The ‘Zon is just okay for the writer me, a home run for the consumer me.

Aside from a couple of my collections and a short story or three, I didn’t enroll my books in KU. (Kindle Unlimited)

After KU’s inception I did give it the old college try~ two go-rounds. Did not work for me. I didn’t get enough page reads to make it worth my while, despite the fact that if a reader starts reading one of my books, more often than not he or she finishes it.

Besides, I’m a fan of wide distribution and good old-fashioned competition, so I use D2D. I’ve downloaded my books to D2D for distribution for 18 months now. D2D is killing it. I sell five times as many books on D2D (Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, etc.) than I do on Amazon.

Why? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s because those readers who shop on other outlets are looking for books to actually read, rather than downloading freebies and 99-cent-ers that they never get around to reading? Again, I have no idea. Any notion I may have as to the why’s and wherefore’s is mere speculation.

There are quite a number of authors making big bucks on Amazon. I ain’t one of ’em. I do all right. I do much better via D2D.

On the other hand, when it comes to shopping no one compares to Amazon. At least for the stuff I need.

Let me explain. Well, perhaps I’ll provide an example or two…

I recently needed ear drops. I swim almost everyday. I love swimming and the exercise has helped speed up my recovery. In fact, the exercise is essential to my recovery. But my right ear has been bothering me so I wanted to purchase some swim ear drops – to dry out my ear canals after swimming. Easy, right? One would think it would be easy to purchase swim ear drops in the Napa Valley.

Four pharmacies later, I realized it was not easy to purchase swim ear drops in the Napa Valley. I drove to four separate pharmacies. No luck. I accomplished nothing more than wasting gas and my valuable time, and increasing my stress level.

I drove home, flipped open my computer, checked Amazon, and bought a four-pack with one click.

It’s the same with dog food. Jake has food allergies. (Yeah, he does…) We have two local pet stores. One doesn’t carry the brand he eats, the other maybe carries, if I’m lucky, a  couple cans, zero bags of dry food. That’s it. That’s my entire local selection. Therefore I order dog food from Amazon. I also order bird food from Amazon because although the food my two parrots eat is totally common, the one local pet store eliminated their bird section altogether while the other is always out of the food I want to buy.

Bottom line: Believe me, I’d love to shop local, but I don’t want to drive all over town, stopping at four or five different stores, only to have to buy an item online anyway.

So yeah, the ‘Zon knocks it out of the park when it comes to shopping. For me as an author, not so much. But then I guess doing okay there is… okay. 🙂

Peace. Out.

Been reading. Recommends.

Thanks to my friend, author Anny Cook, I read my first official Regency. LOL! Seriously – LOL! The book was off-beat, atypical, laugh out loud funny and no – there was essentially zero sex, which I very much appreciated in my current nonpron mood. Rake’s Ransom by Barbara Metzger.

Rake's Ransom
Entertaining as all get out.

My dear friend, author Penny Watson, introduced me to Cecelia London, author of The Bellator Saga. I read the first book, Dissident. Cecelia brings her characters to serious life. They are no holds barred, alive. I can see and hear her protagonists speak. They speak to me. If you hate a series, well, all I can say is don’t read it– the book ends in a big old cliffhanger. If you love a series, go for it. I’m on my way to Book Two.

Dissident
Pretty cover!

If you want to be all sad and inspired and, well, simply feel, read When Breath Becomes Air, by (the late) Paul Kalanithi with an introduction by Abraham Verghese. It will make you cry. I’m not sorry for that- there’s no avoiding tears.

When Breath
A beautiful book.

So now you got some good recs. Go! Read!

 

The Four Steps: Read, Watch, Listen, Body Language.

Are you aware that your dog communicates with body language? Most dogs cannot talk, aside from those dogs you occasionally see on youtube saying… “I wuv you.”

Well, I guess I can’t generalize about the entire animal kingdom… Our birds can talk. Cats can kinda talk.

We did have a cat who could speak English– Norman. He could say “Moror”, which is the bitter herb we eat at Passover, and “Myrywn”, a word similar to my husband ‘Oscar’s’ real name.

Oh yeah, his sister, Nolan, once said, “I dunno,” when asked, “Where’s your brother?”

Their mother could speak as well.  We all heard her. One night we were in bed, but the cat and her four kittens were down in the living room and the kittens were running around like they were on a nascar track. A strange woman yelled out, “Stop it!” And they did. There was dead silence. We all came out of our bedrooms and looked at each other. It was kind of stunning. The only creatures downstairs were Kitty and her kittens. We looked down at them. They looked up at us. But the kittens quit their running and went to bed.

All of which is to say… Sometimes what people don’t say means more than what they do say. Learning to understand body language is important if you want to understand people.

Dogs get it. Most animals get it because although animals can bark, growl, purr, snort, whatever, it’s their body that speaks for them. A good writer pays attention to body language in order to understand what someone is actually saying.

Does a person make eye contact? Or is a lack of eye contact cultural? Does a person lean toward me or away from me?

How much personal space do I need? How much does he need? Or she need?

What’s up with those hand gestures? How does an aggressive person appear and why/how does my body instinctively react to aggression? How does a person act when afraid? Sad? Weary? Confused? Happy?

Does that smile go all the way to the eyes? Or is the smile merely a politeness or, worse, a phony smile?

If you can learn to read a person’s body language, you will get more truth than you will from words alone.

Watch dogs. Dogs are masters at reading body language. My dog can tell if someone is fearful or aggressive or friendly from three hundred yards away, even farther.

Understanding body language will help you create fleshed-out, well-rounded characters. You don’t have to include, i.e., write down every nuance, every movement in your story; rather, it’s your understanding of body language that will make your characters real to your readers. Not cardboard or paper people (Guardians of the Galaxy), but real. Your insight will help you build real three dimensional people on that flat page.

Picture it as a pop-up book. That’s your goal. Characters who pop right off the page. We don’t want no ciphers. No. No. No.

I learned a valuable lesson from the Twilight series. Bear with me. I discovered the secret of Edward’s appeal to teens and young adults. He was one-dimensional, nothing more than a blank wall. The beauty of a blank wall is that each reader could throw against it whatever he or she wanted and it stuck. In other words, each reader could read into Edward what he or she wanted, make him over into her fantasy. Which is one of the reasons Twilight fanfic has been so popular. There’s no original there there. Sorry. Don’t mean to offend Twilight fans, but that’s my take on it.

The problem with a blank wall is that ultimately, it is unsatisfying– which, of course, is why we try to color it in. A real 3-D character is more like Jamie Fraser from Outlander. One might fantasize about Jamie, but one cannot improve upon Jamie. He IS. He has being.

Study up on your body language. It is the key to creating three dimensional characters.

The three steps. Read. Watch. Listen.

Last week I advised you to observe, attend. In other words, pay attention. Watch interactions and behavior. This week I advise you to listen. Listening is, of course, a larger part of attending.

A real writer listens to the way people talk. Inflection. Slang. Dialect. Language. (Each language has its own rhythm and cadence.) Actually that’s one of the reasons I pick up foreign languages. I hear the underlying rhythm of the language. Understanding rhythm and cadence allows for the language of science fiction, for example, to flow seamlessly.

Why should you listen? To hear secrets? No. Rather, to understand how human beings, and animals for that matter, communicate. This is learning to write realistic dialogue, step one.

Listen to the way real people talk to each other. Listening will make you a better writer.

Next time: Body language. Oh yeah! This is my fave!

My father read to me before I was born.

My dad is unique. Unusual. One of a kind. He’s neurotic, insecure, brilliant, articulate, athletic- race walks three miles a day, reads three to four full-length books a week despite his advanced age (he still has 20-20 vision), and he says, he’s always said, “The most important thing you can do for your children is read to them.”

He didn’t play with us, not much anyway. Games made him nervous. Still do. Although by the time I was in the fourth grade he installed a half-court basketball court and a basketball hoop and he’d frequently come home from work in the evenings and play a couple games of HORSE with me.

What he did with his three daughters was read.

He began reading Moby Dick to me on the day I came home from the hospital. (Oddly enough I have this affinity for Melville.) And when he’d finished Moby Dick, he moved on to The Caine Mutiny, Crime and Punishment, and then War and Peace. Then there were his other favorites, Treasure Island, Mutiny on the Bounty, anything and everything by Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Henry James, George Elliot, Byron, Tennyson, Whitman, Hawthorn, James Fenimore Cooper. He wasn’t a big fan of Hemingway, although I am fond of The Old Man and the Sea.

At eighteen months of age, I read Frankenstein on my own. I didn’t graduate to children’s books until kindergarten. Up until I began school, I didn’t know children’s literature even existed. (Nancy Drew became my guilty pleasure. I loved The Secret of the Old Clock– her roadster – and her pretty much absentee boyfriend, Ned.)

Was I a prodigy? Nah. We model those things to which we are exposed.

A child’s brain is soft, like a sponge. It soaks up information. My brain soaked up words.

The logical step, after learning to read, was learning to write. I began to write poetry at the age of three. Still love poetry. Pure word candy.

Where am I going with this? Oh, yeah, read to your children. It will make them smarter. Open their minds.

But, since this is a blog about the writing process, where am I really going? All writing begins with reading. I cannot imagine how one writes without an entire library of literature and poetry and history swirling about in one’s head.

Books, i.e., words, are how we humans communicate from generation to generation, how we preserve events for posterity, how we keep track of our property and possessions and protect legal records.

We know about ancient Sumeria (Mesopotamia) because of the cuneiform writing, the earliest system of writing discovered thus far (developed about 8000 B.C.E.).

But let’s get down to the bones– Telling stories help us make sense of our existence, or rather, the existential dilemma posed by our existence.

And, now listen up because this is important, telling stories is entertaining.

Writing is fun.

Next time— The Voices.