No News is Good News? Kindle Scout – In Review Limbo

This is Kindle Scout Campaign Info Post #6
Well the last day of my campaign was September 28th and we are now here in October 10th. I have heard of people getting decisions from Kindle three days after their campaign ended but they actually don’t give a stated time you will get a decision by. This means I am in Kindle Scout Review limbo.

Below is a screenshot of my nominations (yes I nominated my own book the same way a politician votes for themselves). I also nominated someone whose book went on campaign the same day mine did, Ben Muse’s Matters of the Heart. Why? I’ve never met Ben before, online or otherwise. But I nominated him because he asked me to and said he had nominated me (that’s a neat way to network and get nominations). I am happy to nominate other authors, especially if their work looks good and I am proud to stand beside them. Also, now I get to see if his decision will come through before mine or at the same time, etc.


As you can see Ben’s book is also in Review. Ben’s book was in Hot and Trending for his whole campaign so I think a shoe in and he certainly didn’t need my vote.  However, books are rejected that have been in H&T a great deal so not necessarily an absolute indicator. My mentor Martin Crosbie, in typical Martin fashion, was one of the first authors I know to try Kindle Scout with The Dead List when the program first came out two years ago.   He was accepted and you can see here how I was given a copy of his book, however, I just went ahead and bought it (’cause that’s what I like to do for friends). You can see another author’s book, Harvey Church, The Last Friend who was selected whose campaign was listed before mine and is now selected.  I also don’t know Harvey but like his campaign page and can tell he is an old hand at this. I have looked him up and sent a message but have not yet made a connection.

I said I was going to share my numbers and graphs but decided that it is best to do once after the decision is made.  That way you can say, okay that’s what a successful campaign looked like or an unsuccessful campaign.  I will also give a better review of what I will do next time having learned my lessons. Meanwhile I have to get the paperback of The Happy Hammock ready as even if I am offered a KS contract I can still be allowed to publish a paperback with full rights retained (KS just retains ebook and audio book rights).

It’s really time to get back to writing and editing. That should take a bulk of any writer’s time. So, until the word comes down, happy writing.

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Hot and Trending! LAST DAY QUICKIE

I am on my LAST DAY OF KINDLE SCOUT CAMPAIGN and finally achieved the Hot & Trending List! Phew!
NOMINATE HERE: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
In case you don’t know, this is what it looks like (you can click on the picture to take you there or use the link above):

 

Why did I get into the Hot & Trending now?

Two things I attribute to getting into H&T.

#1) Help from my mentor Martin Crosbie , already mentioned in previous posts. He remembered a closed site on Facebook that would be helpful, so posted it there. Big jump into H&T at that point.  It really helps to have people with influence who believe in you, especially ones with big networks and degrees in marketing. Dude, I owe you lunch/brunch/dinner etc.  You always make me realize that I have a lot more to learn about marketing books.

#2) The other factor is one I mentioned before and learned on kboards , that was that people troll Kindle Scout for new books but wait until the last few days on a campaign to nominate so they only have to wait a few days for their nomination to refill. They only have three nominations so if they are always nominating people at the end of campaigns, they can get more free books rather than waiting 30 days if they nominate at the beginning of a campaign.

Frankly, I believe it is number one that was the catalyst factor and number two is a by-product as the trollers only nominate people they think will win so they can get scout points (Scout Leadership Board) and also get your book and potentially other books free.

I will let you know if I received a contract or not, and in either case, take you through the numbers at the end of the campaign.  Also, I will go through all of what I learned too. What I would do again, what I wouldn’t do again, as well as what I should have done and didn’t (or should have done much sooner). In any case, my next campaign will be better!

Signing off!

K, a.k.a The Happy Hammock

NOMINATE HERE: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H

 

#4 post Kindle Scout Campaign – Pace Yourself

Thanks for nominating your local grateful author!
Nomination link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H

One thing I have learned is you cannot maintain an ongoing intensity of a KS campaign and have a normal life for thirty days in a row. I feel like I am on the ropes in the battle. I have important deadlines this week and start presentations and teaching next week and have much preparations to do.

The Latest

After Gary started plugging the book on twitter, my numbers took a nice up turn and then a sharp downturn on the weekend. I am not sure if this is typical but I have limited myself from asking for nominations, not wanting to wear everyone out. And, one to one personal connections are a slow, slow way to campaign.

KBoards

I turn to the kboards Writer’s Café (sign up for a free account first) and looked at three posts entitled:

The Top Secret Diary of a Kindle Scout Prepper.
https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,245964.msg3540478.html#msg3540478
I had read this post before but I cruised it for new info – not much new but I still recommend it.

Kindle Scout experiences & Nomination Requests (MERGED)
https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,213112.msg3558495.html#msg3558495
This post has merged all kinds of questions and answers about Kindle Scout.

My Book Wasn’t Accepted for Kindle Scout, Now What?” Thread
https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,243477.msg3557696.html#msg3557696
This thread had a lot to do with…

Your Outgoing Thank You Message – and How it Works

This is a heartening post to prepare for the worst and how not being accepted really isn’t the worst outcome – so how can you capitalize on it. This has everything to do with the message that KS allows you to craft and will send to people telling everyone who nominated you exactly when you will be on Amazon (self-published) because that is nearly everyone’s second choice. You can read the details yourself but some quick recommendations are:
1) You have to actually click the button on your (old) KS campaign for it to send. Yes your campaign page stays up for quite awhile after the campaign.
2) Look for the discussion about Hidden Gems ARC service – I will be checking this out and reporting back.

The Numbers

Checking the numbers against others, and my numbers are good (55 – 400 views a day). This is sometimes double what ones that were chosen received, BUT, big BUT here, they are numbers of views. Remember they don’t reveal the number of nominations in process, just the number of views. And still haven’t gotten onto Hot and Trending yet. Which means, perhaps, that my cover and tag line are drawing people in but not necessarily making them nominate me (wa, wah). My split of my network to KS visitors is 90% Kindle Scout and 10% my network. I have to up the count percentage that comes from a network… I think.

The KS Flaw

But I have been also been told that regular seasoned readers that go to Kindle Scout site to get free books wait until the very end of your campaign to vote so they can chose ones they think will get in and also so they don’t have to wait long to open up another nomination spot. This is a flaw that Kindle Scout has not yet remedied.

What I can’t change but would do differently

The subtitle of my book (How to Escape the Cold and Live in Mexico) is quite visible on the cover and is meant to be humourous and quirky but could be taken literally as a How to book and may be a turn off for people. I should have done a cover with a new subtitle just for KS. This I will consider next time I campaign.

Meanwhile, I have 16 days left! And more in my bag of tricks…

MORE TECHNIQUES COMING UP

First, I am speaking at the Golden Ears Writer’s and Readers Fest on October 1st (unfortunately three days after my campaign ends), but was interviewed by a local Maple Ridge newspaper for it, which went really well. I do not know if they will print my campaign link but it will be printed before the campaign ends, but they have it, and I will let you know if they do.

Duh, Your Email Signature

One can forget the obvious. Change your outgoing email signature to include your nomination link. Mine now reads:    PS – BTW if you haven’t already will you take a look at and nominate my book, “The Happy Hammock” on kindle scout: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9Hfor a publishing contract. If chosen you will get a free copy! Thanks!

The Groups

I mentioned before that I have been signing up on Facebook Groups for Book Promos. So I will start actually putting together a post and posting it this week and next to al those groups. To get the latest of these sites, put in a search under groups using “Book Promotion” as your keywords. When you go to one page often another bunch are advertised at the side too. Here is a screenshot.

Keep you posted!
Kathrin

We’d love you and your peeps to consider nominating The Happy Hammock to get it on the Hot &Trending list so please click the link, AND if you like it, please share this link on your Facebook page or other fave social media: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
All nominators will get a FREE book kindle copy from Amazon if it is chosen.
Don’t have a Kindle? Download a Kindle app on your phone for reading eBooks using Play Store (android) or iTunes (iPhone).

#3 Kindle Scout Campaign – The Genre Conundrum

Hope you had a great long weekend and are back and ready to learn about KS and hopefully share this experience too if you are interested in writing and publishing fiction. This is blog post #3 of my Kindle Scout experience. For those of you not caught up you may want to go back to the beginning post here, where I kick off on a journey to get a Kindle Scout publishing contract via a 30-day, ready or not, campaign.

During days 3 – 6 (over the Labour Day long weekend), as I watched my numbers slink downward, I think I am finding out something that the big publishers have always known and we hated them for it, but here it is. Book wise, anything outside the expectations of a genre is hard to get off the ground. Follow this. I have my book as a fictionalized memoir—remember that only fiction is accepted by Kindle Scout—and you only get to choose 4 of the five big genres and numerous sub genres from KS selections, and I am defying the rules of some of those genres.

The genres are:

Romance, Mystery & Thriller, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Teen & Young Adult, and general Literature & Fiction.

Why did Amazon Kindle Scout choose these ones? Because these are the genres that make money on Kindle eBooks and are dominated by independent authors currently, as in over 50% of the Kindle eBooks in these genres are produced by independent authors who don’t work with publishers or agents.

The four genres I chose are these:


Really this is 2 categories and 2 sub categories.
The two broad categories are Romance and general Literature & Fiction

The Romance genre has expectations that a heroine is going to meet the man of her dreams… etc. In my version, she has already met him and it is their journey together that is the focus of the story. While there is a wedding forthcoming, it is not mentioned at the beginning and it is not the focus of the story. You are rooting for this couple to make it through their trials and tribulations and it is mostly humourous and sometimes profound. In short, not your typical romance fantasy fiction, more chick lit for wiser women in their 40’s. I think this is a market for the future, given aging demographics, but what do I know.

Make no mistake this is an awesome book and my beta readers loved it but 95% of the people on Kindle Scout are outside my network and have genre expectations. Martin Crosbie of Book Doggy book promotions, and a great author himself,  endorsed the book on his Facebook page as a surprise and delight saying it was outside his genre but…

Full post here:

Like Martin, we’d love you check out The Happy Hammock AND if you like it, not only nominate it but share this link on your Facebook page or other fave social media: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
All nominators will get a FREE book kindle copy from Amazon if it is chosen.

My style best suits the Chick Lit unofficial genre where there is a humorous first person banter by the female protagonist. But again, this may be lost in the readers of Literature & Fiction section since that humourous kind of banter is not associated with literature fiction.

Okay, maybe I am genre-doomed but I have 23 days left, and my friends, I am a fighter!

And, as I said in the first blog post , there are no downsides since the campaign will open you up to new readers.

TACTICS used and coming up:
Kboards

I promised to talk about the kboards.com last post since I knew about them but really had not used or checked out all the resources there. It’s an awesome reader and writer forum board site and had I known I would have checked them out a long time ago more thoroughly. In their writer’s cafe you find those successful indie authors who really know how to play the Kindle publishing success game. They come from all over, mostly the English speaking countries and beyond, and they are very helpful. Steve Vernon posts a daily list of authors running Kindle Scout campaigns and their days left encouraging others to vote for them – nice to get The Happy Hammock on that one. It is just sheer good will among authors here. There is so much to check out on the site that it is almost overwhelming so digest a little at a time. Thanks to writers like Bill Hiatt who showed me where to go to make a skookum signature with your book covers in it, you will have all your questions answered by the true experts who try, and often succeed, in making a decent living as indie authors.

Emailing

So I know from using an email list service, Mail Chimp, that some of my email list did click on the campaign page link. Though I did have other links (Mexico Writing retreats, etc.) and you don’t want to nag too much, as every time you do you will get unsubscribes. So like all campaigns you have to have a multi platform strategy, and space out your emails.

Social Media

I am pretty much stuck on the big three, FB, Twitter and LI (a little bit Google +). I have only recently started learning and ramping up my twitter and the also the VSW (Vancouver School of Writing) twitter account, which is posting my blog also. Since I am pretty much a FB girl this is all new to me so I rely on some advice from Gary Bizzo. Gary and I are going to try some twitter strategies in the next little while and see how they work and let you know. Gary has about 485K twitter followers but they are not necessarily readers of fiction, they are generally entrepreneurs, so we will see if we can pull off a spike of views to my campaign page. KEEP you posted here on that and Gary’s blog too.

MORE Upcoming tactics:
  • Have not touched the FB book promotion groups yet but will at some point- have been busy subscribing to many
  • I have yet to go to other lists and network groups
  • I have yet to get my handout cards sent to me and flaunting them at upcoming talks, courses and to people I meet.

I think the big trick is successfully asking people to send via their social media to their friends to get a broader multiplied audience, as in: You tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on, and so on… Like Martin and some of my friends have done… thanks friends!

ANYONE WITH MORE STRATEGIES PLEASE SEND THEM IN TO ME AND I’LL TRY THEM HERE SO WE CAN ALL BENEFIT!

Please share this blog and share the nomination link if you haven’t already, if you are so inclined and like my book page and excerpt.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
All nominators will get a FREE book kindle copy from Amazon if it is chosen.
Don’t have a Kindle? Download a Kindle app on your phone for reading eBooks there.

KEEP CALM and BLOG about KINDLE SCOUT – Day 2

SEVEN More Critical Lessons to Share ABOUT Kindle Scout Campaign Experience

(campaign page here: Https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H)

First, thanks to everyone who nominated The Happy Hammock already. I hope we succeed as a team effort, meanwhile…

Let me tell you what it feels like to have a Kindle Scout campaign for Day 1 and into Day 2… nerve wracking. My husband says as a Theatre major I have a tendency to overdramatize, and I admit I can go there. So the overall lesson to this learning is keep calm. I have already learned a ton about KS and documented my lessons here:

1) The time zones. One thing I didn’t realize was that because the campaigns start after midnight on the day of your campaign – this is East Coast time, that on the West Coast (where I live) your campaign will become live at just after 9pm the day before it is scheduled. News to me. Anyway, I had a few screw ups in getting excited and getting dates confused and my intended preprogrammed blog post went out too soon, so the link was not live. Did I keep calm, no I freaked out and swore at myself and tried to take things back, which didn’t work and may have made things worse. While I am trying to correct this at just after 9pm, I get an email that it is live now! Lesson: East Coast time, wait for the email.

2) Your first day stats. Lesson two in staying calm was that I couldn’t see the votes that my husband and first friends made in my campaign page. Well you are not given vote counts and YOU DON’T GET ANY STATS UNTIL DAY TWO. It said this in the info but I had to have my husband keeping me calm enough to have the presence of mind to go back and reread this. It shows views not nomination votes and all your stats come in Day Two, nada in Day One. Not good for drama queens. I will discuss these stats later but more on keeping calm.

3) Can’t vote. Lesson 3 in keeping calm is a good friend in Canada said her Amazon.ca account wouldn’t let her vote. Well I asked everyone and their dog that I knew if that could be true. I sent a message to Kindle Scout and posted a query on kboards (I’ll talk more about kboards in a future post). They all said no that wasn’t true and sure enough late in the day my friend said she had gotten through. KEEP CALM. Kindle Scout said that some people may have to use another browser or delete their cached browser but that’s rare. Lesson: Ask your person who says they can’t get through to try later &/or try another browser.

4) Hot and trending. One thing I did know was that I did not skyrocket to the Hot and Trending list but Martin assured me I’d get there just by virtue of having a good product. Thanks Martin for keeping me calm. I did notice the types of books that went direct to hot and trending and my book is different so we’ll see, and I wouldn’t have it any other way as I am not writing to be conventional, nor unconventional. I’m just me. Like it or not.

5) Views. More important was that I did have over 400 views in one day. Some of these did nominate me but by staying calm and reading the info KS gives you I found out that they add to your stats anyone who liked you enough to click another button marked Save For Later. KS considers you have piqued enough interest to consider that a win. I did not know that.

6) Challenges make you creative. As we speak, the other side of the wall to my normally serene home office writing sanctuary has drills and power tools going off with a reno happening next door. And yesterday I was in the dentist, so why the universe wants my first two days to include drilling I am not sure, but it has driven me to my fave cafe where I have friends, peace and good Wifi. I also know the owner who has let me put after a chat and his interest let me put this poster up in the café (the new Cuppa Joe currently changing names from Swift on Rosser Ave. in Burnaby – its awesome and very writer friendly, say hi to Monty for me). Monty and I laughed that in brackets I said: author regularly seen in this café.


7) Blog about it. I also learned that blogging about this whole experience not only helps you keep calm but also really great community writer guys like Steve Vernon will repost your blog on his blog! This is among other ways Steve helps the community (see next post where I will talk about kboards). Thanks Steve!

I sure appreciate everyone who has supported me so far and has been sweet enough to let me know. I’m a people person but like all writers I have an introvert side and being the popular kid in school, so NOT, so the popularity aspect always makes me nervous. But, necessity is that I am still chasing the “hot and trending” list and you can help me since the majority of my views are not my own network but stats say they are people who go to KS normally. My contacts I have been messaging, Facebooking, tweeting and of course, this, blogging. Today I actually start emailing and hope people will forward some of the emails too. The results could show up in Day three. But I am chilling as much as possible for the weekend… I said as much as possible. Post again next week.

In case you want to check this all out, and not even nominate my book but save for later, here, again, is the link:
https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H


 

My Kindle Scout Publishing Journey – Day 1 – What is Kindle Scout?

So what is Kindle Scout exactly and how are you, me and the proverbial lamppost supposed to use it to publish our books? Well I am going to show you in real time because my Kindle Scout Campaign was just approved to start, GULP, today!

 

YES, YOU COULD BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO NOMINATE MY BOOK

 

USING THE LINK HEREhttps://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
But you may want to read this as well.

Kindle Scout is for fiction writers to possibly get a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing for ebook and audible book rights only (guidelines link here). You retain the print rights to your book. Since my book, The Happy Hammock, is based on my life and real estate foibles in Mexico, but it is fictionalized, it counts in the general literature and fiction category and a few other genres like romantic comedy as well.

In essence a Kindle Scout campaign gives you 30 days to accumulate NOMINATIONS (votes) from readers on the Kindle Scout website in order to win that publishing contract.

For readers, they will get a FREE kindle copy of a book they nominate when/if it is successful, yes, including mine. To be a reader who can nominate, FAQs are here, but essential things to know:

  1.  You will have to have an Amazon account or sign up for one
  2.  You only have three votes to use on different books per cycle – so do look at my page today or before Sept. 29 before casting all your votes – you have a 5000 word preview.

My campaign is from August 30th to September 29th, 2017 (my birthday is on Sept. 30th so going to be a tense birthday waiting for a yes or no email that day)


My goal: try to get as many daily nominations- consistently- over the course of 30 days and stay in the hot and trending category for as many hours as possible.

That means different people click the blue, nominate me button on my page everyday. The goal is not only to get a lot of votes as it is to get a consistent flow of votes daily as the mysterious algorithm that Amazon uses to make choices is based on your ability to promote yourself consistently. One big spike of voters is not going to do it. And voting isn’t the only thing. Kindle Scout Editors will be reviewing my entire manuscript and deciding if it is ready enough (before they ask for edits). Oh yes. This is an actual publishing contract with a $1500 advance, some work you do to polish and some guarantees of modest income (that can go much higher with your royalty being 50%).

I will check in and blog regularly and show you my stats in screenshots from my campaign dashboard that normally I am only privy to. A little scary. What are the kind of things I have to do to be successful? This is what I have done and am planning:

1) Have a kick-ass cover – I always pay a pro to do this! Looks good doesn’t it. Don’t think I haven’t checked out who wins these contracts and noticed that those with awesome covers often win, because they do.

2) Also important your 500 character max book description and 45 character tag line.


This is what mine is now and frankly I could have tweaked it even further. Two days ago I begged them to let me change my tag line before launch (see the old one in the first picture and the new here) thanks to a late night review with Martin Crosbie’s help (thanks again Martin). About half the people voting very likely will be strangers who regularly go to Kindle Scout and they will use my description, tag and then the sample pages of the first 5000 words of my manuscript to nominate. So this is a great way to broaden or build a readership.

3) Have my social media contacts primed:
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

4) Plan Blogging…
My Blog – my link
Guest blogging – link to VSW blog – and I am open for more invites form bloggers, hint hint – after all I have been cultivating my fascinating stories for just such invites.
Ask others to interview me on their blog – again open for invites BLOGGERS. Some good questions you might ask me:

  •  When and why did you decide to do a Kindle Scout after publishing so many other books independently?
  •  What happens if you don’t get the Kindle Scout deal?
  •  How did writing this book happen?
  •  Do you really have  a Mecca for writers in Mexico?
  •  Your campaign page says The Happy Hammock is book one, what’s in book two and how soon will that be coming out?

5) Order some cards made up, bus. card sized, to hand out with the link to campaign page.

6) Facebook Book promo groups – there are dozens of them out there but only some of them let you join and start promoting yourself so be careful, better to tip toe into it and read the rules and descriptions.

7) Joint ventures as with people like Gary Bizzo of Biz Publishing and a twitter influencer who is doing this experiment with me and we will be launching promoting his new book soon (but not using Kindle Scout as it is non-fiction book) but when it is published and launched as it hits Amazon soon. @garybizzo,

8) Networking online and off – friends and friends of friends, the word has to get out there BUT over 30 days not all at once. Remember, consistency is key!

9) Emailing – always good to build an email list.

10) Students and public speaking – since I teach writing and publishing and am out there I will mention it at those events in Vancouver and give our cards over the next 30 days.

Okay, that’s all I got for now. I hope this enlightened you and I am sure I will be learning as I go along, so look for my regular posts from today, Day 1, to Day 30 and beyond. Phew! No turning back. Feel free to ask me any questions here and I will try to answer them or find the answers.

If you want the link again to check out KS and my campaign page and nominate me if you like what you see Here It Is again: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H

 Thanks! Kathrin

Top Ten Best Writing Books

Recently, someone asked me for My Top 10 Best Books for Writers and so here they are with a sentence or two on why. You can click on the covers to learn more about each and perhaps give yourself an early Christmas present.

Okay let’s start with the classics:

1) Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones

    

Natalie’s book is where I first understood the zen of writing by enjoying the process, keeping your pen moving, “I remember”, and other great exercises. She is the woman who long ago gave me my inspiration to teach writing. Also, try her first biography, The Long Quiet Highway.

2) Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

Who among us has not appreciated Anne’s simple wisdom that all of us should, can and do want to write “shitty first drafts.” She tells the tale of a writer’s true journey and what she has learned.

3) Stephen King’s On Writing

I know that we are not supposed to be alcoholic and drug addicted just because we are writers any more, but you have to take a peek into the life of one of the most successful writers of all time and see how he redeemed himself. Even if you don’t like his genre you will appreciate his stick-with-it-ness. It turns out art can save you as well.

4) Susan Shaughnessy’s Walking on Alligators 


Little inspirations for writers which I patterned my own inspiration and exercise book after, The A to Zen of Writing. This is the kind of book you fold down the pages so you can read that one quote or passage again.

5) Strunk and White’s  The Elements of Style

A 1959 classic now in its umpteenth printing is a reference that you return to when you have to get it right. No one dares argue with Strunk and White on the matters of grammar, style and syntax. Easy examples make it a treasure. BTW, did you know that this classic guide was self published at first? Another truth in self publishing – its been around much longer than you think.

6) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Right to Write

Interchangeably, I think we can put both Julia Cameron’s books on the list. Her break-out book The Artist’s Way stimulated a whole collection of people to write morning pages and go on artist dates. I get tired of some of the never ending exercises but I do appreciate some of what she has to say to writers in Right to Write.

7) Brooke Wharton’s The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to) 

This is your legal knowledge book. Some of the info may be out of date –so make sure you get the most recent version– but for those of us who are writing screenplays or think our books would make good movie material, you want this book at your side. Besides which, I think it is one of the best titles ever.

8) Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey 

This is a look at the history of all great stories and mythology from a writer’s perspective as Vogler uses Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to decipher how all great stories operate using archetypical characters and the repeated dilemmas and themes. He references most great movie screenplays. This to me is a must have for fiction writers or storytellers of any kind.

9) William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell?

Speaking of Hollywood and screenplays … for sheer joy, entertainment and wisdom I love reading William Goldman. I already adore the man, if only because he brought us The Princess Bride as an adaptation. Both the book and the movie are on my shelves. The story of how that book and movie came about is a lie that is almost as entertaining (and fascinating) as the movie itself, and What Lie Did I Tell? is all the stories about making screenplays into movies and laughing and crying at the Hollywood machinery. It’s all about persistence people and letting go.

10) Kathrin Lake’s Writing with Cold Feet

I searched my unabashed self-promotional conscience and discovered that I have no trouble plugging my own book which has been going strong since it was published in 2013. Why I think it belongs on my writers’ book list is that it is not just written for reluctant writers but all writers. Even published authors have praised it for tackling the things that all those other books don’t want to talk about, which is mostly in the subtitle: The Secrets of How to Write When You Are Not Writing. I had to write this book simply because nobody else had and I needed to get all my years of writing coaching and the accumulated wisdom as a reluctant writer into a book. I think it rounds out this list nicely.

Other Crucial Online References:

A good baby name resource.  People used to ask me why I, a motherless woman, had baby name books on my shelf. I simply needed a way to name characters and find out what those names mean. You can get unexpected insights from finding out the meaning of the name of a character you’ve already named, and occasionally you will decide to change their name… in a way I am a mother. Try Baby Name Wizard.

I love my Word Origins book and also have a resource on the internet, but let’s face it we need a good site for Thesaurus, and Wikipedia is a blessing we can no longer live without, as well as several Quotations sites like Brainy Quotes.

PLEASE TELL US your FAVORITE WRITER BOOKS and resources and we could have a nice catalog here UNDER COMMENTS!

 

Would Henry Miller Have a Blog?

I did one of those things we do less and less of in this day and age. I took a book off my book shelf to read. Okay, right there one wonders if in the not too distant future that will become an archaic sentence. Will we have books and bookshelves that insomniacs thumb through in search of something to fall asleep by, or stay up by, in my case the former, but there’s more. The book had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, decades, in fact. I kept meaning to get to it. Vaguely remember who gave it to me, even glanced inside to see if he had written his name. It’s a classic you see, Henry Miller’s The Tropic of Cancer. Not for the easily shocked or faint of heart, it has the reputation of being repeatedly on one of the most banned books list. Certainly, in 1934, it’s sexually explicit words were instantly censored. Yet, at that time it was published. Why? Because how Miller wrote, not what. His style is a poetic prose of his chaotic and yet amazing writer’s life in Paris.

One of his first gems is: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am.”  He goes on to say that, all that is literature “has fallen from me” and that he does not write a book, he writes a “prolonged insult” and several other vicious labels for what is about to come. In short, Miller is free. He doesn’t care, he revels in his words and spins magic with them. He goes to the dark side and to the sublime in a blink.

The question for me really isn’t would the great writers of history have blogs and eBooks, because I think many would, but would we find them and single them out as great writers? That I don’t know. I know that when I work with writers coaching them, I ask them to find writers that give them permission to be more daring. You don’t have to write like Miller, you just have to get your truth out, push your boundaries as much as possible. Use someone else’s courage to find your own. Find your freedom, wherever it lies.

Unfortunately, there is the age-old conflict of finding your artist within and yet living outside the confinements of “making money.”  We hope we can do both, but there is a risk, a downsizing, an adjustment of expectations. Not many of us, like Miller, can proclaim, from that, “I am the happiest man alive.”

Even now, I am telling my authors (see the VSW Blog on Dragon’s Den), how all writers are entrepreneurs. It’s true, but it’s also the balancing dilemma. There perhaps isn’t the reverence of the artist and the patronage, and the community, there was in Miller’s day. Who would be helping Henry Miller get out his eBook, or learn the technology, if he didn’t have it? Let alone put a roof over his head. I am almost certain, no one, or maybe a few small presses would publish him. He might be self published. He might find his community online or through MeetUps, but who would see his words in the crowds of techno words online? In the future, it is doubtful that anyone will be stumbling around in the half-light looking for an appealing title only to rediscover Miller because he has been sitting on your shelf for decades, instead, more likely, the future upgrades in technology may ensure our next Millers will be deleted or lost forever.

Strangely, Miller has now become “literature” and that may be making his ghost laugh. In our material world, in our search engine world, we are often stepping away from that. If you don’t know what you are looking for exactly online, in the age of eBooks, if it has not already gone viral, who finds it? That is the tragedy and the challenge of our future as writers. Perhaps it always was, in some ways, but it has become a self-help world, where time is the largest luxury. We have to create or recreate our communities and make them stronger despite our temptation and necessity to stare at screens.

Yet, whatever the future holds, the simplest triumph is still available. Always find a little freedom in your writing, or a lot, even if you can’t be the happiest man alive.

Blog for Blog’s Sake or The 99% Decade

I haven’t blogged here since last year. I have two unfinished  blog ideas in my drafts folder that no longer inspire me. My blogger friend Lorraine (aka Raincoaster) would be ashamed of me. Every three days to a week is more her schedule. At very least every three weeks. But what is up with me?

potential mock-up cover for my new book

On the weekend I was at a party and the weird subject of disposing of a cremated loved ones ashes came up -only at a good party can such subjects come up- and I told the whole hilarious and profound story of disposing of my mother’s ashes that had everyone engaged. I realized I could not have done that if I had not written a blog post about it a number of years ago called, The Mystery of Mom. That’s when it hit me that I had not blogged for a very long time. I went from about once a month to every three months to every six months and now once a year.

On the upside I have a new book I have finished a first draft of, The Happy Hammock (I am still seeking beta readers if you are interested in reading the first draft – please contact me). However, some of the chapters of the book-which is about our misadventures and wacky community in our small Mexican town-are taken from some of my blogs, albeit expanded and sweetened. So how could I stop doing this important exercise? On the one hand, I am still writing, perhaps more than ever, but on the other hand I am not sharing enough. My last blog statistics were horrendous. This is not good for my marketing efforts which let’s face it are more haphazard than I care to admit.

As a writing teacher/coach my students have heard me said that after teaching writing for about ten years I figured out that I wasn’t really teaching people to write. Sure I gave them the technical tools in story structure and dialogue and all of that, but what I figured out I was really doing was empowering them to share their writing. That is the scary part. That is the part that holds people back. So, my friends, under that wisdom I can’t argue with because it is my own, I say today I am blogging for blog’s sake. I am not even doing it on a separate Word doc first. I am putting it direct into WordPress as I think it. I am live.

to-blog-or-not-to-blog

I know I am not all that crazy and carefree an artist however because I noticed that I am hitting the “save draft” button fairly regularly. The point is I haven’t been inspired to blog (remember the two unfinished draft ideas) but I am doing it anyway. Hoping something good will come of this pondering.

Pondering is great for the ponderer but can be boring to read, you maybe have to switch it up. So here goes. A scene between two writers talking:

A: “Do you remember that part in the book Eat, Pray, Love, where she and her Italian friends are figuring out the one word that sums up each city? Rome is sex, Naples is fight, Stockholm is conform…”

B: “Sure. That’s a great part.”

A: “What do you think our city’s word is?”

B: “Hmm. I have a feeling you already know, so are you going to tell me?”

A: “Well I am torn. The first idea is technically two words and it is Real Estate.”

B: “Yeah, our city is obsessed with that.”

A: “Even I’m obsessed with that.”

B: “What’s the other word?”emily_-carr-in-studio

A: “Airbnb”

They start laughing.

B: “Yup, that’s about it these days.”

A: “I am coining this The 99% Decade – where most of us are battling depression, trying not to think about Donald Trump and are madly trying to make ends meet. We are not the 1% and we don’t know any other way to fight it than Airbnb.”

B: “But this is everywhere, not just our city.”

A:”True. And for writers and artists and women it has always been thus.”

B: “What do you mean?”

A: “I keep thinking of Emily Carr who took in boarders to make ends meet so she could keep painting. She had a little studio in her house and hung chairs and various things up on the rafters with ropes and pulleys to bring them down when she needed so she could have enough room for her canvases.”

B: “You mean there have always been people struggling and we have always been pragmatists.”

A: “I guess so.”

B: “And there have always been the very rich too.” She pauses. “So what’s the outcome of this?”

A: “I guess, just keep blogging, painting, dancing, doing whatever you do however best you can. And if you need to airbnb, you airbnb.”

B: “Right.”

A comfortable silence is broken.

B: “Should we just accept the 99%dom then?”

A: “I don’t think anyone wants to emulate the 1%, do they? What does it say about you if you want to be mega rich? That you are selfish? We should hang on to our values when we struggle and be proud, 99% proud. They are 1% rich but they can be 99% as miserable as anyone else.” Another pause. “One thing I know for sure is no one is friends with us for our money.”

They laugh again.

B: “You are an optimist.”

A: “No, I just create characters who are optimists.”

B: “Still, it’s a good thing you blogged today.”

And so ends my blog for blog’s sake with a neat little snapshot of this corner of history right now. Maybe it is good I blogged today.

075a0286Kathrin Lake helps writers write all over North America but particularly in Mexico where she holds writing retreats every January.

Contact at kathrinlake4@gmail.com

2nd Place at the Vancouver Story Slam

Tuesday night, April 12th, I went to The Vancouver Story Slam group which meets every second Tuesday of every month. Sometimes I watch but this time I was a participant.  For those of you who don’t know, this is story telling competition. I came in a humble second as well as receiving the line of the night award which if you listen, starts with “Every siesta time we are  now having…”.  This is from the book I am currently completing called The Happy Hammock about our hilarious and profound adventures in Mexico.

 

The Vancouver Story Slam Info

Where: The Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R2

When: Every 2nd Tuesday of the month, get there by 7:30 if you want to get a good seat, starts at 8pm – 10 pm.

What: 10 storytellers tell 4 – 6 minute stories that you get to vote on, plus warm up story and awards of $75 for first prize, $50 for second prize, $25 for third prize. and various other prizes

Cost: $5 (and patronage at the Bistro of food and/or drinks)

Sign up to be a teller, rules and other info:  https://www.facebook.com/VancouverStorySlam/

 

Thanks to JP LORENCE for giving me the video AND WHO WON the competition that night by the way, for his story about the birth and the death of a story, and its possible resurrection.

Third place went to a first timer, Devon More, for her story of how language barriers in a movie theatre can result in something being lost (or added!) in translation.

 

Bonus picture:

HH Sex gasoline