I Have Done My Job

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Idealised workspace, 2011

A a writer there are very few things I want more than to have my writing read. That sounds simplistic, but it does touch on the general gist of what I mean. Certainly I want my readers to like what they’ve read, to write stunning reviews, tell all of their friends about me, thereby causing my sales to skyrocket, causing me to make lots (not insane amounts, just lots) of money, so that I can pay off my house, give in charity, give my children a great life and quit my day job so that I can create more tales that people want to read, BUT none of that is as important to me that my writing is actually read.

I would be a writer even if I never made a single penny doing it. (Which isn’t that far off the mark right now.)

Like most writers, I have something to say. As an introvert, since I rarely actually say these things out loud, writing is my mode of expression. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read, stories that resonate with me, and that hopefully have deeper meanings. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking or teach anyone a lesson, (preachiness in fiction is a big no-no), but I do hope that when readers have completed my tales they walk away with lingering impressions about the characters and situations, that they continue to think about the story for days or even weeks in an effort to suss out the deeper meanings, or at the very least because they’ve grown attached to a character and they miss her.

Recently I received a very unexpected heart-warming email from a woman who had just completed my book. She’d downloaded it for free during one of my past Amazon KDP promotions. She said:

“I have subsequently told friends about An Unproductive Woman and what a wonderful insight into another part of the world and culture as well a message to all of that we are so very alike in so very many ways.”

and

“While not a Christian, I do believe in a power greater than myself.  The absolute everyday faith depicted in your book caused me to download the Qur’an too, I have my reading cut out for me for some time to come!”

The very fact that she took away the message of ultimate sameness across cultures and faiths from my novel despite the supposed divergences there appear to be and that are played up by our media absolutely took my breath away. Even more, in spite of the fact that An Unproductive Woman is not a religious read, the fact that she made the conscious decision to learn more about people (Muslims) who are often made to seem other and alien is the greatest validation and the greatest payment I could ever receive for my writing.

When I received her message I nearly cried. It let me know that I have done my job.

*****

Thank you for the email S.V. You made my year… probably my career as a writer.

Thank you Kindle Buffet for posting my book on your site so that people would know I exist.

Thank you to anyone who has ever honored me with the time it took to read my book and write a review… even if it wasn’t favorable.

Happy Ramadan to EVERYONE! 

The Reason I Don’t Watch the News

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Granada, de Cine This morning as I was headed to the kitchen to prepare a late breakfast for my family I stopped for a moment to catch a particularly compelling bit of news on an international news channel. There was this looping reel of footage that kept showing the body of a tiny girl wrapped in a white sheet. She was dead after having been brutally raped by two men who had kidnapped her. This footage also showed the poor girl’s shell shocked parents. Their grief was palpable.

This is why I don’t watch the news.

According to the news report, the kidnapping and rape of young women is nearly epidemic in India which is second only to the United States. The reporter interviewed young women on the streets of India regarding the recent passage of laws that would mete out severe punishments to any man convicted of rape. This was all complicated by the fact that the numbers of women who are actually willing to report the crime are minimal due to the shame of having been the victim of such a crime. Yes, the victim is shamed and blamed.  The perpetrator? Not so much. This is misogyny at its worse, when it is woven into the very fabric of the culture. It is sad, unjust, and plain horrific.

This is why I don’t watch the news.

But, just so we don’t point blaming fingers at India, or some country in the Middle East, or any other so-called third world country we’d like to pretend is so much less progressive than we are in the West, misogynistic ideals and a whole host of other cross-cultural cross-societal ills is as broad and diverse as the people who uphold and abide by them.

It doesn’t matter the country or culture because people are people, and not all of us are good. And of those of us who are good, not all of us are completely good.  Simply, we live in a world of mostly good intentioned people, but amongst those good people is another more insidious element that we should all be afraid of.  They are there.  We don’t know who they are but, we work with them and go to school with them and we talk to them while waiting in line at the register.

Why don’t I watch the news?

Because it makes me angry, and because it scares and saddens me. Watching the news makes me lose faith in the world and the people in it. And, I’ll sound a little Sybil-ish here, it also gives me a tiny bit of weird hope. In our ever shrinking global community we are learning more and more about each other and as such we are slowly eliminating misconceptions about people who are different from us. We are sharing the best of ourselves and hopefully doing away with the worst. As long as there is an Earth with people living on her face, we will see ugliness and injustice and error, but things can be better, right? This is my hope.

This also brings me to the topic of my writing. My major WIP, Bilqis, which will be book one of the Hinterland Chronicles, echoes much of my woes about the state of the world we live in, personal and global.

I am fortunate to have had extremely few openly racist or anti-Muslim experiences in my life. I’ve had people say some incredibly asinine things to me, but I’m not hypersensitive and I can generally determine the difference between malice and ignorance. With that said, we all know that racism still exists and anti-Muslim sentiment is pervasive and in many instances heartily accepted. This is what the Hinterland Chronicles addresses.

What I’ve attempted to create is a world/society that is scarred by religious turmoil and racism, much like our own. Imagine that the government, with the best of intentions, has tried to solve the issue of religious and racial divisiveness by outlawing the practice of any faith. Imagine that those people who persist in religious observances are punished, ostracized, and ejected from the major cities. Imagine that they are forced to make their lives scavenging off the land which is a vast wasteland.

What do you think would happen?

I’m still working on the first draft, but it is difficult to write about issues of faith/religion without sounding as if I am preaching and proselytizing, which I am not. I pray that I am successful.

We should absolutely mine information from our experiences and the world for our writing.  This includes the news.  I suppose I’m simply not strong enough to tolerate it… or to say it in a more forgiving way, I’m too sensitive. On second thought, it isn’t an altogether bad thing is it? Aren’t most writers and artists intuitive deep thinking individuals?

If they’re not… shhh. Don’t ruin the illusion. I kind of like it.

Little Annoyances

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Tapping a Pencil

Rennett Stowe via Compfight

 At the end of last month I received an email from Amazon in which I was informed that my KDP Select title, An Unproductive Woman, was in danger of being nixed from the program.  Apparently, against KDP guidelines, my novel is still available on iTunes.  Amazon furnished a link and they were, of course, correct.

I immediately contacted Smashwords, as I’d previously published with them, to report this.  To my shock, as I’d totally forgotten, I was informed that Smashwords had removed their copy of my book from iTunes.  The culprit was Xlibris. It is their copy of my ebook that remains available on iTunes.

When I first published An Unproductive Woman in 2008, I did so through Xlibris, believing their package offered so much for so little, believing they would provide the great entrance I needed into the “writing life”.  (I know.)  I try not to live my life with regrets. I make decisions that I am willing to live with.  Even if things go awry in the end, I willingly, if not happily, chock it up to a lesson learned and am able to move on.  That is how I feel about my time with Xlibris.  In fact, Xlibris, as costly as it was for me, taught me what the “self” in self-publishing is all about and what it is definitely not all about… if that makes any sense.

In 2008, I was working full time and back in school so once An Unproductive Woman was officially published, I did absolutely nothing to promote it, until about a year ago when I remembered that I had a book somewhere out there languoring in the land of nothingness. I started networking and learning about self-publishing and realized that I never needed Xlibris and also that they have done little else for me other than make my book available via distribution to the public at large, and ask me for more money.

In May of this year, when I decided to enter Amazon’s KDP Select program for a three month “let’s see if this will make any difference in sales” trial, I contacted Xlibris and asked that they remove my ebook from all other distribution channels.  I did the same with Smashwords.  Once all looked clear, I signed on and… tada!  I’m selling thousands of copies a month.

Just kidding.

Actually, I’ve gone from selling a copy every couple of months to a very modest few each month.  Very modest.  Extremely modest.  Painfully modest.  But, nonetheless this is an improvement.  I never expected my efforts, the few that time allows me, to bring about overnight success or over decade success, to be completely honest.  I like writing and I’d do it even if I wasn’t getting paid.  Which is not to say that I don’t want to be paid, only that I write because I must.

In any case, between May and October my novel apparently was never removed from iTunes.  And, when I contacted Xlibris a couple of weeks ago, I was assured they’d clear up the situation.  In the interim, I’ve contacted iTunes directly.  Did you know they have NO call center and even sending an email is a pain?  And when you do send emails it is almost always to the wrong department and you almost always get a form email back that lists a half a dozen other links to help you solve your problem.  Of course none of those links will address your issue either.

My book is still on iTunes.

I called Xlibris back again today.  Do you know how aggravating it is to speak to a different person each time and have to repeat your problem each time?  Have you any idea?  Yeah.

So, as I write this post I simmer… but only a little.  My point here, other than a tiny bit of venting is this:

  1. If you ever decide to self-publish, know that you can do it on your own at little to no cost to yourself.
  2. The online community of indie authors is enormous and enormously generous.  If you get stuck, they will help you, coach you, befriend you, congratulate you, support you, encourage you, walk you through processes, and commiserate with you and none of it will cost you a penny.
  3. When you have a day where some little annoyance makes you feel like you may tip over the edge, stop and reflect.  I guarantee that you have so much to be grateful for.  It could always be worse.

There.  I feel better.  How about you?