The many voices of Eileen

I keep getting phone calls and emails from people raving about my books. Part of the problem with this is I think they’re all the same three people. The bigger part of the problem is they are all telemarketers.

I rarely answer the phone if I don’t know the caller. My persistent fans always leave voicemails. The familiar message starts along these lines:

“Hello. This is Eileen Smith at [some company you’ve never heard of]. We got a very good recommendation on your book, and we wanted to see if we could help you get the word out about it.”

The message goes on to list some vague connections Eileen’s people have in the publishing industry and mention some unspecified opportunities for me, the talented author, to make the most of effective book marketing.

Eileen thanks me kindly and ends by telling me how excited she is to receive a call back from me.

Eileen never gets a call back from me.

I do Google her though. Well, not Eileen herself, but whatever company she claims to represent. I do this if I can hear the name she said. You see Eileen has a pronounced accent. She really doesn’t sound like your typical Smith at all. What makes Eileen even more mysterious is that her accent changes from call to call. It’s almost as if there are several Eileen Smiths with different first languages, who all studied English so they could speak to me about my unnamed, highly recommended book.

“Eileen Smith and Eileen Smith, meet your new colleague, Eileen Smith. This highly recommended book is such a big deal, I need to throw a third Eileen Smith at it.”

When I can Google Eileen’s outfit, it’s always an unknown marketing company, or an equally obscure Print-on-Demand publisher with a typical menu of paid POD marketing services. It turns out Eileen works for several different companies. Or maybe each of the several Eileens works for a similar company. Or maybe each of the several Eileens works for the same company that offers its helpful services under different names as time goes by.

I’m not sure which Eileen Smith works where, and I’m okay with that. The true burning question is who so highly recommend my book to her. I have this image in my head of some discriminating reader turning the last page of a book and saying aloud, “Wow, that was a highly recommendable book! I should let Eileen Smith know about it right away! And while I’m at it, I’ll also highly recommend it to Eileen Smith. And also Eileen Smith. The Eileen Smiths will know what to do about this!”

Once, Eileen Smith actually mentioned the name of one of my books. This impressed me. It showed that somebody was sparing no expense in buying the call list that also had titles on it. That Eileen Smith’s branch of the company went above and beyond.

It made me proud that I, and my highly recommended book, were on her sales sheet that day. I hope the extra effort gets Eileen Smith noticed by the recruiters at Random House. If she worked there, I’d call her back.

The Series Saga: one book, two books, three books, four

It’s been two years since I posted my first update on what I’ve come to call the Series Saga. At the time of that first update, I’d already been working on the project for more than a year. Now, three years in, I hope I’ve reached the halfway point, but I really don’t know. It’ll take as long as it takes, I guess.

The Series Saga, for those who haven’t been following along, or those who forgot since my last update, 11 months ago, is my quest to turn one over-long novel into a series of novels in a major writing construction project.

READ THE SAGA FROM THE BEGINNING here

As of my last update, the series stood at three books. For reasons I enumerated at the time, I hoped it would not grow to four books.

A lot can change in 11 months. I went from hoping against a fourth book to seeing the need for a fourth book to accepting the fact of a fourth book to writing a fourth book.

I am now slightly more than halfway through writing the draft of the fourth book, which is actually the third book in the series. The chronological fourth book was the first book written. All this jiggery-pokery is explained in the earlier updates (sort of).

The good news is I’m confident I can close all the gaps with this fourth book (a.k.a. book 3) between the third book and the first book, which are actually books 2 and 4 in the storyline. In case you are marking your scorecard at home, this means the second book written is book 1 in the series.

Simple really.

“Mr. Dewey, are we supposed to organize these books in the order they were written, or in the order they fall in the narrative?”

The other good news is nobody needs to know or care in what order I wrote the books. Even if you weren’t marking your scorecard at home, you’re off the hook. The pop quiz has been canceled.

I mentioned, in an earlier update, my belief that it’s probably better to write a series in order. If the above paragraphs don’t illustrate why, nothing will. Every time I want to talk about this project, I feel like I need to make an illustrative chart. Graph paper isn’t on any lists of writing supplies.

Anyhow, I feel pretty good about being able to close out the story with all the pieces fitting into place. I feel pretty bad about what comes after that. Writing a 1200-page story in four self-contained parts shouldn’t be the easy part. I keep telling myself that like it’s going to become the truth.

False.

Writing a 1200-page yada, yada, yada, is the easy part. This makes me a little sad because there’s a part of me that feels like it should be an accomplishment. There’s a part of me that feels like pizza shouldn’t be cooked on a conveyor belt, too, and that part is also often disappointed.

For now, I still have nearly half a book to write, so I guess I’ll try to enjoy what’s left of my breezy fun time.

 

Your blog’s not so pretty once your domain name expires

You might think that because I don’t post to this blog as often as I used to, it’s not as valuable to me anymore. I might have thought the same thing, until I almost lost it. There’s nothing like having something go away to show you how much it means to you. It turns out I value this blog as much as I ever did, maybe more. I think it has provided entertaining and amusing content. Once in a while, it even contains information that could be considered useful. It’s not a widely-viewed blog, but I believe those who visit get something for their time. That matters to me.

Last week, when I clicked on my bookmark for this site, the browser timed out. I switched to a different browser and was met with the horrifying info that my domain name had expired.

That awkward moment you realize your domain has expired.

How does a blogger let his domain name expire? I mean, seriously?

That is a good question that merits a feeble answer.

This blog began life as a self-hosted web site. When I switched to WordPress, I couldn’t transfer the domain name to them, so I left it with its original registrar and paid WordPress a yearly fee to map the blog to the domain name. Simple enough – not really, but that’s another story.

My domain name was on auto-renew with the original registrar, which was joyously convenient since I never had to manually make a renewal payment. I never had to have any contact with that company at all. It was automated bliss, until it wasn’t.

The credit card used for auto-renew was stolen and subsequently canceled. You know how you have to update all your online payment methods when you get a new card? Well, you might forget about updating it with the company you haven’t had to think about in three years. You might. I don’t know, maybe you have a better system than I do. If you have a system at all, you have a better system than I do.

Anyhow, I learned I hadn’t auto-renewed my domain name at the same time I learned it had expired. This was around the same time I learned I no longer had a functioning blog.

You know how you realize something still matters to you? When you panic at the thought that you’ve lost it. Fortunately, the domain name had expired only the day before, which means it hadn’t yet been auctioned off to the domain name speculators. It only took about four days’ worth of frantic phone calls, an equal number of emails, and an extra reactivation charge to bring my baby home.

Now that I’ve got my domain name back and my blog visible again, I can rest easy and spend my time wondering which other service will quietly fade into cancellation next time I have to replace a credit card.

 

Tombs of the ancient dreams

It seems appropriate that my last post was about the people in olden times who wrote novels before the age of word processing.  I made a discovery since then that makes me feel closer to them.

I was searching through a drawer, looking for some object of modern usefulness when I came across a stack of these, tucked into the back corner.

A trove on ancient parchments.

For those too young to recognize this object, it is a floppy disk. It is an object used to store electronic data before the advent of thumb drives and the Cloud.

It is not floppy. Its predecessors were wider, thinner, and floppy. I remember using them too. This ultramodern version is much more durable than the floppy floppies, and likely holds a lot more data, upwards of .1% of what our smallest storage devices hold now, I would guess.

The handwritten notes on my disk labels indicate this group was used between 1999 and 2003. Knowing me, this was probably long after civilized society had given them up. It doesn’t seem like these artifacts could belong to this century at all.

Maybe someday somebody will invent a machine to read these things.

Even though they don’t hold much by today’s standards, words don’t take up much electronic space, so they represent a fair amount of work from a young writer seeking his way. Some of the files they hold were eventually published, but only after years of rewrites. Other files represent work relegated to storage as bits and bytes.

I think I have versions of all these files saved in more accessible places, even though I may never revisit them. I do this for my descendants, in case I become posthumously famous and they need to use my discarded scraps to raise income. With a little industry they may discover these files: “Look, here’s some crap Gramps wrote when he was young. He clearly never meant it to be made public, so we should sell it to a publisher.”

I adore my enterprising great-great-grandchildren, but they should know, before they start counting their chickens, all these novels and stories were written in WordPerfect. My sharp eye for the future of technology determined this format would drive MS Word to extinction as it became the dominant platform with its many advantages.

But I’m sure, in the genius future, there will be a way to convert immature writing from WordPerfect files into cash money.

In the present, I’m not famous, which proves I don’t know how to convert any writing from any file into money. These disks harken me back to those heady days when I thought maybe someday I would figure that out. The amazing thing is I’m still trying to solve that puzzle. It seems some of us don’t know how to let it go and grow old gracefully.