Book release day, or as Amazon calls it, “Going Live.” It’s exciting for sure, but it’s also leaves one with a feeling of vulnerability. How do I get this book in front of people? How do I persuade them to give it chance? For those who do give it a chance, how do I encourage them to give feedback? What will the tone of the feedback be?
Writing is hard work, but it’s safe work. It happens in your own world, the one you control, mostly. Everything that comes after writing has to happen in a much broader world. This world you can only hope to influence. It’s a wide world filled with questions you can’t answer on your own. You need help, you need to hone your beyond-writing skills, and perhaps most of all, you need to rely on the faith that you wrote a good book.
Here’s a skill I’m trying to hone: creating a sell sheet for my new novel. I welcome comments on its look and appeal.
For those interested, here are the purchase links:
I appreciate every single look this book gets. There are a lot of good books out there, and most people have a limited supply of money. It’s a wonderfully humbling thing when someone spends their money on your art, but I am also grateful for the people willing to share a post, or tell a friend, or just leave an encouraging word. Every little bit helps.
Writing is difficult work. For many writers, promotion, marketing, publicity (everything that falls under the heading of reaching out) is the most difficult work of all. That said, thank you for reading this post.
Last week I introduced my new novel (out later this month). Today I am sharing a pre-publication review from BookLife. BookLife is the Indie books arm of Publisher’s Weekly.
Every author would love a review filled with phrases like, “Best book I ever read,” “Life-changing,” or “Most influential book of its time.” This review includes none of those phrases. That’s probably a good thing, because if it did contain those phrases, you’d likely wonder which of my aunts writes reviews for BookLife.
Nonetheless, I think it’s a fairly positive review. It has a couple of minor factual errors in the first paragraph, which my aunt would never have made (e.g. substitute “early twentieth century” for “late nineteenth century”), but I don’t think those types of gaffes are rare for the first paragraphs of reviews. Anyhow, I believe the assessment piece is more valuable to readers than the plot summary in any review.
Enough reviewing the review. Here it is.
This fascinating supernatural tale from Nagele (A Housefly in Autumn), told in an offhanded style that keeps readers off balance, opens with five-year-old Emma’s asking, at a family dinner, about “The Other Place.” She has recurring dreams of a mysterious being, The Gatekeeper, who takes her from present-day Pennsylvania to a late nineteenth century farm where she sees an older girl, Mary Ellen, who looks very much like Emma. For mysterious reasons, the Gatekeeper repeatedly forces Emma to get the other girl in trouble by setting fires—and he threatens to harm Emma’s parents, Rob and Marcia, if she disobeys. Rob and Marcia alternate between dismissing Emma’s dreams to fearing that she might be losing her grip on reality, echoing the thinking of Alex and Janet, Mary Ellen’s parents. That couple frequently beats Mary Ellen, as punishment for the fires, and The Gatekeeper urges her to take murderous revenge.
Quick paced and unsettling, The Other Place offers readers teasing mysteries to work through along with Emma’s parents. One surprising thread: what is the connection between The Gatekeeper and the song version of William Hughes Mearns’s poem “Antigonish”? As Emma’s dreams increasingly seem like they might be real, she finds herself inside Mary Ellen’s mind, fighting to keep Mary Ellen from being driven to murder, while Rob and Marcia eventually accept that their daughter is not delusional, they struggle to save both girls from The Gatekeeper.
Nagele weaves an intriguing story about families, childhood, the supernatural, self-sacrifice, and innocence both lost and saved, though the pace and pared-down language come at the expense of fleshing out the characters, especially Emma and her family. Scenes of abuse and terrorized children will put off some readers, but Emma’s fight to save Mary Ellen from evil is admirable, her determination and kindness shining through. The Other Place is rich in detail of the places past and present, and readers of horror-tinged historical mysteries will be intrigued to learn more about Glenn Miller and William Hughes Mearns.
The last time I wrote a post here about my writing projects, and I’m ashamed to say how long ago that was, I wrote about a four-book series in which I was knee-deep at the time. The good news is that I finished writing that series. The bad news is all the post-writing difficulties. Professional editing alone represents a prohibitive cost to the production of the set. And that’s just one of the things that needs to happen to the adolescent manuscripts before they can grow up to be big, strong books.
While considering how to embark upon that transition (i.e. banging my head against a wall), I have not been completely idle in other areas, except for blogging, in which pursuit I have been near completely idle. While I have not been blogging, or producing a marketable series, I have been working on this:
Granted, it’s not a series. It’s just a solitary novel. But on the plus side, it has been professionally edited. More to its credit, it has a cover, front and back. It’s even formatted in an easily-readable fashion. It may be a little thing (compared to a multi-book saga), but it’s very nearly done. That is to say, it’s almost an actual book, the kind people could buy and read if the fancy so struck them. And as Hans Christian Andersen was wont to say, “That is certainly something.” (Disclaimer: I don’t really know what Hans said in Danish; but the English translations usually amount to the quote above.)
If I click all the right buttons on the right web pages, this book will be released in May, 2023. If I don’t, it’s off to remedial button-clicking class for me. Anyway, enough about my technology issues, here’s the marketing blurb.
Emma and her parents share recurring dreams, in which they are a different family, living 100 years ago in an unfamiliar place, and heading toward tragedy. When Emma’s parents discover their dream family actually existed, it becomes clear that these visits to the past are more than mere dreams—they are playing an unseen role in this historical family’s lives. As the century-old history of this troubled family materializes, it reveals the truth that the impending tragedy spells doom for both families. Only five-year-old Emma has the power to avert disaster, but it will require extraordinary courage against overwhelming evil for Emma to save both families from destruction in The Other Place.
I will post more updates about this book through its publication. In theory, this will serve the dual purposes of building awareness about the book and making me back into the sort of active blogger I used to be. It may also give me something better to do than bang my head against the wall trying to discover a way to manage the production of four hefty novels in succession. That would be the icing on the cake, but a good cake without any icing would be enough for me right now.
I read The Sun Also Rises and The Sound and the Fury back-to-back. Both novels were written in the 1920s. They have different settings, but they both capture a similar early 20th century angst.
Although I feel like I understood the details of Hemingway’s entry better, I think I enjoyed Faulkner’s book more. Maybe it was the thrill of believing I had decoded some little secret in the cypher of Faulkner’s prose. (I’m proud to say I think I got, at least, the gist of it.) Perhaps it was because Hemingway made me lament my inability to collect his myriad empty bottles to return for the deposit money.
Yes, there was a lot of drinking in The Sun. It made me think of a college kid recounting his exploits with his buddies on their summer vacation together. But these weren’t college kids; they were WWI veterans, which appears to be the only group to ever have out-drunk college kids on their summer vacation.
“Here’s the plan: we’ll go over to see the bullfight, then come back here and drink ’til dawn. Then, we’ll get up early and do it all over again tomorrow.”
The characters in The Sound didn’t drink quite so much, at least not right out in the open. One character did reportedly drink himself to death, but he did it quietly while we weren’t looking, like a true southern gentleman would.
I feel like the bulk of the whiskey drinking in The Sound was done by the author himself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book. One or two drinks can help a writer get the prose flowing. In this case, however, there were times when the prose made me think, “You’re well into your third bourbon now, aren’t you Bill?”
“I don’t always use punctuation, but when I do, you may not be any less confused.”
The Sun is sort of an expatriates gone wild, roaring ‘20s, European edition. The Sound is a pioneer of 20th century southern fiction, (i.e., dysfunctional family tales). Hemingway’s characters make bad choices because they are chronically drunk. Faulkner’s characters make bad choices because, well, it’s not so much the heat as the humidity.
The common theme running through both novels seems to be a general discontentedness. This is not an uncommon theme in literature, and I have no personal inclination toward a happy ending, but I like to see a character take some reasonable steps toward a more contented life. Perhaps I missed that character in each novel. Faulkner’s people only complain about how some other character, or characters, have made them miserable. Hemingway’s crew spends their time trying to spread their discontent among all their so-called friends.
It’s a bit surprising to recall that there was only one suicide between the two books. That is, there was only one suicide I recognized. I’m a simple reader and if an important event occurred after the author’s third double whiskey of the chapter, it might have passed by without me even whiffing the gist of it.
I’m glad I read both books, but I’m also happy they didn’t write many sequels back in those days. I got enough of each group of malcontents. Besides, I still feel a little hungover.