Sunday, June 28, 2015

Am I Doing This Right?

     By "this" I mean social media: Twitter, blogging, Facebook as a means of promotion as opposed to posting cat videos, etc. Though come to think of it, the question can apply to my entire life. Hmmm…it might be best to just stick with the social media aspect of the question, otherwise this post may be as long as my current novel in progress, which is growing like a weed.
     I've spent the past year looking into publishing my first novel. I'm still stuck on the idea of traditional publishing, although self-publishing is not out of the question. Either way, I've heard time and again that I will need to promote myself. Ick. Sales. Marketing. Publicity. It seems like someone's idea of a sick joke. Writers are some of the biggest introverts in the world, and we're expected to market ourselves? Talk ourselves up? Shove our websites in people's faces? Talk to people?  Real live human beings? Ahh! It's frightening. It's almost enough to make me give up. Almost. Since I refuse to give up, I will do the unthinkable and attempt to market myself.
     Back when blogging first started to become popular, I was completely against the concept. No offense to bloggers out there, but I used to think it was a pretty narcissistic thing to do. To me, it seemed like glorified journaling. I've since seen the error of that thought process, and not just because I'm now a blogger. Among other things, blogging gives a voice to people who might not normally have a voice. Despite having changed my mind about blogging, I balked when I learned that I might have to start a blog. Not because I still thought it was narcissistic, but because there was no way I would have time to blog. Finally, I realized there was no getting around it. I would have to blog. So I did. I share my posts on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.
     I've now learned that just sharing on Facebook and Twitter isn't enough. I have to find other ways to promote my blog. I have to allow advertising, which can only be done once my blog reaches a certain standard of quality and readership. I have to reach out to other bloggers, get them to like me, volunteer to guest blog, promote myself on sights that talk about the topics I blog about. Ahh! Not only is that a ton of work, but I don't even know how begin to do those things.
     Back when Twitter first became popular, I was completely against the concept. Anyone sensing a theme here? I really just did not understand its purpose. I told myself I would only start using Twitter if absolutely necessary (I'd learned at that point to never say never). Well, apparently it is now absolutely necessary. Turns out, literary agents are all over Twitter. They tweet writing and submitting tips and share things on twitter that they don't share anywhere else. So at the very least, I had to join Twitter to follow agents.
     I've since learned the real purpose of Twitter. It is a wonderful, wonderful place to not only promote yourself, but mingle with people in your profession. In the short time that I've been on Twitter, I've learned many things from agents, and become acquainted with writers just like me. I think I'm actually enjoying it.
     I now tweet about my writing, share tips when I have them, retweet interesting tweets, and share my blog. But guess what? It still isn't enough. My tweets don't just have to be interesting, they have to be extraordinarily interesting. I have to tweet daily, but not so much that I irritate people. I have to choose optimum times of the day to tweet, so I get the most views. I'm also pretty sure that I'm supposed to be doing a lot of other things I haven't even heard of yet.
     So, back to my original question: Am I doing this right? I'm going to give myself some credit here and say I'm probably doing some things right. I've started putting myself out there, and that's something. Have I done everything I can to promote myself? No, not yet. But I've made a start. Baby steps are better than no steps.
     As always, thank you for reading. Remember: it's only fair to share, sharing is caring, share if you dare, click share while eating a pear, spare a thought for me and share, and don't forget to beware of bears.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A future without books. A nightmare or an inevitable fate?

     In November, 2014, a mystery began to plague residents and visitors of Boulder County, Colorado. Drivers on a lonely stretch of Highway 287 between the cities of Lafayette and Longmont began to notice books scattered all over the highway. The books were on the North and Southbound lanes, as well as the side of the road. The books made their unexplainable appearance quite frequently for several months. The mystery was so baffling that it gained television news coverage. One driver even speculated that the responsible party was perhaps trying to send some sort of message that could be decoded via the titles of the books. That would actually be pretty awesome, aside from the inherent dangers of books being all over the highway and the fact that this is littering in the extreme. Sadly, the true reason behind the books' appearance is a much more despairing tale.
     In April, 2015, a state trooper finally caught the 62 year-old man responsible. He admitted to throwing the books out his truck window on his way to work almost every morning. He claimed he had no idea the books were getting scattered across the highway. He'd assumed they'd landed in a ditch.
     He purchased the books at a used bookstore's going out of business sale several years ago. At first he sold them on Amazon, but could no longer compete with Amazon's pricing. He was left with hundreds of books and nothing to do with them. No library or used bookstore would take them. He didn't see any other choice, so he gradually dumped the books out the window.  (For more on this story, see link at bottom of post.)
     This story makes me very sad. Not the part about the littering, or how the highway was made dangerous for drivers. Sure, those things are bad, but for me the sad part is that the guy truly had no idea what to do with all his books. Books are wonderful amazing things. I don't know what I would do without them. They are thoughts, feelings, whole new worlds, friends when we have nowhere else to turn…books create escapes, provide entertainment, teach us things, cure our boredom, give us hope, make us fall in love… To think that printed books are becoming so abundant that there is nothing to do with them is absolutely devastating.

     I recently began watching the new season of Orange is the New Black. **WARNING** Extremely minor spoiler alert. By minor I mean, yes, I am going to state something that occurred in the show, so technically it is a spoiler. However, what I'm giving away is a very minor plot point and should not actually ruin your enjoyment of the show. But I felt I should still give a warning. Spoiler is from episode 2 of season 3 and will last two paragraphs.

     The women's correctional facility that is the setting of the show became infested with bed bugs. Much to the disappointment of the characters, bed bugs (or possibly muffin crumbs) were found in the pages of a book. They had no choice but to burn all of the books, knowing that they would likely never have the funding to replace them.
     It later occurred to me that lack of reading material in prisons is probably a real issue. Although the story of the man who threw his books all over the highway is extreme, his problem is becoming more and more prevalant. As online subscription services like Kindle Unlimited and Oyster take over, more and more used book stores and even libraries are forced to close their doors. As fewer and fewer used bookstores exist, there are fewer places to donate books to. It seems that people may not be thinking about all their options. Maybe donating books to prisons is a good idea. It is at least worth a shot before resorting to throwing books away, be it in a garbage can or on the highway.

*******************END OF SPOILER. *********************

     This set me thinking even further. Currently, over-abundance of printed material is an issue, but for how long will this continue to be an issue? More and more people are purchasing e-readers and opting to purchase and read books electronically. Many self-published authors don't even have print versions of their books, or they simply use print-on-demand services, which means a printed copy is only made after it is ordered.
     I initially hated the concept of e-readers, mainly for two reasons. One, it is much riskier to take your e-reader into the hot tub or bathtub. Two, it is much riskier to throw your e-reader across the room when the ending of a book destroys you. (Oh come on, don't tell me you've never thrown a book across the room because you hated the ending.) But even I have begun to love the convenience of the e-reader.
     First, there is instant gratification. In this day and age, society is all about instant gratification. Because of the internet, we no longer possess the patience we once did. Secondly, it is extremely convenient to have all your books in one place. Now, instead of carrying one book with you, you can carry one hundred books. Plus, e-books mean that you no longer have to worry about where to put the many, many books you own.
     The trend towards e-publishing will only continue. What does this mean for the future? More and more books will be electronic only. Even books that are still being printed will have fewer hard copies. This is great. For now. Everything runs on electronics. But what happens if this changes? I'm not talking about the near future. I'm thinking fifty to one hundred years from now. What if something happens and all this information we have stored in virtual space is gone? I'm not a tech person, so I have no idea if this is possible. I am however, a writer of urban fantasy. Therefore, my brain immediately goes to post-apocalyptic terms.
     So, if one day in the future, we lose access to the internet, what happens to all the books written in this decade and the decades to come? Will they just simply cease to exist? That would be tragic. Think about it. There are tons of copies of twentieth century and earlier literature. At least our descendants will have access to the wonderful literature of the past. But what about twenty-first century literature? What if those books simply get lost in space? Scary.
     I realize that this is extreme, but I feel as though it could happen somewhere down the line. While I do enjoy the convenience of e-books, there will always be something special about a printed book. I personally love the way books smell. E-readers don't have the right smell. In the future, I'm going to try to tame some of my needs for instant gratification and purchase more hard copy books. Maybe you should too.
     As always, comments, opinions different than mine, and shares are welcome.
     Here is a link to the article about the man dumping books on the highway:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Surgery update

     As I mentioned in my last post, I had surgery a week ago. I haven't worked on my novel, blogged, or done any writing of any kind since then, as I've been recovering and on too many drugs to know how to properly put together a sentence.
     Staying away from writing causes me almost as much pain as my ankle does. Seriously. I hate being unable to do the thing I love. I know it's temporary, but I have all these wonderful projects on hold and I desperately want to finish them. But I figure I can at least write an update on my surgery because, given the topic, this one can be exempt from the usual grammatical and coherency standards.
     Speaking of coherent blogs, I've been frequently checking out blogs I find via Twitter. If a title looks interesting, I click on it. I'm coming across a disappointing number of blogs that are poorly written and in desperate need of editing and spell-check. I stop reading these. I don't understand why people don't bother to edit their blogs. No one will read it if it isn't legible. You might as well just write a private journal.  Edit your blogs, people! Otherwise it is a waste of everyone's time. All right, rant over.
     Okay, so, my surgery went well, as you might have guessed, otherwise I probably wouldn't be writing this. The doctor discovered 2 diseased tendons (I think that means they were torn). He repaired them and also tightened a nearby ligament in order to better support the tendons. He thinks the tendons had a bad reaction to the sutures used in the surgery back in October. I asked why the ligament repaired in October didn't have that problem, and he doesn't know why. I had been concerned that I'd re-injured something by exercising too much, and I'm glad to know this wasn't the case. Hopefully, everything will be okay this time and I can heal properly and start taking walks again. I miss taking walks. Among other things.
     Prior to surgery, I was sitting in the waiting room with my mom. The nurse calls up Mary (this is my first name, which I pretty much only go by at doctors offices). While my mom and I gathered up my crutches and oxygen, the nurse was giving us a really weird look. Finally, she asked who was having surgery. I said it was me, and then she asked me my last name. Apparently she had called up the wrong Mary. After finding the correct Mary, I was left in the waiting room to…wait for it…wait. At least they discovered the mix-up and I didn't have that other Mary's eye surgery. That would not have helped my ankle. Nor would my ankle surgery have helped her eyes.
     Random woman named Mary, I hope your eyes are doing well.
     Once I was checked in and wearing the correct name tag, a nurse was putting the IV in my arm. I watched an air bubble float down the tube and I started freaking out because on TV, air bubbles are bad. People die from injecting air bubbles.
     The nurse patiently explained to me that this is flat out bullshit. Air bubbles are really common and totally harmless. Then she went on a rant (rightly so) about how annoying TV and movies are. She also mentioned how stupid it is in the movies that patients are always left unattended, giving the bad guy ample free time to just walk in and kill someone. She assured me that this is not realistic. There are always nurses, doctors, and other staff everywhere. I felt comforted knowing that air bubbles and murderers were not going to be my undoing.
     While we were waiting, I started explaining to my mom what my current novel was about. The nurse walked in just as I was explaining that it's a, "Young adult, mystery, suspense, horror."
     The nurse warned, "Don't put air bubbles in someone's IV." It was funny. But maybe you had to be there. But I'm glad you weren't. That would've been weird.
      Eventually, I had surgery. Upon waking, I was much more disoriented than I had been after my previous surgery.  Actually, I had temporary amnesia, which was frightening. When the nurses told me surgery was over, I started freaking out. I was like, "I didn't have surgery! That was in October!" For a few short minutes it was like I was in a horror film, but luckily, my memory came back in about five to ten minutes. I went home and began resting. And resting.
     And resting.
     And resting some more.
     It really is not that exciting. I'm laying in bed, elevating my leg. I can't walk without crutches, so I can't do a whole lot. I'm in pain, so it's difficult to get any writing done. My brain is very foggy. I can't even read books that are overly complex. I was in the process of tackling "Crime and Punishment" prior to surgery. That is currently on hold. Not an easy read on drugs.
     In case anyone was wondering, using crutches while on drugs is not easy. At all. I'm dizzy and out of it and trying to stumble through the apartment on one foot. Plus, my cat is constantly walking right in  front of me or sitting in the middle of the hall. I think he's trying to kill me.
     I had my follow-up the other day. The doctor said my ankle looks good. I don't know why. I think it looks awful. It's swollen, bruised, stained with orange dye and blue ink, and is all wrinkly and dry. But apparently all that is normal, and I'm doing well. Yay!
     I have two more weeks of no-weight bearing. Hopefully my brain can clear a little bit and I can get a little writing done in the next couple weeks!
     Right now, I'm off to crawl across the apartment for a cup of coffee. Yes, crawl. There are only 2 ways to carry a cup of hot coffee right now. One is to crawl across the floor. The other is to use my rolling computer chair. The chair doesn't roll very well on carpet, so it actually takes less effort to crawl. So I'm going to crawl. Sure, it lacks dignity, but who cares about dignity when there is coffee involved.