“Somebody Likes Us!”

ImageWe all have our reasons for writing and it’s a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard…to fulfill a desire…to become established, famous, successful…to simply tell a story…to scratch an ego itch…for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let’s just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose.

So we write a few books and there come the critics, the reviews that can range from 5-Star to 3-Star, even lower. The world of reading seems to thrive on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer’s effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer.

So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book…sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change — extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, etc. In the end you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Star, the 3-Star, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe even agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns…there is an initial sinking feeling which will likely become anger, and, at some point, you will equivocate, deny, only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.

Your thought processes on reviews run the gamut. ‘What gives this person the right to publicly condemn my efforts, this Hannah Housewife, this Harold Husband?’ Hell, I likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing me! You go back and re-read the 5-Star and 4-Star reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you’re in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful dithering. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world’s ‘ways and means.’

Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.

All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other writers do not have our book flaws. Most probably, we have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some certainly will because talent cannot be denied too long.

It is very difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but it seems to me we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us. My belief is you get better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course.

Somebody Likes Us!

Can There Be Neutrality?

On the anniversary of one of our country’s worst civilian nightmares, September 11, 2012, an American Ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Libya. On the same day in Egypt the American Embassy was stormed by a radical Muslim faction that set fires, ripped up our flags, and caused not only much damage to the buildings but much fear to our small community of citizens there. Two countries, one still trying to form a semblance of government in a post-Moammar Khadafi environment and one whose passive government chose not to intervene in the American Embassy destruction.

Was it a coincidence that these two events occurred on the anniversary of 9/11? Were the events somehow a sign post signifying a beginning or a beginning of an end? And, what do these two events have to do with writing?

The last question will be answered first. I am writing! I am writing because these two events got me thinking about the posture of the world, of all our great nations. The events got me thinking about my kids, their kids, and their kids’ kids. The thinking is not the good and wholesome kind of thinking, and I need to write about it. It is thinking that will undoubtedly be unsettling for some and will likely fit right into some others wheelhouses. I’m writing about neutrality, but more precisely, my inability to stay neutral on certain issues that are facing America.

Our two political parties had their conventions during the last two weeks, and they were polar opposites as far as platform and vision. They most certainly got me to thinking, and, with the two 9/11/2012 events in Libya and Egypt, all these events combined to give me a first class migraine.

Were the Libya and Egypt events coincidental? I’ll answer with this question: is there a tooth fairy?

Were the Libya and Egypt events a sign post to a beginning or to a beginning of an end? My answer to this question has to embrace the political conventions, but here is my attempt at an answer with abundant questions thrown in.

At one political convention, speaker after speaker had a portrayal of our country in great economic decline, in great need of jobs, new leadership, new commitment to a strong ‘carry a big stick’ foreign policy, less govenment control of our God-given freedoms, the power of the individual to succeed as far as her/his potential permits without de-incentivizing federal regulations and runaway tax codes. The speakers at this convention spoke to the  convservatives among us. Were these speakers speaking truth or fiction? Would it be better to ask the unemployed and all those who were promised ‘Hope’ four years ago, promised by a man who said he would be a one-term president if he did not succeed in bringing the unemployment rate down below eight percent?

At the other political convention, speaker after speaker regaled the ‘beginning of Hope’ that started almost four years ago. The speakers talked of needing more time to implement that ‘Hope,’ that new society where everyone got a fair shake. The speakers railed about inheriting the worst economy in a generation. They cheerfully blamed their political foes for being uncooperative and not offering any solutions to the issues facing the nation. The speakers said nothing about having the entire government in their hands for two years of the new presidency. The splendid speakers mentioned achievements in getting our troops out of Iraq, bringing more troops home from Afghanistan and they talked of killing Usama Bin Laden. They talked again of ‘Hope.’ The speakers spoke to the more liberal among us. Were these speakers speaking truth or fiction? Would it be better to ask the unemployed and all those who were promised ‘Hope’ four years ago?

So, yes, the events in Libya and Egypt do signal a beginning and a beginning of an end. Here’s where I leave ‘neutrality’ and give my simple soliloquy, powered only by my heart and by my limited intelligence quotient, prefaced only by saying that I’m no politico, no shill, just someone who cares about the direction his country is going, who wants to share what he feels. It is impossible to maintain a neutral position when the stakes are so high at this moment in our history. These are my thoughts. Try not to hate me for them — loving me for these thoughts is so much better!

My wife, Julie Anne, made it so crystal clear to me. She quoted an old saying: “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” She also reminded me that we have Greece, Rome, Russia as history markers, great countries who failed in their socialistic networks. She reminded me that we need to help our poor, our elderly, our sick but be able to discern those who would take advantage of our largesse. We discussed the issues to the best of our abilities. But, then, it is easy to discuss when your belief systems are the same. It has always amazed me how good people can differ on issues with fairly wide magins.

For what it’s worth, here are my conclusions. We have today a near government-dependent majority in our society, if not already a majority, that is, people on the public dole to one extent or another, people who are indeed needy mixed in with many (who can say how many?) who are simply there for the free hand-out. It bothers me when I hear people say I don’t care about the poor and sick among us or my statement that we need to weed out the freeloaders of society. I remember my dear mother during post-depression days in Appalachia working two jobs to keep her son and daughter with her. I remember her dying in a senior care facility bed when I was not there, and the thought still brings me pain. Caring is of the heart, and my heart cares, but my mind cannot accept the individual’s rights being sucked away by a government whose wish is to take what you and I make and redistribute it to a mass of people who may or may not need my help, who may or may not be lazing around just waiting on the next government check. We are becoming too much of an entitlement country. We need to know where our tax dollars are going, and it’s fine if the dollars are going to those who truly need. We need to stop with the class warfare rhetoric, the trash politics and lies, and we need to stop playing race cards…

Whoa, I’m getting too revved up! I’m also becoming conscious of my narrative’s length, so I’ll end it here.

It was simply important for me to express what I’ve been thinking since those conventions and since the terrible events of Libya and Egypt.

Can there be neutrality? Not from where I sit. But, maybe we can try to calmly talk and hear each other out, maybe do some old fashioned compromising. It is actually time to change the face of politics, time to put some faith and trust back in the hearts and minds of the people, time to stop the special perks our politicians enjoy, time to build, create, and enjoy what our labors can produce, time…time for me to stop writing.

Is not freedom and liberty great that I can give you my thoughts and yours to me?

So Many Ways To Confuse!

Fancy yourself a writer?

Yeah, me, too. I’m writing my tenth book. My first book was actually published by a small pub house in the 1990s. It was after this experience that the decision was made to go it alone, that is, be a one-man show: write, proofread and edit, re-edit, re-edit, re-edit, publish, market/promote, sell, and try very hard to understand the new internet language of the day. You know, URLs, Feeds, Links, Tags, Keywords, Blogs, Posts, Websites, Widgets, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, on and on? That’s when it hit me like a bad tooth ache: I’m a freaking anachronism — I know nothing about this new digital world we live in.

Well, you can see I didn’t give up. You do see, right? Those nine books I’ve got on amazon.com? Really, you haven’t seen them? Well, you should… Whatever, with all my hooting and hollering, my ranting and raving, my wife sure wished at times that I would give up. I’ve tried the social media, nay, I’ve become a slave to the social media. There are several long visits each day to Twitter, to Facebook, to WordPress, to Goodreads, to Pin-It, to Google Plus, to my Website and blog sites, to two e-mail sites, et al. Now, being an older fellow, I’m up at 7:00-8:00 AM and, darn, before there’s a clue, it’s 5:00 PM and I’ve done virtually no writing at all. And everyone knows what happens at 5:00 PM, right? No, not cocktail hour! Well, maybe cocktail hour! But, the news of the day comes on at 5:00 PM, and, being good citizens of the world, we need to know what’s happening around the globe… So, now, it’s dinner time and soon to be 8:00 PM. My wife needs to watch a couple of TV shows. Now, it’s 11:00 PM. I’ve got no juice left for writing my masterpiece. I take a pill and go to bed. No writing!

That’s the point! No Writing! I want to write and finish that tenth book (I like even numbers!). Yet, like all of us ‘best selling authors’ (mind your chuckles!), there is the almost prurient side of me that wants the books I’m writing to sell — like, viral sell! Time is of the essence for me (playing the age card!) and I’m beginning to wish this electronic age had not been so fast and furious in coming at us. It would just be so very nice to have a publisher again, a good one, a publisher who expertly handles the nitty-gritty details of editing and promotion. They would surely find more of my errata than I’m likely to find. They could likely even suggest ways to make my masterpieces even better — it’s okay to ‘yuk-yuk.’

Anyway, there are so many ways today to confuse us poor beat-up writers, to keep us from doing what it is we really want to do. Sure, there are those with the ‘e pluribus unum’ to hire publicists and get these things done, but I’m a stingy stick-in-the-mud who has just got to do it his very own way, goofs and all.

So, the question is: Is there someone out there who will work pro bono and get me out of this mess I’m in?

Okay, if you’re all going to sit there laughing your fool heads off, I’m outta here!