Turning the focus on his own mess

When I was revising two earlier novels into what became Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I did wonder about a parallel volume from the point of view of his lovers. What a cad or sweetheart or lost soul or whatever they saw him as. Yeah, dump it all on.

You know, the self-centered hippie dude, Peace Love & all.

Well, there was a hot volume of erotica, Naked Came the Stranger, where each chapter was secretly written by a different person or party who then hid behind a character who got the author credit and posed for the interviews. The various writers didn’t even see the other material until the book came out, not that it ultimately mattered. She did have every color of eye you could imagine.

On this end, I’d welcome submissions for my own project, if only I had space to tackle it, but time is drizzling out, along with the original impulse.

I mean, the hippie chicks in his life weren’t the only ones screwed up, OK? Let’s be honest. Facing the music could be amusing and healing for all.

 

How I came up with the tags for the ebook edition

Don’t know about you, but I do find tags very helpful in searching for ebooks.

Well, they’re also very helpful in finding fellow bloggers. In fact, if you’re not using them, let me urge you to do so. I’ll even give some free advice, if you’re interested.

Part of the trick, of course, is in choosing ones that will connect with folks on the other end. When I was setting up Quaking Dover for release through Smashwords, the tags I had intended led to some others I thought would pitch the book far more widely and effectively, and, to my surprise, more accurately.

Here are the ten I went with:

Faith, Families, New England, Strong Women, Colonial, Quaker, Peace Movement, Spiritual Walk, Community Life.

The book’s already charted as Non-Fiction/History/American, so there was no point in duplicating those.

Do any of those appeal to you?

Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in your choice of ebook platforms at Smashwords.com.

 

There are times it’s taking me all day to write three sentences

That’s not the way it used to be, not when I was younger and could dash things off in the flush of inspiration, but it is what I’ve encountered revising my last two books.

It’s not even Wes McNair’s advice to write 400 good words every day. Not unless one of those sentences is an over-the-top wonder of 250 to 300 words.

The turtle pace here seems to arise when I’m trying to weave some new material into an existing draft, making it connect on two sides seamlessly. It’s not just the craft of fine writing, actually, but also the thinking more deeply about the unseen significance of the subject at hand.  What, exactly, is beneath the surface before us?

Of course, as a writer, this pace also has me wondering if I’ve simply used up all the easy stuff and left the bigger challenges for my senior years.

Any suggestions?

Goodness me, spritely?

In theory, at least, for a writer, nearly anything – or everything – is potential fodder. In my case, that leads to a new blog post, poem, or scene in a novel, but for others maybe a movie or streamed series of episodes or podcast.

Nicholson Baker demonstrated this quite charmingly in his alleged novel Book of Matches, striking on a practice of lighting a fire every morning in the dark depths of a northern New England winter. Novel? It’s simply a very lovely piece of masterful writing and insight, period. Any conflict is subtle.

But I am drawing the line at trying to do anything with a chart of daily blood pressure readings, before and after doubling the dosage of a prescription.

And that’s after bypassing those colonoscopy photos, with or without commentary of a travel guide sort.

Those of my age might understand or sympathize, but younger readers would no doubt be put off unless they possess a truly twisted mind. I can’t imagine the backlash. Besides, it just ain’t sexy.

In all fairness, I hate to admit I’m finding it harder and harder to comprehend a lot of the humor, video content, and even dialogue from their end of the spectrum. That part’s just scary, perhaps reflecting the realities they face. Should we start with global warming and its consequences?

Perhaps a typo I nearly released a moment ago suggests its own new genre. Fuction. Or fruction. With or without a k.

We don’t need to resort to physical gestures, do we?

Tags and categories here at the Barn

There are things I’d do differently if I were starting this blog over, but we do learn as we go.

I’d keep the merry-go-round approach but definitely tweak it. Well, the focus of the Barn has evolved over the decade, as has my life.

One of the things I didn’t know much about at the start was Categories, so the definition of some has become, shall we say, rather elastic. American Affairs is one, especially when I’m using it for a microcosm like Dover or Eastport. Still, I don’t want to create more, which I feel would lead to clutter.

Tags were even more elusive. At first, I had no clue I’d find them so useful when I turn to the WordPress Reader or to the Smashwords catalogue. Posting is another matter, where the advice is not to exceed ten per entry. Five somehow seems to be optimal. And then I chanced upon the difference between those that are what I consider factual, like the name of a state, and others that are more emotive, like “happy” or “fun” – which are supposed to get more hits. Again, how do we keep the list manageable?

So what I’d like to know is just how you use Categories and Tags, both as a blogger and as a reader. Any advice?

And while we’re at it:

Does anyone else miss WP’s daily Fresh Pressed selection? Maybe that dates me as a blogger, but it really was a great way to be introduced to new voices.

My dream routine? Pre-Internet?

For decades, I dreamed of getting free from the demands of the newsroom – meaning any paying 9-to-5 job – so I could concentrate on what poet Gary Snyder aptly dubbed the Real Work.

That goal entailed something resembling financial independence, which was hardly likely on a journalism income.

As for 9-to-5? It never fit the places I was employed, sometimes straight salary for 60- to 70-hour weeks, and even when I’d left management and joined the union, it was typically nights and holidays or a double-shift on Saturdays.

I had hoped for a breakout via a bestseller book, and some of my non-fiction projects might have turned the trick, though I found it difficult to respond rapidly when I was tied down by other time-consuming obligations.

The closest I did come in those years was a year’s sabbatical I gave myself between jobs back in the mid-‘80s, when I submerged myself in drafting what later emerged as my novels, after much revision and the openings finally provided by ebook publication.

One thing I learned from that experiment was that I couldn’t continue at that pace – I required more balance in my life. My bank account wasn’t the only thing that was depleted.

One of my annual exercises after that involved setting goals for the year ahead, usually by season. The categories included things like Home, Relationships, Creative Projects, and Quaker Practice – I’m starting to see a forerunner of the Red Barn, eerily – but also had me thinking about how my daily life might look if I ever “made it” as an independent writer.

Part of the impetus was a fear of letting my life just kind of ooze away. I suppose it goes back to some of the sermons heard in my youth, the ones about time being God’s gift to us.

In response, how much could I rely on a tight daily routine, starting with an early morning rise for meditation and then hatha yoga before a light brunch and maybe an hour with the Boston Globe and the local paper followed by a big block for writing and supporting activities?

That thinking was countered by a recognition that I couldn’t fit everything I desired into straight days, so I also played with chunks of time staggered through the week – Topic A on Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, with Project K late on Wednesday.

And then, I still couldn’t fit everything in.

After I’d remarried, my wife caught one sight of one of my schemata and reacted with scorn. She saw so much daily reality I wasn’t including, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, time for others, and even myself.

Now that retirement has finally provided the independence I sought, I’m having to admit I still haven’t achieved that ideal, intentional scheduling. Instead, so much has revolved around big projects like the novels and random to-do lists.

Still, it built upon the bones of daily Spanish lessons and half-mile swimming and a weekly commute to Boston for choir practice, in addition to Quaker worship and committee work.

But then Covid hit, followed by the move to Maine.

Quite simply, I still haven’t hit on the balanced pace. Maybe now, that the last book’s in place? Or maybe after I stop blogging intensely?

The biggest surprise for me in all of this is how much the Internet has changed the picture. I want the early quiet of those early hours for my writing and revising. What happened to the meditation? As for regular exercise? The nearest indoor pool is in Canada. Or for spreading out with a newspaper? I do most of my reading online, even books, no matter how much I love ink on paper. Even interacting with others occurs largely via email.

One thing I don’t feel is “retired,” but I will say in all of this I feel more engaged than ever.

Naturally, that won’t stop me from tinkering with a routine. I’m sure whatever I come up with will be far superior than what the nursing home would arrange.

How do you arrange your days and weeks? Any secrets to share?

 

Here comes the paperbook edition!

A history book seems like a natural for a print edition, but it can be a risky deal for a publisher.

After all, few titles are of the bestseller scope aimed at a nationwide readership.

My Quaking Dover is a prime example of the niche appeal that can arise when you zero in on a small community and then further refine it to a crucial minority. Even when it becomes a microcosm of a much bigger picture, as I believe mine does, the hard reality is that it’s hard to break even in traditionally publishing such a work.

~*~

Independently producing at Kindle Direct Publishing was one alternative, but it wouldn’t get copies into brick-and-mortar bookstores, which would have to buy the books at full price from Amazon and then add an additional fee, or into many public libraries – and I do see those as essential outlets for this work.

I looked into several other services but concluded that the costs to me would have been prohibitive, no matter how attractive the result.

Now, however, I have good news to share.

Quaking Dover is appearing as a print-on-demand edition from Draft2Digital, available through its affiliated traditional retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

D2D first came to my attention when it acquired Smashwords.com, the pioneering ebook enterprise that’s been my literary haven for nearly a decade now. The more I learned of it, the more I sensed that releasing my print editions there was no-brainer.

~*~

See what you think. Like the ebook edition I’ve previously announced, the paperbook is being offered at a reduced price in a pre-release – in this case up till its October 8 release.

You can help me prime the pump by requesting your own physical copy at your favorite bookstore or library.

Check out my author page at Books2Read for details.

Let’s shake things up!

Reviewing a whole year of posts in one evening

It didn’t start out to be an overview, but I do forget a lot, including what I’ve written or photographed or even done over time. These posts, though, are records of bits of that  life, coming together in the manner of a quilt when you step back enough to see the emerging pattern.

Somehow, in the process of scheduling a few new entries a few nights ago, I wound up going backward in time through the Red Barn. Let’s just say I stayed up much later than I had planned before sleep started to catch up with me. And that was just going through the previous year, not the entire decade I’ve been at this.

But what a year! Not to brag, but I was surprised by the high quality of the dispatches and their range, and I did enjoy some deep satisfaction. (That’s not always a given for a writer, by the way – sometimes it’s more “Ugh!”)

Has me wanting to go back deeper in the archives, maybe a month at a time, to see what other treasures might be buried there.

And from there? Bet many of the rest of you have rich lodes awaiting rediscovery, too.

Blog on!

How flimsy are all those social media stats?

I know that everywhere you go, everybody seems to have their nose stuck in their cell phone, oblivious to just about everything going on around them. You know, the bubble people.

Or, where I’m now living, they have those phones up in the air taking pictures so they can look at what’s in front of them later.

Oh, my. What a world.

As a writer, I’m supposed to be active on all platforms as a matter of marketing , but as many others are discovering, those venues rarely lead to book sales or loyal readers. Let’s be honest.

I’ve toyed with some of them, but drifted away, even Twitter.

My primary social medium is here at WordPress, blogging. I know how to manage my posts easily. The Reader feels to me like a real mailbox, with dispatches from around the world – postcards, letters, clippings. As for you?

For that matter, I’ve never quite “got” Facebook. It’s cumbersome to navigate, most of the content feels like gossip cluttered with advertising, and I don’t like having to sign in to see what should be public information for local retailers, schools, or public events.

Still, living in a small town, I’m finding that’s where the local “party line” is, and checking in regularly is essential. I still have qualms about the bigger corporate picture, with its shadowy agendas.

Recently renewing contacts with folks from my ancient past has also had me turning to FB.

What’s surprising me, though, is the gap between those who are active in a social medium and those who are “members” but rarely or even never check in.

It’s not just FB. Even email accounts. I suspect many of my contacts are that way, too. Hello! Anybody there? Did you get my message? When was the last time they posted or commented? Take that as a clue to their presence … or absence.

The numbers, then, might not be nearly as big or influential as they’re boasted.

Meanwhile, I keep falling down these Internet rabbit holes, pursuing arcane information.

Where are you spending your time online? Or even elsewhere?