Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Marketing Go-Round

There's so much information out there.

Buy this, sign up for that, learn about this, post your book here, videos, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, websites...ugh.

So I buy a couple of books on marketing which sometimes are retreads of each other. And I dig through advertisers to figure out which ones might work for me. I spend a little of my tiny marketing budget to purchase an ad or two. But other people are saying it takes 4, no 5, no really 10 books before you should worry about advertising.

In the mean time, only a handful of people have bought my books. And even fewer have reviewed them.


And then the new meme is connecting with the reader. Send out newsletters. Chat with your readers on your blog. Research people who have bought books like yours and reach out to them. (Sounds like cyber stalking to me) More research, more time spent digging through different sites looking for that golden needle in a haystack.

So expect to see some changes in the blogs and other places. I am sorting through a lot of new information trying to figure out what is the least painful for me.

Do people really like to be in contact with their favorite authors? Tell me how you feel about that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Plot Holes and Boring Bits

I can always tell when I've written something boring. My mind skims over it when I read it back. Or I avoid that section entirely. It makes me feel stuck. I think part of that is because my brain knows it needs to be fixed.

My current rewrite is finally flowing. I was cooking along nicely when I hit the major plot hole reader #1 complained about. It was a sloppy, easy solution to a complex set up. Therefore it was totally unsatisfying for the reader. And ultimately me, too. So I had to go back and rearrange some things, then write some new chapters. Yikes, not just a scene or two, I needed to write a whole lot of new stuff.

It was a bit of a struggle, but I feel good about it. I think the set up pays off properly now. And the new stuff dovetailed nicely with the old stuff. Whew. That could have been a big mess. I still might need to cut some chapters if reader #2 finds them boring.

The good part about my beta readers is that I can hear their voices as I write. I know the bad habits they call me on, and I try to clean them up before I hand out the manuscript. But I can also ask them to look for any new bad habits. Or the overused word/phrase in this book. In the last one, I must have used for a moment every other page. I suspect there's a new one that needs to be cleaned up.

The end needs a bit of a pick me up, also. But now that I have all that new stuff in there, I have more to work with. I'm excited to get back to it. And I can't wait to finish up so I can get this out to the next reader.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Garden Grows

We are having a warmer than normal spring. That means the spring veggies like peas, lettuce and beets are not overly happy. The warm weather veggies: beans, tomatoes and squash are flourishing. Luckily we have fairly cool nights so the spring veggies are still producing.

This year I planted a mix of leftover bean seed so I have purple and yellow string beans and some Italian beans. That should make for some interesting dinners. The purple are blooming now. Can wait to start harvesting.

The strawberries are done for the time being. They put out a meager harvest this year. I may need to replace that bed. I've read that they need to be replaced every 3 years or so. I think that bed is older than that.

The blueberries are just ripening. Picked a small handful yesterday. They are one of my favorites, so I'm very excited that they are coming in.

Unfortunately the birds beat me to the pie cherries. I had company and forgot to check the tree. The fruit must have ripened quickly because when I checked, a week later, there were about 6 half-eaten cherries left on the tree. I will plan to net that tree much earlier next year.

The plum is failing. It had some sort of canker, but flowered prolifically this year. I was treating the canker with neem, and seemed to be making some progress. However, the fruit is all going brown and moldy instead of ripening. Very disappointing. I may have to get it cut down. It might not be in the best place.

All of the heirloom tomatoes that I bought are flowering. I started spraying with Serenade fungicide right away. They look like they are all doing well. Fingers crossed that they survive the local blight.

My pattypan squashes are still small, but one bloomed yesterday. The flower was bigger than the entire plant and looked very silly.

Everything that I planted in the new cinderblock beds seem to be doing well. I'm not sure if it's because of the blocks or the fact that the soil I added is mostly compost. Perhaps a combination of the two.

All in all the garden is coming along quite nicely so far.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Drop in the Ocean - a Zen Approach to Art

Art in all its contortions--dance, poetry, painting, music, sculpture, novels--is all about sharing something. They are created for an audience. Whether they ever find that audience is an entirely different matter. However, the work must always be created with that thought in mind. And so the creator must deliver their message with utmost clarity.

Over the years, many incidents in my life have taught me about what I call the Zen Approach to art. The first one happened while I was in college. I was in a drawing class, working hard on a still life that the professor had set up. While we were all at work, the professor was chatting with someone just behind me. He came over and tore a scrap of paper off the bottom of my drawing to write a phone number. I was horrified. I was still in the precious state of mind that any drawing could be a masterpiece. So to me, my charcoal sketch on cheap paper had been violated. The professor, seeing my shock, said, "If you did it once, you can do it again."

I had no idea what he meant by that. Every time I started work on a piece of art, it was new. I was young. I didn't understand that drawing was a skill that must be developed through repetition. If I couldn't render something well, like faces, I avoided putting people in my paintings. It didn't occur to me that I could improve my skill by practice, and that much of the practice work would not be worthy of an audience.

The next big lesson came when I was working as a scenic artist. That is collaborative work. In many cases you are creating something designed by another, unless you are also the designer. Scenery can change or be cut at a moment's notice, but it always has to meet a high level of quality. Watching your hard work go into the trash is a stark lesson.

I once worked on a set for a pilot for a new TV show. It was a rush job, people working round the clock. The carpenters built an entire house and barn. The painters not only painted, but aged, decorated and weathered the new construction. Everything had to look old and worn. I worked in the barn, banging away at the beams to make them look distressed, and brushed thick paste over woodwork so they appeared to have multiple layers of paint. We were almost done when we got the word the pilot was cancelled. The whole thing went to the landfill.

Despite the possibility that the work would not be used, it had to be done to exacting detail. I remind myself of those lessons whenever I wonder about the lack of exposure for my books. Just because people aren't snapping them up doesn't mean I can let the level of quality lapse. I need to offer the best story I can write regardless of whether anyone ever reads it. If it meets my standards I can share it proudly and let that be my reward for the moment.