Building a mailing list is literally the first marketing decision any author should make.
This is because the mailing list is the central element of every author’s marketing strategy. It is the one thing you own and will always be able to control.
Building a mailing list is literally the first marketing decision any author should make.
This is because the mailing list is the central element of every author’s marketing strategy. It is the one thing you own and will always be able to control.
In 1650, Spanish painter Diego Velázquez was commissioned by Pope Innocent X to paint a portrait of his.
Three centuries later, another artist would attempt to recreate it. Despite never having seen this painting in person, the Irish artist Francis Bacon would repaint it, over and over again, completing a total of 50 paintings during the 1950s and 1960s.
During the summer of 1957, another famous artist, Pablo Picasso, was inspired by Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas.
The first thing I wrote that actually got me quite a bit of exposure was a novella called “An Emperor’s Will.” I wrote it when I was 16 years old, and I won a National Literary Contest. And a lot of published writers read it and loved it. On an online workshop frequented by some of the best SF and Fantasy writers in Romania, it received mostly positive reviews.
It was written…
The vast majority of blogging advice out there is tactical in nature. It teaches you how to start a blog, how to write articles, how to network and engage others, how to distribute your content, how to promote your blog on social media.
However, there are two things there are wrong with tactical advice:
What are you supposed to do then?
You develop a set of strategies that you can deploy, so you can turn chaos into opportunity.
In January 2011 I self-published my first novel:
Because I was dirt poor when I launched my first book, the project was a proper DIY. I had to learn book cover design, learn how to use the tools and apps, teach myself typography, interior formatting, and book formats.
Surprinsingly, the ecosystem, mainly the distribution channels we now use, hasn’t changed that much.
If you’re reading this tutorial, I’m guessing that you’re either a curious mind or in the process of producing a book yourself. You’re probably wondering how to turn a manuscript into an actual book.
My objective for this tutorial is to share as much knowledge about book design as possible with you, so that you have the tools to craft a beautiful book that’s ready for publication.
The first thing you will notice is that book design is at the intersection of several disciplines: a designer needs to take into account editorial, marketing and distribution decisions, and work with a variety of people to produce your book. They will turn what was an abstract project into a beautiful product by pulling all the pieces together.
Here, as promised, is the third and final part of An Odd Missive. Given how the world is now, I know finding a secret neighborhood with an absurdist and whimsical bent is very appealing. Full disclosure, it’s still a dangerous place, but in a mythic way. Is that any better? It’s more entertaining. I am quite proud of the whole thing, but then again, I am biased.
He was in a forest. There were trees — thick, heavy trees, which seemed misshapen somehow, not that Paul was an expert, but there was something wrong about them. All of the smells and noises he noticed before were now intensified.
Looking back the way he came, he saw Parsnip and Looseleaf peering downwards through a doorway that was set upright into a large tree.
“Three things,” began Parsnip, “One, never leave the path. That’ll be the end of you.”
“Quite right,” added Looseleaf. “Two, don’t eat or drink anything, or you’ll never leave.”
“Leave where?” asked Paul, who felt a panic attack approaching.
Ignoring his question, Parsnip said, “And when you’re dealing with the Old Lady, always be polite but do not volunteer any information.”
“Is that three or four,” asked Looseleaf of his partner.
“The last bit is linked, so I think of it as the third thing,” protested Parsnip.
Looseleaf considered that for a moment and said, “Seems fair and just.”
“As I endeavor to do in all things,” replied Parsnip.
Paul felt well enough to stand, which he did, and moved towards the door, which was starting to swing shut.
“Wait!” cried Paul, lunging towards the closing door.
“One last thing, Julia has the key!” said either Parsnip or Looseleaf, it was impossible to tell.
Paul tried to open the door but it was locked and immovable. He tried banging on it, but all that accomplished was to make his hand sore. Not knowing where he was or what was going on, he did what most people do in such a situation, he took out his smart phone. Just map where he was and he could find his way to a subway; this must be a park. There was of course no signal. Paul sighed and slipped the phone back into his pocket. He felt the card that Ms. Karkowski had handed him this morning.
It finally occurred to him that, during his brief meeting with his boss that morning, there was no humanly way she could have written all that he had read so far on this card. And the fact that it always had some up-to-the-minute, context-aware information on it — and that it still seemed to otherwise be plain old ink on paper — was proof that something was very, very wrong. It was not, in fact, Internet-enabled “e-paper”. Removing it from his pocket, he read it once more: “Just do what they told you and everything will be fine.”
Paul did not think that outcome was possible, but with apparently no other choice he walked into the woods, keeping on the path, as he was told.
As he walked along the path, which was well-worn and lined with stones, Paul had the unpleasant feeling that he was being watched. This intensified until he wheeled around and saw a squirrel behind him, holding an acorn with both hands. With eyes like liquid night, the squirrel held his gaze. It felt like one of those moments in an action movie, just before a gunfight broke out, except that Paul didn’t have a gun and all the squirrel had was an acorn. Paul turned slowly back around and the squirrel did the same, mirroring Paul.
Paul quickly turned back again, but the squirrel was gone, off to bury its acorn, if he knew anything about squirrels (which he did not; few really do). He picked up the pace and passed a number of odd things, such as a small waterfall that fed a little pond, whose surface was undisturbed and shone like burnished silver. In the pond, he could see the reflection of the surrounding trees and what looked like a tall tower, although the tower otherwise wasn’t there.
He saw a group of standing stones, through which a wind blew and the faintest of music could be heard. It was tempting to get closer — he knew that if he stood in the middle of them he could hear the song fully — but the words of Looseleaf or perhaps Parsnip echoed in his mind, “Never Leave The Path Or That Will Be The End Of You”. So he put his fingers in his ears and hummed tunelessly, which incidentally was the only way he knew how.
Paul passed a rabbit on the side of the path, looking at him from a patch of tall grass. Unlike the squirrel, which had a very suspicious demeanor, this rabbit seemed, well there was no other word for it, amused. It cocked its head and grinned. Then it chuckled. Rabbits can’t grin or laugh, thought Paul, but there it was, enjoying the sight of Paul, for reasons of its own. With one final guffaw (guffaw?), it disappeared into the grass. At least it didn’t have a pocket watch, but that’s something he shouldn’t have to think about wildlife. Ever.
Winding downwards, the path led into a clearing where two people sat around a wooden table on which sat a rustic teapot and cups. The first person was an old woman, dressed like a peasant from somewhere in Eastern European, complete with babushka. All the colors were yellows and reds. She was pouring tea into three cups.
The second was a beautiful young woman dressed like a peasant as well, but with a wholly different effect. She had hair the color of honey, with subtle highlights of gold. Her eyes were gray, which recalled clouds seen just as you arrive home ahead of the storm, safe and dry. Her nose was a little crooked, which only enhanced her unique appearance. As for the rest of her, Paul had a difficult time thinking of a polite way to describe her, other than “Wow”.
“Julia?” he asked, his mouth gone dry.
“It seems your hero has arrived, my dear,” said the old woman.
Julia looked him up and down and sighed. “Parsnip and Looseleaf, why do I bother.”
“Now, now, sweetie, he may have hidden talents,” said the old woman with a sly smile. “Please, hero, have a seat.”
Paul sat down.
“I’m not a hero,” he said.
Julia shot him a look that made it clear she agreed with that assessment.
“Now that remains to be seen,” the old woman said, “Let us now introduce ourselves. You may call me Gran.”
I’m P-…” Paul suddenly remembered the advice to not offer any information. “I’m the one they… sent.”
“That’s a rather long name,” replied Gran. “Do you mind if I call you Hero?”
“Uh… sure,” Paul said. He looked at Julia with a smile and shrugged. She stared at him as if he were an idiot. Lots of women had looked at him that way, and over time he had accepted it as an unhappy fact. But he wanted to prove Julia wrong.
“So, you are here for this fair maiden?” asked Gran.
“I’m not a maiden,” said Julia, with vehemence.
Gran tutted, “Not a thing, in my day, that a young lady might say so willfully or proudly.”
“Not ‘your day’, is it?” countered Julia.
“That remains to be seen, doesn’t it?” replied Gran.
With that, both women looked at Paul. It was clear they were waiting for him to say something, but he had no idea what. Julia shook her head and Gran smiled.
“What?” said Paul. He nervously fingered the card, looked down at it, and it read “Say why you’re here”.
“Oh, right, I’m here to bring Julia back,” Paul declared.
Julia gave him a look that said “Finally”.
“Excellent!” said Gran.
“Oh, that was easier than I thought,” said Paul.
“Would you like a cookie? I baked them myself,” said Gran, holding out a plateful.
Paul was suddenly ravenous. He’d not eaten since a bagel on the way to work that morning, and those cookies looked amazing. He took one and popped it in his mouth.
“You are an idiot,” said Julia. This was the first time she had spoken to him directly.
The little voices of Parsnip and Looseleaf that had been chiming in and keeping him from harm had gone silent. Or he had just forgotten. Either way, Paul had the sense of encroaching doom.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked around the chunks of cookie in his mouth.
“I couldn’t!” Julia said.
“Why?” he persisted.
“Don’t eat or drink anything! How hard is that to remember?” Julia yelled at him.
“My two children, I have so many things for you to do for me,” Gran said, her smile widening to show many tiny, sharp teeth. It reminded Paul of a nature show he’d seen about weird fish that lived in the deepest part of the ocean.
“It was just a cookie,” he said. “Why can’t we just leave?”
“By all means,” said Gran, as she gestured to the path behind him.
Paul began to get up but found he was stuck to the chair.
“We are bound by her will,” said Julia.
“Indeed you are,” Gran said.
“All you had to do was not eat that damned cookie,” Julia said.
“And why can’t you leave?” Paul asked.
“It’s a long story,” Julia replied, looking away.
“Did you eat a cookie too?” he asked.
Julia’s cheeks flushed — adorably, he thought — and she said, “It doesn’t matter.”
“Why?” Paul asked.
“Because shut up!” she said.
There was a sound, like nuts and bolts poured over aluminum foil, and they both looked at Gran, who appeared to be laughing. Her shoulders shook with each exhalation.
“This is going to be, oh, so merry,” Gran said, as she wiped a tear from her eye.
“This really is unfair,” said Paul loudly.
Julia rolled her eyes, but Gran said, “No, you are correct, Hero. It is unfair; you came into this with a pure heart.”
Gran looked right at Julia and said, “Truly pure.”
“What do you–“ asked Paul, but was cut off by Gran.
“I’ll make this wager: We will each make a portrait of fair Julia here, and the most accurate will be able to do what they will.”
“Portrait?” asked Paul.
But Gran had already produced an easel with a canvas, a pallet with paints, bushes, and an hourglass.
“When the sand runs out, then we will judge,” said Gran, who turned the hourglass over.
“What am I supposed to use?” asked Paul, who had not brought art supplies with him that morning.
“Whatever you like, dear, whatever you like,” said Gran, who was already painting away.
The hourglass was more likely a minute glass, with the rate that the sand was falling. Paul frantically went through his pockets; he had a pen, excellent! But the only paper he had — other than the notecard his boss had given him, and he probably needed that — was a ripped receipt for the Thai takeout he had the week before. The sand was running faster and faster, as he reached into his last pocket and felt a smooth, cool shape.
With a confidence he rarely felt, Paul pulled out his smart phone and snapped a picture.
“Done,” he said, as the last grain of sand fell.
“Pardon?” said Gran.
“Here, take a look,” he said, and showed the old woman the picture he took. It was entirely accurate — even more so than the one Gran had done, though her work was eerily accurate, but still not as complete as a digital photo.
He showed it to Julia, who favored him with a smile. “Good work, hero,” she said. Not a sonnet, but it did make Paul feel as if he deserved the title.
Gran’s eyes narrowed, and she looked as if she were ready to inflict grave damage. Instead, she pulled out two twigs from somewhere and broke them. With that, Paul knew he could get up and walk away.
He stood, offering a hand to Julia, which she took (yeah!), and they walked towards the path.
“I misjudged you,” said Gran, “I thought you a stupid oaf. I will not make that mistake again. Go, for now.”
Paul did not care for the “for now” part of that, nor for the “stupid oaf” comment, but he had fixed this and was enjoying the moment. In fact, as they proceeded back to the doorway, the Rabbit winked at him, and the squirrel dropped an acorn into his pocket. He felt, and quite rightly, that this was a sort of praise.
As they walked, Paul who still felt pretty good about the way things turned out, turned to Julia and asked, “What was that all about?”
“It’s kind of a long story,” she replied, avoiding his eyes.
“But who-“ he began.
She stopped and looked him straight in the eyes, “Listen, do you have relatives that you might not talk to if you weren’t related?”
Thinking of his cousin who had joined the Salvation Army to meet girls and subsequently deserted when it was apparent that while women loved a man in uniform, it didn’t mean they loved every man in uniform, Paul said, “Uh… sure.”
“That’s the short version,” she said.
Paul felt that pursuing this line of questioning would ruin the moment, so he just enjoyed the companionable silence.
Once they arrived at the door, Paul said, “They said you had the key.”
“What key?” she said, distractedly.
Paul felt a bubble of panic rising in him. While he enjoyed strolling through a forest with a beautiful woman, he was quite certain that if he was stuck here, he would die pretty quickly.
“Oh, you mean this key?” Julia asked, as she produced a brass key from a hidden pocket.
“I hope so,” he replied.
She smiled and turned the key in the lock, and the door swung inward to show the ceiling of Parsnip and Looseleaf’s apartment. She took his hand and together they stepped forward and onto the table. Paul again felt vertigo, but much less this time. Parsnip and Looseleaf stood on either side of the table and said in unison, “Welcome back!”
There was a feast in the apartment, which seemed very appropriate, with excellent food and beer. And there were stories that were at once funny, exciting, sad, poignant, informative, and scary (but only the one about the Coppermen). Afterwards, he could not recall even a word, with one exception. He had said, perhaps aided by the exceptional beer, that he wished he could stay there. Soon after that, Paul got up to stagger home and Julia kissed his forehead, which was the last thing he remembered clearly.
* * *
Paul woke up in his own bed. He couldn’t recall how he got there, and everything that had happened seemed like a dream — except, unlike most dreams, he could recall everything with complete clarity, except for those stories.
He looked at his clock, 7:30am. He needed to rush to get to work on time, so he jumped in the shower, grabbed an energy bar, and walked out of his apartment door into the front yard. Front yard? He looked around. He was standing in front of a door with a brass A on it, which was next to a smaller door. He looked back through the doorway — that was his apartment, but now it was next-door to Parsnip and Looseleaf’s apartment.
Just then, Looseleaf, in a tatty brown robe, opened his door.
“Good morning! Ready for work, I see,” he said cheerily.
“What’s going on?” asked Paul, who was not sure he wanted to know.
Parsnip, sporting a spotless green robe, stuck his head out and said, “Excellent! Early for work. I like the cut of your jib!”
“What is going on?” Paul repeated.
“You work for us now,” said Parsnip.
“No, I don’t,” said Paul uneasily.
“Indeed you do, young sir!” chimed in Looseleaf.
“’Twas your request!” added Parsnip.
Looseleaf produced a folded-up piece of heavy paper. It was long and contained many heretofores and in-the-event-ofs, but at the bottom was Paul’s signature, countersigned by Parsnip and Looseleaf and witnessed by Julia, and apparently made official with a wax seal. Quite official, in an unfair sort of way.
“But my apartment…?” Paul asked.
“All part of your signing bonus. Traveling expenses taken care of,” said Parsnip.
“No worries, old boy!” added Looseleaf, with a hearty slap on the arm.
Paul took a moment. This was crazy, this sort of thing didn’t happen. He had a life, and friends. He couldn’t just pull up and leave. He turned to say just that, when Julia walked up and opened the front gate. She was dressed in an aviatrix jacket, cream-colored silk blouse, tight brown pants, and high boots with buckles up the side.
“You’ve joined the team, have you?” she asked.
“Yes,” Paul said, and he meant it.
“Welcome to The Borough,” she replied with a smile.
Today is Star Trek Day, honoring the anniversary of the first time it was broadcast, fifty-five years ago. This is a short story I wrote that is, let’s call it Star Trek adjacent. I’m a big fan and this is my way of paying tribute. With the serial numbers filed off.
Live Long and Prosper and… Engage!
Ensign Edward Park’s Personal Log-StarDate 8720.73
I have been tasked with transporting Atlas, favorite pet of Captain Buhle of the U.S.S. Centurion. While some of my shipmates have dismissed this is as a dull errand, I see this as an avenue into the Captain’s good graces. I’ve wanted to serve on the Centurion since I was a child and read about their exploits.
I don’t see this as brown-nosing, (Lieutenant J.G. Pillington I’m looking at you!) but rather as an opportunity to show Captain Buhle that I’m a responsible officer with much to offer. She apparently dotes on Atlas so this can only help my career.
Hard to believe that no one else volunteered for this.
End of Log.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.11
Have arrived at the Altairian outpost and taken possession of Atlas. The name must be ironic as the case he came in was very small. Some sort of miniature dog? Atlas is sleeping now so I can’t really tell. The Lieutenant who passed him along to me advised me to not fly too fast in such a small craft. Apparently, it would upset up Atlas, which he said was dangerous.
I’m supposed to rendezvous with the Centurion tomorrow so I have plenty of time to make it. Atlas, you are in the safest of hands.
This is easier than I could’ve imagined.
End of Log.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.56
This is bad, very bad. I’m currently fleeing from a Gorgorian Rapid Raider. There’s supposed to be a cease-fire after the conference at Mantok-Prime. I hailed them to remind them of that fact but frankly, they were more interested in mocking me and firing upon the shuttle than in any real diplomatic solution.
Shields are holding but since they gave me a shuttle with no weapons, I will have to outfly them. Why don’t our shuttles have weapons? Right now it feels like they should.
End of Log.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.89
We escaped! I suppose that’s obvious since I’m here to record this log, but it’s kind of a miracle. The Gorgorian Rapid Raider had hammered us, alarms were blaring to tell me the shields were about to fail, and then Atlas began to whine. Honestly, I couldn’t tell right away, as he was harmonizing with the alarms.
Then suddenly, he stopped. Then the Gorgorian Rapid Raider exploded. We, and by we I mean the shuttle, started spinning out of control. Fortunately, I am a fully trained star pilot and had no trouble steadying the flight path. Eventually.
Sensors indicated that the Gorgorian Rapid Raider suffered a massive quantum engine failure. Maybe the Gorgorian Rapid Raider passed through a micro singularity. Those Gorgorian Rapid Raider need to hire some more qualified engineers.
Am I saying Gorgorian Rapid Raider too much? No. An Ensign’s logs need to be thorough and accurate. I mean, a Gorgorian Rapid Raider is a formidable foe.
That ought to be worth a commendation. Fingers crossed.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8722.24
Well, the engines are damaged and I had to drop to sub-light speeds. This is very inconvenient. If I can’t repair the problem I won’t make my rendezvous with the Centurion. I’m reluctant to send out a distress signal as it might attract more attention from the Gorgorians.
Also, it would reflect poorly on my abilities as an officer and damage my chances of getting assigned to the Centurion. That, I refuse to let happen. Time to roll up my sleeves and get working.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8722.73
Well, that took longer than I anticipated. I ran half a dozen level one diagnostics, realigned the crystalline shunt, and hand cleaned thirty-seven isotronic chips and the damned thing still didn’t turn over. It wasn’t till I re-polarized the power coupling that it worked again.
At least now I can get back on schedule. Apologies to Atlas but I am NOT going to be late.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Unknown
A good officer has to be ready for the unexpected. That’s what they taught us at the academy. It’s the first thing they say on the first day. Be ready for the unexpected. It’s a fine sentiment. Except how in holy hell can you be ready for the unexpected? That’s crazy! CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, I screamed and feel a little better. Not a lot, but I’ll take what I can get.
We were flying at top hyper factor, at least as fast as this shuttle can go, when Atlas started to howl. Except it wasn’t a howl, exactly. More like a keening wail. I tried to get him to stop. I sang him a lullaby, then tried talking to him in soothing tones, telling him that we were on our way to his mommy, and finally, I shouted at him to just shut up!
I’m not sure why I thought this creature would understand the Galactic Standard tongue, because it did not. The sound it made got higher and higher pitched until there was a burst of bright light and then I passed out. I dare anyone, ANYONE to not pass out in these circumstances.
Upon awakening, I found the familiar sight of rushing stars outside my forward viewport replaced with a swirling sea of colors and fractals. The navigation computer has thus far failed to locate where we are. But it gets worse.
Atlas is missing.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Still Unknown but later
Having searched this tiny shuttle fore to aft, I have found no sign of Atlas. I’m not sure what is worse, being trapped in an unknown region of space or losing Captain Buhle’s beloved pet. If I can’t find a way home, I’ll never know. That’s not better. Probably worse.
Time to start scanning and see what I can find out about where I ended up.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Who The Hell Knows
So the sensors were no help. Outside the shuttle is what the computer calls a “Pocket, pan-dimensional matrix of unquantifiable energy readings.” Thanks. For. Nothing. In other words, you have no idea. Also, no sign of Atlas. Ugh.
At least the nutritional dispenser is still working but all it can produce is a chicken sandwich and coffee. Some good news, that’s a perfect lunch.
I’m going to see if I can find a way out of this “Pocket, pan-dimensional matrix of unquantifiable energy readings.”
I mean, how big can it be?
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Who Goddamn Cares At This Point?
So, a pocket dimension can be pretty damn big. I’ve been flying for what the computer tells me is one week, three days, seventeen hours, and forty minutes. I have no choice but to believe it.
Why would a computer lie?
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate No Idea
My Chicken sandwich was a little dry today. That should be impossible, given it is made from a static formula. But I swear it tasted like it had been sitting out on a counter for a bit too long. Strange.
On an unrelated note, my beard is coming in nicely.
Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Infinity Plus One
While time seems to stand still, I have not aged, for some reason, my hair and fingernails have continued to grow. Does this make any logical sense? Nope, not at all.
While I have perfected my braiding skills, I fear that this is some sort of personal hell. There are no Rigellian monkey bears with my father’s voice, forcing me to sing in public. Still, it feels pretty personal.
While I sleep, the sounds of Atlas echo through my mind. I try to find him but I find myself stuck in a pool of butterscotch. Let’s be clear, in my dreams. I would kill for some butterscotch right now. Anything except for damned chicken sandwiches and coffee.
All scans have yielded no life sign reading. I’ve lost the Captain’s pet and I can say, with a high degree of certainty, I’ve had lost my mind as well. Log entries that back that up have been deleted. No one needs to read all those quantum limericks. Honestly, not my best work.
In retrospect, I should’ve sent out a distress signal. That’s on me.
Also, whatever Atlas is, I hope he’s lost in his own personal hell. I’ve no idea what that is, but I wish with all my heart he’s there.
So, since I have nothing to look forward to, except more of this endless nothing, I have chosen to employ the self-destruct protocol. If anyone finds these logs, please think kindly of me.
Wait. If I self-destruct, no one will ever read this. So suck a singularity Atlas. You are the worst.
Captain Buhle’s personal Log StarDate 8722.67
I am relieved to find the shuttle transporting Atlas intact. He is alive and in good spirits! I was worried about him traveling on a shuttle, it disagrees with him so, but it seems to have worked out.
Unfortunately, Ensign Edward Park has suffered some traumatic side effects from his trip. It will take a few days for him to get his synaptic responses in sync with normal reality. Doc says with some rest, he’ll be right as rain.
The engineering team has told me that the shuttle gave off pan-dimensional radiation but that that was well below any danger levels. In another piece of bad news, all logs were corrupted by the radiation.
When Ensign Park recovers, he can file a report about the incident. He must be a remarkable young officer to have made it through in one piece and keep Atlas safe. I have already requested his transfer to the Centurion, which the Admiralty approved immediately.
And on a personal note, it seems Atlas has taken quite a shine to young Mr. Park, when I visited sickbay, the little fella got quite excited. If I can trust anyone to look after Atlas, it is Ensign Park.
I love books but I’ve read very little of late. You may be asking, “If you love books, why aren’t you reading them?” A fair question. I will address it in a roundabout manner.
There must be at least a hundred unread ones on my shelves and in various piles about my home. Both my parents loved to read so I have them to thank my deep affection for the written word. Books are, in my opinion, the perfect gift, both to give and receive. The heft, feel and smell of books are intoxicating. Especially, old books.
Used bookstores are rarer and rarer these days. I’m sure it’s due to the rising rents, and the advent of selling books online. In the interest of honesty, I buy books online. Though I miss the thrill of going into a used bookstore, inspecting the shelves, and finding a gem. On the other hand, it’s comforting to be able to find that one volume you were looking for with a bit of typing and clicking search.
Back when the world was… I was about to say normal but what the hell does that even mean? So let’s just say when we could venture outside unmasked and could sit close to each other. In those halcyon days when I went back and forth to my job, I would read on the subway. If I was going to travel anywhere, a book was the first thing I would pack. There was always a book or two in my bag. After all, what if you finished a book and had no other book to read? Unthinkable!
Nowadays I am in between jigs and am unlikely to take any long-distance voyages. With all this copious free time I must be reading nonstop. It is with chagrin I must tell you that I have not. There are two reasons why. Here’s the first.
Media. By which I mean TV and the internet. When you are told not to do something, you instantly want to do it. Such as going out and seeing people. If you’re sensible, you will listen to Doctor Anthony Fauci and mask up, and take all necessary precautions. That still leaves a missing element in your life.
So you watch the news and then when you can’t stand that anymore, you watch everything else. Maybe it’s the hot new show that just started streaming, so when you chat with your friend over Zoom or Discord, you don’t want to be behind the curve. Or maybe you go back to a show that gives you comfort. Consuming episode after episode like a bowl of salty deep-fried treats. BTW, all pre-pandemic shows are now science fiction/fantasy because the characters do fantastical things like go out to eat and hug. Crazy!
The other reason is I was writing. I recently finished a novel called the Arrondissement, you can read it on this site.
Am I a shameless self-promoter? Hell yes. If I’m not for me, who will be?
Back to the writing. I started it before the beginning of the pandemic and finished it before it ended. That might say more about the state of the world than my productivity. Nonetheless, I managed to complete a full-length novel, so that’s something.
I began this blog because I had written another novel, Chosen, which you also read on this blog.
See, I told you I’m shameless! Once I put up the last chapter I continued to post every Monday. It is a self-imposed deadline that I have met for the last seven and half years. Sometimes it’s my thoughts on random topics, like why isn’t “Happy as a dog.” an expression? If you’ve owned a dog and come home you know what I mean.
In my past, I’ve spent long stretches without writing, all the while calling myself a writer. I had written so I think I’m in the clear. However, having to post something new every week has made me a better writer. Well, I certainly hope so.
Once, I friend of mine asked me and another writer friend, “How often do we think about what we’re writing?” The answer is “All the time.” I find that before I set pen to paper, or more accurately fingertips to keyboard, there is a lot of musing going on. Or wrestling with demons, depending on the day. Outwardly it looks like I’m just going to the store to get some supplies but inwardly, there’s a lot of stuff going on.
I believe that you cannot write if you do not love to read. Technically you can. I’m not sure it’ll be worth reading. All writers must, in my opinion, have a love of language. Talented writers can paint a picture and invoke deep emotional reactions with an expert application of their vocabulary. Every wordsmith has a voice, some are more pleasant to hear than others. Milage may vary of course.
You might be asking yourself, “Where the hell is he going with all this?” I remind you that I said this would be roundabout. While I used to read on average, a book a week, #humblebrag, my stats have dropped severely. This is not to say I’ve read nothing, just not nearly as much as I used to.
At the end of the day, part of my lack of reading is pure laziness on my part. Damn you golden age of streaming content! But I’ve found myself being more focused on my own writing than others. Which is not terrible for me, but it needs to be addressed by me.
For my birthday, it’s in December in case you missed it, I received a much-anticipated book. Ballistic Kiss by Richard Kadrey, the latest installment in the Sandman Slim series. I’m a big fan of his work and this setting in particular. Did I read it the day I was gifted it? No. I’ve been holding on to it, saving it like an expensive bottle of single malt scotch. Partially because don’t want to inhale it like a bottom shelf whisky while on a bender. I want to savor it like the aforementioned single malt.
However, that is a bit of a lie. I’ve just not been reading as much and I’m the only one who can change that. I started it last night, as of writing this, and I’m enjoying it immensely. If you like hard-driving, rock and roll urban fantasy, check his stuff out. See, I can promote someone else’s work too.
I think if I want to be the best writer I can, I need to read more. Make time for it. I’m never disappointed and if I am, I’ve got plenty more read. Remember, hundreds of unread treasures to open up.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it inspires you to read more if your book count is low. Or maybe to write more. Both are excellent choices. Now back to Ballistic Kiss.
We now live in a world of constant information overload. Content creators are sharing millions and millions of articles, podcasts, social media posts, and videos every single month.
This, in turn, changes the dynamic of how we create content, how we distribute it, how we promote it, and even how we monetize our blogs.
The main issue? Broad topics lack focus, direction, and are becoming less and less appealing.
The most lucrative niches are overcrowded and ultra-competitive, and a general blog that tackles a main topic (or a multitude of topics) has little to no chance of standing out from the crowd.
Whenever we submit a part of our soul that we translated into words, we do so armed with nothing but the hope that the person reading our work will understand it.
Sometimes they do. Most times they don’t.
Rejection scrapes the heart. But, well, there’s nothing to do about it. In fact, rejection is as much a part of being a writer as punching those damn keys. It’s as much a part of being a writer as the edits and the rewrites and the social media marketing.
So, you have a finished manuscript, and now you’re ready to share it with as many readers as possible.
In order to do that, you must choose one of two paths: either self-publish your book yourself, or go the traditional route and try to find a publisher.
Deciding on which route to take means that you’ve got to figure out a couple of things about yourself first, about your book, and about your ability to effectively market (and enjoy the process) both yourself as an author and your book.
Now, let’s discuss the essential questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to decide if self-publishing your book is the best available option for you.