Shine On!

shine-on-award

A huge “Thank you” and a hug to Emily Guido for giving me The Shine On Award. I am not convinced I deserve it, but I very much appreciate it.

During the months I’ve been blogging, I’ve encountered many fine, generous people, folks who have offered me support, friendship and encouragement with no agendas. It’s enough to renew my faith in humankind. Emily Guido has been among my most staunch supports. She is one of a handful of people in my acquaintance who has displayed genuine courage. She doesn’t merely do what she must; she does what she can because she believes it matters.

“Shine On” is not a blogging award. It originated in the real world a few years ago and is awarded to men and women who serve their community. I’m not sure who was its original creator, but the award’s description is consistent:

“The recipients of our Shine On Awards are not only incredible men and women who made or are making history, but are also the people remarkably like us all. They work hard, struggle with balance, and dream of a better world. We applaud them for the extraordinary ways they have shared themselves to benefit others.”

Four to be honored at second annual Shine On Awards: The Ogemaw Herald

“There is not nearly enough applause in the life of the average American woman. And you might well think that if you won a Nobel Prize or were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the juggling act would get easier, but not so. The winners of our Shine On Awards are not only incredible women making history, but also women remarkably like us all: They work hard, struggle with balance, and dream of a better world for themselves and the people they love. We applaud them. And we applaud you, for making a difference in someone’s life every single day.”

 Shine On Award Winners – Women Honored for Charity Work – Good Housekeeping

I’ve found this quote … almost word for word … in multiple places. This award has entered the blogging universe, but it did not originate here. I hope I can adhere to the original spirit of the award — offering recognition to people who have contributed to the greater good of their community.

In the blogosphere, our community is the World. I have put considerable thought into what service I offer other than entertainment. Is offering my opinion and distributing the opinion of others who I believe positively contribute to a sane public dialogue a sufficient service?  Perhaps, though I never thought of it that way. The blogging universe is young. As a group, we are still feeling our way around, figuring out where we fit on this huge stage.

There are blogs on every conceivable subject from fashion to cooking, sports, film, books. decorating, gossip and making people laugh. History buffs and movie mavens, authors, poets, painters and photographers and everyone else have a home on the Internet. More rare are people whose goal is to make the world a better place.

If, as a group, we have any power, it is that we can disseminate information and ideas, offer perspective on issues that concern us. We can sometimes influence minds and opinions and that’s no small thing. Regardless of whether we touch a few dozen people or tens of thousands … whether we focus on art, books, movies, technology, education, faith, ecology, politics … or any of millions of issues, we do what we can.

As a generalist without a specialized focus, I try to encourage literacy, civility and dialogue between people who have something valid to say. Like most of you, I try to do the right thing. I may not agree with your definition of “the right thing,” but I acknowledge the importance of differing opinions. Disagreement is the backbone of a free society.

It isn’t easy for me to recognize the validity of opinions with which I disagree. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I do and one of the most important.

There is far too much hate, anger, and meanness on and off the Internet. Cloaked in the first amendment, people promulgate hate, violence, cruelty and ugliness. I’m sure demagogues and hate-mongers have existed throughout history, but the Internet brings them into our homes and pushes them in our faces. It has become impossible to ignore and I’m not convinced ignoring the clamor is the right thing to do. Ignoring evil is a kind of tacit agreement. Silence doesn’t send the right message.

The recent presidential election brought home with stunning clarity how far we are from being a civil — or civilized — society. I am disturbed at how many people are recklessly careless of how they express themselves. They are either unaware or unconcerned (both?) with the impact their words have, how much pain they cause, how much damage they inflict.

“Words can never hurt me” was a childhood mantra, but it isn’t true. Words hurt, words damage. They destroy reputations and ruin lives. Lies parade as facts. I would never dispute anyones’ right an opinion, but spewing hate isn’t an opinion. Intentional cruelty isn’t an opinion. Applauding and encouraging violence is not an opinion. These do not deserve respect. Hiding behind the first amendment doesn’t make hate, cruelty and violence acceptable. Just because you can’t be jailed for saying it doesn’t make it right. When I can, I weigh in, try to offer informed opinions and support for causes that matter to me. If that’s community service, then I guess I serve. But there are so many others who deserve to be honored, I feel rather like I’m sailing under false colors. All I can say is thank you and I hope I live up to it.

The Shine On Award recognizes individual contributions to the community.

There are no specific requirements, no designated number of recipients or questions to answer. The only requirement is that a recipient be an individual who has contributed to the good of the community.

My two candidates are women who have worked hard to help those who can’t help themselves and to educate others on issues that matter to them.

Jenny Threet of Rumpy Dog has waged a relentless campaign to help save dogs, cats, and other animals who have been victimized or abandoned. She never gives up on the furry creatures she loves and always strives to protect and save them. She deserves recognition for the good work she does. There are a many beautiful creatures who would not be alive today were it not for her efforts.

Jo Ashline of A Sweet Dose of Truth is a fine writer. She is mother to an autistic child and has put her heart and soul into educating people about autism. She takes on other causes too, but autism is near and dear to her heart. She is a determined soldier for truth and justice. I admire her dedication and passion and am very pleased to nominate her for this award.

And that, my friends, is it for now. Some of you to whom I would award this prize have already received it . To the best of my knowledge, my two candidates have not previously received it. I hope I got it right.

There’s no time limit as to when or to whom you can choose to pass it. The important thing is to not cheapen the award or its meaning. It isn’t an award for fine writing, taking beautiful photographs, or making people laugh. All of these are wonderful things, but there are other awards to show that kind of appreciation.

Congratulations and keep on doing what you do. The world is better because you are in it.

How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire — The 12-Foot Teepee and Me

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me someone bought my book. It happened a few times during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a genuine voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindle version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I have now broken the $5 barrier and need only 6 or 7 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. If we order from the dollar menu, we could even afford a small beverage. I can barely control my excitement, but Garry has warned me not to count on it.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_Kindle

I still get buzzed when anyone buys or reads my book and delighted when they let me know they enjoyed it, but next time, I think I’ll write about dogs.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did author things, television interviews on local cable, radio interviews. I got some nice local press. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which isn’t bad for a self-published book. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a cheap dinner at a local fast food joint. I briefly thought Teepee would be a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out, I had dreams of glory. My husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as time passes, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...

When you write a highly personal book largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Books like this become popular only if written by celebrities  revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature, or if someone pumps it up on a national television, which did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most authors.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this genre. The ones that get published because they are written by a celebrity don’t sell well either, usually going from a  display in the front of the store to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback. And don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I had the task of reading a lot of books that were deemed among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask about least half the entries: “What were you thinking?” There are okay books amongst the dross, a couple of great ones and a few pretty good ones.

Unfortunately, there are many awful ones, books so bad it’s hard to imagine how this could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing at all. The worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is good.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! — include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not so awful that maybe there might not be someone who likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who it might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot and a few interesting characters.

Which brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world sufficiently interesting to write books about it?

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our lives completely uninteresting? Are the day-to-day battles regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Having someone buy a copy of my book today was a big deal. If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe a half-dozen or so people will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage loaded on our backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos.

Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also hard to proofread your own manuscript: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is there. 75-BooksHP

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. I get the same $1.87 in royalties whether you buy it or borrow it.  Go figure.

I have serious concerns about the state of publishing. I am convinced there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who get published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing, I would think the potential profit has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until it has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider taking a chance on more newcomers who don’t write in trendy genres. I love science fiction and fantasy more than most people, but I also enjoy books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I fear the best of America’s writers are being lost in the scramble to publish only best-sellers. It doesn’t work anyhow. Most books flop, just like they always have.  From what I’m seeing, most acquisitions editors wouldn’t know a great book if it bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m such a fantastic author and couldn’t get a reading,  publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that does get published is so bad. It’s not a healthy sign for literature or the publishing industry.