his car up front and the food is loaded in. James and Toby say goodbye to everyone and jump in as well, waving to a group of men standing outside.
“That was so fun!” James says. “It was great to see everyone, especially the sick ones like Joey, Luke, Brian, Bobby…” His voice trails off and he sighs, knowing that none of them have long to live. “We gave them a good night.”
“Yes, we did.”
They drop Toby off at home. Their apartment is quiet; even Freud gives them a silent meow as they enter. The answering machine is flashing. James walks past it and gets a drink of water and then he and Asher go straight to bed. They lie in each other’s arms knowing that in the morning, everything will start all over again, but for the next few hours there is peace.
Rarely do I comment on current affairs. I do not post political news nor do I superimpose my Facebook profile picture with the flag from the most current tragedy or triumph. I do not “Like” a post so that Jesus will give me a million dollars or “Share” a post in order to show others that I support it in fear of having bad luck for the next seven years.
In 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc, etc dominate how the population lets the world know what they believe, what is right and what is wrong, who deserves sympathy and who deserves scorn. We judge, politicize, bully, bloviate and shame just as readily as we adore, uplift, empathize and educate. No one bothers to fact-check anything; the truth doesn’t seem necessary anymore in order to stand as fact. Everyone has an opinion and those who flood the Internet with it and have their words spun around the world via social media seem to have little regard for how their op-ed is used. Similarly, anyone is free to create both truth and acceptance of their opinion and then easily have that seized upon and touted as fact. Free speech is something that I believe in wholeheartedly. As a writer, I have to. However, does the writer now need to take more responsibility for what they write as their opinion so as not to run the risk of it seeping into the collective consciousness as truth? Does the reader not also bear the responsibility of educating themselves as to what is fact and what is opinion (not necessarily fiction)?
I am weary of being bombarded with the world’s opinions. I am weary of seeing people mindlessly hitting that “share” button before checking the factual merits. People have access to opinions, news, articles and posts about how they should live: don’t eat red meat, don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat bread, take this supplement, use this facial cream, meditate, exercise, go outdoors, think positively, black lives matter, blue lives matter, love is the answer, stop animal abuse, build a wall, drink more water, go solar, stop using plastic, house the homeless, feed the children. No one seems to have the motivation to look into anything before re-posting it as truth or worthy of merit. Those of us who don’t hit that share button often enough or comment positively (or negatively-whatever the case my be) on any given subject run the risk of public shame and the accusation of apathy.
Caring about most things has now become personal for me as has how I live, eat, exercise, smoke, drink and fuck. I have chosen to go the opposite direction than many of those in my social media sphere for several reasons: 1) not everything is everyone’s business; 2) posting something onto Facebook has never changed the mind of someone who believes differently from you; 3) opinions only matter to those that give them; 4) posting, liking or sharing something has zero effect when compared to actually doing something about it; 5) “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”.
Here’s what I think people should do: take everything with a grain of salt; do what you feel is right; take care of yourself and those within your tangible sphere of friends and family; treat people with respect, dignity and kindness; spend time in nature and with animals; mind your own business.
But that’s just my opinion.
I take naming my characters pretty seriously. For my novel, “Red, White & Blues”, I wanted to have everyday names that could be easily related to by most everyone. The names of my main characters, such as John Clark, Pete Clark, Sandy Porter, Sarah Somerton, Louise Sinclair, Edie McCabe-even Mike Blackhorse-were chosen specifically for their simplicity. With characters that I wanted a little more impact, such as Morgan Stewart, the President of the fictional motorcycle club, “The Souls of Liberty”, I chose a stronger name, but still left it easy to remember. For my “resident artist”, I chose Haven Hartford, a somewhat unusual name, but again, pretty easy to remember. I wrote this book with the express idea that no matter what the situations are, it could be easy for everyone to relate to. I also wrote my book using simple language, but that is a subject for another blog! The main sources that I use for naming my characters (usually both first & last names) are two baby name books that I have had for years: “Name Your Baby” by Lareina Rule and “The New Age Baby Name Book” by Sue Browder. The latter is obviously for the more unusual or ethnic-inspired names. When developing a new character, I nearly always know what they look like before I have their name, so I do take that image into consideration when I start searching for their name. It’s fun to browse the books, looking for that perfect name to pop out at me!
As an (unemployed) independent author, I am constantly trying to discover ways to gain more exposure on the cheap. Recently, I decided to run a free Kindle download promotion through Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Because the title of my book tied in with the 4th of July holiday as well as dealing with the Vietnam War and its veterans, I chose to run the promotion from July 1 through July 5.
Having very little expendable money, I had to find ways that I might be able to advertise my book for free or at least very cheaply. Oftentimes, authors can submit their book to a specific webpage and get free advertising, but this is usually at the administrators’ discretion (or something), which means that if you choose not to pay for advertising, they’re probably not going to choose it.
So, I submitted my book to several sites for free: Choosy Bookworm, Read Cheaply, Awesomegang, Pretty-hot, Digital Book Daily, Snicklist, Free Book Dude, Author Marketing Club and One Hundred Free Books. Did any of them run my book? Well, yes-ReadCheaply, Awesomegang & Digital Book Daily did. Somehow, my book also showed up on Book Basset, but I did not submit to them as I was under the impression that they charged for ads. A friend subscribes to their email list and forwarded me a copy of the listing.
I did choose to pay for submissions to a few websites. Readingdeals was $10.00; PeopleReads $7.99 and Snicklist a whopping $2.00 for a grand total of $19.99.
In addition, I did some minimal promoting of said promotion by sending out tweets, posting it here on my blog and posting to my three Facebook pages once a day.
Here are the numbers for the downloads for each day:
July 01: 382
July 02: 135
July 03: 27
July 04: 33
July 05: 11
Total = 588 free downloads
Not too bad, but what the hell does it mean in the end? Without reviews and recommendations, not a whole hell of a lot. Of course, time will tell. I can’t expect anyone to read a 760 page novel in a day or so, right?
So was it worth it? As with most things, yes and no. Yes because nearly 600 new potential readers and reviewers now have my book downloaded into their Kindles, but as I said, if these people 1) don’t read it and/or 2) don’t review or recommend it to others…well, you see how this could go.
If positive results do come from this, I will be pleasantly surprised.
I know-I’ve been away for a while and you’ve been wondering what the hell is going on, right? Here’s the low-down…
Finally got completely through the manuscript last week. Much yellow highlighting was was done, which as I’ve mentioned is very, very good! HOWEVER, there were a few areas that needed beefing up, so it is all the more important that these “possible deleted pages” (the highlighted ones) do, in fact, get the axe. I feel fairly confident that this will, indeed, happen.
Now onto the next read-through, which I started a few days ago. I am 91 pages in (the manuscript stands at 436 now, single-spaced). In this stage, I am taking note of what “Microsoft Word” has “green underlined” (“wordiness”, “fragment sentence”, “passive voice”, etc) and deciding whether to correct or ignore its suggestions. Many authors say that you should uncheck the proofing tools, but I like to check them all and then decide what is valid to my writing style and what is something I should consider changing. It is daunting to see your manuscript covered in green and red lines (red designates misspelled words), but I’ve learned to take the suggestions in stride. My writing style is more important to me than technical aspects of writing, many of which readers either don’t care about or don’t know to look for anyway. As long as it makes sense, is grammatically correct and the spelling is correct, I believe that the writer has much leeway in how to share the story. That, after all, is part of your voice as the storyteller.
So after I complete this read-through, I will have a friend read it through and take note of the highlighted portions. I will need a reader (other than myself) to decide whether something is fluff and can be tossed on the cutting room floor or is actually important for the reader to know.
Wish me luck!