Growing Up Alzheimer’s 2: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.
For my second post, what do I do? What do I do!? DON’T PANIC. Like the big, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy say. And I don’t have to panic, and you won’t have to either. If you look at my previous post about writing Memoirs and family Alzheimer’s the answer is right there. Step three of my process is write a list. I may or may not use chronology of history as my guide. Mostly I review the list and see what scene or story or remembered dialogue or image is begging to be written. Then I go with it. Just go with it. It was on the list so it must be done. God, I love lists.

Writing lists is my #3 step in my memoir writing process:
3.) Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
For this step I am going to focus only on brainstorming for my Mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s:
  • How she was a hermit and possibly Asperger’s and our Google before Google 
  • The stories she told me about post part-em before they knew it was post part-em
  • Her walking that everyone noticed
  • The first signs we knew: Story about giant raccoons and laser beams
  • The coins she compulsively stacked up
  • The car accident
  • The first time she got lost
  • Getting POA and a will
  • The struggle between the sisters and the aunts
  • The 600 nuns study
  • The sushi picnic and the wasabi (see Mystery of Mom blog post)
  • Taking her to Madame Butterfly
  • The research we did of support and how that support has changed
  • The change of her personality to sweet and compliant
  • The garage sale and the lie from the difficult sister
  • The uninvolved brother who missed telling me about the NM book
  • The first home she lived in “this is a really great person”
  • The second home, “stealing” and tripping out on the flowered shirt
  • The man who wanted to escape together
  • The years and sister tension
  • The decline
  • Dentistry, bladder infections, operation
  • The decision at the end
  • The end scene , cold hands, staring, my sister’s cold comment and my aunt did not want to see her body
  • The wake, the dream the amazing night before

I can see from this that this is a lot of material. In fact, I suspect that 1-3 of those bullet points could constitute one blog post of probably 1000 words each.  Just to make it easier on myself and to give you and actual story to read I will reprint a portion of a previous post where the story of the sushi picnic was told.  Here it is from the Mystery of Mom post:

She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be: “I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

And so part of my journey of my book of Growing Up Alzheimer’s is already on the way. But, on the journey of writing any one of these posts from the list above, I know I will undoubtedly remember more.

Next post step #4 and #5 in the writing process for a memoir… the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.

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Should Writers Always Try to Entertain?

Origins and definitions of the word…ENTERTAIN (v.)

late 15c., “to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,” from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir“hold together, stick together, support” (12c.), from entre-“among” (from Latin inter; see inter-) + tenir “to hold” (from Latin tenere, from PIE root *ten- “to stretch”). – from the Online Etymology Dictionary
Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience, or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an audience’s attention.  – ScienceDaily.com

Recently, I have been returning to my theatre roots a little more.  And, even more recently, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy again. And just when the world has gotten pretty seriously towards monumental problems, concerns and complete division this sense of humour thing is getting pretty interesting.

With the unusual Presidency of Donald Trump, when it is easy to say things have gone bat-shit crazy, I started noticing that I was getting some of my news from the comics of late night TV.

Most of the time they were just taking his tweets and analyzing them from a Say-What? sense of humour that underlines the ridiculousness of what was being said. Not to mention, the blatant lies. In short, they are having the easiest comedy writing times in recent history. But, they were also making quotes from other  sources, dare I say, more reliable sources and from reports and documents that the average person may never be aware of, let alone read (think Mueller Report, etc.)

Serious Comedy

So, the question I started to ponder is how important are these entertainers to focus on all of this serious stuff? And, what can we learn from making the serious entertaining? Should we always be gong for the laughs or entertainment as writers? Is there any sacred ground or not? What is the history of writing things for entertainment?


Whenever I do some serious pondering I go back to my word origins and definitions to see if I can glean any clues that are not always obvious (see above).

Aha! To entertain is to hold one’s attention. It also is to hold together. Given the world is being described as very divided these days, and also, lacking an attention span, to entertain may be a way to pull people together and at the very least keep their attention. But, no one is laughing if they (or their people) are the butt of a joke, they are, in fact, being shamed, but in politics that can be a positive too.  Lots of historical / political strides were made via political cartoons, humorist writings and humourous speeches. In Canada, suffragette Nelly McClung gave her famous speech, Why Men Should Not Be Allowed to Vote, to hilariously underline how ignorant arguments can easily be twisted both ways.

What I am saying is, you can use entertainment for writing about the serious as well as not so serious, and if you can do it well you can make your point better and more viral.  Or, if you can at least make half the room laugh,  you can make your point of view the fun side. James Comey said of Trump that he never saw the man laugh. He saw him smile, take delight, but never actually laugh and take pleasure in something he could see as humourous.  Perhaps the ability to laugh ( and laugh at yourself)may be the way to pick our leaders. And to entertain may be the best way to find happy followers who want to share the joy. But, should you be cautious in writing humour or forge ahead? It turns out humour can often reveal truth better and faster than any argument.

Can an off color joke be good?

Here is an actual example of two jokes in rapid succession. Please, please, remind yourself that these jokes are in poor taste on both sides and one is only in defense of the attack of  the other.  A group of four men are telling jokes with two women present. One says, “Do you know why men beat women? … Because they are so fucking stupid.” (Yes, this was considered funny and the men laughed, the women did not). The one woman asks the man who told the joke, “Do you know why women have two nostrils? … Because if she had only one, men would try to fuck that too.” The women laugh, the men are silent.

That was an example of fighting fire with fire that we might call the quick come back, or, playing offense versus defense.  I think the second joke just reveals how bad the first joke is by saying, you would say that, and find it funny, because you are people who are completely insensitive and being labeled is not much fun, is it? But did these jokes bring people together? Perhaps not. The women defended themselves and shamed the boorish men. The men may not have learned, but they got a mirror held up that was unflattering at just the right moment. The women were held together. Was either joke funny? No. They had underlying anger that is impossible to miss, but it was a case of a bully beating up the bully who picked on the little guy. It was just necessary.

Humour can be a powerful teacher and binder. Not everyone will get your idea of entertainment but  universality is not the big lesson here.

If you use humour to entertain it will be the quickest way to find your audience, your readers, and can be a powerful way to keep the attention on the truth of what is right. So, if it is your gift to have a sense of humor, keep working it and do like the comics do, hone it by sharing it. That is the only way to know for certain if it is resonating in that magical way that comedy can, laughter.

***

One ‘truth’ about our humanity may be how we feel rewarded by believing in the value of something – culture, knowledge, love of beauty – even if the Universe seems beautifully indifferent to us. I saw an old BBC ‘Face to Face’ interview from the 1950s I think, where Carl Jung in his old age was himself asked personal questions. At one point, the interviewer asked “Do you believe in life after death?”, and Jung replied something like: “The unconscious believes in life after death, so anyone who does not will become ill.”

Blog to Memoir: Growing Up Alzheimer’s

Many people ask me if they can turn their blog posts into a book. Yes! I say, great idea.  Ultimately the book won’t and shouldn’t look like the blog post, but by God it can give you several chapters of raw to polished materials depending on how you like to write your blog posts. The great thing about blogs is you are often writing what is happening in the moment, so it is fresher, filled with details, feelings and passion that you may not get if you left it until later.  Certain parts of The Happy Hammock can be seen in past blog posts.

This blog post is going to be the first of a series that could be called learning by doing.  Ever since writing The Happy Hammockback which is really a memoir (although we called it a based on true story for a number of reasons), I have been helping others complete their memoirs more. Don’t think I don’t read other people’s teachings on how to write memoirs or go to their courses, I do. I am always researching. But, there is nothing like doing, as well as teaching, to make you feel like you can call yourself an expert.

While I am writing the second book of The Happy Hammock memoir, there is another aspect of my life that only those close to me know about. I want to write about it, and even need to write about it in the hopes it will help others. This is my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women, as I have experienced it and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself, yet, but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder.  So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, or blog to memoir process.memoir-writing-process-steps-1-638

I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part. So, I am going to share my process, as far as I know it. This is how I often start, and how I started this time:

  1. I had an idea of writing about all three generations of women, my grandmother, mother and now, my eldest sister. This is painful because she is the sibling I am closest to and I am currently seeing her gradual sinking into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s as if it is the slowest of quick sand.
  2. I come up with a working title. Often I keep it but not always, but it does help keep me on track. The title for this: Growing Up Alzheimer’s.
  3. Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
  4. I try to order the above in chronological order not because that is necessarily the way it will end up in a book form, but I need to know what order things come in. A memoir writer needs to pay attention to transitions for different periods in this the family history, and different stages of the writer’ awareness, and not confuse the reader.  Most people don’t realize that for books, or long-form anything (I started as a playwright), the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.
  5. I start a scene that may or may not be the beginning of the book but is the beginning of a blog post. And so it begins…

Growing Up Alzheimer’s –  Post 1

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“Granny Horner is having a bird again.”

My eldest sister, age 14, almost a decade older than I, announces to us. My brother, second oldest, two years behind her, and my other sister, five years after him, and me, the baby, the unexpected love child, two years later, all rapidly exit the small lakeside house on Osoyoos Lake to stay out of the line of fire.  We love coming up to visit the lake, but Granny Horner, Marjorie, my mother’s mother, is sometimes hard to take, and Ralph, my grandfather, mostly blends into the background.

“Having a bird” as my siblings called it meant she was on a bitching rampage of unhappiness and blame. She can be loud and to me, at five years old, scary as hell. She’s skinny and doesn’t smile a lot. She is the opposite of “Nice Granny,” my father’s mother who we adore. Nice Granny is chubby-curvy, loving, generous, creative and everything you could want in a grandmother. Marjorie is not. And, I didn’t know her well. I remember in her lake house I found a beautiful colored tin, empty, probably once held fancy cookies. It had bright blues, reds and gold geometric and decorative designs like an Easter egg. And, it was a cylindrical tin with a dome top. Beautiful. My five year old self was attracted enough to pick it up and she caught me with my hands on it.

I was terrified that I was in trouble when she caught me handling the tin, afraid she was going to “have a bird,” but that didn’t happen. Instead she saw I was enamored with it and offered it to me. I took it home and for years kept all my tiny, shiny treasures in it, from thimbles to plastic animals to rhinestones that Nice Granny gave me. That was one of the few moments I remember Granny Horner distinctly, and thankfully it was a nice moment. She was then on the verge of Alzheimer’s, though we didn’t know it. 

husky gas osoyoosIt started when Ralph was moved, at the recommendation of his doctor, to a full care home. Ralph complained of pain in his legs and he had trouble walking.  After his death I would find several medals he had won for his long distance running.  I didn’t know, no one had told me he had once been an accomplished runner. Marjorie went to visit him every day. The problem was she would get lost driving there pretty much every time. My parents found this out later because the man at the gas station had to give her directions to the care home every day. Often, he had to do it more than once on the same day. My dad liked to tell the story how the gas station guy would send her off having showed her on the map and told her the turns only to see her minutes later driving back to the station in her old Ford still confounded.

Back then, they simply said, “She is losing her memory.” And so she was. I never heard anyone say the word Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a common parlance then and this loss of memory wasn’t intensely studied. They just tried things out. When it was clear Marjorie also needed full time care they “tried things” on her too, namely electric shock treatment. Yes. Horrors. They did this to my Granny and my mother knew. They told her that after shock treatment she seemed to get better for a time and then reverted back.  How long she “got better” was not really discussed. This “treatment” was eventually abandoned. 

electroshockThe lake house had been long since sold, Ralph had passed away, and Granny was located in another town, at another long term care home closer to my aunt’s summer home.  It was many years before me and my second oldest sister T and I saw her at that summer cottage. She was in a wheelchair, having been taken from her home for the day by my aunts. Her hair was completely white, she had glasses and I wouldn’t have recognized her. At the adults coaxing, T and I went up and greeted her. We said, “Hello Granny,” as the adults told her, “These are your grandchildren.” To which she answered, “I remember you, you were all against me! You plotted against me!” We were quite mortified. Even when she was having a bird, she had never been paranoid or crazy sounding. We stayed away until they took her back to the home. She had clearly entered the dementia delusional phase, beyond memory loss which I would later find out can manifest as ugly or sweet, angry or docile, funny or tragic. 

This is my post for today. Any thoughts, comments, personal stories or questions, please speak up, I’d love to hear.

Ten Ways to Grow Your Writing

Someone told me to check out this blog from a painter stating ways to grow yourself as an artist.  (https//chrisgallego.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/5-unusual-habits-to-keep-you-growing-artistically/). I decided much of this applied to writers as well but I added a few of my own thoughts and came up with ten ways to grow your writing, remembering that there is no way to separate the writer from the writing. If the writer grows, the writing can also grow.

1. Write Crap

Yes, give yourself permission to write crap. There is a reverse psychology in effect here. The freedom to not write well tends to give you permission to try things, to go on creative impulse versus trying for perfection. And as Annie Lamott observed everyone writes shitty first drafts. It is natural for any artist in any field to produce a body of work. Some or even a lot of it will be crap so that some or even a lot if it will be good and some may even be great, but keep writing. Also, I make my students do an exercise to consciously try to write badly.  Three things usually happen when they do this. They use clichés and repetition, and go so far over the top with it that it becomes good. They notice that it is not easy for them to write poorly and thus, prove to themselves that they are better than they thought at writing well. They produce a great piece of comedy.

2. Get in Over Your Head

If you feel you are over your head and in a mess with your writing project, you might be exactly where you need to be. Taking risks is brave and will make you grow. You do want to challenge yourself. You can’t do that without feeling over your head. You need to go through it. 99% of what you do as a writer is process not product. It is a messy process and often an overwhelming process if you are truly challenging yourself. It is also a temporal art. Unlike the painter we cannot see the current whole in one view, we have to read and reread, write and rewrite. Wholeness is difficult to grasp, so being over your head is allowing the process to be what it is, a process before it is “declared” a product.

3. Read Bad Writing as well as Good

Reading bad writing reminds you what makes writing good. You will notice more about things to both avoid and include in your own work when you read bad writing, more so than when you are perhaps overawed by good writers. A good writer can freeze you into feeling too small and imperfect. This is ego and in your head. But also, when you are judging bad writing as bad, test how much is your judgement, notice where there is craft even in what you considered bad writing. Notice that you may have the notes to make something better. If it is really bad, give yourself permission to not finish it but be forever grateful of the experience, and then used that saved time to work on your own writing, gratefully.1medium_writingadvice_writerswrite

4. Get Lazy

Writing can be work, hard work, but it needs to be half play too.  If it isn’t we burn out.  The muse likes your effort but if it is all effort and no play then the muse can get turned off too. Sometimes you need to walk away and get lazy.  Don’t, for god’s sake, tell yourself you are having writer’s block. If you have been trying and it is not coming together that’s not writer’s block that’s pushing too hard. Take a walk. Consider those wonderful “Ah ha” moments, they happen at some other moment when you are laughing with friends, or generally goofing off.

5. Rearrange Your Writing Space

Have you put any effort into your private writing space?  We cook in the kitchen. We sleep in the bedroom. We take care of our bathing and toiletries in that room. Do you have a writing space? Do you like it? Do you give yourself nice things to look at? Does it have light and a window? Writers need light as much as painters. Do you have some words that inspire posted in your writing place? Words that remind you of who you are? For years I had a question, “Do words change reality?” and a cartoon with a character that said, “If you want to say something smart, think of something really dumb and write the opposite.”  I hope one day in the future to have the courage to take my desk and plunk it down in the best spot in the apartment or house and I won’t care if it is the living room or dining room or in an alcove at the top of the stairs.

6. Write in Other Places

After number five, this may seem like a contradiction, but you sometimes need to write away from your special designated spot and sometimes you have to. Writing in other places can mean other cities, other situations, maybe with someone else sitting writing across from you. Or, yes, it can mean in your local cafe or the cafe across town, or the cafe you always dreamed of writing at in Paris. Does it change your writing? Are you more inspired or less? I like writing retreats. I have been trying to figure out why I like writing in Mexico for years and I have lots of answers and none of them need to be real, I just need to know that it is a good place for me, but not the only place either. You should be able to write everywhere, so prove it already.

7. Go to Beginner Writing Classes

There is a famous, talented actor I know that went repeatedly to beginning acting classes long after his success, because the basics of any craft need to be renewed. Once they are ingrained it gives you a lot more freedom and ability to write without fretting. But, believe it or not, we forget things. So, don’t take the attitude of thinking there is nothing more you can learn or relearn. It is okay to learn again, and for some of us it is fun to share in a group. We are so often distant in time from our readers, that it is nice to share immediately, hot off the press in a writing class.

8. Don’t Write Everyday

1_500I know lots of people say, write everyday. But, I bet even those people don’t. What they mean is have a writing discipline. Plan your writing days and your days off. When a project is getting to the wire, the deadline is nigh, or just when you are on a hot streak, you may well find yourself writing everyday to get it done. But not everyday, all the time. Know that this is true so that you don’t feel obsessively stupid, or not a writer when you are not writing. Remember you will have a process and a writing discipline. You can churn it out when you want to and need to.

9. List All Your Own Deepest, Darkest Fears

Especially when you are uninspired, go to your most vulnerable place. The places you don’t want to show the world. Peter Shaffer did not write Amadeus from the point of view of Mozart himself, but from his contemporary Salieri who was a mediocre composer. Shaffer said he did this because that was his deepest, darkest fear that he would just be a mediocre writer. Make a list of your own deepest darkest fears, about your writing, about your life, about anything and everything that makes you feel naked and vulnerable. Have you written anything about these yet?

10. Write Faster

I myself have come full circle, from writing fast so it was both practical and not fully finished, to slowing down and getting hung up on the details, to realizing that career writers need to write fast and edit (with help) later. Learning to write fast can be your best friend and it means you are not letting the perfectionist in you take the wheel but some other right brain gremlin that knows how to fly.  You can learn how to write fast and well, but only if you let yourself write fast.

My final note is from the original blog post that I referenced: “Quit killing yourself trying to become a great painter and work relentlessly on becoming a badass editor” After you have written fast, you and your editor can have fun polishing BUT I think what Chris Gallego means is that you learn, to begin with, not to put everything and the kitchen sink in your work, you will streamline and that should be the goal to make your writing process efficient.  If you focus on that, good will come, but you also need to focus on continually growing.

Let me know which ones serve you and how it goes.

LAUNCHING THE HAPPY HAMMOCK – .98 CENTS FOR LIMITED TIME ON KINDLE… CHECK IT OUT!

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.

#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

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.