Inspiration from a negative review

I wrote and published Where Memories Meet with the goals to educate and commiserate. I wanted to give readers who had little to no experience with Alzheimer’s a clear understanding of what was involved, as least to the extend that my family experienced it, and I wanted to reach out to those who were currently, or had been, dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s and let them know they were not alone. I understood.

A few weeks ago I received my first negative critique of Where Memories Meet. (The good reviews I rush to post, the negative ones, not so much.) As a writer it can be demoralizing and utterly discouraging when you receive negative feedback. It took me about a week to lick my wounds and resurface from the cave I had crawled into.

I requested feedback from a Writer’s Digest contest I had entered the book in, and the critique came as an email with the subject line, “You asked for it.” Which I’m sure was their standard response, but which particularly drove the point, and it was a sharp one,  home.

The reader clearly didn’t like the book, and after reading the comments, I suspected he or she hadn’t read very far into it. The critique quoted a particularly benign sentence from page 13 and I seriously question whether the reviewer read any further than that.

The reviewer informed me that when one was writing about life and death matters, it was important to bring the character to life. I agree. In fact that was one of my most important goals and guiding principles as I wrote Where Memories Meet. I aimed to transform my father for the reader. And I took the risk of moving my story line backwards in steps through the seasons to do so, even though some readers found that difficult. I wanted the reader to see that the silent, largely non-responsive human life was a bright, multi-faceted, productive, and devoted father and husband before the disease took him away piece-by-piece. Or maybe I should say, “inch-by-inch.” Had the reviewer finished the book, I believe he or she would have seen that.

He or she also chose to compare my nonfiction memoir and oral narrative to the fictional Still Alice. I read Still Alice. I liked Still Alice. I was not writing Still Alice. I was not writing fiction. I read a lot of nonfiction, and today authors are doing an increasingly better job at making nonfiction compelling reading. I acknowledge that I might have been better at doing this.

What hurt the most was the reviewer’s comment that I told the story “inch-by-inch.” In my cave, licking my wounds, I chewed on that one for a good long while.

When I resurfaced, I responded to the Writer’s Digest contest. I was particularly disappointed because I had always viewed WD as a help and encouragement to writers, in particular to self-published writers. I didn’t find anything about the feedback I received to be helpful—only mean-spirited, discouraging, and demoralizing. I told them the review made me feel like I should apologize for asking the reviewer to read my book. I said that I made a mistake in entering it in the contest, and that was a mistake I would not be making again.

The positive outcome from this painful episode is that the reviewer unwittingly nailed it on the head, gave me a new insight into my family’s experience, and inspired me to write  the post at my author website, Inch by Inch, about helping someone with Alzheimer’s.

 

 

An opportunity for readers

I want to share with you a newsletter from an emerging great fiction writer, Trace Conger, in which he announces a Countdown sale of the Kindle version of his latest novel Scar Tissue. (He also gives my upcoming Kindle Countdown deal for Where Memories Meet a plug.) Tomorrow, for one day only, you can buy Scar Tissue for $0.99, a savings of $4.00, at Amazon. It’s a great opportunity for readers to try Trace’s work.

I met Trace when he joined the writing group I have been participating in for about five years now. I’ve enjoyed reading and providing feedback on Trace’s works-in-progress. He is a talented, entertaining, and highly productive writer. I believe he has what it takes to be a successful fiction writer.

“Conger is known for his tight writing style, dark themes and subtle humor.” (Amazon)

I’ve read everything he’s published so far, and will continue to do so. I’m hooked on Finn as a character. Here is my review of Scar Tissue from the Amazon page:

Trace Conger has done it again, and for that matter, so has his lead character, Finn Harding. Finn is an unlicensed private investigator who gets embroiled with large ruthless criminal organizations. Finn’s bravado, quick wit, command of the internet and research, and generally ingenious and devious mind, as he works to solve the case while saving his own skin, make for a fast-paced and riveting read.

One of the things that sets Conger’s Crime Fiction apart is his integration of the humanity of Finn. We see Finn’s fierce devotion and protectiveness to a precious daughter and his estranged wife, who is not only hot but has the right mix of vulnerability and sass. And perhaps even more entertaining, we get to witness the escapades of Finn’s father Albert and his old codger vigilante friends up at Meddybemps Lake in Maine who provide us with a second, equally fascinating, story line.

With the addition of Finn’s long-lost brother Conner, who plays a significant role in Scar Tissue, we are offered a deeper look into Finn’s engaging character through his family ties. And as we watch the interactions of the Harding brothers, we realize these two apples did not fall far from the tree.

I loved it. I can’t wait for the next. Highly recommended.

Trace

An Update on Mr. Finn #3

Hello friends. I’ve received a lot of emails asking about the next Mr. Finn novel. I’m hard at work on THE PRISON GUARD’S SON (Mr. Finn #3) and hope to have it available this fall.

I’m really excited about this book and it’s been a blast to write. As I’ve written the series, I’ve always tried to “up the difficulty” when it comes to Finn finding his man. The first book focused on an anonymous hacker and the second on a nomad criminal banker.

The third book finds Finn trying to track down two individuals in the witness protection program. I think it’ll prove to be his toughest case yet.

I can’t share too much about the plot, but if you want a glimpse into what Finn is up against, I’d suggest checking out a recent piece I wrote for Hardboiled Wonderland, a crime fiction blog. You can find that here.

SCAR TISSUE Available for $0.99
The ebook version of SCAR TISSUE (Mr. Finn #2) will be on sale at Amazon for $0.99 on January 25, 2016. (That’s also my brother’s birthday, so happy birthday, Dave!) 

The ebook price will steadily increase that week until it’s back at its normal sales price. So, mark your calendars if you want the book and want to save some cash.

A Touching Tribute
A good friend of mine recently published a fantastic memoir, WHERE MEMORIES MEET. It’s the author’s story of losing her father to Alzheimer’s as well as her father’s account of the defining moments of his life.

It’s more than a story about Alzheimer’s though. It’s also a touching tribute to a man who meant so much to her. Sure, it can be dark at times, but so can life.

WHERE MEMORIES MEET will also be on sale for $0.99 from February 1 to February 4. Of course, if you want to snag it at full price, you can do that too. Check it out here.

Thanks all.

Trace Conger

“People don’t run out of dreams. People just run out of time.” — Glenn Frey

You can contact Trace and sign up for his newsletter at his website, TraceConger.com.

 

~~~~~

Book promotion update

I spent most of the day submitting Where Memories Meet to websites that promote ebooks. I want to promote the book during its Amazon countdown deal scheduled for February 1 – 7. Apparently some sites have to approve the submission (due to time, space, or quality reputation considerations I imagine). Other sites seem to be willing to take my money and go with it. That might give you an indication about the desirability of promoting on the various sites. Overall, it seems like the business of promoting self-published books online is much better established than it was when I first published Dancing in Heaven in 2011.

Here are some useful things I’ve learned:

TCK Publishing has generated two lists of sites that promote ebooks, one for  free ebooks, and one for paid Kindle books that I used since my Amazon countdown deal starts at $0.99 and not $0.00. The list is ordered by rank according to the amount of traffic the site gets. The top six are:

Book Bub 27,224
Ereader News Today 28,681
Buck Books 34,248
Many Books 35,754
Kindle Nation Daily 43,172
The Kindle Book Review 45,812

  • As I mentioned in my Marketing Self-Published Books post on January 6, I was turned down by Book Bub.
  • I submitted my book to, but have not heard back from, Ereader News Today.
  • I did not submit to Buck Books. By the time I got around to it, I couldn’t easily find the way to submit, and I was too tired to deal with it.
  • I submitted to Many Books but have not heard back.
  • I looked at Kindle Nation Daily, but the slots for the dates of my countdown deal were already taken. Next time I will have to apply earlier. (Alternately, BookBub requires that you apply no earlier than one month before your promotion date. It all gets rather jumbled up and confusing after a while.)
  • I submitted to the Kindle Book Review. They accepted my money ($25), but I have not received any confirmation.
  • Previously I paid $90 for a promotion at Just Kindle Books (ranked 365,139). I’m assuming that’s a go.
  • And earlier I paid $20 for a promotion at Goodkindles (ranked 594,646). The rankings go to 5,628,580. So although these sites are not at the top, neither are they at the bottom of the list.
  • I plan to apply at BookGoodies (ranked 231,471) tomorrow. Their application is complex with required author interview questions to fill out. I’m going to start fresh in the morning. (I stand corrected. Please see the comment BookGoodies added below.)

These are just some of the options. They vary in what promotional services they provide from tweets, Facebook posts and emails to featuring books on websites. Many promotions run for only one day, although it varies depending on the site and the price you are willing to pay. It’s rather complicated. I have started an Excel spread sheet that I am using to keep track of site URLs and the status of my submissions. I don’t have any first hand experience with paid promotions. I chose not to spend money on promoting my first book. If all goes well with this experience, I may decide to splurge and promote Dancing in Heaven later.

Wish me well.

 

 

~~~~~

 

 

Kathleen Pooler’s “Ever Faithful to his Lead – My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse”

Today I am sharing my review of Ever Faithful to His Lead — My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse, and a short interview with the author, Kathleen Pooler. Since I wrote my first memoir, I’ve been following Kathleen’s blog at Memoir Writer’s Journey.

Kathleen_PoolerKathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner. Her memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse was published in the summer of 2014. She is currently working on a sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir.

Both books are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal, and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments to live a life of joy and contentment. . The issues she tackles are domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure.

Pooler believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

My review:

Ever Faithful to His Lead — My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse is an important story for anyone who is in an emotionally abusive relationship. It is very courageous writing, insightful into important gender issues, and powerful in its potential to help others.

Ever Faithful to His Lead
Kathleen Pooler’s brutally honest and at times self-berating memoir about her not one, but two successive, emotionally abusive marriages is an important read for anyone in a similar situation. It is an important read for anyone who suspects a friend or relative of being in a similar emotionally abusive relationship.

Pooler questions herself, “What I ask myself now is why did I tolerate so much for so long?” Although readers may think that Pooler has a flaw or weakness of character by today’s standards, it is important to remember the times and social constructs and gender expectations that were in play during the 1960s to 1980s era. In some ways, Ever Faithful to His Lead is a good study in gender issues.

Importantly, this is a success story. Through it all Pooler diligently stays on a path to independence. She earns an advanced degree in nursing while raising two children and coping with an alcoholic, at times absentee, husband. Pooler berates herself for tolerating first one and then a second husband who was unsupportive and volatile because she perceived a need for a man in her life and a father for her children. But eventually she takes the necessary steps to independence and self-reliance.

This is a story of resilience, fortitude, and overcoming self-defeating tendencies.

By sharing her story, Pooler has the capacity to help not only herself, but others who may be in a similar situation. We can all learn from Pooler’s experience.
I applaud her courage in telling her story.

Six questions for Kathleen:

1. On your website, Memoir Writer’s Journey, you write, ” We are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.” Can you tell us a little more about this concept and how, in particular, this statement applies to you and to readers of Ever Faithful to His Lead?

This mantra about sharing our stories came to me when I was honing in on the main theme of my website. Hope has always played a powerful role in my life and I personally have found hope and strength from sharing my own stories and from hearing the stories of others. I wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere where people would feel comfortable sharing their stories and envisioned my blog as a kitchen table where people could gather and share. In the case of my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead, breaking the silence helped me to heal and forgive.

2. You write,” I grew up with Walt Disney’s myth of dreaming, hoping, praying that someday my prince would come…” How do you think your life might have been different if you would have been born thirty or forty years later than you were? Do you think young women today are better prepared to deal with some of the challenges you faced, or not?

Interesting question. I say this because I have had younger readers tell me they cannot relate to the Boomer issues of societal pressure to marry from the 60’s and 70’s. It’s a different time now and expectations of women and their roles in society have changed dramatically with the Women’s Movement. Abuse still happens but it occurs within a different framework. Yes, I do think the women of today are better prepared to take care of themselves and forge independent lives.

3. Your description of hiding in the closet, on more than one occasion, when you heard your first husband, Ed, returning from a night out drinking is chilling.  As you often mention in your memoir, a lot of factors fed into your decision not to leave your marriage before you did. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently? How would you advise another young wife who may be cowering in a closet somewhere, or pretending to be asleep to avoid a confrontation?

Of course, hindsight always seems to highlight issues that were not apparent at the time. I had a blind and naïve faith that all would work out in time, despite evidence to the contrary. Knowing what I know now, I would heed all those red flags before the wedding and walk away sooner. I would take my inner doubts seriously and take action. My advice to another young wife—value yourself enough to not tolerate abuse of any kind. Listen to your inner voice and claim you inner strength sooner than later. Reach out for support and get out.

4. What made you decide to write your story now?

This is not the story I wanted to write or started out writing. But as I kept writing, this is the story that revealed itself to me. I had to break my own silence by facing the guilt and shame I hid behind for years. I started out writing about the simultaneous battle of a cancer diagnosis and my young son’s spiral into substance abuse (my W-I-P memoir) but soon realized I couldn’t tell that story until I told the story before me. When I looked at the life of peace and joy I was living, I connected with my purpose for writing it—to share hope that no matter how far down into the abyss you go, there’s always hope for a better life—there was no stopping. If my story touches one other person and gives them hope to find freedom from abuse, I will have achieved my purpose in writing it.

5. In one or two sentences, what is the most important advice you would give to someone suffering from emotional abuse based on your own experience?

Love yourself enough to want and demand respect and love in return. Emotional abuse is not as obvious as physical abuse and yet it can be just as devastating. Power and control are at the root of any abuse situation. Trust your feelings, claim your inner strength and have an escape plan. Seek support from trusted family and friends. There are many community resources available but one has to break through the denial that abuse is occurring. Knowledge is power.

6. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your book or your memoir-writing experience?

The positive responses to my memoir have been beyond my expectations. So often we question if our personal stories will be of interest to others, if writing our truths will be worth it in terms of possibly offending others who may disagree with our version of the truth. Publishing Ever Faithful to his Lead has validated for me the power of memoir to transform and heal, both the writer and the reader. Not only was I able to forgive those whom I felt hurt me but I was able to forgive myself. That is the freedom I want to share with others. Our stories do matter.

Links to contact Kathleen:

Twitter @kathypooler
LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler
Goodreads: Kathleen Pooler
Facebook: Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey

 

The book is published, now the hard work begins

I’ve entered the marketing stage of self-publishing project, although I really don’t like to use the word marketing. The whole point is that I have to somehow, in this noisy, crazy, over-stimulating, cyberworld, let readers, who might be interested in my book about Alzheimer’s, know that it exists. It’s not all that easy to get a book on someone’s radar screen.

That said, I want to thank Beth Ann Chiles at It’s Just Life, for posting about Where Memories Meet today. I met Beth Ann early in my blogging experience in 2011 and she has been a friend ever since. She writes an assortment of interesting posts on a frequent basis. I always enjoy her Teapot Tuesday where she shares a teapot from her extensive collection. She has been doing this for a while. I have no idea how or where she keeps all these beautiful items. But what I think makes Beth most special, is that every month she picks a worthy cause to feature in her Comments for a Cause. At the end of the month, she donates money to the cause based on how many comments she received throughout the month. It’s a double-win for the cause: money and exposure. Well done, Beth Ann.

Now, it would be great if you could go visit It’s Just Life and read all the wonderful things Beth Ann said about Where Memories Meet. The results of a short interview with me are posted there as well. Here’s a sample question:

1. What is your favorite thing about sharing such personal stories about your family? Or maybe a better question is what was your motivation?
For the answer to this and other questions visit It’s Just Life.

Things I learned with my second book

As many of you know, I published my first book, Dancing In Heaven four years ago and just recently released my second book, Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. Some things were easier the second time around and some things have been trickier. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

With my first book, everything was new. I had to learn about traditional and self-publishing to make an informed decision. I researched and read a lot of opinions and decided on self-publishing at that time. You can read about my thought process here in my series on my experience with self-publishing. It’s a little dated, but I think many things still hold true.

I had to understand what an online “platform” was and how to build one.

I needed to start a website.

I had to learn my way around CreateSpace print-on-demand, and ebook publication through Amazon and Smashwords. This is all in addition to writing, editing, and formatting my manuscript. I learned about the Goodreads author program. I had to create author pages at various online sites. There were a lot of things to learn, decide on, and execute the first time around.

When I take all that into consideration, publishing this second book has been like a cakewalk. But there were a couple of things I didn’t consider initially or learned about the hard way.

The biggest thing I missed was to include a reference to Dancing in Heaven in Where Memories Meet and to update Dancing with a reference to Memories. Once I realized that omission in my marketing strategy, it was easy enough to correct ebooks because I just added the information to my doc file and re-uploaded it to Amazon and Smashwords. It’s a pretty quick process. The print books are a little more complicated and  I really haven’t dealt with it effectively there. But the truth of the matter is that after the initial push of paperbacks, the vast majority of the books I’ve sold have been ebooks. So I’m not too worried about it.

The other thing that proved tricky for me was making sure both of my books, in both of their formats, showed up on my author page at Amazon. You would think that would be a no-brainer, but I had my name as Christine Grote sans the “M” for my middle name as the author of my first book on Amazon. I included the “M” on my second book. So for a brief period of time I was two different people at Amazon. The help at Author Central proved to be quite helpful in straightening out that snafu. I had a similar, different but related, problem at Goodreads and I think I got that fixed by asking someone at the Librarian Group there. Again, very helpful.

Now the challenge becomes how best to publicize these two books. The learning curve never ends.

I’m an ebook wizard

Well, maybe I’m not quite a wizard, but I’m certainly more proficient than I was three days ago.

Smashwords, an online multi-format ebook publisher, uses a “meat-grinder” to process book files. The author submits a word document; it goes through the meat-grinder and out comes a variety of ebooks that can be read on many types of platforms. You’re probably familiar with pdfs. Other formats Smashwords can produce, and then publish, include but are not limited to mobi for the Kindle, and epub for Nook.

This whole ebook business can be pretty complicated. But it’s all about what file types a particular software can open.

For the past two days I feel like I’ve been in a meat-grinder.

I used Scrivener, a terrific writing program and file system, when I wrote Where Memories Meet. Files in Scrivener have to be exported into a particular file type to be used in some way: as a printable document, as a shareable word document, as a pdf, etc. Scrivener is able to produce some ebook formats this way, epub (Nook) and mobi (Kindle) included. And that’s what I did.

I compiled my book in Scrivener and saved it as a mobi file. Then I uploaded it to Amazon for publication as a Kindle ebook. But if I do nothing more, I am limited to only making my book available for Kindle users. Nor can I give away free copies for review, which is a nice feature Smashwords allows.

Smashwords requires a “clean” Word doc (not to be confused with Word docx, which I learned the hard way). I spent nearly every waking moment in the past two days producing the “clean” Word doc.

I think it was worth it. Hopefully WMM will look better across most if not all platforms this way. I think it will.

I ended up having a lot more control of where my page-breaks are, which is important to me because of all the images I have in my book. And I believe I had more control of fonts and overall paragraph styles. The Scrivener software made a lot of those decisions for me when it produced the mobi file. For example, the first file I published on Amazon had a nightmare Table of Contents running about three pages on my Kindle. Who needs that?

So, although it took time, required some reading, and was tedious to do, I think producing a clean Word doc, and then uploading it to both Amazon and Smashwords is the way to go.

I’ll tell you what I did next time. You could do it too.

Where Memories Meet cover

Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s
Now available for Kindle at Amazon, and other ebook formats at Smashwords.

~~~~~