Yes, Dear Book, Let’s Go With $2.99 For a Bit!

Wiping Window_photo art by Brenda Perlin

Book marketing is like dieting: occasionally necessary but tends to make one cranky.

At least that’s what book marketing has been to me, especially after so many years of doing it, so much desire to do it well, and so much sensitivity about not eliciting eye-rolls from those weary of hearing about my precious tomes. I’m probably overly-sensitive about such things; I’d guess that’s based on my own weariness with book marketers on social media (relentless… have you seen Twitter??). One does have to be judicious, doesn’t one?

Truth be told, I don’t know how successful I’ve been in my own marketing efforts. Sales have been sporadic and unpredictable, titles struggle to stay afloat in the sheer ocean of available books, and promised reviews from both readers and editorial writers have too often not materialized. But I do get an inkling, from time-to-time, of my marketing success. When new readers write to tell me my book reflected their life, made them laugh, brought them to tears, or, as one fellow wrote about my first novel, After The Sucker Punch, “it’s going to help me in my lifelong quest to understand women.” That’s when you know your efforts have struck the right chords.

And since it’s been a while since I’ve attempted any book-related chord-striking, I thought I’d take a moment away from slogging through Draft 1 of my latest effort (a third novel set to launch… well, not sure when it’s set to launch), to gussy up my second, HYSTERICAL LOVE, for a little “Kindle Countdown” love:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

That’s three full days of sale… which is lovely, because the ebook typically sells for $6.99 (still a bargain when you consider the price of movie tickets or that non-fat latte!). So please stop by to take advantage of this brief but welcoming sale price to enjoy a book that’s received delightfully widespread kudos!

Let me share a bit about it:

HYSTERICAL LOVE tells the story of Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, who finds his pending marriage tossed after a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier. Out of the house for longer than expected, and unable to breach the gap with Jane, life is further upended when he reads a story written by his ailing father about a lost love of fifty years ago that appears to haunt him still.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan sets off on a wild ride beset with detours, twists, and semi-hilarious peril in search of this woman from his father’s past, convinced she holds the key to happiness for them all. Along the way he collides with an eclectic array of characters — particularly the preternaturally stunning Fiona — leading to unexpected truths and, ultimately, the story’s  startling conclusion.

Hysterical Love explores themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

HL_camera2_photo art by Brenda Perline

Want some reviews to further intrigue you?

Hysterical Love: Review by Barb Taub @ Writing & Coffee Book Blog:

“I never found a writer who was as good as DH Lawrence, but who could also get into a man’s head and tell that story. Until now…Wilke combines humor, terrific writing, and some none-too-gently acquired truths into a different kind of relationship story.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Ali Levett @ A Woman’s Wisdom Book Blog:

“This is one of those books which exceeded all my expectations. I was expecting a romance with a couple of twists to the tale but what I got was something far deeper and more satisfying…If you want a book with many layers and to be thoroughly entertained by a cracking story then this one is for you.” (Read more…) 

Hysterical Love @ Kirkus Reviews:

“Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective… A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: Judge; 3rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards:

“The author has an incredible skill for storytelling and her voice is without reproach. The novel is well designed, well-edited and of high production quality.”

Hysterical Love: reviewed by Charla White @ WordsAPlenty:

“Wilke is passionate about the development of her characters as they come to life with each word. The reader cannot help but connect to her characters. The plot is strong, fresh, balanced and delivered skillfully. It is a moving story and is a must read for anyone who has been, is, or thinks they may fall in love someday.

Don’t miss this book. It is a wonderful read. Wilke is a truly gifted writer and one to watch grow; she will continue to provide thought-provoking stories based on real issues. WordsAPlenty gives this book a highly deserved 5 star rating.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love @ Literary Fiction Book Review:

“The narrative is effectively told through first person, with Daniel candidly confiding his fears and confusion to the reader. Devon Wilke manages to convey the male psyche with a good-natured humor that seems eminently believable. Hysterical Love is a deftly told tale about not only the search for love in the 21st century, but about seeking a greater understanding of the intricacies of the human heart, about love in all its various forms and disguises: puppy love, lost love, emerging love, enduring love, and of course, hysterical love.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Tracy Slowiak @ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews:

“Oh my, oh my! I just finished reading Hysterical Love, the newest novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke, and I must say, I simply adored it! Lorraine Devon Wilke’s writing style is witty, pointed and funny, even hilarious at times.” (Read more…)

[More HERE, if you’re interested.]

So, that’s the pitch. Now go get your copy and… enjoy the read!

Once again:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the lovely price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

HL photo art by Brenda Perlin.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Documentarian, Louise Amandes, Talks Cartoonists, Collaboration, And Getting Into San Diego Comic-Con

Louise Amandes

“I opened up the email and saw the first word — ‘Congratulations!‘ — I called Ron instantly, jumping up and down like a teenage girl. Ron was driving and had to pull over just so we could relish the moment. We both worked so hard on this film, for almost five years; it felt incredible to have it recognized with such a great honor!”

That’s filmmaker, Louise Amandes, sharing the moment she found out Bezango, WA, her documentary feature made with producing/directing partner, Ron Austin, had been selected for exhibition by the prestigious San Diego Comic-Con. As any independent filmmaker knows, these are the moments, rare and wonderful, that can truly change the trajectory of one’s career, of one’s project; bringing it to an audience it might not have found otherwise; allowing it to be discovered in an artistic field of thousands of offerings. Simply put, it can be life-changing.

When I started blogging several years ago, one of my missions was to use the platform I had to shine whenever light I could on the artists, the projects, the smaller, more independent endeavors, that often get lost in the sea of art and craft available in our burgeoning marketplace. Bezango, WA, and Louise Amandes, seemed perfect candidates, so I sat down with her to get a bit more perspective on her and this unique project.

A feature-length documentary, Bezango, WA, focuses on an eclectic and vibrant community of Seattle-area cartoonists, sharing their wide gamut of artistic styles and sensibilities, along with glimpses into individual philosophies, creative processes, even the struggles inherent in making art while attempting to make a living.

An eclectic artist herself, Louise knows a little something about both the joy and struggle of the artist’s life. Throughout a long and colorful career, she’s worked as a screenwriter and songwriter, improv actor, drummer; talented graphic artist and web designer, along with her “day job” as a sought-after Seattle massage therapist (she was the on-set consultant for director/writer Lynn Shelton’s film, Touchy Feely, starring Rosemarie DeWitt and Ellen Page). With such a diverse background herself, it’s not hard to picture her finding affinity with artists in the cartooning community, many of whom she met, along with creative partner, Ron Austin, while studying animation and motion graphics.

My first question, Louise, is how did you and Ron come to work together, and how did you arrive at the idea of doing a documentary on “Seattle cartoonists”?

Ron and I made a few short films together early on, and when it came time to decide on our next film, he had the idea of focusing on the cartoonists and comic artists of the Seattle area, where we are both based. Ron has been part of the cartooning community here for many years; he’s dabbled in cartooning himself, and was involved in the cartoon group, Cartoonists Northwest, so he knew there was a rich assortment of stories to tell about this particular genre of artist.

But neither one of us had any idea how to actually tackle the subject, even whether to make a feature film or create a web series. We decided to start by interviewing a few cartoonists and see where it evolved from there. We originally had a select group we were talking to and thought about focusing the project largely on them, but as word got out about what we were doing, more and more people started recommending we interview this person or that person. We came to discover there was this vast community of extremely talented artists here, who support and inspire each other through all kinds of events and collaborations, and we quickly realized this community was the heart of the story.

One can really sense, while watching the film, how much you respect and admire both the creativity and the struggles these people experience in making art in a challenging market.

That’s true. As artists ourselves, particularly indie artists with our own set of challenges, Ron and I wanted to highlight these incredibly talented people who never stop doing their art despite the struggles of living in an area like Seattle, which has become a very expensive place to live, and working in a field that’s highly competitive and not always lucrative. Our goal with Bezango, WA was to honor that commitment to their work, and reflect just how real and “down home,” in a way, these artists are despite those struggles.

Bezango_SanDiegoComicCon

Independent films come with inherent challenges for any production team, particularly given the lower budgets and limited production personnel. While it’s not common for a creative team to both wear the hats of “producer” and “director,” the success of Bezango, WA makes clear that you and your partner figured it out!


Can you give us an idea of how you two divvied up the production and creative tasks during the years of putting the film together?

We both had our hands in every element of making the film. Ron was the chief financial contributor and I was in charge of production. In the beginning, Ron did a lot of the cinematography, while I set up the interviews and staged the shots, setting up the lighting and audio. At first I didn’t even know how to use the DSLR camera, but over time I got a handle on it, and we ended up filming with two cameras for each interview… giving us a much better selection of shots to choose from. As we moved into post-production, I did a larger percentage of the editing, as well as setting up the music for Brian Cobb to create, and working closely with Andrew Lloyd, our sound editor. Ron also had a hand in the editing, music, and sound, but the bulk of that was done by me to balance out his financial contribution.

Your respect and affinity for this particular community is evident in every frame of the film, from the stunning “beauty shots” of the Pacific Northwest, to the intimate and revealing conversations with individual artists. The vulnerability and openness of many, the shared stories and candid perspectives offered, give testament to their commensurate respect for the celebratory intent of the film, making it a mutual admiration event! Tell me, what are the reactions Bezango, WA is inspiring, and what do you most hope people get out of it?

The reviews, both personal and editorial, have largely been positive. People have let us know how much they enjoyed learning about this group of artists, learning about this industry that so many had no idea existed. Some feedback suggested we’d included too many artists in the original edit, so we took a look at that and have edited it down since the original screenings. But for those interested, the original, full-length version of the film will be the one screened at San Diego Comic-Con.

As for what I hope people get out of it: It was really important to Ron and me to use our medium to educate the world about these artists, their art, and their struggles. I hope, after viewing the film, that people have a better understanding of this community, and will support these great artists who work so hard to put out amazing work, especially those from the area we feature. One of the best comments I continue to hear from people is that they feel we’ve educated them about a community they had no idea existed, one they will now definitely support by buying more graphic novels and comic books.

I know you’ve done a number of screenings at various film festivals and regional events since the film’s completion, but getting selected for the San Diego Comic-Con is quite a prestigious honor, one, I hope, that vaults the film, and you as filmmakers, into the next stratosphere. Having seen and enjoyed your documentary immensely, I very much agree that it offers unique insight into a very specialized art form, one which I had little knowledge of up till now, while revealing the universal struggle that exists with artists of many mediums. It’s a both wonderful testament to, and a window into, the world of the talented group you feature. I encourage audiences and appreciators of art to grab a badge and get to the screening.

Speaking of which, how can readers see the film this coming week at Comic-Con?

People with Comic-Con badges can see the film on Friday, July 22nd, at 11:05 am PST-12:50 pm PST. It will be screened in Pacific Ballroom 23 on the , 1st floor of the Marriott Marquis right next to the Convention Center. There will be a Q &A after the film with Ron and I, which will also include Frank M. Young, David Lasky, and Pat Moriarity, who are featured artists in the film.

Thanks, Louise, for sharing a bit about your documentary. I have no doubt Comic-Con attendees will find it as inspiring as I did. I wish you and Ron all the best with its continued rollout, and look forward to seeing what’s next from you.

You’re welcome, and thanks for helping get the word out. Every independent artist knows — including me! — that our task is to find the balance in creating great work, getting it seen, heard, and appreciated, and, at the same time, assuring one’s survival and forward motion. Which makes me all the more honored to have our little film selected for this event. I’m looking forward to the feedback and excitement it will bring to our artists, our film, and to us as filmmakers. We’re happy to be included and hope to see lots of you there!

BEZANGO, WA: San Diego Comic-Con, Friday, July 22nd, 11:05 am PST-12:50 pm PST, in the Pacific Ballroom 23, 1st floor, Marriott Marquis.

Photograph of Louise by Deb Rosof; photo & trailer by permission of Louise Amandes

For more information check the Bezango, WA website, and enjoy the trailer below:

BEZANGO, WA TRAILER from AUSTINAMANDES on Vimeo.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Power of Solidarity Trumps the Fickleness of Fanaticism

Senator Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton
So, Senator Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton.

It is the dawn of a new day; a day in which those on the Left (or even sorta Left!)—Democrats, progressives, liberals, lefties, democratic socialists, humanists, greeners, even some libertarians—could, if they choose, come together to coalesce, compromise, and collaborate to bring progressive, compassionate, socially responsible ideas to fruition under the leadership of Secretary Clinton with great progressive fighters like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by her side.

There is power in that solidarity, especially against the inane, idiotic, and utterly irresponsible demagoguery of the Orange Man on the right… OR even the hate-filled about-face denigrations and attacks on Sanders from some of his most rabid “former” supporters on the Left (the politically faint-of-heart may want to stay off social media for a bit!).

Those of us who care about such things as solidarity and forward motion—who care more about our fellow citizens than “election ego,” who see incremental progress (usually the only kind that happens in the real world) as worthy of our efforts and commitment; who reject the lies and misinformation of oppositional mudslinging, and who understand that no candidate is perfect, no candidate has all the answers, no candidate can get everything done they wish to get done, and that the best candidates come together to offer the best outcomes toward changing the world for the better—are applauding Senator Sanders’ endorsement.

Because we understand that, regardless of campaign rhetoric and its de rigueur focus on all that divides, post-campaign reconciliation comes with the putting down of arms (so to speak), the dismissal of previously bandied bad-mouthing, and the rejection of oppositional dialogue. It embraces the Venn Diagram of platforms and ideology, and accepts that the attention once put on differentiation is now put on common ground and the solidarity of shared priorities.

I was not a Sanders supporter, but I understood those who were, and shared many of their causes and concerns. I believed then, as I believe now, that Clinton and Sanders are far more aligned than that notorious campaign rhetoric suggested, and I found it extremely disheartening when the most rabid, the most vitriolic and aggressively fanatical of supporters on the Left, chose to make this an ugly, hate-filled war instead of just a “feisty campaign.”

I lost respect for many I knew who were “in the mud” in that ugly war, who insisted that “pointing out differences” meant spreading lies and misinformation, sharing debunked and salacious gossip and propaganda, promoting the worst they could scrape up of the oppositional candidate rather than focusing on celebrating and supporting their own. It got ugly, real ugly, and much has been written (some by me) about the unfortunate, unnecessary, and, in some cases, “friend-ending” nastiness of the haters and mud-slingers.

But now we can leave all that to the Right… right?

We on the Left can celebrate the fact that those of us who refused to grovel in that mud can now bone fidely unify around the Democratic ticket, can join hands to fight the true battle against the profoundly unqualified candidate on the right, and can gird ourselves for the ugliness and idiocy that will no doubt be a part of the general campaign up ahead. But at least we Dems are unified…

… though it seems we’ll still have to endure—at least until their venom peters out or their slinging arms weary—the ugliness of former Sanders supporters who have now turned on their heretofore hero. Sadly, it was expected, particularly after witnessing the mind-boggling attacks on Elizabeth Warren after she endorsed Clinton, but still… the fickleness of fanaticism is showing its hateful head in Tweets, Facebook comments, Reddit hysteria, and general online trolling attacks on Sanders (along with implications that he’s a pathetic, spineless puppet squirming under the thumb of the Clinton machine… yes, H.A. Goodman actually went there!). It remains disheartening. Predictable, shameful, counter-productive, and disheartening.

Which makes it all the more inspiring and energizing to see the loyalty, the support, the passion, the belief, and now the coalescence of those jumping in to support the Democratic ticket… which will only get more exciting when Clinton announces her VP choice. I’m choosing to ignore the haters, the naysayers, the foot-stomping “unrealists,” to, instead, focus on the positive forward motion currently in play. I suggest—I urge—everyone who understands the stakes, the incremental nature of progress, and the value and power of compromise, coalition, and collaboration, to do the same.

Because that’s where the power is: in solidarity and coalescence. And that’s how we’ll ensure that progressive, compassionate, big-tent, open-hearted governance continues in the White House.

Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

It’s Writers And Editors Who Are Most Honored On July 4th…Really! (a Redux)

Given my knee-deepness in cranking out novel #3, my blog has, once again, been sadly neglected. So this “oldie but goodie” 4th of July post, a favorite of mine, stands in as a worthy re-share for the holiday. Enjoy and celebrate!

Flag Waver_by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Teacher: “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?”

Student: “On the bottom.”
From Top Ten Fourth of July Jokes For Kids


As a writer, a grammarian of sorts, and certainly someone who edits and fine-tunes everything I write within an inch of its life, the 4th of July holds special meaning to me. Which may seem surprising. Why, you may ask, does this most iconic of American holidays, one celebrated with parades, picnics, flags and fireworks in honor of our country’s glorious state of independence, resonate with a writer and editor? Simple: the day is a celebration, of sorts, of our most noble profession.

Don’t believe me? If you do even the most cursory research on exactly why we’ve come to celebrate this exact date, what you’ll likely find is a myriad of hazily similar but often inaccurate facts, with at least one that’s indisputable: what actually happened on the fourth day of July in 1776:

It was the day the writers and editors of the document finally gave a thumbs-up to the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

It wasn’t signed that day, it wasn’t declared as law that day; it was simply (or not so simply!) the day it passed muster with a fierce group of literary and legal minds who understood its importance and wanted to be certain every word, every pause, every piece of punctuation was exactly as intended. Historical website, ConstitutionFacts.com, confirms that on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress – after much editing, tweaking, and rewriting of previous drafts – finally approved what would be the ultimate, accepted verbiage of this momentous document. And while certainly those of us who traffic in our own versions of such literary activities find the accomplishment meritorious of a firework or two, it was not widely seen at the time as worthy of celebration. In fact, it was a frustrated John Adams who stepped up years later to pop the day into the cultural zeitgeist. Well, maybe not the day itself, but the celebration of the day. And maybe he didn’t exactly pop it, but he did have something to do with kicking it into gear.

That celebrating the 4th needed to be kicked into gear is not all that surprising once you’re aware that the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that auspicious and momentous occasion memorialized by countless fine art paintings and stentorian expressions of oratory, actually occurred on August 2nd of 1776. Almost a month later. So how, you ask, did “July 4, 1776” come to be the “day of American independence”?

Likely in honor of those writers and editors who fine-tuned the document into its final form. The date “July 4, 1776” was affixed to the original handwritten copy they completed that was then signed by our most celebrated of Founding Fathers on August 2,1776, the copy that now hangs in the National Archive in Washington, D.C. The date “July 4, 1776” was also printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the “original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation.” For those two obvious reasons, July 4, 1776 became the official date attributed to our Declaration of Independence.

And, really, after all these years and all our “4th of July” celebrations, doesn’t “the 2nd of August” just sound feeble?

But still, no attendant celebrations occurred until many years after 1776, the country and its citizens far too distracted by the demands of burgeoning democracy to party down at the time. It seems, much like today, that partisan divides between the various political factions were fierce and unrelenting, and much of the rancor had to do with the Declaration itself. Some, the Democratic-Republicans (can you imagine a party actually combining those two disparate political assignations?), supported Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration; the Federalists on the other side thought it was a bunch of pro-French/anti-British hooey. The only things missing from this colonial melee were cable news and blowharding talk show hosts!

And with that political rumble as a backdrop, as well as the War of 1812 to contend with, who had time to think about fireworks? At least the pretty kind that blew up in the sky? But despite these many distractions, the date was an important marker for the aforementioned – and very outspoken – John Adams. In 1817, this Founding Father and well-known letter-writer is said to have written a missive expressing his frustration that, by ignoring the  momentousness of its historical milestones, America seemed “uninterested in its past.” The complaint apparently struck a chord:

As post-1812 War politics shifted, the “anti-Declaration” Federalists spun into disarray and by the 1820s and 1830s, the political parties that evolved from this seismic shift came to agree on at least one thing: that all Americans were “inheritors” of what Jefferson and his party had wrought: the glorious Declaration of Independence. National pride spiked, copies went flying around the nation as evidence of America’s greatness (all dated, as noted earlier, with “July 4, 1776”), and attitudes about the date and the importance of its celebration changed. Particularly when, in what can only be seen as a confluence of epic and cosmic perfection, both men so instrumental in establishing this profound document – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – died within hours of each other on July 4th, 1826, forever anointing the date as one of monumental significance to the United States of America.

So between his signing of the Declaration, his grumbling letter of 1817, and his eerily well-timed denouement (giving Jefferson a nod for the same!), John Adams more than played his part in helping define this day as worthy of celebration. It took Congress almost 100 years after the initial signing to codify the date into American culture, but it was declared in 1870 that the “4th of July” was, indeed, and would always be, a national holiday.

Which in every community in America translates to warm, neighborly activities, the excitement of children waving sparklers against a star-lit sky, wonderful food shared with friends and family, fireworks to “ooh” and “ahh” over, and, of most importance, the sense of enduring community and national pride based on ideals – and a very well-written and edited document – of stellar and unassailable grandeur.

John Adams would be smiling. Certainly writers and editors across the land are!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Dear Book Promotion Site: Nope, No Reason At All To Ask Me My Age

photo-1458175049065-aefb15b1b58b

I was on a book promotional site recently, cheerfully filling out the required information, when I got to a section that stopped me cold: they wanted to know my birthday. Not just the day and month, but even the year. And this was not something you had the option to keep private, as Facebook and other social media sites allow; they were going to post this information, big, bold and all “happy birthday to you,” as a requisite feature of your page.

My first thought was: What, are we in third grade? Do we get cupcakes? Are we sent coupons? My second thought was (and I realize that “first thought” was more than one): Really? In this day and age of rampant ageism and privacy invasion you’re going to require writers to share their birthdays on a public page?

It was an odd request all around, given that age has no relevance to the mission statement of the site, but, for whatever reasons (demographic research? marketing focus? nosy?), it was required and so I opted out. Beyond the reality that there are so many other similar sites of which to avail oneself, the more salient issue is that when even job applications are legally prohibited from asking age in the effort to preempt age discrimination, why would a book site make that clumsy request a requirement?

That I’m compelled to discuss this is actually kind of sad. Because, in a perfect world, we, particularly we women, would proudly state our age without a thought beyond its being an indication of our wisdom, our knowledge, our accrued years of experience. We would “come out,” so to speak, as vibrant, vital examples of whatever age we are, successfully debunking archaic, antiquated models of the same. In a perfect world, we would judge people – again, particularly women – based not on their youthfulness, weight, beauty, body shape, number of selfies, sexual allure, or the size of their upper or lower halves, but by the value of their work, their creativity, their contribution to society, their general excellence as members of the human race. In a perfect world we wouldn’t give one good f**k how old someone is.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

In the world in which we do live, people lose jobs, are refused opportunities, are downsized, or led firmly out the door of many a business simply because they’ve “aged out,” regardless of skill set or ability to do the job well. Professionals in any number of fields are dismissed or ignored, find they’re getting fewer auditions, even fewer jobs; perceived as “dated” simply because they’ve lived beyond the “desirable demographic,” rather than because their talent has diminished (in fact, talent typically deepens with age). Resumes are tossed because the human resources department can ascertain age-range from someone’s work experience and, well, too old is just not good for the company’s brand image.

Incorrect and clichéd presumptions are made about what learning skills a more mature person can handle and develop, the most prevalent being that those older than “fill in the blank” won’t/can’t keep up with changing technology. And women in positions of power are regularly denigrated, insulted, and attacked simply for moving out of their youthful, sexually attractive prime and into their more mature, matron years.

In a perfect world, this sort of age intolerance, discrimination, and bigotry would be unthinkable. Elders would be revered, as they once were, viewed as powerful sages to whom younger generations would look for guidance, wisdom, experience, and perspective. But in our very imperfect world, in our age-obsessed, terrified, fixated, panicked, confused world, ageism is so knee-jerk as to be the norm.

Which is ridiculous, particularly for those of ages considered “too old” who are there out climbing mountains, traveling the world, inventing innovative products, competing in marathons, negotiating peace treaties, writing bestsellers, and breaking barriers of every kind in every field. Humans live much longer than they used to; the smart people widen their perspective of “perceived value” to include those of any age offering skills, smarts, savvy, wisdom, and creativity of value to the culture, age be damned!

Until then… well, that brings us back to that book promotion site and my birthday.

It’s not vanity, it’s not shame; it’s about perception that can impact one’s ability to move forward unencumbered by stereotypes and limitations. Ideally, given what everyone in this day and age knows about the pervasiveness of age discrimination, the question shouldn’t be asked. It’s irrelevant. Or should be. And if it is relevant to whomever is asking, one can only question why. But regardless of who’s asking or their reason, you don’t have to give it to them.

Or if you have to, or choose to, pick a number that fits your soul, not the years of your body. Then again, if you are so moved to make a political stand for cultural disobedience, tell them your damn age and let the chips fall where they may. If you lose jobs, opportunities, or shots at career advancement because that number is used against you, write a bestseller about it…. and then run – without a damn walker – all the way to the bank!

But whatever the choice, how about we all just avail ourselves of work and art we like, vote for people we trust; hire those who seem best fit for the job, and judge anything we come upon based solely on merit, not the age of the person who created, invented, shared, or inspired it?

Because, really, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” seems apt not only for the book, but for the person who wrote it.

Photo by Anna Vander Stel @ Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

We’ve Reached That Point: This Election Is Like Fighting With Your Boyfriend

Or girlfriend. Or that customer service rep at the insurance company, your cable provider, or any one of those monolithic corporations that cyclically make your head explode.

You know that point in a fight:

You’ve exhausted all worthy material but you keep going just for the sake of “principle.” Every known argument has been made, debated or deflected to no avail, but you can’t keep yourself from hitting even lower below the belt. Any reasonableness or respectfulness of earlier has devolved into epic flinging of invectives and epithets, some you didn’t even know you knew. The mantra of “wait… just LISTEN!!” comes with increased decibels of volume and venom to the point that neighbors call, dogs bark; walls are up, minds are closed, stress chemicals flow, rational thought exits, and no one can possibly win because it’s a zero sum game. But still… you keep throwing that mud until someone finally collapses under the weight.

Welcome to Election 2016, the Democrats.

(I’m ignoring the Republicans until we settle this mess.)

We’re there, folks. We Democrats are at that point. It’s ugly and wounding and has absolutely no value, but still people are out there trying to draw blood any way they can. They’re posting propaganda, screaming “fuck yous” at opposition rallies, ripping up kids’ posters, sharing unsubstantiated slander and gossip, and acting like the very worst the worst has to offer… and couching it all in the nobility of “fighting for my candidate.”

Witnessing this insanity as a sane bystander — one hoping to stay politically involved without being sucked into the maelstrom — is as soul-killing as that awful road trip your sophomore year when the couple in the front seat screamed at each other from Redding to Lake Tahoe and later demanded that you take sides if you were “a true friend!”

That kind of soul-killing.

We Democrats probably reached the zero sum game months ago. Or at least after the New York primary. When the idea of trashing the winning candidate to aggrandize the other just made the entire ticket seems as nuts as the Republicans. Beyond the math, beyond arguing the math; beyond delusion and fanaticism and revolutions and glass ceilings and wishful thinking and slogans and hashtags and conspiracies and finger-pointing and idiotic celebrities and Westboro-style harassers and sexism and ageism and all of it, the jig is up. Whatever you think the ending is going to be isn’t the point. You can have hope, you can have faith, you can keep fighting the good fight, but fighting the bad fight gets us nowhere.

And we are fighting the bad fight. And it is getting us nowhere.

Let’s be honest: we’re deep enough into this thing that odds are good everyone’s taken their positions. They know where they stand, who they’re supporting and why, so preaching from here on out is only to the choir. As long as folks are happy with that harmony, keep on a’preachin’! But anyone who thinks there’s anything to be gained from the incessant posting of the most incendiary, salacious stuff they can find on the other candidate in hopes of — what? convincing someone to jump on their bandwagon? — has missed the trajectory of this narrative.

Even if — in the most random of circumstances — there really is anyone left who doesn’t feel informed enough to make a choice, that person has to know they aren’t going to get an unbiased, objective education from the posts of oppositional supporters. Let’s start with that truism.

So, given that, may I suggest to ALL who continue to post ridiculous things like videos screeching, “If you would still vote for Hillary Clinton after watching this 4-min video…,” or anonymous blog posts by someone who’s talked to someone who knows a doctor who says Sanders has Alzheimer’s, or scurrilous and slanderous propaganda from sites run by known Hillary-haters, or unsubstantiated dirt on Jane Sanders, or slimy posts about Chelsea Clinton’s mothering, or…STOP. JUST STOP.

It’s over. The fight is over. It no longer has any merit whatsoever and continuing it will only toxify any good thing that still exists between you and the other side and what’s the point of that? There’s still Trump out there.

If, despite the math, Sanders supporters want to continue to promote positive information about their guy as a way to keep the team going, great. If Clinton supporters want to shout their enthusiasm from the rooftops, they should be able to do that without enduring a gauntlet of verbal abuse. But beyond in-house, in-candidate, to-the-choir pumping up, there is no where else to go with this fight.

We’re at that point. It’s obvious, everyone knows, let’s not get the neighbors on their phones again.

When you hit the wall-of-no-return with your customer service rep, that call is terminated (either by you or them), services may be cancelled, grievances may be filed. When you reach that point with a significant other, one of you has to have the wherewithal to shut the f**k up, leave the room/house/apartment, walk off the adrenaline, and detach until both parties can manage rational conversation, sincere apologies, and a willingness to let go of past rancor (that’s a big one!).

And at that point in a party primary, everyone on oppositional sides has to put down the swords, eschew further debasement, and attempt to reframe the debate. There has to be a willingness to reconsider whatever indoctrination has been amassed or allowed to flow freely, to change the filter to look at the bigger picture, to see past preconceived ideas, and find a way back to party unity.

That’s what grown-ups do. That’s what this party needs to do. Now. Not later. Now. Whatever happens at the convention is another moment. This moment is the one where we acknowledge the zero sum game we’ve been fighting and step off this battlefield, to rejuvenate and rehabilitate to take on the bigger battle ahead.

Are Democrats and those in their camp willing and able to do that? I don’t know. I hope so. We’ll have our answer when the intra-party, click-bait, poop-throwing mud-fest on social media finally stops. That can’t happen soon enough… I swear I hear the phone ringing.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Mother Of My Reinvention… our continuing journey

– my mother... Chicago, 1953
– my mother… Chicago, 1953

Tucked in her lift chair, chilled and uneasy, she waits for tea and dry toast to calm her daily quarrel with queasiness and hunger. With a raised eyebrow and sardonic grin, she remarks, “It ain’t easy gettin’ old.” I commiserate, but she dismisses my empathy; tells me I’m too young to understand. I don’t bother to correct her.

She’s tired, though she’s been in bed since breakfast. It’s a long day by two o’clock, and not necessarily a good one. Though there are good ones: days when she plays Bingo, sings along with glee, or gets to video Mass in the community room. She still relishes her three squares and always brightens at the sight of chocolate. She’s now in a wheelchair full-time but loves a roll around the park. She’s almost eighty-seven, a widow for seventeen years, and a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient for six-and-a-half.

She is my mother.

Pensive Mom

I left home—and her—a long time ago. I left hard and fast, no quibbling or weepy boomeranging. My mother refers to this as, “when you ran away,” which isn’t far from the truth. It had been a challenging childhood.

I am a third child, the third girl in a family of eleven children. My two older sisters and I, by virtue of gender and birth order, became “little mommies” for smaller, younger siblings while we were still smaller, younger siblings ourselves. And though being in charge of an infant at six-years-old is, perhaps, too steep a learning curve, the responsibility did promote skills found useful later in life. I not only learned to change diapers, feed babies, and wrangle toddlers, I became adept at making meals, doing laundry, and running interference for a mercurial and confounding mother. And that was before I got to high school.

– her high school years
– her in high school

By the time I did get to high school I was bone-weary of family, and desperate to fly. Somewhere. Anywhere. Graduation couldn’t come quick enough and my departure for college was so swift high school friends claim I never even said good-bye. I don’t remember; I was moving too fast. I came home the summer after freshman year, but by the next I was gone for good. My first apartment was a hideous ninety-dollar-a-month single with lousy furniture and a stuttering landlady, but it may as well have been heaven.VirginiaAmandes_8_ w:Phil_early marrieds

It wasn’t just the weight of trading too much childhood for “little mommy-hood.” It wasn’t just the burden of my parents’ religion with its restrictive view of human interaction (anything related to boys and sex). It wasn’t even that one-on-one time in a big family was too spare to be satisfying. It was that I couldn’t find an honest way to consistently and compassionately tolerate my mother.

She was a paradox. One minute clever and creative, the next enraged and irrational. She was impossible to predict and easy to trigger. She loved music, did a mean jitterbug, and had a wildly romantic relationship with the handsome Greek/American who was my father. She could make any day a holiday, taught us that fun was our birthright, and, oh, she loved with a passion. All this provided the good that pushed against the other. Her dark side. The turbulent state that came with frenzied tears, cold silences, or rages that scattered us like terrified animals.

She tried; I believe she sincerely tried, but she was undeniably overwhelmed by a family too large to manage, a husband often too detached to meet her emotional needs, and a psyche too fragile to offer the flexibility and endurance required by the job.

So when I left, I stayed away and kept her away. She and my father didn’t meet my husband until years after we eloped and I’d already given birth to a son. They were that distant and I was that intractable.

But life is surprising. You grow older and live longer. You stumble on expectations not met, cringe at the sharp pangs of disappointment and heartache, and you learn some things. You learn that not all dreams come true, not all promises are kept. Life humbles and sometimes softens you. You accrue compassion for things you might not have previously understood, and that expands your view.

MDD_front porch_sm
– grandparenting with my son

It wasn’t until years after I became a parent that I saw my mother beyond the filter of a child’s eye. When I attached to my own child, and learned the frustrations, passions, and struggles of parenting, I gained perspective on what she’d experienced, many times over, in her own role as a mother. When my marriage met challenges or I felt distanced by a sometimes distant husband, I realized her anguish at the hands of her own husband’s penchant for the same. Simply put, I began to see the human behind the mother. And I had empathy.

She is a third child herself; a brother and sister preceded her. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father abandoned all three to be raised by her mother’s extended Irish family, who loved, took good care, and kept kegs flowing in the dining room. She claims it was a happy life—I’m sure much of it was—but when my father died many years after that childhood, she wailed that she’d been “abandoned” by all the men in her life, asking through tears how a father could leave his children without a look back. I had no answer for her. But it seems, regardless of her rosy, revisionist narrative, she’d suffered for it all.

She suffered for growing up without the intimacy and guidance of a mother’s love, or the constancy of a father’s. She suffered for the raging alcoholism in her family. She suffered for being an orphan whose need for love could hardly be filled. And now I, as an adult, mother, wife, and family survivor myself, was beginning to understand her story. It made me ache for her. It made my heart open.

Countless people I know are caring, or have cared, for aging parents. It’s a rite of passage and a task like no other, requiring a depth of dedication I’d rarely felt for my mother and wasn’t sure I could conjure into being if required. But ten years after my father died, my aging, rudderless mother was in need.

Mom & me in buggyHer short-term memory was slipping away and she was often sick and in pain. Incapable of caring for herself responsibly, the family was running out of options. We needed a new plan and all eyes were on me. “Look away!” a voice hollered inside my head. “You don’t have to take it on. You left a lifetime ago for good reason; it’s not your job!” That voice was loud, but its mantra rang hollow. Because I knew, as clearly as I knew when it was time to leave home, that it was my turn. It was my job.

So I leapt, all-in. No turning back, no quibbling, no lack of conviction. Mother was coming to town. With the collaboration of my brilliant and indispensable brother, and our network of family and friends, I was going to manage the care and feeding of the woman I’d fled so many years ago. And so the Tour began.

But let’s be clear: I am not a saint. Far from it. Some days I suck at the job. Some days I hate it. I wake up and feel my teeth grinding, resentful that I have to debate faceless doctors who know little about her beyond her prescription protocol, or rifle through reams of redundant paperwork to get thorny insurance issues worked out. I don’t want to drive over to her facility to have the same conversations with the same people, listen to her ask “what’s new and exciting?” a hundred times, or play that infernal card game again. I sometimes feel real anger that I’m obligated to schedule my life around “care meetings” set at inconvenient times, or “run right out” to pick up items she’s lost or broken. I cringe when I see the name of the facility on my caller ID, wondering if she’s been taken to the hospital again, is being ornery with the night staff, or… God forbid… that call. And, yes, I sometimes feel, once again, like a “little mommy,” only this time the child I’m caring for is my mother. The irony is inescapable.

Mom @ the house

But there is another side to this: an awareness of some sprouting evolution, hers and mine. In her case, the dementia creeping into her personality has done a curious thing. It’s stripped away her anger and narcissism. It’s pared her down to the purest, most basic essence of who she is. A human being who can be grateful Mom & __ photo stripand appreciative, smile even through pain, or tell me how happy she is to see me walk through a door. A woman who can genuinely thank a son for a song played at the piano after lunch, or a daughter-in-law for a thoughtful gift. Who can find delight with grandsons who make her laugh or interview her for class projects. A person who can listen to and make note of someone in front of her… even if she can’t remember who they are or what they said moments later.

This is different woman. A different mother. And this different mother is allowing me to be a different daughter.

I look through photographs of her from time-to-time to remind myself that she was once as vibrant and appealing as any young girl finding her way in the world. She had sexy legs, a smashing sense of style, and an infectious grin. She was flirtatious and sought after, ultimately loved by a man who found her beautiful and exciting. She could laugh raucously (see left:) ! ) and make others laugh as loud. I study those photographs and say to myself: “She was young once, just as you were. And you will become old, just as she is. We’re all in this together.”

And so my mother and I continue our Mutual Reinvention Tour. I have found patience; she’s become humble. I’m learning empathy, while gratitude is her new skill. The more of life she forgets, the more I’m there to remind her. We’re both evolving, transforming; that can’t be denied.

VirginiaAmandes_9_w:Phil Amandes_'70sShe looked at me recently and whispered, “I’m scared.” When I asked why, she said, “Because I’ve made so many mistakes in my life, especially with you kids.” She was concerned that, at the Gates of Heaven, she would be harshly judged, but mostly she wanted me to know she loved us all and was sorry for those mistakes.

I felt a tug. I’d been angry at her for so much of my life… the candor and vulnerability of the moment struck me. I took her hand and said, “Don’t worry, Mom; they say if you’re truly sorry, you’ve already been forgiven.”

And as I said it, I realized that, like St. Peter at the Gates and God in the Heavens, I, her third daughter, her runaway, her lost child, had forgiven her as well. And in the swirling eddy of emotions that accompanied that revelation, sweet and simple love could be found.

Precious and timely, as the Tour continues.

Mom & me_sm

Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, love, and exude tenderness and compassion for those in their care… that would be almost everyone I know.❤

* * * * * * * *

The original version of this piece was published in 2011 at The Huffington Post, but as my mother’s life evolves, and hoping to keep this the most current reflection of our continuing journey, I update it from time-to-time. One of the more recent installments was submitted to The Maine Review in 2015, where it placed second in their 2016 Rocky Coast Writing Contest. This weekend I’m posting the latest here again… in honor of Mother’s Day, in honor of mothers in general, and, very specifically, in honor of the mother in my own life… who helps me realize, year after year,  the sweetness of this closing chapter we’re writing together.

* * * * * * * * 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Competitive Creativity: What Is It Doing To Art? And To Artists?

 "Please...please pick me..."
“Please…please pick me…”

It was the second round, the one where two singers, chosen from the group of finalists, face-off against just each other; winner takes all, loser goes home. I watched my friend take his place on the stage. A handsome, supremely talented singer/songwriter, he’s written and recorded songs that could make your heart soar or break into a thousand pieces and yet there he was, singing his touching ballad with heart and soul…only to be pitted against a Broadway-style belter going full-tilt Mariah Carey on some barn-burner, and, well, you guessed it… my pal went home.

Apples and oranges. Coffee and tea. What’s the point? Both valid types of performers, both excellent at their particular craft and style, but we’re going to throw them in the pit together to decide which is better than the other.

Why do we do that to our artists?

Why do we set them against each other in situations where arbitrary standards are applied, subjective opinions rule, random preferences (“he’s so much cuter!”) play a role, and the whimsy of fickle and often superficial criteria set the bar for what’s “hot,” who’s a “star,” what’s a “bestseller,” and who wins the prize?

Why do we make them compete against other qualified artists to win “best” when “best” is, more honestly, impossible to determine and strictly subjective? Why do we make them give their work away so greedy consumers can enjoy it without exchange, in hopes those consumers start viral and positive word-of-mouth? Why do we make them “audition” every day of their lives for acting, singing, writing, photography jobs, often ones beneath their talent, all while treating them as if their years of work and artistic contribution are irrelevant to their perceived value?

The moment before one of our best becomes that arbitrary "best."
– That vulnerable moment before one of our best becomes an arbitrary “best.”

Why do we make artists battle each other like gladiators in a pit, while giving audience members, opinion makers, and gatekeepers the power to thumb up or down depending on cultural mood and sway? Why do we make them beg for readers, go into debt for song plays, humiliate themselves in hopes of an acting gig, or accept “exposure” and “internet real estate” in lieu of money because, hey, “my kid takes pictures as good as any professional, why should I pay you?”

Why do we make them jump through such hoops, tap-dance with such desperation, become “monkeys” to our grinding, mercurial cultural tastes?

Well – you could also ask –  “Why do artists put themselves in those situations?” And you would be asking another valid question.

Why do they? Why do they allow themselves to be judged on anything other than their work, their evolution as an artist, the depth of their talent and skill, or the merit of their individual and unique creative contribution?

Because they want to “make it” – a living, a fair wage, a career – and “making it” in the creative businesses is a BITCH.

Unless an artist wants zero exposure or connection to the outside world, they want some kind of commercial success. They wouldn’t cut CDs, post photographs, publish books, or produce plays if they didn’t.

artist

They want to make a living — some kind of living. They want a bigger audience, a more influential pulpit; an upward trajectory. They want to advance beyond the basement rehearsal room, the badly lit garage, the crappy office where they wrote their last three books. They want their work to get out there, to touch more people, have more impact; be heard, read, and looked at by more than their enthusiastic, but limited, circle of family and friends. They want fame and fortune because fame and fortune allows for steadier progress, more and better opportunities, the attraction of more effective business connections, and a higher level of collaborators. Because art is communication and communication requires a Point B. They want more Point Bs.

But we live in a world of too many people, and with so many of those people pursuing artistic careers, and so, so many outlets available for those many people to put their work, the supply has colossally exceeded the demand. Which makes creative competition a sort of necessary Hunger Games designed to thin the herd.

Frankly, supply has always exceeded demand in the arts; success has always been a rarefied, selective thing, but now – with the internet, all things DIY, and enough televised talent shows (you’d think!) to run out of talent – the gates of perceived opportunity have burst open, and everyone with a modicum of talent is rushing forth to be counted. And the bean counters are counting and artists are competing and it’s all getting so crazy that shenanigans and misguided notions of every kind have been injected into the madness.

Examples?

Singers, producers, and record execs now regularly rely on digital technology to manipulate marginal performances into artificially perfect ones. Independent (and other) authors pack Amazon pages with paid-for, swapped, and often undeserved “5-star” reviews to hopefully pull them out of the pack. Photographers Photoshop their work to death in an effort to stand out in a field where billboards, newspapers, and media sites are putting out calls to amateurs with iPhones. Copywriters, journalists, and essayists are forced to balance free gigs offering bona fide Ior not!) exposure against “getting paid or walking away” in arenas where “everyone’s a writer!” and no one wants to, or, apparently, needs to pay for quality writing.

All of this has reduced art, and artists, to… yes, I’ll use the analogy again: The Hunger Games: artists out there with defenses high, attempting to survive in a world where those in charge frame them as generic and dispensable… and too many fellow artists believe “cheating the system” is necessary in a competitive environment where talent, quality, and sustaining creativity are far less valued than viral appeal.

But is that giving us the best art, advancing the best artists? You tell me. I’m not convinced, particularly when I read, listen to, or see extraordinary art that is ignored or dismissed for lesser, but more viral work.

Which means this to me:

Personal best

I’ve stepped off the playing field. I won’t compete anymore… at least not in the ways described above. I won’t pit myself against other talented artists to win some arbitrary prize; I won’t chase after an audience; I won’t involve myself in situations that kill my soul, even a little. The only person I’ll compete against is me, to beat my personal best, and continue to grow and evolve as an artist. I’ll put my work where it can be found, I’ll happily share good news, I’ll continue to promote and talk about other artists I admire, and I’ll do everything within my power and resources to advance my goals. But I’ve put down my bow and arrow. If this means I’m truly out of the running, so be it. I’ve discovered that sometimes running just kicks up a lot of dust…

Fingers crossed image by Mjt16 @ WikimediaCommons.
“Best Lead Actor Emmy” shot: video screen grab
Trumpet Player by Padurariu Alexandru @ Unsplash
LDW shot by James Johnson

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

No, America, Everything Is NOT a Conspiracy

– or is it?
– or is it?

Some days I sit back from my selective scan of the day’s news and shake my head at the persistent, perplexing perceptions of my fellow Americans. At a time when media coverage of events — any event, all events — is not only ubiquitous and never-ending but usually completely redundant by the 24-hour mark, we remain an epidemically suspicious and conspiracy-driven culture that either doesn’t believe anything or, paradoxically, believes anything.

Depending on one’s allegiances, one’s belief system; one’s depth of distrust or disdain, there seems little that happens that isn’t ultimately ascribed some nefarious intent, from matters large or small, absurd or provocative, profound or ridiculous. Two stories today struck me as emblematic of the trend on several sides of that swinging spectrum.

Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona parking lot shooter who permanently injured Gabby Giffords and killed six people back in 2011, has now filed a $25 million lawsuit claiming that, not only is he innocent, but Giffords is a member of the Illuminati and her case against him has caused him “emotional distress,” warranting millions from the women into whose head he shot a bullet. Yes, he’s insane, but still… he’s actually put together the paperwork for this repugnant action and someone’s now going to have to spend their precious time dealing with it before it gets thrown into whatever trash bin it belongs.

Obviously that’s an extreme case, along with Loose Change, the Alex Jones-produced fever-film about a supposed 9/11 conspiracy, the Sandy Hook truthers, who believe the deaths of 27 people at Newtown were a hoax meant to further Obama’s anti-gun agenda (another “gift” from the heinous Mr. Jones), or even the generalized and persistent hysteria surrounding the moon landing or Elvis’ death.

Certainly there are some theories that persist due to a not-illogical incredulity with their “talking points” (Kennedy’s assassination the most prevalent of that category), but there’s undoubtedly a contingent of slightly unhinged humans who are prone to seeing dark secrets and dubious intent behind any events that don’t match their political or personal agendas, are complex or unusual enough to provoke suspicion, or happen to involve elements that lend credence to their preconceived beliefs. And some days it seems like that contingent is outnumbering the rest!

The other conspiracy angle I made note of today is related to the election (yes… the election), with a situation playing out in ways that is, frankly, disturbing, certainly from the standpoint of our ultimately having to find unity and solidarity as a country.

We currently exist in a political climate where Republicans are being bamboozled and bedazzled by a carnival barker charlatan, while Democrats are acting-out like Sharks and Jets over their two candidates, one of whom is a registered Independent, the other a woman. And while it doesn’t seem that anyone — even those trying — can sort out the three-ring circus over there on the right, we on the left are, unfortunately, having our own challenges.

It would be funny (well… sort of) if the stakes for this election were not so high, but we have Supreme Court justices to appoint, terrorism wreaking havoc on a regular basis; an immigration conundrum that requires serious and thoughtful solutions; civil, gender, and basic human rights that need immediate intervention. The list of heavy-hitting issues requiring focused attention is long, yet, instead of approaching this election like intelligent adults ascertaining who of the bunch is best equipped to deal with this prodigious and profound list, we’ve got one side cheering (and jeering) as their candidates insult each other’s wives, while the other, despite having two good candidates, is reduced to flinging insults at each other while some behave like cultists and hooligans.

I won’t speak to the GOP kerfuffle; personally, I think they’re all nuts and cannot fathom a world in which either of their two front-runners have anything at all to do with leading the country. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how disappointing and dispiriting it is to see those on the left behaving in ways that are equally counter-productive and fractious. I’d like to pass it off as “campaign fervor” (as some do), but when supporters of either Clinton or Sanders take to each other on Facebook like teeth-gnashing hyenas, when sexism becomes a defended tool of political “trash talk,” or when Sanders supporters frame every loss (either perceived loss of a debate or actual loss of a primary) as a conspiracy of malfeasance by the DNC, the media, the nebulous “establishment,” the Clinton campaign, or that ever-evil Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I have to take pause.

What is the point of all this finger-pointing and victim-mentality? Where is the integrity and intelligence we on the left are supposed to embody? Come on, people, we are better than that…right?!

When a line at a polling station is held up for hours, when other polling places run out of ballots; when any kind of shenanigans occur at any kind of polling place, we should all be deeply concerned. But why are those events immediately framed as conspiracies against Sanders specifically (a theme seen over and over again on social media)? Why are they not considered endemic failings of a system that is inefficient or poorly managed? Why on freakin’ earth would one Democratic campaign create a negative scenario that could impact their voters as much as the other candidate’s? There is no logic in the thinking, but then again, logic is rarely a factor for those who traffick in conspiracy theories.

I realize it doesn’t matter what I, or anyone, says about the way people comport themselves in this election. For whatever reason, and with whatever cultural explanation, this cycle seems hell-bent on being ornery, irascible, uncivil, and just plain nasty. Sure, all elections trip down some version of that rocky road, but this one has an edge of ugly with a stench all its own.

Maybe it’s because a woman is running and, much as Obama’s presence in the ’08 and ’12 races triggered the latent (or not so latent) racist tendencies of some, it seems possible a similar reaction is happening for those who get twitchy at the thought of a female president, particularly one called Hillary Clinton (that ball-busting, speech-screeching, non-cookie-baking harridan). I don’t know…but I’d guess that’s a good guess.

There are also many who blame the ugliness of this race on the “anger so many Americans feel,” but given my own observations of the most vitriolic amongst us (who are usually bouncing somewhere between the political spectrums of Sanders and Trump), they seem less angry about anything/something in particular and more immersed in the idea of being angry…and having a candidate who stokes and supports that anger. Call me cynical, but when comment threads can devolve into some of the most hateful speech you’ve ever heard over things as banal as pop stars or gluten, I suspect anger in this era doesn’t need much substance to create combustion.

But here’s the thing: for all the “Bernie or bust” cacophony, the campaign bullies; the fist-pumping “bros” (trashing Elizabeth Warren…really??); the “uneducated” mobs sucker-punching protesters, the sexist digs disguised as campaign rhetoric, the mud-slinging, misinformation-passing, lie-embracing, agenda-thrashing, conspiracy-theory’ing behaviors of far too many, there are millions out there who are quietly, sanely, smartly, and considerately supporting their candidates, doing their research, sharing perspective when asked, but, amazingly, not denigrating or demeaning those with another view. Those people? We don’t hear from them as much as the louder folks, but don’t think for a moment that the louder folks are running the show… they’re just louder. The rest of them are getting the job done with integrity and civility… and less volume.

We need more of that and less of the chaos. More action and less anger. More listening and a lot less yelling and screaming. More productive protest and less fisticuffs. More logic and less conspiracy theories. We need, at some point, to come together. How about we start now?

“Illuminati is real” by Peter Taylor @ Wikimedia Commons

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

My Marketing Sabbatical and the Blog Merge

– where I am these days
– where I am these days

At the end of 2015, after four-plus years of relentless and seriously focused book marketing and promotion, I took a step back to assess. I looked at the results of those many efforts — the sales stats, reviews, editorial coverage, contests, book shelves, etc. — to determine if they’d netted the desired results.

In some cases, they had; in others, not so much.

Now, I’m proud of my books, thrilled with the responses they’ve received, and, at least up to that moment of revelation, had been willing to do whatever it took to properly feed and nurture them into being. But I couldn’t deny it: something had changed. I wasn’t enjoying the process; the unceasing demand for self-promotion had become off-putting, making the books I created, the books I loved, feel like demanding children around which I ran ragged in the effort to keep happy.

Well, not them, but the great big world of book marketing, that swirling cauldron where hundreds of thousands of beloved creations go to get lost in the morass of self-published product. I’d lost my jones for that thing. Not the writing thing, the self-promotion thing.

While traditionally published writers have a team, a village, a circle-of-wagons —of agents, publicists, publishers, managers, etc.—the indie writer has… well, only themself. And “themself” has to do it all: the endless tweeting and Facebook posting, the free/bargain giveaways now demanded by readers; the listing on every indie book site one can find, the entering of countless (and not necessarily cheap) contests, the chasing after book stores, editorial reviewers, any reviewers; the exploring every which way to gain new and loyal readership, the—oh my God, it exhausted me just writing that!

It can be fun, yes; to some extent, and certainly in the beginning when you’re all positive and gleeful with certainty that you’re cracking the code and people are gonna LOVE what you’ve created. And surely it’s an education in the world of building a business, learning how and what works or what doesn’t. It’s a good practice to experience, to work, to absorb. But over time, at least for me, it can also become a slog.

And, I hate to say it, it’s become a slog.

I’ve also noticed this: people get tired of book promotions. They get desensitized to them. They don’t care after a while. Sometimes, they even find them annoying (as a few have mentioned while asking to be removed from my emailing list!). Because, unless you can can corral an endless supply of new readers via book tours, regular in-house readings at bookstores, book Meet-Ups, festivals, social media, etc. — the rest of ’em, the ones in your Facebook or Twitter circles, the ones who’ve already read your books or aren’t going to read your books, well, they’ve already heard about them. They’ve seen your posts, they’ve read about your promotional campaigns, they appreciate your efforts but they’ve grown tired of hearing about them. And not just mine…everyone’s. Because book promotions on social media have become RELENTLESS. And people have largely stopped paying attention.

I’ve not only heard this from quite a few writers who’ve experienced the same, but have noticed it as a tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Google+’ing person myself. It seems we indie writers come in such prodigious numbers that our bombardment of readers, other writers, and social media followers has ended up inuring them to the message. They see a book promotion — a “read my book,” a new book review, an interview with so-and-so — and other than the most loyal of fans, or the most commiserating of fellow-writers still paying attention, interest is less than one would hope. It’s gotten to the point that even some who’ve championed, say, Twitter as a go-to place to promote indie books have come to notice the downward trend. Derek Haines of Just Publishing Advice writes:

“My Twitter accounts that are directed more at readers have plummeted from around 120 new followers per day a year ago, to struggling to attract 20 to 40 now.

“What this means is that new self-published authors are still clearly flocking to Twitter to talk to each other, but general interest users and potential readers are not. While this can be blamed directly on Twitter failing to attract new active users, it could also be a signal that the supply side of the ebook market is now outweighing demand.” [Emphasis added.]

That’s kind of how I see it myself. Because, the truth is, as much as I read, I rarely find my books via Twitter or Facebook. I find them perusing Amazon, reading an article in Entertainment Weekly, or getting recommendations from friends. In fact, I tend to ignore most book promotions on Twitter or Facebook, weary, like everyone else, of bad cover art, unappealing quotes, and reviews that sound like Mom wrote them. Mostly, it’s just too much, the onslaught of book promotions… it makes one shut down rather than get inspired.

But I get it! We indies have no choice but to do it for ourselves. Unless we don’t. Unless we just decide to take a marketing and promotional sabbatical to reassess the marketplace, to carve out a little breathing room, maybe create a vacuum so interest can be re-stirred later. Maybe write another book. Maybe spend some time finishing that photography project or doing a play. Maybe just replenishing by walking a lot on the beach.

That’s what I’m doing right now, for those who’ve written wondering where I am and why I’m not posting much. I’m taking a sabbatical. Doing a few other things. Dealing with some life events, immersing myself in other projects, gently stirring my third novel, and generally NOT marketing and promoting my two already-published books.

Has it had an adverse impact? I don’t know… I’m not paying much attention at the moment; I’m hoping interest in the work will sustain while I’m living my life along other avenues for a bit. If not, they’ll have to wait until I’m ready to rumble again. In the meantime, oh, do I enjoy the feeling of not obeying the obligation!:)

And a last, related thought: I realized I had too many blogs. I’ve got one up at The Huffington Post, my AfterTheSuckerPunch.com blog related to publishing, and this one here. That’s at least one too many. So I’ve decided to close AfterTheSuckerPunch.com and merge it with Rock+Paper+Music, which has always had a fair amount of focus on the arts and other human interest and cultural focal points; publishing stories and book pieces will fit in there quite nicely.

So here we are now, fully merged. Having downsized my blogging world, I hope to be more active here. I hope you’ll join me when you can!

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.